Finding The Perfect Comp Title: Imaginary Friend By Stephen Chbosky

If you’re a writer looking to be traditionally published, you will have heard of comp titles. A comp title or a comparison title can be used to give agents a general idea for what to expect from the book you want to publish. As an aspiring author myself, I have been on a journey to find my own comp titles and in this post I will be looking at Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky.

This is part a series where I look at potential comparative titles for my dark fantasy In Roots They Quake (formerly known as A Path Of Roots). Here’s the full list:

My Thoughts On Imaginary Friend

Imaginary Friend is 800 + pages of supernatural horror. It follows a young boy called Christopher after he disappears in a mysterious wood and reappears six days later with an imaginary friend.

Over all, I enjoyed this. It has to be the longest book I have ever read, but I got through it relatively quickly. I didn’t find it particularly scary, but it is exciting and suspenseful.

It also has the single greatest pay-off to a subplot I have ever read. I literally got chills and that has never happened to me while reading before.

My only problems with it is that it’s a tad too long, which made it a little slow in parts and very repetitive. I also wasn’t a fan of the plot twist about the hissing lady. It was one of those twists that didn’t actually change anything about the story, except now one character isn’t exactly the villain we thought they were.

Addressing a Comp Controversy

There was a recent controversy surrounding comp titles on Twitter, the place where all controversies happen. For those who haven’t heard, an agent (I won’t name who) posted what I believe was a well-meaning thread about how authors can find their comp titles. The tone of the thread rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and sparked a discussion across the #Writing Community, with many asking the question just what good are these comp titles anyway?

Arguments against comp titles abound: They’re exclusive, they’re difficult to find, they can be misleading to potential readers, can lead to accusations of plagiarism etc.

All of these arguments are perfectly valid.

I’ve never been fully at ease with the idea of comp titles myself. Searching for a novel like the one I want to write feels fruitless. Not only do I have to fight the urge to throw my own manuscript in the bin because, you know, a book like it already exists, I also have to spend ages digging around for them. I don’t care if an agent or publisher thinks otherwise, comp titles are difficult to find. On the other hand, I’ve found that a good comp title can bring clarity to my author vision. What I mean by that is a good comp title helps me visualize how I want my story to play out and how I don’t want it to play out.

No matter your thoughts on them, the Lords of Publishing Doth Decree That There Be Comp Titles In Your Query.

So here we are.

Could Imaginary friend Represent My Book? Here Are The Similarities:

  • A child goes missing for a few days in a supernatural event and returns slightly different.
  • A single-mother desperately tries to protect said child.
  • There is a strange ‘imaginary’ friend guiding the child to do somewhat nonsensical things, leading most to believe that the child is losing their mind
  • There’s another realm.
  • Horror and thriller elements.
  • And much more that I don’t want to give away because I don’t want to completely spoil either story.

However, that does lead me to a conundrum.

Are These Stories Too Similar?

Part of me worries that there is a little too much in common between my novel and Chbosky’s.

I know, I know. I’m looking at comp titles, what do I expect?

When I picked up Chbosky’s novel, I did so because I thought it had one or two plot similarities. I had already conceived MY idea long, long before, and now I’m thinking that I’m ripping this guy off even though I’m not. I only have my word to prove that. What if people think I plagiarized anyway? What if, by writing this post blog, pointing out these similarities, I’m just making the problem worse for myself? After all, it only took a list of similarities to convince a lot of people that The Lion King is a rip-off of Kimba The White Lion (it isn’t.) Comp titles are rarely shared with the readership and maybe this is the reason why.

Granted, there is also a lot Imaginary Friend doesn’t have in common with my story. This is important too. My story has its own uniqueness. I know for certain that the second half of my WIP is much different to the second half of Imaginary Friend. The pay-off is different. The characters are different. There is plenty different.

…wait. Is there too much difference? Is this not a good comp after all?

See what I mean when I say comp titles are difficult to find?



More likely than not, I will be using this as a comp title. See you in the query, Imaginary Friend. Thank you, Stephen Chbosky, for a wild read.


Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your comp titles in the comments or novels you’ve looked at, even if you don’t think they will work. Don’t forget to follow me on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook @WriterInAHat for more updates about my novel and other projects.


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