“Comp” titles, or comparable titles, are often requested or required from agents in their queries. Mostly, I believe, because comp titles are important to publishers. Unless it is required, you do not NEED to have comp titles in your query. Let me be clear here, even if you don’t research and find comp titles for your query, you will be asked at some point by a publisher, a fellow author, and/or your agent. If you are asking how many titles you need, the answer is: from one to three titles should suffice.
First, why do agents even need comp titles? The titles you give your agent are going to tell them: A. you did your research B. you’ve read enough to know the industry C. which editors might be looking for a book like yours. (Editors meaning “acquiring editors” at publishing houses. They are the ones who choose your book and offer it to the publishing house for a decision on publishing it or not.)
Publishers want to know your comp titles because they tell your team who your audience is, and how big your book’s potential might be. Your marketing team will consider sales trajectories, and your sales team (who has about thirty seconds to convince a rep to take your book), can relate your style of writing, or similar plot, or characters by saying, “Fans of Lucy’s Diamond by Scott Hildengarten will enjoy this book because…” Or they can say, “This book is a cross between (or like) Lucy’s Diamond by Scott Hildengarten and Shimmer by Jamie Hassenphlatt.” This gives your book the attention it deserves and shows its possible sales potential.
Okay, it’s important. So how do I choose my titles? Any tips you can share?
- Choose a recent title, published by an industry publishing house between one and three years ago.
- Choose realistic titles. Books that have had relative success, to show that you are on to something. But avoid big brands (i.e. Harry Potter, the hottest book trending, etc.) and classics (i.e. Moby Dick, Catcher in the Rye) as comparable titles.
- Make sure to actually read your comp titles! Industry people will know if you haven’t.
- Choose titles that are in the same genre, same form (paperback vs. hardback), and same target audience (unless you are stating that your book is the “teen version” of a certain book).
- It is even better if you can add a description of how your book is different (and/or better) than the comp title(s). “This book is FireFly except with a vampire, a werewolf, a witch and a fairy.”
- Use the tools available to you. Goodreads has an option to put in characteristics of a book and it will show you similar titles. You can also use Amazon’s advanced search function, or look at the bottom of a book listing for “people who liked this also liked…”
- You can use authors themselves as comps. i.e. “My writing style is similar to John Green, but my book includes the edginess of Jennifer Wilson’s stories.”
- Tip* Movies and tv shows can also be used as comps, but I would refer to the book it came from, and include one other solid comp.
I hope that helps you with the subject of comp titles. Have you chosen your comp titles yet? Did you add them to your query? Do you have any great tips for new authors? Let’s discuss.
All my best,