Finding Comp titles

Comp titles are the titles you propose as being like your book in important ways. You’re sometimes asked for, or sometimes provide unasked, comp titles when you query agents and, I suppose, possibly at other points in the publication process. Or you may just find it helpful to be able to provide a comp title in your book description.

Comp titles are things like:

Like Sense and Sensibility, but with dragons!

Or,

Readers who loved Ready Player One will love this!

Or,

If you love the lush, lyrical prose and complex female characters in Juliet Marillier’s novels, you’ll love this!

Or,

Hannibal Lector meets Edgar Allen Poe in this dark mystery.

Things like that.

I’ve never been great at this sort of thing and I doubt I’ll ever have a knack for it, which is why I don’t really try to write descriptions like that. However, I happened to notice two different posts about how to write comp titles today, so if you’re interested in taking a stab at it, here:

How to Find Compelling Comps for Your Book

and

Titles and Comp Titles — How To Find the Best Ones For Your Book

From the former:

In the end, I used a recent debut novel with similar themes (family secrets) and storytelling methods (multiple POV told in alternating timelines that converge in present day) and paired it with a mystery/thriller that has nuances similar to a sub-plot in my book. As in: “debut X meets mystery Y.” One was super popular (but not ubiquitous) and one performed solidly with laudable reviews.

This author adds that it took months to come up with the comp titles she used. No wonder. She describes the research methods she used and the factors she considered at considerable length.

From the latter:

Do’s and don’ts of choosing comp titles.

  • Do stay within your own genre (or genres if you write mash ups).
  • Do keep it realistic. Choose comps with the same likely sales pattern: out of the gate with a burst or a long, slow and steady sales arc, front list star vs backlist stalwart.
  • Do keep it recent: choose titles published within the last two or three years so that they are still fresh in the minds of reader/agents/editors/sales staff/store buyers. Pointless to choose a comp from a decade ago that no one remembers.
  • Don’t abandon common sense and compare your book to a #1 NYT bestseller or the latest gee-whiz phenom.
  • Don’t mix formats. If your book will be offered in a digital edition, don’t compare it to a hardcover title and vice versa.
  • Don’t jump genres. Compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges. That is, compare scifi to scifi, thriller to thriller, epic fantasy to epic fantasy, literary fiction to literary fiction.
  • Don’t ignore demographics. If your book will appeal to women, be sure to choose comps that will appeal to that same reader. Don’t choose a comp that will appeal to young adult readers or males looking for hairy-chested adventure in the remote jungles of Borneo.

With many suggestions of places to do research about recent titles that might match your book in important ways.

I will add, I don’t get this “don’t mix formats” thing. Aren’t all or nearly all books offered in paper and ebook? Why would it matter? I suppose if the book to which you’re comparing yours was only ever in hardcover and yours will be only offered in audio, that might be a problem. But how often can that sort of thing come up?

Anyway, both posts look helpful if you’re trying to frame this sort of comp for your own book.

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4 thoughts on “Finding Comp titles”

  1. I’m really curious what you would choose as comp titles for Tuyo & the Death’s Lady books! I honestly cannot think of any recent English-language books that do what you’re doing in Tuyo and its sequels.

  2. Mary Beth … I’m not good at comp titles, but honestly, I have absolutely no idea. I can name a lot of books that had some sort of major or minor influence on Tuyo, but I don’t honestly think any of them are similar enough to make sense as a comp title.

  3. This post immediately came to mind when I saw a book in my Amazon rec list called Pemberley, which has a cover picture of a hatching dragon. Who needs a comp book with that? I suspect it’s a train wreck.

  4. I suspect you’re right! It’s certainly not easy to pull off a Jane Austen homage, that’s for sure. Any book that tries is likely to fall short and there you go, being compared to Pride and Prejudice and never measuring up. Even with dragons.

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