Here’s a buzzword you may grow wearily familiar with, when you’re querying:
Short for “comparable titles.” These are books that you think your manuscript resembles in some way.
Full disclosure, I am not a fan of comp titles, especially in queries. When I query an agent/editor about my book, I don’t want his/her mind wandering off to someone else’s story.
More and more agents ask for comp titles in the query. They say it will give them a better idea of where your book belongs in the marketplace, and they will also use these comps when they pitch to an editor.
Um, whatever, Honey Boo Boo.
There are two ways two insert your comp titles in your query letter:
- “My story, Four Sheets to the Wind, is Wizard of Oz meets American Psycho.
- “My story, Have Another Crumpet, would appeal to people who read John Green, John Milton and John Gotti.
As you can see, you may either compare authors or books to your work. If you’re going to mention comp titles, here are…
SIX THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN CHOOSING COMP TITLES
- Make sure your titles are actually comparable. READ THEM. You certainly don’t want to give an erroneous description of our writing.
- Only mention titles less than 3 years old. The agent wants to know that you keep up with the business, and many older titles probably would not sell today, if presented as a brand-new manuscript. Kids’ reading habits have changed.
- Don’t choose obscure/self-published writers. The editor/agent doesn’t want to go searching for your comps online–the point of a comp is to get across the flavor of your writing, very quickly.
- Make sure you only comp KIDLIT, not adult.
- Don’t compare yourself to Harry Potter. Or any other novels/series that have become an institution. Even if you’ve written a story about Wizard School, comparing your manuscript to Harry Potter sounds boastful.
- Only mention titles in your genre–Sci Fi, Mystery, Historical Fiction, etc.
Read what your query-recipient wants in a letter, and if it’s comps, choose wisely.