Ask Me Anything: Comp Titles

Here's the question:
I'd like to offer comps in my query, but (honestly) I haven't read anything like my story in same or similar genres. How close do comps have to be?

Here are my thoughts:

I sort of hate this question. (It's not your fault, don't worry)

But here's the thing. There's a huge problem with saying you haven't ready anything like your story. Taken literally, this means you're not very well read. OR there's nothing out there for a reason.

I'm betting that what's actually happening is that you're a little too focused on comps and not thinking about it quite right. So that's what I'm going to address. You don't have to have a THIS MEETS THAT comparison (like Graceling meets The Selection which is how I pitched Victoria Aveyard's upcoming novel RED QUEEN).

Instead you can have a "For fans of THIS and THAT" comparison. (For Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass, I pitched it for fans of Sara Zarr and Nina LaCour).

So. Think about audience:

Who is going to read your book?

Fans of what books/authors will also be a fan of you/your book?

Cross off books and authors that have surpassed the mainstream tipping point and become a franchise (like Harry Potter, Twilight, Divergent, Hunger Games, John Green, etc). Those are exceptions since they're read by the non-reader population.

You have to be able to come up with something in terms of a comp. Otherwise, you're book is too different and won't have an audience.

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J Lenni Dorner said...

Oh! That answer makes a lot of sense! Thanks for the knowledge.

Unknown said...

Is it ok if the books aren't newer? Is there a time limit of how "old" the pub date should be for comparing them? Thank you

Unknown said...

Great post, Suzie! Been meaning to comment--just bogged down w/ school, summer reading and all.

And though by no means an industry expert or published writer, I try not to do the whole comparison marketing thing at the writing/editing/revising stage. Once I'm done, if I find hints of stories/movies/tv shows I like then I'll store away the info for later use.

Sometimes I'm already inspired by a fusion of ideas. I'll watch a show or read a book and "what if?"
my way to a seed of an idea.

But if anyone is interested, here's a great use of Suzie's suggestion for the "fans" angle of the comparison.

Author Rachel Hawkins posted her query to help aspiring writers out years ago (like 2009), but I still find it EXTREMELY useful.

Rachel is the author of 'Hex Hall' and she appeals "to fans of Meg Cabot and Libba Bray" in her query to her now-agent.

Here's the rest of her query in the link to her blog: