How to Find Compelling Comps for Your Book

From Jane Friedman:

When you start querying agents about your book, very quickly you’ll discover their guidelines ask for “comps.” Comps stands for “comparable titles”: books that might be considered comparable to your own.

For many writers, coming up with comps is a daunting enterprise, but the important thing to remember is their key purpose: to show where your book would be shelved in a store or who your most likely readers are. Everyone from agents to publishing sales people to booksellers will have an easier time understanding what your book is like or who it’s for if a comparison can be made. “If you liked X, then you’ll like Y.” It also shows that you know something about the current marketplace and how your book fits in it.

On my quest to write the perfect query letter, I got stuck on what comps to use. I channeled my frustration into research. Here is what I learned from the experts.

Per Jane Friedman

  • If you can’t find any, you are probably looking for too similar of a comp. Look at aspects of a work that relate to yours: style/voice, themes, plot, or character quality/journey.
  • Focus your search on the last few years. You can go back up to ten years if absolutely necessary but if you do, pair the older comp with something more contemporary.
  • Try to find a comp that will show where you’re positioned in today’s literary landscape. If you were on a panel with other authors at a book festival, who would be seated next to you?

. . . .

Per Janet Reid (aka Query Shark)

  • Comps are a shorthand for where the book belongs on the shelf and/or what kind of reader will like the book.
  • What books, published in the last two years, appealed to readers who will like your book? “[TITLE] will appeal to readers of _______”
  • What books, published in the last two years, are similar in plot or tone to yours? “[TITLE] evokes the story of ______”
  • Describe what aspect of the book is comparable to yours: the tone, the multiple points of view, the style, et cetera.
  • Once there’s a movie, assume the book is not a good comp. Also assume this if the author has 20+ bestsellers. Ask: Is it a success or a phenomenon? If it’s a success, comp it!

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman.

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