By Cindy Williams Schrauben
One submission detail that often confuses writers is the request for comparison titles (comps). I could write multiple posts on this topic, but for now, I will ignore marketing mumbo jumbo and stick to one point - using comps to grab the attention of an agent.
WHAT is a comp?
* Is a pitch point - a way for YOU to describe your work
* Is a published book that resembles your own MS in some way (more on this later)
* Should be in the same genre (ex: humorous picture book) and have similarities such as:
Format/Style (Ex: non-fiction, how-to, diary)
Tone (Ex: humorous, lyrical, dark)
Point Of View (Ex: Fido is telling the story)
Sales trend expectations
Example: THE THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD by Tara Lazar. Both titles are: Fiction picture books, twisted/fractured fairy tales, humorous, feature anthropomorphic animals, and have the same target audience = great comps.
WHY do you, as an author, need to use comps?
Use comps to:
* Grab an agent's attention
* Hint at who will want to read your book
* Highlight a unique aspect of your MS
* Prove your knowledge of the genre and the industry in general
* Express your voice
* Up your appeal by showing that there is a market for your type of MS
WHERE can you find comps?
* Ask a librarian and/or booksellers
* Book lists, Goodreads, Pinterest, online stores, book blogs, etc.
* The Mentor Text lists on ReFoReMo Facebook site
TIP #1 Mentor texts can often be used as comp titles. BUT BE CAREFUL - a mentor text that informs your writing process is not necessarily a good comp (ex: A non-fiction book in diary format may influence the format of your fiction diary-style MS, but it would not make a good comp).
TIP #2: While it is tempting to use a title from your desired agent's list - BE CAREFUL! It may be that this agent doesn't need another like-minded author on their list. And, it is a certainty that said agents knows that MS inside and out - if they don't feel it is a good comp, you haven't garnered the right kind of attention.
HOW to use them properly.
* Make sure comps:
Were published recently (within the last five years)
Highlight positive aspects of your book
Have the same target audience (ex: don't compare a PB to a MG)
Are successful - but not Harry Potter successful
Are not esoterically similar - don't try to be mysterious and compare apples to oranges.
* One or two comps is sufficient
* Examples of comp usage:
"This MS, which has been described as a cross between X and Y..."
"This MS will, likely, appeal to fans of X and Y."
"With the humor of X and the heart of Y, this MS..." (Give rationale if you can)
WHEN should you NOT use comps?
* Because you think you have to
* Because it sounds impressive
TIP #3: No comp is better than a bad comp. If you aren't sure the comp is a good fit, you didn't enjoy reading it, or you haven't read it at all - DON'T USE IT.
Cindy Schrauben contributes to our ReFoReMo Facebook Group and blog. As a former educator and magazine editor/writer, Cindy is consumed by a life-long passion for the written word. Her projects range from picture books to young adult novels as well as adult non-fiction. Writing for children provides her with a real excuse for spending so much time in the children's section of the bookstore. Cindy is a member of SCBWI and participates in many online writing communities.