Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why Comp?


By Cindy Williams Schrauben



So, you've prepared your manuscript (MS) - write, critique, revise, repeat, repeat, repeat - and you're ready to submit to agents. Easy, right? Not so much.

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?
                  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:  
                                                      Subject matter
                                                      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
                                                      Target audience

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.

 GOOD LUCK!

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. 


30 comments:

  1. Hey, Cindy,grat lowdown on all things comp. Useful article.

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  2. Thanks, Cindy. I would have done some of the things you suggested not to do.

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  3. Great post! Thanks for the information.

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  4. I needed these tips! Thank you, Cindy :)

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    1. That's what this community is all about! So glad to help

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  5. Printing out this keeper--thanks Cindy!

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  6. Comps are often difficult to choose. Thanks, Cindy, for make this so clear.

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  7. Thanks, Cindy. I find comps so difficult, so these practical tips are really helpful!

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  8. Thanks for all the kind comments, everyone. I am so grateful to be a part of this fabulous community and have the opportunity to give back. Write on!

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  9. Great tips. Thanks for adding clarity to comp use. barb

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  10. Super helpful post! Thanks Cindy!

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