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.


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. 


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

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

  3. Great post! Thanks for the information.

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

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

  5. Printing out this keeper--thanks Cindy!

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

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

  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!

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

  10. Super helpful post! Thanks Cindy!

  11. Thanks, Cindy, for this helpful "how to" of comp's!