Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Using Comp Titles in Your Query

By Cindy Williams Schrauben

Over the past year or so, one of my roles on the ReFoReMo team has been to discuss comp titles. For a refresher, follow these links to my old posts.

While choosing comp titles is arguably the most difficult task, describing them in your pitch or query letter can be a challenge, as well. How you choose to describe comps can strategically highlight specific qualities of your book. I may be overthinking this (me? never!), but it does warrant a discussion.

Option #1: Mention each comp separately. I would caution this option works only if the comparison is obvious and needs no further explanation.  Examples:

for fans of Elaine Kiely Kearns and Colin Jack’s NOAH NOARAURUS.
… for fans of Fancy Nancy (character)
… similar to THE GRUFFALO (title)
… similar to picture books by Ryan T. Higgins (author)

Option #2: Create a more unique and thorough description of your manuscript by combining two or more comp titles, authors, or characters. Examples: 
… a cross between MOTHER BRUCE and Pete the Cat (character).
… reads like a mix of DRAGONS LOVE TACOS and I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG.
… a mash-up of THE BAD SEED and picture books by Josh Funk.

Option #3: An even more effective strategy is to use comps to highlight specific qualities of your manuscript. This answers WHY you’ve chosen these comps. Examples: 
… the snarky voice of HOW TO BABYSIT GRANDPA combined with the humor of PEOPLE DON’T BITE PEOPLE.
...with the tenderness of WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOU A LEMON TREE and the interactive quality of PRESS HERE.
… with STEM aspects similar to ADA TWIST SCIENTIST and a nod to self-acceptance like JULIÁN IS A MERMAID.

Another option is to personalization your query to an agent by listing comp titles that match their wishlist or favorite titles. Caution - be sure you know this connection is strong. Examples:
... because you enjoyed SNAPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK), I thought you might be interested in my manuscript, which exhibits a similar meta quality.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Being diligent with your choice of comps and mindful of how they are described can make all the difference in a query. Please share your best ideas in the comments below.         


  1. Comp titles have always been a struggle for me. Thanks for these examples. I try to use the third option as much as possible.

  2. Dang, you are the comp queen, Cindy! Such a fabulous post. I love the concrete examples you've used. TY.

  3. Thank you for these helpful examples, Cindy. I will study this more.

  4. LOVE the examples. I am stuck right now finding good comp titles for a manuscript I would love to sub... Thanks!

  5. Cindy, you're like our Fairy Godmother by giving us resource links for understanding comp titles. I struggle with this part of the process. When I find a comp title and it's published by the publisher I'm submitting to, I haven't used the title. I figure the publisher has one such book and doesn't want two competing ones. Yet, I know my PB has a different approach, tone, or twist. Most of the time when I'm deciding which comp titles to include in my cover letter, I become a Trepidation Dinosaur on my way to extinction. Thank you for tackling this topic with us and offering specific suggestions. Much gratitude!

  6. Sooooo helpful!! You're the best, Cindy!

  7. Thanks Cindy. I’ll use this in submissions.

  8. Thanks, Cindy! This info is sooo helpful!!

  9. So helpful! Thank you.