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The Successful Use of Comp Titles in a Query

I am not a believer that comp titles are necessary for a query letter. While they can be helpful for an agent to see where you see your book on shelves, putting in the genre is just as helpful. I’ve also found that comp titles can hurt you if you name a book or author the agent really didn’t like. It certainly makes for an easy rejection.

However, if you do plan on using comp titles, because you know the perfect ones, it isn’t enough just to toss them into the query. In fact, in my mind, adding comp titles can sometimes be more confusing than they are helpful. If you are using comp titles it’s essential that they accentuate the blurb. In other words, if I see a comp for Sleeping Beauty meets To Catch a Witch I need to be able to see in the blurb how those two stories come through, otherwise you’ve just confused me.

 

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6 comments

  1. Thank you for this! Querying hell! As a former journalist, I haven’t felt so confused since I interviewed Canada’s Prime Minister wearing a pair of mismatched shoes. When he noticed, I claimed this was a “trend.”
    I feel the same way about comps. Yesterday, I queried: “(Title) offers the sexual tension of When Harry Met Sally, the online dating complications of Must Love Dogs, and the quirkiness of Bridget Jones’ Diary. Nonetheless, this (word count/genre) stands alone as a highly original novel.”
    Really? When I’ve just said it’s similar to these stories? The moment I pressed “send,” I regretted using these comps.

  2. Given what you say here, Jessica, how much weight do *you* give to comps when someone offers them in a query? Do you ignore them, or take them into consideration, knowing the comps and the novel may not be a perfect match? I’m thinking especially of what you said about comping a title the agent didn’t like. What if the author is wrong about that comp? Would you assume because you didn’t like that comp title, this sort-of-perhaps-comparable novel is exactly like it, when in fact it’s might not be?

    My point: Many writers (okay, ME) have a hard enough time nailing titles and genres. Who’s to say we get the comps right?! If you wouldn’t reject because the title’s not the best, or the genre’s off-target, why would you (or any agent) reject over a comp title? The comps might be enticing… but surely that should be the icing on the query? In other words, if you’re on the fence about the query, the comps might persuade. But if you’re already sold on the query, who cares about the comps? Right? Yes? No? Maybe? 🙂

  3. I don’t use comps for the exact reason you state. What if the agent doesn’t like those stories? I hope my query shows my story well enough the comps aren’t needed.

  4. One annoying thing is when agents ask for comp titles within the past couple of years. Most of us began writing our book before then. If you just want other books in the same genre that’s fine but what’s the point exactly? To prove we read in our genre? We could have simply googled “thrillers.”

    1. I understand your frustration however you also need to understand that an agent and an editor are both selling books now, not two years ago, so knowing what the comp titles do make a difference. If the market has changed, and there are currently no comp titles for your book you might need to look into whether or not your books are still marketable.

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