Comps aka competitive titles and the subject of much discussion within the writing community. I’ve written on this a few times before, giving my opinion on their importance. What I haven’t yet written about is the importance of choosing comp titles that are current.
Some of my most recent reading has been series or books that are older, some of them published as long as 20 years ago. Books or series that I suspect would have a very difficult time if submitted today. Not because these books aren’t good or enjoyable, but
Comps in Nonfiction
In one case the book is nonfiction by an author I greatly admired when I first started BookEnds.
Throughout the interview this woman, someone coaching young women to stand up for themselves, deferred to the men around her for approval. At the end of each answer, she turned to them and said something along the lines of, “don’t you agree.” Implying they had the real answers.
To be frank, her ideas no longer felt relevant and I can’t imagine trying to submit that book in today’s world.
Comps in Fiction
The other recent read that felt dated was part of a fiction series by an author I love and admire. It was what I’m not calling “old-school” detective fiction. A tough guy detective who gets the girl and the bad guy in one swoop. A relatable James Bond let’s say. There are a lot of books like this.
I couldn’t help thinking, whether this character would have the same success if he launched today. Would his non-PC way of speaking and thinking get past both editors and readers?
There are a lot of books and authors who would never be published if they went out on submission today. Many are read widely and often (of course some as part of college courses). That doesn’t make those books bad. It doesn’t mean they should never have published, but markets and tastes change and so must publishing.
Making Comp Choices
When making your own choices for comps it’s important to keep this in mind. You might have loved a certain nonfiction book 20 years ago, but is it still relevant today? Is one published five years ago still relevant? Many times the answer is no.
When agents and publishers take on a new author and book they are looking one to two years into the future. It means today’s comp will be five years old by the time your book is published.
Choosing comps isn’t easy, but knowing where to start can help.