As I write this, I have yet to nail down comp titles for my current work in progress. In fact, finding comp titles has been so frustrating that I decided to write an article about it instead. Hopefully my procrastination brings clarity to your own search.
What are comp titles?
Let me back up. What are comp titles, and why are they important?
A comp title, or comparable title, is another book recently published that’s similar to your own in genre, style, voice, or theme (not necessarily plot!). When I say ‘recently published’, general consensus seems to be in the last two to three years. Literary agents like to see two or three well-chosen comp titles in your query letter, as it indicates you know the current market and your ideal reader.
Some authors have a knack for choosing great comps, but many of us struggle. It’s tricky; not only do you have to pick a book that’s recent and matches your own in style or tone, but you have to find one in the right range—not a massive bestseller, as that’s seen as presumptuous, but it needs to be something agents recognize.
Right, so you know what a comp title is. Now, how to find the perfect ones? Here are a few ideas.
If you look up a popular book in your genre on Amazon, near the bottom you’ll often see “Customers who Viewed/Bought this Items also Viewed/Bought THESE”. Even the “Products Related to This Item” section might help you strike gold.
On Goodreads you can browse by genres, and it also has a Recommendations section on the right hand side, based on what you’ve searched before. Check out other users’ lists in your genre/theme. You can also request a recommendation from other users. Describe your book’s theme, main character, or plot, and see what other readers come up with.
3. Ask beta readers
If you’ve had others read your book in its early stages, why not ask them if it reminds them of other books they’ve read? Similar to the Ask for Recommendations section on Goodreads, but from people who actually know your book.
4. Visit a bookstore.
(Especially independent ones!) Search the shelves at your local bookstore for books in your genre. Stores often group certain books on display tables, too: BookClub, Beach Reads, Latest in Fantasy, BIPOC writers, Best in Thrillers.
5. Librarians (and their databases)
My most recent favorite resource comes from the experts. You could describe your book to a librarian and see if he or she can recommend something similar, although not everyone will jump at that idea, as it involves talking to a stranger. But did you know librarians use a database to help them with book recommendations? It’s called NoveList Plus. The good news is, you can also access that database if you have a library card. Here you can search books by Theme, Appeal, and Genre.
In the Appeal function, you can even make your own mix, searching for books by character type (quirky, courageous, snarky), pace (leisurely, fast, intense), storyline (action-packed, character-driven, world-building), and others.
(Thanks to Jenn Mecks for her post about this!)
Watch out—it’s a fascinating way to search, and it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole. Make sure you still make time to finish that query letter.
Speaking of, I’ve probably procrastinated enough on my own comp titles and should wrap up this post. If you have any other tips for finding great comp titles, let me know in the comments. Happy searching!