If I was a computer genius as well as a writer, I would devise a search engine where you can input criteria to search for books that are similar. That way, if I just read young adult fantasy book about dwarves with strong friendships and a killer female main character, I could search for other titles with similar attributes.
Unfortunately, I am not a computer whiz and instead I am slogging through Google searches looking for comp titles.
For those who don’t know, comp titles (also sometimes referred to as comparative or comparable titles) are books with similar plots and/or tone. For an author, it is a way to give friends or acquaintances a glimpse into what your book is about. For agents and publishers, it is a way to give them a snapshot as well as telling them you know the market and know where your story fits in the market.
But wait, there’s more.
Agents and publishers really want titles that are within the last three to five years. And using a title that is super popular (like Harry Potter) is discouraged. It’s a title that’s been used too often, it’s too broad, and implies you think your book is the next mega-blockbuster in books. Confidence is good. Arrogance, even implied… not so much.
If you are friendly with a book buyer at a bookstore or the acquisition librarian at the library, you can ask them for help. You can also ask your beta readers to see if your book reminded them of anyone else’s, just to get a jumping off point.
Ideally you find other books that are well known without being too well known. Which is sometimes easier said then done.
If you can’t find titles with similar plot or tone, you could find one that has a similar voice and use that, specifying the voices are similar.
For Twitter Pitmads you can use movies, characters, tv shows, etc. But from everything I’m learning, for query packages at least one of your titles should be a book.
Whatever comp titles you use, be sure to read the books (or watch the shows) to make sure they fit. If you compare your book to a one about dwarves and your story is all about dragons – you’re making false promises. You don’t want to give the agent/publisher any reason to turn you down.
And the irony is not lost on me that we writers spend months to years creating a story that is unique to just us. Ninety percent of our query package is proving the story is unique. The other ten percent, which is an important ten percent, is all about showing how we are not unique.
I’ll figure out which percent is the most important after I find comp titles that work. I also may just leave the comps off all together and see how that goes. That could tell me which is the most critical.