You may have heard the phrase “comps” or “comparable books” tossed around when discussing how to pitch your manuscript to literary agents. But what exactly are comps, and why do agents want them?
Comparable titles are books similar in genre, writing style, theme, topic, or elements to your manuscript. Including comps in your query letter can give agents insight into your writing style, market potential, and audience. It also shows that you have researched and understand the current publishing landscape and know where your book belongs in the market.
Agents receive hundreds of query letters a week, and comps can help them quickly assess if your book is a good fit for their list. But a good list of well-researched comp titles does even more.
Author News, published by Penguin Random House, elaborates on how they help your publishing journey. “The comps help editors making acquisition decisions to figure out who and how big the audience might be for a specific title.”
Podcasts such as The Shit No One Ever Tells You About Writing, Manuscript Academy, and Print Run are great resources for learning more about the publishing industry, including what agents look for in queries and how to choose effective comps.
You can base comps titles on various factors, including genre, writing style, theme, topic, and elements of similar books. When choosing comps, selecting titles published within the past five years is essential. Agents want to see that you understand the current market and are up-to-date on the latest trends.
Comp Title Selection Tips
- Choose books published within the last five years. Older books may not accurately reflect the current market.
- Choose books that have had some commercial success but are not runaway bestsellers. Comparing your book to a huge hit like Harry Potter or Gone Girl will likely make agents skeptical.
- Choose books similar to your manuscript in genre, tone, and theme. If your book is a historical romance, don’t compare it to a contemporary thriller.
- Choose books that are at a similar level of complexity and style. If your writing is straightforward, don’t compare yourself to James Joyce.
- Choose books published by reputable publishers. Self-published books or books from small presses may not be as valuable as comps.
So where can you find books to use as comps?
Using Amazon or other online bookstores as a search engine can help you find books in your genre or with similar themes to your manuscript. Look for books that are popular or have good reviews, and then read them to determine if t
Publicly curated lists on Goodreads or social media platforms like Twitter can be a great resource for finding comparable books. You can search for lists based on your genre or topic and see what other readers and writers have recommended. Be sure to read the books on the list to determine if they are a good match for your manuscript.
Librarians are often experts in the books within their genre or category. They can offer you helpful insights into other books that share common themes, settings, or styles. Visit your local library or reach out to a librarian for recommendations.
Networking with other writers can be a great way to find comparable books. Reach out to other writers who have written books similar to yours and ask for their advice on what books they would recommend as comp titles. You can also participate in writing groups, conferences, or online forums to connect with other authors in your genre.
Bookstores and book sellers often have recommendations or lists of books within certain genres or categories. Visit your local bookstore or reach out to a book seller for advice on comp titles.
Remember, when looking for comparable books, consider genre, writing style, theme, topic, and elements of similar books. Additionally, be sure to use current titles only, and if you are an unknown author, avoid comparing yourself to a classic or famous writer. If there are no close comp titles, get close and explain how your work relates. Finally, be sure to read at least some of the books you are using as a comp to ensure you are on the right track.