Three Things You Need to Know about Comp Titles and a Tool

Friday, October 02, 2020

I hate finding comp titles. Comp titles, or comparable titles, are books that are similar to your book in two ways. The content is similar and the audience is similar. 

It pays to know comp titles for your book for several reasons. If you can name five comp titles, you have a good idea who your audience is. That’s why agents ask for comp titles when you query. Comp titles can also help you project what the sales for your book will be. That’s why editors and publishers ask for comp titles. If you are self-publishing, comp titles can help you identify your audience and track down potential buyers. 

When you are contemplating comp titles it helps to ask yourself “what is my audience reading right now?” Just keep these three things in mind as you select comp titles. 

Your titles should be recent. 

As a children’s author, I might be tempted to name The Lorax as a comp title for a picture book and San Domingo, the Medicine Hat Stallion as a comp for a middle grade horse book. But these books are far too old. I should limit my titles to books published in the last 2 to 3 years. 

Don’t pick an “extreme” title. 

Don’t pick a book that had poor sales (mine will do better!) or a blockbuster (see what I will do, too!). Instead, pick a book with solid sales. The Lorax and San Domingo were both written by Big Names, Dr. Seuss and Marguerite Henry, so they are disqualified yet again. 

Pick like books. 

If your book is a picture book, your comp titles should be picture books. If your book is an e-book, pick e-books. You’ve written a romance? Than your comps need to be romance titles. 

How do you find comp titles that meet all of these requirements? You can ask for help at your local book store or library. After all, it always pays to pick the brain of someone knowledgeable. Or you can use NoveList Plus, a tool I discovered reading Jenn Mecks’s Writing Cooperative post on comp titles, A Better Way to Find Comp Titles for Your Novel

You’ll have to use NoveList Plus through your library. I found it on electronic databases that my system allows you to link to online. To replace The Lorax, I keyed in a search on “environmental fantasy” which gave me 331 results. I narrowed it by age (0-8), fiction, and keyed in 2018 to 2020 for the range of release dates. That narrowed my results to 18 which would be a manageable list to explore. 

Comp titles may not be easy to produce but if doing so helps you identify your audience and potential sales outlets, isn’t it worth your time? 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins October 5, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins October 5, 2020). 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--You are such a veteran, you were able to give step-by-step directions on how to do this. The way you "attack" the research process is part of why you are such a successful and prolific writer. Thanks for this.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Such good tips about comps in this article Sue that can give one an edge when pitching to a publisher or agent.

Margo Dill said...

Very helpful article, Sue. Thanks!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Thank you, all!

What can I say? I spent a lot of time writing how-tos and activities for young learners. I'm just applying the same techniques to adult learners.


Cathy C. Hall said...

Ugh, I hate looking for comp titles but editors and agents almost always want them now. But I am always looking for a tool that will make that job easier, Sue, and I hadn't heard of this one. Will definitely check it out, thanks!

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