Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Skinny on Comp Titles

If there's one thing about writing proposals that stumps me, it's the section for comp titles. 

At a writers' conference, an editor at a top publishing house even asked me what the comp titles were for my project. What? Of course, in that moment, I was overthinking. Did I really just tell her I write like Carla Laureano!? Becky Wade!? It felt really weird to say that out loud.

But that's not what it's about. Not really.

Comparable titles, comparison titles, competition titles -- whatever they're called -- are the published novels that give editors a feel for your work's place in their lineup and in the current market (hopefully, if you explain them well). Obviously I have yet to land a publishing deal and welcome dialogue from those who know more about what they're doing, but from what I understand, it's a list of books that are on your potential readers' shelves. It's as simple as that.

Also, from what I've learned, three is a good number to have and you want them to be fairly recent titles that have sold well. You list what makes this book like yours, in style, structure, or content, identifying what makes it marketable. What's worked for other authors and appealed to readers in the past. 

But you also have to emphasize how your book is unique. Hopefully by this point, you've refined the hook that will make your story stand out from others in the genre, what will give readers a different experience when they pick yours up from the shelf. 

Ultimately, you want to show that there are aspects of your book that have proven to be marketable and sell well, but that your book is an original, compelling idea. 

Did I leave anything out? How do you determine which books to include on your comp titles list?

Speaking of comp titles: I'm giving away a prize bundle on my website, but y'all feel free to enter here! It includes two books from a writer I've listed in my own comp titles before, Carla Laureano, along with my favorite planner and a $25 gift card. Check it out below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business. 

She's a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and received the Genesis Award in 2013 (Contemporary) and 2014 (Romance). 

Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie here:
Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Laurie, comp titles always stump me too. I appreciate your thoughts on what to consider when looking at this aspect of a proposal. I've heard the titles should be ones that have come out within the last 3-5 years.

Q4U: Have you read the books you mention as comp titles? I'm guessing yes, but I'm curious.

I'll also be interested to see what those who are further along on this journey have to say about this topic. :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting thanks for the information. kamundsen44@yahoo.com Kim

Melissa Jagears said...

I created an entire website in my need to find comp titles! :) I was having a hard time finding all the mail order bride books, so I made a search engine like blog so the next time I needed to look something up like that, I could just push a button! :) So now I can even push 1870s, Kansas, Mail Order brides with a button and get it back that way! So if you're a historical writer, you might want to check out the Inspirational Historical Fiction Index if you want to find a 1600s bonnet book or a Regency with a governess, I'll have it at a touch of a button!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Jeanne - I pick books that I've read that inspire my work...not to copy them or think I can write them better, just inspiration. Similar content, style, and/or formatting are things to look for. I'd hate to pick a book I haven't read that has something that totally doesn't resound with me, if that makes sense. And yes, I hope more experienced people chime in!! I don't pretend to know what I'm doing, just what I've learned so far!

Sally Bradley said...

If you've used beta readers, ask them who would be comparable authors/titles. I guess some readers might not be as big of a help here, but then again they might be. And if you've got knowledgeable beta readers, they can probably pinpoint better than you what's a comparable title.

Jennifer Major said...

I ahave an easier time narrowing down the comp titles because there aren't too many "Native American,who reads Shakespeare and Greek, saves Anglo chick" stories out there.
Lori Benton, Laura Frantz, Sandi Rog...and that's pretty much it.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Sally, great suggestion. Thanks!