April 5, 2016

What Is A "Comp Title" and Do I Have One?

One of the first things to do when you finish a manuscript, is craft a query letter (if you want to publish, that is). But either way, even in your crafting stage... as you brainstorm your book, there's this little thing called a "Comp Title" you ought to keep in mind. It's slang for "Comparative." What is your book similar too?

If you consider your own reading habits, you'll probably see a trend. For example, readers of Kiera Cass's "The Selection Series," likely prefer books that involve contests, love triangles, dystopian societies and not too much gore.

Think about it like categories or tags... ways to label a book.

One of my favorite books is "The Rose Legacy" by Kristen Heitzmann. It takes place during the late gold rush, it's a Christian Romance, there's an arranged marriage, and a lot of historical detail. Of course, there are other categories, but I don't want to give any spoilers. But, to the point, many of the books I enjoy reading are similar.

Today I saw an advertisement on Penguin Teen for a Dystopian novel. "Readers of Kiera Cass's Selection will love The Glittering Court," it read.

That's a Comp Title.

At the same time, while readers enjoy reader books with similar content, they don't want to read the same story twice - that, and you can get accused of plagiarism.

So, ask yourself this question: If you are worried your manuscript is too similar to another published title - one of your comp titles - then think about what sets your book apart. What's your unique spin on the story?

A good example of this is retellings.

One of the most popular retellings is probably Gail Carson Levine's "Ella Enchanted." Which is in essence a spin on the story of Cinderella, but it's not Cinderella.

Well, how?

For all intents and purposes, Ella's mother died, her father is absent and she has a stepmother and stepsisters who treat her horribly. She also has a fairy-godmother.

BUT... Ella is under a curse. She and the prince meet before the ball and become friends. To a certain extent, she saves herself. And there's also a "Lord of the Rings" sort of element with the creation of cultures and languages such as Ogerese, Ayorthian, and Gnomic.

This is a marketing issue. More and more, authors are playing a bigger role in how their books are advertised. These days, authors are traveling - speaking and doing book signings - they have a face and a personality. A platform. Your potential publisher wants to know, "Where do I put this book on a bookshelf?" That's right... who's name is next to yours at Barnes and Noble?

So, who are you? What is your book like? What what will attract your reader?

What are your comp titles? Yes, you need them.

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