Comp titles: make them "work" for you
How to get the most out of comparative titles in your query
“Comp titles” are “comparative titles,” and in writing and publishing land, they are the books that we compare our own projects to in promotional and marketing materials, and notably, in agent query letters.
But therein lies the problem. There. What I just said: “They are the books that we compare our own projects to.” As some of you might know, I work as a query doula on the side of my own writing, helping writers to craft the best and most competitive query letters they can. So I see a lot of queries! And with few exceptions, a lot of writers are making the same mistakes with comps. They’re looking out there in lit land for an exact comparison to the book they are pitching. They have an apple, and they are comparing it to another apple: not a different strain of apples, but the very same kind: Macintosh to Macintosh, baby.
This isn’t how the whole comp title thing works. To me, every word in a query letter should be worth seven dollars. (More on that in a separate post!) But your comp titles? They’re worth three times that. Let’s look at how to make your comparative titles really werk for you.
Look at the part of what you are comparing, not the whole.
Instead of looking at a project that is, as a whole, similar to yours, pick out elements from one book that honor what you’re doing. Some options:
use of humor
structure (a novel told entirely by letters, for example, or one that uses emails to further a narrative)
What would the part-over-whole approach look like in a query letter?