Having comp (comparison) titles is an essential step when you are planning to query agents with your manuscript, but their use doesn’t stop there. Keep reading to see how to use them as an indie author. Common querying advice tells you to limit these to new(ish) successful books, letting agents know what your book is about and who your target readers may be. Finding books that are similar to yours is not easy. This is yet another reason why pursuing traditional publishing can be off-putting to new writers.
Here’s the thing: comps are a GREAT thing to have for indies too! Instead of showing an agent who your audience is...take it straight to them! AND, when you are targeting the reader, not an agent, the potential comp pool opens up—TV shows, movies, older popular books, books/shows/etc. with a cult following. The list is endless.
Don’t forget to add those comp titles (I find two to be best) to your book description. It will tell potential readers right off if your book is for them, plus it is an automatic source of precious keywords for you.
I did #pitchwars over on twitter, with my comp line being most of the pitch. This netted me several potential readers. Yes, new readers based almost solely off that comp line.
Knowing your target audience, and SHOWING them you know them, is huge.
Have fun with it! Comps need not be totally literal. They don’t have to be comparable to your plot or characters; it can be vibe, style...anything.
That book I mentioned? My comp line is: The Girl Who Met Tom Gordon meets YOU.
TGWMTG is an older book, far too old for agents to be impressed, but the paranoia vibe and the forest setting hit perfectly. YOU (both the show and the series) features a charismatic stalker, Joe. He and my stalker Jared could be besties, so I knew from the get-go that YOU had to be on my comp list.
Between the two it paints a vivid picture of what my book may be like, and can also show how it’s different from each. I choose comps that may feel worlds apart. This will highlight that my book is not trying to be the same as either of them; it is something all its own. Still, readers who enjoy either story are left intrigued—wondering where the combination may go—hopefully, enough to pick up the book!