Guest Post: 6 Ways To Make Comp Titles Work For You by Jennifer Johnson-Blalock

I’m so thrilled to have another great guest post for you! Comparative titles are a major conundrum for many writers. How recent? How many? How perfect do they have to be?

I get more questions about comp titles than many other topics–believe it or not.

How can you make them work for you? Literary Agent Jennifer Johnson-Blalock tells us how.

6 Ways to Make Comp Titles Work for You

Comp titles—other works that are comparable to your own book—can be powerful tools to help an agent understand your project. Though you don’t absolutely have to include comp titles in your query, if you choose the right ones, they can get the agent excited: “Oh, it’s like that book? I love that book! I definitely want to read more.” But selecting the right comp can be tricky, so here are a few tips:

 

  1. Choose a comp title that puts your book on the right shelf…and the right table.

Imagine you’re walking through a bookstore—where would your book be? To begin, you want to choose comp titles that are in the same category and genre. Then take it a step further. Say you’ve written a work of women’s fiction. In a bookstore, that might be jumbled up with all the other adult fiction books. But what if they made a themed table—what other books would go on a table with yours? A table with Jojo Moyes (Women’s Fiction to Make You Cry) is going to be very different than a table with Sophie Kinsella (Lighthearted Women’s Fiction to Take to the Beach). And your book isn’t a classic yet; make sure you’re choosing titles that are relatively recent.

 

  1. Be specific.

Your book could probably be placed on more than one table, which is where the classic X meets Y comp title formula comes in. You can be even more specific, though. What about each title makes it comparable to your book? The powerful romance of X with the fast pace of Y tells me much more.

 

  1. But don’t use wildly different comps.

I recently passed on a query that used comp titles so different I couldn’t see how they were talking about the same book. For instance, if you pitch your book as THE FAULT IN OUR STARS meets GONE GIRL, I’ll think you’re not sure what sort of book you’ve written, since those works couldn’t be more different—in category, genre, tone, themes, everything! Specificity can help here, but at a certain point, it’s too much of a puzzle. Choosing books from the same metaphorical shelf will help a great deal. And remember, it’s fine to use just one comp title.

 

  1. Consider a character comp.

Say you can’t think of a great comp for your book as a whole. What about your main character? Maybe you’ve written a protagonist who’s just like Harriet the Spy—but in space. Even though you’re not describing the entire book, helping an agent understand your protagonist will go a long way to her understanding your book.

 

  1. Movies and TV shows can be comp titles, too.

Books are the obvious comp source, but other media can work as well, especially if it’s big and buzzy. I’ve seen comps used successfully with properties like SCANDAL, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, and SERIAL, just to name a few. Only go this route if it’s a popular, recent show and if it truly is the best comp for your book—don’t tell me it’s like the current Big Thing just because it’s the current Big Thing.

 

  1. Strike the Goldilocks balance: not too famous and not too obscure.

If you set the bar too high, it’s hard for your book to live up to the comparison—no, sadly, your book will probably not be the next HARRY POTTER. On the other hand, if you set the bar too low, you risk the agent a) not having heard of the comp, which makes it unhelpful or b) thinking your book will be too small to pique a publisher’s interest. It’s tough, but you have to find the comp title that’s just right.

 

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock joined Liza Dawson Associates as an associate agent in 2015, having previously interned at LDA in 2013 before working as an agent’s assistant at Trident Media Group. Jennifer graduated with honors from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in English and earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Before interning at LDA, she practiced entertainment law and taught high school English and debate. Follow her on Twitter @JJohnsonBlalock, and visit her website: www.jjohnsonblalock.com.

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When You Start Comparing Yourself To Other Writers

dontcompareThe reality of pursuing anything you’re super passionate about is the jealousy that can pervade you. Writing is no exception.

When you start comparing yourself to other writers, their books or book deals you’re going down a dark path. Here are my tips to avoid jealousy when it creeps in.

WHEN YOU START COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER WRITERS…

1. Remember they started somewhere too. You might be seeing them at a different point in their career. I love this quote from Jon Acuff because it’s SO TRUE. If you’re at the beginning and you are comparing yourself to someone in the middle of their career–there is no comparison! Apples and oranges.

2. It should spur you on to think ‘If they can do it, so can I!’ Don’t let jealousy stop you from trying. When you see other writers getting deals it shouldn’t make you think ‘Why them and not me!’ It should be making you think ‘Agents are still signing clients and editors are still buying books! The industry is thriving!’

3. Instead of turning inward with negativity, turn outward and support them. Writers that help build each other up have lasting literary friendships. You’ll notice the writers on their blogs and on Twitter that are constantly supporting each other. Not only is it good for the soul, it’s good for self promotion. Because when it comes time to promote your book your writer friends will have your back because you had theirs.

4. Step away from Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Continue reading When You Start Comparing Yourself To Other Writers

Don’t Compare Your Beginning To Someone Else’s Middle

dontcompareSuch a great quote and couldn’t be more relevant in book publishing–literally.

Don’t let reading an amazing book stop you from starting yours.

Don’t let your rough draft linger because it’s not good enough–that’s what editing is for.

Don’t compare the beginning of your career to another writer’s middle. Continue reading Don’t Compare Your Beginning To Someone Else’s Middle