Know Your “Comp” Titles
At a recent writers’ conference, Jen sat down with me, an editor, for one of her first one-on-one appointments. After introductions, I asked the common question, “So tell me what comp titles you chose and why.”
Jen said, “There are no comp titles for my book. There’s nothing out there like it.”
Whoops! Jen had just revealed that not only did she not do her homework, but she missed the crucial benefits of why well-chosen comp titles are so important.
What are “comp” titles?
”Comp” is short for either comparable or competitive titles—two names for the same thing. These are other titles currently available in the marketplace that have two things in common with your book: They are written on the same or similar topic as your book and are written to the same or similar target audience. Doing your homework to find the best possible comp titles is more important than you may realize.
Why are they so important? Who uses them, for what purpose?
- There are several reasons why every complete one-sheet includes at least three comp titles and a strong book proposal includes three to five.
- Identifying comp titles helps identify the correct category or genre for your book. This helps the editor “position” where your book falls among the myriad of books published.
- Comp titles demonstrate to the editor and to the sales person(s) on Pub Board that there is a measurable market, or demand, for your book—that there are readers out there interested enough in the topic to purchase books on it. Understandably then, it would be bad news for the sales person to hear that there are no comparable books to use in measuring the potential sales interest in your book.
- Comp titles provide other similar books for the marketing person(s) on Pub Board to consider as they design the marketing strategy and the cover for your book. They need to see what’s working out there in the marketplace in your category.
- Finally, you, as the author, will benefit from knowing what other authors in your space are writing and how they are organizing and presenting their material. Readers considering a purchase of your book are likely considering others as well. What will give your book the competitive edge? You need to know!
How does one research and identify appropriate comp titles?
Your best friend in researching comp titles is Amazon! If you know one author or title that writes in the same genre, or on the same topic, search that. Then look below to the section titled, “Customers who bought this item also bought . . .” and let the searching begin! Also, enter a few key words on your subject and see what comes up. You can also search by category.
However, you aren’t limited to Amazon. Go speak to your local librarian for suggestions. They love being helpful. Or, if you are fortunate enough to still have a local Christian bookstore nearby, booksellers can provide some real help on identifying some bestselling comp titles.
What do I write about the comp titles in my proposal and one-sheet?
First give a very brief sentence describing the content of the comp book. (You can get this from Amazon or from the back cover or jacket material.) Then in one or two sentences tell how your book is unique from that one. You don’t need to make the case that yours is better, just different. When listing your comp titles be sure to include the publisher and release year—both are available on the Amazon screen at the bottom of the page.
A few pitfalls to avoid.
- Never say that there are not any comparable books.
- Never use a runaway bestseller as a comp title.
- Avoid using classics that have a long history.
- Try to find titles that were published in the last five years.
- Avoid criticizing the comp title—instead just tell how yours is unique
Make the most of great comp titles.
Finally, once you’ve done your research, take advantage of the research you have done and make the time investment in reading one or two of your comp titles. You will find yourself better equipped to write a unique, competitive book when you know what is available from the competition.
Cindy Lambert serves Baker Publishing Group as executive editor-at-large for Revell and Baker Books. She is a collaborative writer of eleven books including the bestseller UnPlanned with Abby Johnson. She and her husband, Dave, have six children and nine grandchildren and enjoy launching their kayaks off their pier in front of their log home in Michigan.