Friday, April 11, 2014

Query Question: More on comp titles

I've seen some agents say they like to see TITLE meets TITLE or "this would appeal to fans of ..." and some who don't like comparisons at all. When I think of my MS, immediately two things come to mind, a book and a TV show. What do you think of using both to show that I know who my book would appeal to? Or would using a TV show be a big no-no?

I have a real aversion to using film and TV shows as comps. This is particular to me I know. The reason is that I don't have TV so a lot of times the comparison is useless to me. On the other hand I haven't read every book in the world (not for lack of trying) so sometimes those comps go over my head too.

I don't think it's cause for setting a query on fire to use a TV show as a comp, but I think it's smarter to use books.

The only big no-no in queries is bad writing. 


Kitty said...

You don't have TV? I thought you loved "The Wire"? Or am I thinking of someone else?

Janet Reid said...

I *own* The Wire on DVD. As everyone should.

Bill Plante said...

You really are a minimalist.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

What if there are no comps? Janet rolls eyes and takes deep breath, not this again.

Suppose the story, (which exhibits excellent writing, follows all the rules, has intelligence, humor, and heart), is unlike anything else out there.
Do I mention my groundbreaking main thesis, as in, my book is about a wizard kid, vampire teenagers or golly gee Ms. Reid, I think I'm the first to write about governmental control over societal roles via games called hunger,or do I stay focused on my work and my work alone?

As a side note, network TV - blah. But I could not live without MSNBC. It reminds me that not all minds meld with that of Mr. Murdoch.

Jenz said...

The responses I've seen to the "what if there are no comps" question is, that's a problem. Either you aren't widely read enough in your own genre to realize what already exists, or you've written something so far out there that it could be a tough sell.

I'm pretty sure Carolynn was being facetious, but someone will read the post and wonder the question.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I don't have TV either! Internet was what I chose in our first apartment out of college, and we've stuck with it (so far) even as homeowners. There are a variety of ways one can watch television online (Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, etc.) and I find I actually don't like watching current seasons of things. I hate waiting for what comes next!

That said, there is some damn fine storytelling in current TV. But it hadn't occurred to me to wonder if it was all right for a comp title.

MNye said...

So, let me get this... you should compare or 'comp' your writing to something already done to show it was not an original idea and should easily appeal to those who read the same thing over and over? Or is this like 'genre' for selling purposes. Shouldn't you try and emphasize the newness of your work. Why underestimate your audience or rather narrow it down to someone else's success. Not sure 'comps' equal good writing. If the idea of the comp is to make someone interested in your work seems like you are aiming at someone with narrow vision. I could be off the mark here, I have never written a query, but I listening and learning.

Elissa M said...

Yay! I'm not the only one without television!

As I understand it, comps are another way of showing who your potential audience is. Though many readers also watch TV, I would still hesitate to use a television show as a comp. It's doubtful that the majority of "Game of Thrones" fans have even read the books, so there isn't necessarily a lot of crossover between the media. (Not that having a hit show based on your novels doesn't boost sales-- but I'm getting off the subject.)

People who read books are more likely to read a new book than people who just watch TV. That's why I believe comparisons with other books are more valuable than comparisons with visual media.

@MNye: There are no original ideas, only original presentations of very old ideas. The purpose of comps is not "to show it was not an original idea and should easily appeal to those who read the same thing over and over", but to simply give an agent or editor a quick reference to the sort of book it is. You want to not only compare your book, but also point out how it's different from the similar books out there. Comp titles are not always necessary, especially in fiction.

Adib Khorram said...

Gene Roddenberry sold the original Star Trek using a comp. He called it "Wagon Train to the stars."

Granted, that was TV and we're talking about books, but I imagine there are plenty of agents and publishers out there who appreciate something succinct like that.

MNye said...

Got it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Jenz, in 1899 a clerk in the patent office said, (although it has been attributed to Buell), "Everything that can be invented has been invented."
Yes I was being faceitous but think of Stockett's HELP. THat book was very different and what a great book.
I am well read, when I have the time, but I really believe that sometimes writers can come up with something new within a story or format.
If we did what everybody else does we'd all be starting with Genisis and ending with Revilations.
Ah...pardon my biblical spelling, on THAT I am not well read :)

Susan Bonifant said...

How many times I sampled books that would "appeal to fans of Gone Girl" and found myself wondering, when?

Is an author's subjective comparison of their book to another really of use to an agent?

DLM said...

I'm squeeing a little that @Adib Khorram went to the Trek place. Not least because it's a marvelously pithy, excellent example.

Of course, Janet makes us all squee every day, so this is one of the favorite moments in my routine - coming home, supper underway, quiet time with cat, let the squeeing ensue. I may have to embark on some Trek now, on the TV I do own (though my original plan was to buy Sherlock season 4 with bonus content on Amazon HD) ...

Lance said...

What a great week of outstanding, informative, and entertaining posts. Thank you, Ms. Reid. I generally don't trust the if you like that, you'll love this.