Monday, August 09, 2021

So, about those comps

 Here's the stuff that you already know about comp books in a query:

1. They have to be current books, pubbed no earlier than 2018 and 2019 is better.

2. They need to be on the same shelf as your book. Don't use adult books to comp a YA book.

Now, here's what you might not know:

I look up the books you use as comps. Chances are good I haven't read the comps cause I can't read everything.

I generally start at Amazon.

I read the description.

I'm looking for the answer to "Do I want to read this book?"

If I do, that bodes well for you.

If I don't, not so much.

 The other thing I take a look at is what other readers have said. This isn't some sort of make or break deal but what it does is let me know if the publisher was playing fast and loose with description or category.  Thrillers that aren't; erotica that's called romance.

So, take a look at the places your comp books are described. Amazon? GoodReads? Publisher's website? Author's website?

Do the descriptions there make the book sound like something you'd want to buy and read?

If it doesn't meet that standard, you should consider using a different book.


Here are two books that I found in the comp sections of queries recently.

They sounded so good I bought them both.


 Any questions?


nightsmusic said...

Good morning! The only question I would have to this is, what if, in your genre, you can't find anything that quite comes close to what you're querying? I know, fodder for another blog, but I'm just curious.

Have read everything, but haven't posted because I couldn't contribute more than was already commented. Hope everyone is well and good. It's finally not raining here. For a couple hours at least.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Good morning! Yay. Another post. Thank you, Janet.

I also wondered about using author names in queries rather than specific titles, "This story will appeal to fans of [authors...]." As long as we don't use Lee Child or Nora Roberts. But I suppose the same thing applies? They must have a title out in 2018 or younger.

nightsmusic: and we are FINALLY getting muchmuch needed rain here.

And yes, I hope all is well with everyone in Reef-land.

Katja said...

I know that I will not find comps. Not necessarily because my book doesn't 'fit' or resemble what's already out there (but maybe also because of that), but because I am not a native English speaker who has read enough books in English and because I have been (and still am) too disabled to spend enough time on reading books. I don't have the time to read to find suitable comps.

I could only ask my Reefer-Beta Reader to help me find comps or be 'done'. Or, I can only hope that citing no comps at all won't result in an instant rejection because I'd rather not mention anything that I have never read and have no clue about.

Hope everyone is OK. Fiancé has had his first week at work and I am running the 'home business' by myself. It's going well but it's also tiring. I have to go to the grocery store twice as often because I cannot even carry HALF of what he used to haul home. 😫

I love being home alone, however, cause I get more writing done. 🙃🙂

Alex said...

"Must be published no later than 2018, preferably 2019."

This is one of my biggest bugbears about comp titles. I have an ever-expanding reading list and I try to read outside of my writing genre as well as keeping up with one or two in-genre award-winners every year. If I'm in any way typical, it's simply unrealistic for agents to expect writers to identify three very recent comp titles.

My betas and writing group buddies have found it equally difficult to pick very recent comps. Five years, maybe, but two? Industry tastes change, of course, but this intense myopia might be just how we ended up with waves of "The Girl Who..." and Auschwitz-riffing titles from one season to the next.

Part of me thinks that it's a liberty for agents to expect comp titles at all - agents are supposed to be the market experts who will select appropriate comp titles when they pitch your work to a publisher. Asking authors to identify the comps is kind of asking them to do some of your job.

PAH said...

The comps convo rankles me as well. I am influenced by so many different stories (and genres (and mediums)). And, having a day job and a growing family, like many of you, I take a long time to write. So even if I have great comps at the beginning of my writing process... by the time I am ready to query, those books are no longer relevant? (Yes, I take about 3+ years to finish and polish an ms.)

So that means I just have to write and HOPE someone writes and publishes something similar (but not TOO similar) somewhere in that time frame? Seems unrealistic.

I mean. If the agent asks for it, I'll do my best. But I can't be bothered. Either my books are good enough (at the right time) to be published or not ... my career won't hinge on comps.

That's what I tell myself anyway.

Katja said...

Alex, amen. A.MEN.

I agree with every single word you've made.


John Davis Frain said...

I cannot imagine how much my TBR list would swell if I was getting comps from people every day in the mail. That Luke Arnold book looks pretty inviting. Imma add that to my list now.

If I could change one thing about me (one a day would still not be enough), it'd be to read faster with the same level of understanding. Skimming a mystery makes it difficult to find certain clues that would help in the end.

Steve Forti said...

JDF - not to fret, I got you covered. I read it super fast (pretty sure it was the book in question, regardless of which book you're reading), and it was Professor Plum with the Infinity Gauntlet in the Room of Requirement. I'm pretty sure I picked up on the right clues. You're welcome.

KariV said...

Excellent advice! Thanks, Janet.

Comps sent so many writers to their hamster wheel of doom. I've never seen comp advice presented like this and it makes a lot of sense. When I was looking for comps for my novel, nothing immediately came to mind so I went looking in my genre. I found two books that comped nicely, but more importantly, they both sounded AMAZING! I don't know if I would have ever read them if I hadn't been looking for comps.

Beth Carpenter said...

I've wondered about the odds of the agent having actually read the comps mentioned, but this makes sense. Enjoy your new books! I especially love the second title.

P.S. Raining here, too, but the sun just peeked out of a sucker hole, so enjoyed a few minutes of sunshine.

Leslie said...

Yes, comps can drive a writer CRAZY. Anyone who likes comps reminds me of the kids who liked school. In other words, KEEP AWAY!

And yes, selling the book to publishers is the agent's job and agents are supposed to know the markets in which they sell. But look at it from the agent's view: they're getting tons of queries and look for ones they can easily reject or dig into.

If you give agents an idea of where you think your book will sit on the shelves, you're making his/her job that much easier. Sometimes you're even giving them ideas they wouldn't think of. (That actually happened to me at a pitch session at the WDC a few years back. He wasn't all that interested in my (nonfiction) book until I suggested a sizeable secondary market.)

Giving agents ammo to sell your book to the publishers can give you an edge re getting out of the slush pile

NLiu said...

I am, like Lisa Bodenheim wondering how it works if you comp using authors rather than specific books. The stuff I write has a certain “feel” that fits in the category (let's say YA fantasy) but doesn't involve common subgenres like fae, werewolf or witch stories. Can I still use fae/werewolf/witch books as comps? I feel like that would be misleading. But my book is still similar to the style and voice of the authors of those works. (Basically, I don't want an agent expecting a faerie story and getting annoyed when it's something else. But how different is too different to use as a comp??)

My rodent wheel is spinning!

Craig F said...

U ended up querying with no comps. I tried and tried and couldn't find anything that fit, so I went without.

Sci-Fi is usually written about the far away; I wanted something different. I went with the first humans to get away from Earth, from a not too distant time.

Maybe I should shoot for some comps again, the traction I gained was akin to stepping on banana peels.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Playing catch up on comments because apparently Janet is back in full blog mode. Love this on comps. Always stresses me out trying to keep my comps current. And trying to decide if they fit whatever I am querying.

Ted Garvin said...

I have a similar question to the first: what if you find books in the time frame as your historical fiction (e.g. you've written about Thermopylae and the best comp is Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire (written quite a while ago))? Do you leave comps out since they aren't recent or search farther afield (which will take time away from actually writing)?

Leslie said...

Ted Garvin, the best comps are those that are in the "similar but different" category AND have a decent sales record. Always remember that agents (and publishers) are looking for what they believe will sell