Monday, February 6, 2012

Query Workshop: Comparative Titles

So. Queries. Scary stuff, right? *nods*

I've been thinking about them a lot these past couple of days. If you're an unpubbed writer seeking an agent/editor, you know how stressful writing a query can be. Some say it's even more stressful than writing the freakin' manuscript. Well, no worries! I am here today to offer a bit of help. In today's edition of le Query Workshop, I'd like to talk about something that helps agents/editors place your book within the market: comparative titles.

Here are my tips for choosing the best comp titles for your book:

1) Think of your genre

If you write horror novels, chances are you read published books within that genre. You're familiar with its rules and conventions, as well as the authors who employ them. For your query, I think it's best to use at least one comp title within the horror genre, since your book belongs to the same family. But don't use any horror novel just because: stick to comp titles that handle the elements of your book with the same intensity. If it's a slasher novel, think of a pubbed novel with a slasher in it. Then think of how much slashing there is in that pubbed novel. If it matches the amount of slashing in yours, you have a winner. 

2) Think of your premise

Another way of choosing comp titles is through your premise. You have your horror novel. Let's say it's about a killer clown who eats zombies. Stephen King's It has a killer clown, although he doesn't eat zombies. In this case, I think you can pitch your book in the following way: "My novel can be described as Stephen King's It meets The Walking Dead." Instead of saying readers of so-and-so novels will enjoy it, pitch it as a mash-up of two premises, but make sure those premises are similar to yours.  

3) Think of your audience

Let's say you wrote that horror novel with a killer clown who eats zombies. But the main character's voice isn't uber-serious and creeptastic. It's more on the funny side, despite the horrible things happening to him/her. Your intended readers, who are fans of funny and creepy, won't pick it up if you pitch it as Stephen King's It meets The Walking Dead, will they? In this case, I'd say you have to find: 1) comp titles within the same genre, 2) comp titles with a similar premise, and 3) comp titles aimed at the same audience (depends on the MC's voice/your writing style). For example, I'd pitch your ms as such: "My novel can be described as Stephen King's It meets Zombieland." The former fits the 1st and 2nd requirement, while the latter fits the 3rd. Not only does this help you and your agent/editor market your book, but your target audience will have an easier time discovering your awesomeness!

So. Comp titles. Choose 'em well, folks. Choose 'em well. 

Also, if any of you are traumatized with Stephen King's It as much as I am, I apologize. *shudders*

If you have any questions regarding comp titles, or would like to share your awesome wisdom, please leave them in the comments! 

Happy Monday, and happy querying! :)


E. Arroyo said...

some great tips. And I love It. =)

Sharon Bayliss said...

Great articles. I've always had a terrible time choosing comps.

Hope Roberson said...

I'm struggling with this right now :( Thanks for the tips!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Some agents say they don't find comps helpful, but I think they're a great shorthand. If I say my book is like Charlotte Doyle, you'll be expecting a very serious historical. But if I add in Blossom Culp, you'll get the sense that there might be some ghostly goings-on, and a somewhat wry narrator. (That is, if you've read either of these books--and that's one danger of the comparisons).

And BTW, I did a query resource roundup on my blog today.

Sharon Bayliss said...

I added a link to this post in my latest blog entry -

Thanks for the great info!