Our biggest challenge yet: comp titles

Marie Parks/ March 4, 2020/ Writing Process/ 0 comments

We’ve spent hours… days… weeks… probably months of our lives writing, editing, and revising Unrelenting.

We’ve got nine separate drafts in our Google Drive, each tighter, cleaner, and more precise than the last. The first one bears almost no resemblance to the final product. Hardly any sentences from that first attempt survived in the third draft, much less the ninth.

My point is, this is a lot of work.

But the HARDEST part of the job so far for us has been…

Comp titles.

So what’s a comp title?

A comp title, or a comparison title, is a book that is similar to yours in several key ways. It allows an agent to get some context for what your book is all about, without you having to tell them much about the plot, characters, or setting.

This is not a how-to post (there are better ones out there, like this and this), but the reason it’s been tough is we have to find books that fit some narrow parameters. Like…

  • It should be no more than 3 years old,
  • Have received some accolades or awards, but can’t be on the level of a take-the-world-by-storm success,
  • Preferably be in your genre,
  • For your reader age range,
  • With similar themes, plot, and/or setting.

To be honest, we hadn’t really been keeping up with new releases the way we should have. So that meant that, a few weeks ago, we dove into Goodreads, Amazon, and publisher websites to determine what might be some good books to read.

We narrowed it down to 12, split the list in half, and feverishly got to reading.

And we got VERY organized about it.

We used Trello to organize our prospective comp titles, take notes, and divvy up the work.
Here’s what a card for a title looks like: all the relevant details, plus a space for notes below.

We landed on 4 that we feel are decent picks.

The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz: This paranormal/fantasy takes place in modern-day Seattle and follows a level-headed, determined woman as she hunts for her kidnapped best friend. She teams up with a man from an organization that polices those with special talents.

Our story takes place in modern-day Cleveland and follows a level-headed, determined woman as she hunts for her missing sister. She teams up with a ghost hunter along the way.

The Nightjar by Deborah Hewett: This contemporary fantasy takes place in gritty, rainy London, where magic exists in an alternate-London. The main character is searching for her best friend’s soul, so she can save her life.

Our story also has grit and rain in abundance. While we don’t have an alternate-Cleveland, there is a secret society of magic-users living just under the radar. Plus, we have the searching-for-someone plot.

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen: This science fiction story takes place in San Francisco (both modern and in the future). It follows a time traveling secret agent who seeks to help his daughter across an impossible divide of over 100 years. He’s determined, yet doesn’t know who to trust… if anyone.

Our novel also deals with the issue of trust in the desperate effort to help save a beloved family member just out of reach.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig: This gritty apocalyptic thriller is about a mysterious illness that impacts one of the main characters’ little sister, turning her into a perpetual sleepwalker. The character believes she alone cares enough about her sister to shepherd her through the dangers of her sleepwalking. She finds herself in unexpected company on the journey.

Bridget, our main character, also believe she alone cares enough about her sister to do what it will take to save her. Plus she definitely has her share of unexpected, weird company along the way. While Wanderers digs into themes of racism and othering in America in a very bald way, we’re setting up the sequel to Unrelenting to do that through a broader lens of othering, so there is some similarity in terms of where we’re heading with the series.

All of these books have been fun to read, so pick them up at your local bookseller or library!

Chances are, if you like any of these, you’ll like our novel, when you get it in your hands.

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