I read a lot of query letters for my internship. I read so many, one of my favorite past times is showing my roommates the outrageous amount of emails I have in my inbox. Now, I have never rejected a query based on a comparison (or comp) title. Are there great books with poor comp titles in their queries? Yes. But I do think comp titles are an important part of the query. Comp titles not only show what the vibe of your book is but where it fits into the market. An author with good, relevant comp titles, shows they know what they’re doing. So, in the vein of How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, here is what not to do.
Poe, Frost, Dickinson, Chaucer, while revered writers are horrible comp titles. Unless you’re writing a Jane Austen spin-off, such as Amy Donne’s Brightly Burning, you shouldn’t use the classics as comp titles. They’re just too old, and while they did well, they aren’t bestsellers now. The best comp titles are books that were published within the last two years and sold well. This gives the agent an idea of where your book fits in the current market, not the 1800’s.
The opposite of comparing classics is comparing books no one has heard of. While your comp title doesn’t need to be a New York Times Best Seller, it should have sold more than twenty copies. If an agent looks up your comp title and it has zero reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., that’s a bad sign.
Mixing comp titles from different genres is not bad. It can help pinpoint what your novel is about. However, the comparison needs to make sense. If your comparison titles are Jane Austen, Stephen King, and Nikita Gill, the agent reading your query is going to find themselves dazed and confused. Remember, comp titles are meant to help pinpoint your query, not list every book it has a single thing in common with.
This is the last one because it is the last one you should be using. I don’t feel a need to write a paragraph about why here. As 1 Peter 1:2 says, “the word of God endures forever.” Let’s leave it as is.
In summation, keep your comp titles relevant, recent, and respectful. And as always, happy querying!