Oh. My. Goodness. Picking comparative titles for a book is almost as difficult as writing your own summary or blurb! Even now, even after writing this blog post with advice for it, I still struggle. How do you find the right books with the right similarities, without coming across braggy or choosing something that no one's heard of?
Okay, let's get into it.
What is a comparative title?
The purpose of a comparative (comp) title is to give readers (or publishers/agents) a frame of reference to get an idea of what your book is like and who it's for.
For readers, comp titles offer insights into the genre, style, and themes that can be expected. Authors can quickly capture the attention of potential readers who are fans of similar books.
For publishers and agents, comp titles provide a valuable tool for assessing market potential and identifying target audiences.
You can even put your comp title (in a description or on your book cover) as a review from someone. If a reviewer has said ‘this book feels like X’, you can use that to your advantage and get a solid comp title AND a five star review in one quote! This is especially important because it isn't just you claiming that your book is like another - you have a reader stating it as proof, building trust with potential readers.
What happens when you don’t use a comp title?
Without comp titles, you don’t have the advantage of drawing in people who are fans of a specific successful novel, and you don’t give people a chance to see the ‘vibe’ of the book and what tropes it might have – in a clean, simple line.
How to choose your comp titles
For most people, choosing comp titles is really, really difficult. The first step, however, is to read, read, read, and read some more in your genre. This is the only way to really know!
You can use online book databases like Goodreads or Amazon to start exploring books in your genre and identifying potential comp titles. Seek recommendations from fellow authors, critique partners, or industry professionals.
Consider each potential comp title's strengths, weaknesses, and overall market appeal. Look for similarities in themes, writing style, and narrative structure to ensure a strong match for your own book.
You should also consider your target audience, and other similarities with other titles that aren't just tropes. For example, if your book appeals to the same niche as another, even if it's quite different, it's helpful to use comp titles to identify your target audience.
The big comp title mistake
Beware of the comparative titles you choose. You don't want to tell everyone your book is the best book ever, comparative to classics and current bestsellers. It comes across as narcissistic, and if your book doesn't live up to the classics, you'll be in trouble!
For example, saying your dystopian novel is the next ‘Hunger Games’ is a really bold claim – and honestly, a tired one – and people simply won’t believe it. Aim for more niche comparative titles of successful recent books, but not the huge ones.
How many comp titles should I use?
For cover copy/book description copy, don’t use more than two. An ‘X meets Y’ comp title can work really well, especially if the books you use are of two very different genres. It’s surprising and intriguing to readers! More than three, however, is clogging up your space and getting too confusing.
If the comp titles are for a pitch to an agent or publisher, you might use up to three. They might even ask you to provide a list! So, have them prepared, but don’t bog down the pitch with comp titles. They exist to show the agent/publisher how your book compares to others in the market, and therefore how well it might sell, but your book should shine on its own.
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