Finding Comparison Titles

Post by Reem Khaleel

For an author, finding the right comparison titles for a query letter is almost as important as editing the manuscript to perfection. There seem to be a lot of rules thrown around about finding comparison titles and often it can seem impossible to find the right comparison titles for your book. I have been told that my comparison titles are always eye-catching, so I thought I would share how I find my comparison titles.

What Are Comparison Titles?

Comparison titles (also known as comp titles) are books you feel your book is similar to. These should be books you can see yours sitting next to in a bookstore. You can choose a comparison title because it uses the same tropes, has a similar voice, writing style, or premise to your book.

Comparison Title Advice

  1. When choosing comparison titles, having eye-catching and well-known titles help. But be very cautious about choosing massively popular titles as comparison titles. For example: agents will probably gloss over a query using Twilight by Stephanie Meyer or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because they are over used.
  2. It’s hard to truly live up to famous works as a debut author, so sometimes a lesser known comparison title will work more to your advantage than a flashy one. It depends on the agent you are querying and their respective tastes. It also depends on if you’re cold querying or participating in a pitch event. Flashy comparison titles are likely to get more agent attention during pitch events and are encouraged during pitch events. But going for a lesser known title is better for normal query letters because you want to hook the agent with your own story and don’t want your flashy comparison titles to overpower your own story’s summary.
  3. Try to keep book comparison titles to books released within the last five years. This shows agents that you’re keeping an eye on the latest releases in your age category and genre and actively researching what titles your book could potentially sit next to in a bookstore. That’s not to say that a slightly older comparison titles won’t work in some cases. Use your best judgement to figure out whether an older comparison title is the perfect fit, or if there’s a newer one that will work better.
  4. Try using movie, TV show, or song comparison titles. If a movie, TV show, or song comparison title works well with your book, but is slightly older, ask yourself if it’s popular and modern enough before using it. For example: if you use a Taylor Swift song as a comparison title, everyone will know it, even if it’s from an earlier album. If it’s a popular movie or tv show on Netflix, it’s likely that people have watched it or at least heard of it. If it’s not popular or modern enough, again, see if there’s a better choice before using it as a comparison titles.
  5. There is definitely a lot more potential to use an older movie, TV show, or song. If a comparison title works so perfectly with your book that you feel you have to use it, go with that feeling, even if it wasn’t released in the last five years. You never know what might hook a literary agent. Some of my comparison titles have been older, but got me requests. So, while the five year rule is a good one, don’t overlook some wonderful potential comparison titles because they are a little older!
  6. Try having a balance of different comparison titles, like a movie and a book, or a song and a book. But always try to have at least one book comparison title because after all, you’re writing a book, so it should be positioned next to other books.
  7. If you can’t find an exact book comparison title, but an aspect of your writing is similar to an author’s, that can be used a comparison title. For example: A voice similar to Jenny Han books or love stories similar to Kasie West books.
  8. Try to have two to three comparison titles for your book. Any more than three can get confusing. If you have more than three comparison titles, research agent manuscript wishlists and use the comparison titles that you think will fit their wishlist best.
  9. The best comparison title formula that I have used for query letters is “A meets B.” For example, one of my books is High School Musical meets To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
  10. If you can’t find comparison titles that fit your book, it’s better to not have any comparison titles than to have ones that only partially fit or don’t fit at all.

Finding Comparison Titles

  1. Read voraciously in your genre and age category. This can be as simple as reading a book you’re highly anticipating, if it’s in the same genre you write.
  2. If you’re a huge reader and you’re willing to review books, try signing up for NetGalley to get ARCs for upcoming releases in your genre and age category. I find it especially helpful to read and review other debut authors books because it helps me see what kind of debut books my book will eventually be positioned next to. While you can’t use an unreleased book as a comparison title, you can keep it mind for comparison titles of future projects once it is released.
  3. Check out the new releases in your genre and age category in a bookstore or online bookstore website and read the blurbs, or do the same thing on Goodreads. Google the tropes in your book and try to find listicles of books with the same tropes in your genre and age category.
  4. Take some time to watch a movie or TV show that has a similar premise to your book.
  5. Listen to songs with the same vibe as your book, or create a playlist for your book.
  6. Browse agent’s manuscript wishlists on the official manuscript wishlist site, their agency websites, their Twitter accounts under #MSWL, or their personal websites. Most agents have a list of books, movies, TV shows, and songs that they love and share that they would like to see in book form. Some agents might even list tropes they love and want to see more of in their inbox.

Comparison Title Combination Examples

Here are some examples of comparison title combinations that I have used for my books.

Book 1

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle meets Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and Bride Wars.

Disney Channel’s StarStruck meets Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and Bride Wars.

Book 2

99 Days by Katie Cotugno meets Dawson’s Creek with a Gossip Girl twist.

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) meets 99 Days by Katie Cotugno with Gossip Girl twist.

Book 3

High School Musical meets To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

Sour by Olivia Rodrigo meets High School Musical and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

Book 4

She’s All That meets The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund and Netflix’s Sex Education.

Netflix’s Sex Education meets The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund and The DUFF by Kody Keplinger.

What are some of the ways you find comparison titles? Do you have any questions on finding comparison titles?

Reem is a young adult contemporary/romantic comedy author from the Maldives. She has lived in various corners of the world, including New York, Tokyo, California, and Kuala Lumpur throughout her life. She loves writing heartfelt stories filled with love and friendship. She is a 2021 graduate from the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at The New School.

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7 thoughts on “Finding Comparison Titles

  1. Comps are probably my favorite part of the whole query letter writing because it’s fun. Especially when mixing movies, songs, and books to try to portray the vibe of the book! Although I’ve seen people who say their books aren’t like any other books out there so they struggle with comps – but I always feel like no story is entirely /so/ unique that you can’t find something similar. I enjoyed reading the article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think sometimes as a writer, you can be so close to your story that it’s hard to find comps that fit just right. In that case, I always ask a trusted writing friend to recommend potential comps. I agree that there’s always a comp out there for each story, it’s a matter of finding the right ones.


  2. Usually, when I get an idea for a book, I can already imagine other books that have similar themes or vibes. The more I write, the more different comps come to me. And then when I finish, it becomes a case of which comps are the most attractive? Which comps are most likely to get readers excited? And I start to narrow it down that way:)

    Liked by 1 person

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