Picking Comps

As I put together the querying information for my agent(!!!) I panicked over a bunch of the things she needed.  One of them was a list of comps, or comparable titles.  Publishing Crawl Podcast talks about comps a lot when they talk about queries so I knew they were important, but how on earth do you pick them?  Basically all I knew was that you should never pick the 1% of authors to use as a comp (So J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are right out, for example) because everyone does that and no one believes them.  (Usually with good reason.  “It has magic” does not make your book like Harry Potter.  Rejected query blogs are fun to read.)

So, as I always do when I’m freaking out and inside my head too much about something to do with writing, I turned to my friend who works in publishing.  She has this magical ability to become an expert on whatever she’s doing at any given point in time, so as long as my question is in her field she has an answer.

These are the comp rules she gave me:

  1. Pick three comps.
  2. Two should be single books (they can be part of a series) that share my premise.  (In this case I used “death of a celebrity.”)
  3. One should be a series that shares the set up of your book. (In this case, a series where the protagonist travels and also solves mysteries.)
  4. If your book is the first in a series, pick a comp that also the first in a (doing well) series.
  5. They have to be in your genre.
  6. All the books have to be from the last three years.
  7. Try to have at least one best seller.

Now, these are specifically for a cozy mystery so they may not translate to every genre, but I think they’re a pretty good starting place.  Basically you want reasonably successful books but not unrealistically so.  You also want them to show that you know your genre and aren’t just grabbing the biggest name you can think of.

I used Goodreads, Barnes and Noble’s website, and Amazon to search for my comps.

  •  Amazon has that handy thing that tells you where a book ranks in different genres so I could see if the book I had chosen was doing well.  I figured anything under 100–or even better, 50– was a good choice.
  • Barnes and Noble has a little note if a book is a bestseller.
  • Goodreads is great for finding books similar to something you have in mind.
  • My friend also recommended straight up googling “books similar to”

I also sent my choices to my friend to make sure she approved, but if you don’t have an all-knowing friend in the industry I’d recommend showing them to someone and walking them through the reasons for your decision.  If they think it sounds reasonable then you’re good!


Anyone else have tips on how to pick comps?  How did you do it?  Let me know in the comments so I can refine my technique!

P.S.  Book two is chugging along!  Slowly, but the words are coming.

One thought on “Picking Comps

  1. […] Of course, the query letter is only the first step in your query.  Every agent has a different preference for how you approach them.  Many agents want comp, or comparable, titles, something I found really tough. Luckily, I’ve got a friend who knows everything there is to know about publishing in my genre. […]


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