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How to determine comparative titles? (1 Viewer)

Ajoy

Senior Member
So, beyond the advice of choosing titles released within the last five years and not using extremely popular titles (not claiming the next Harry Potter)... I'm struggling to figure out how to choose the correct comparison titles. I feel like books have so many layers, it's hard to know when it should be considered a comparison.

I mean I could compare to a book that uses multi-generational storytelling to structure the plot, or books that have a hidden magical world, or books that tie to Greek Mythology, or books where there is magic body-swapping shenanigans, or books that intertwine high and low fantasy, or books with normalized magic, or books exploring themes like belonging or mortality, classism or any number of core elements that make my book what it is.

The comparatives I'm currently considering are:
Lore (connection with modern-day Greek Mythology, romantic sub-plot, but my book does not at all have the battles/fighting tone of that book),
A Darker Shade of Magic (hidden magical world, MC who feels like an outsider among family-for magical reasons, but there are so many differences within the plots),
Uprooted (The villain with a hidden story who also gets some form of development through the climax, normalized magic, romantic sub-plot, multi-generational storytelling)


When is a book similar enough to make it a comparison?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
It's a marketing phenomenon that we have to compare books. Personally, I'm always looking for books that don't compare. When Harry Potter came out, what did it compare to? I just finished reading Queen's Gambit. I can't compare it to anything...It was so different. Something new and fresh.

But if you had to compare, and I understand the pressure to do this, with respect to publishing, I would think of the reader and ask myself, "Is this the same customer?" I might also look at the author's style. Because you're trying to find a book, where the publisher or retailer can say, "If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy this." For me as a reader, I'm not always looking for a book with a similar theme, but is the level of comprehension the same? Is it the type of thing I would enjoy? That's why the industry tried to establish genres. However, when the Goldfinch came out, it went into the bucket of 'literary fiction' and some refer to it as 'suspense' or 'thriller'. But it didn't fit perfectly into any genre, and it won a Pulitzer.

So to answer your question, when it appeals to the same mindset and taste level.
 
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notawizard

Senior Member
This is my problem. The things I can think of that are comparable are either too old to be used or are too popular. I'm going to opt for "leave it off" unless I'm specifically forced to include it on a query wizard or something like that, but I really don't think that is the best option. I feel like I'm going to shoot myself in the foot with comps other people think are stupid.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
This is my problem. The things I can think of that are comparable are either too old to be used or are too popular. I'm going to opt for "leave it off" unless I'm specifically forced to include it on a query wizard or something like that, but I really don't think that is the best option. I feel like I'm going to shoot myself in the foot with comps other people think are stupid.
That's a good point about the option to leave it off. A lot of the agents I'm researching are pretty vague, just asking for a query and first x pages. So I suppose, opting to leave comps out of a query is an option.

The easiest comp for mine would probably be "adult Percy Jackson", but that's too old and too big...??? I know it worked for The Magicians to promote it as "adult Harry Potter", but I would be afraid of causing an eye-roll and dismiss reaction...but also tempted to use it. :) The other comp I wish I could consider is Wild Seed because of some major plot similarities, but that one's too old (and also has a lot of historical fiction components that diverge greatly from mine).
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
It's a marketing phenomenon that we have to compare books. Personally, I'm always looking for books that don't compare. When Harry Potter came out, what did it compare to? I just finished reading Queen's Gambit. I can't compare it to anything...It was so different. Something new and fresh.

But if you had to compare, and I understand the pressure to do this, with respect to publishing, I would think of the reader and ask myself, "Is this the same customer?" I might also look at the author's style. Because you're trying to find a book, where the publisher or retailer can say, "If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy this." For me as a reader, I'm not always looking for a book with a similar theme, but is the level of comprehension the same? Is it the type of thing I would enjoy? That's why the industry tried to establish genres. However, when the Goldfinch came out, it went into the bucket of 'literary fiction' and some refer to it as 'suspense' or 'thriller'. But it didn't fit perfectly into any genre, and it won a Pulitzer.

So to answer your question, when it appeals to the same mindset and taste level.
That's the thing, right...you want to write something new and unique, which would make me think it would be hard to find a comparison. I guess that's why some of the comp styles are "It's like X meets Y" or "It's like X, but with Y". That said, I was going to go for, "Fans of X would like my title". I think the comps I'm considering have the kind of readers who would like mine, but it still feels really weird to be choosing titles to compare my book to.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
That's the thing, right...you want to write something new and unique, which would make me think it would be hard to find a comparison. I guess that's why some of the comp styles are "It's like X meets Y" or "It's like X, but with Y". That said, I was going to go for, "Fans of X would like my title". I think the comps I'm considering have the kind of readers who would like mine, but it still feels really weird to be choosing titles to compare my book to.
While comparisons do serve a purpose, I agree it's uncomfortable to choose your comps, because what if readers don't agree. Although I prefer your approach of "fans of X would like my title," it's still risky. I have also seen new authors simply state who their influences are, for example: While she writes for adults, she counts J.K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan among her literary influences. That just hints at it to give your audience an idea of what to expect.
 
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Tettsuo

WF Veterans
You could also go to a bookstore, go to the section you think your book will sell in, and pick a few titles. /shrug
 
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