Thursday, January 07, 2021

Q & A 195

Are comparison titles really necessary? I understand the point of listing comparison titles in a query, but not how to identify a good one correctly. If I list a title that anyone's ever heard of the agent/ editor will roll their eyes at the audacity of comparing my work to something successful. Or they'll roll their eyes because the titles don't qualify as true comparisons -- out of date, different genre, wrong medium etc. Or their eyes will roll because the comparison title is so obscure as to be meaningless. 

And I know you're going to tell me to toddle off to a bookstore and see what all the other new, exciting, published authors in my genre are doing. 

But if I have to pull books off of the shelf and look at all the smiling faces of new authors who got published (and probably at a younger age than me), my rampant insecurity will flare up. I'll seethe with jealousy and become so discouraged that I'll scrap the project for another ten years. I'll never get a query letter sent in at this rate. 

Do I really have to include comps? And if so, how do I identify the right ones?

You've caught on admirably to the beauty of the literary agent's game plan. Asking for comps is nothing more than creating another reason to reject you. For example:

You: My book will remind you of The da Vinci Code.

Agent: I hated The da Vinci Code.

There's no need to include comps if an agent hasn't requested them. But let's assume you've decided the perfect agent for you is one who has requested comps. (This is probably an agent who demands you query using Query Manager, because they know if they send you to Query Manager you'll start filling out the form and give up halfway through and they won't have to deal with you. An agent who uses Query Manager has lots of free time for long lunches. I would use Query Manager if I were an agent.)

I don't recommend toddling to the bookstore if your purpose is to find, as comps, titles of books you haven't read. It would be embarrassing to meet your prospective agent for lunch and she says, "How did you feel when the train crashed in The Girl on the Train?" and:

You: It was so unexpected. And sad. I almost cried. 

Agent: Aha! There was no train crash in The Girl on the Train. My offer to represent you is rescinded.

When an agent asks you what titles compare with your book, they're really saying that if you've written something so original and groundbreaking that nothing like it has ever been seen before, they want nothing to do with it. 

1 comment:

Mandakinz said...

I became distracted when reading this answer by the idea that a prospective agent might take me to lunch. How far into the process do I need to get to be wined and dined? The query letter? If so, I wonder how many lunches I could be treated to on the basis of fake query letters.

As always EE, your advice was spectacularly helpful.