Let’s face it: we’re all guilty of comparing our work to that of others. Sometimes, it can be a little demoralizing – but many other times, it can be a source of inspiration and result in a connection that you didn’t think you had before.
In publishing, this kind of comparison is essential. Nothing is original – and that’s a good thing! Books need to exist in conversation with one another, and authors are, of course, readers too. You want to create this kind of conversation and comparison around your title to help get word of it out there. All of this comes together to mean that comparing your books to other books as part of your title’s marketing strategy results in more readers and more sales.
Introducing: comp titles!
Comp titles, or comps– as they are known in the industry – refer to books when they are used to highlight similarities between a new release and an already published title. Anywhere from one to three comps are needed every step of the way in the creation of a book. Read on to see how comps factor into your writing process, how they help you sell your book, and how they are essential to the ongoing and future development of AI in book sales and marketing.
What is a comp?
“Comp” is short for comparison title. A comparison title is a book that is similar to yours in terms of content and/or is expected to make similar sales to said book.
Comps are an essential part of the publishing process, and should be paid attention to during the entire timeline of your book, from initial drafting stages to its publication date.
How do they work?
In traditional publishing, comps are, at first, selected by the author during the pitch stage – when one is trying to find an agent. After that, the agent may make suggestions for different comps. When the book is picked up by a publishing house, the marketing team takes over and further finalizes the comps. These comps are used in marketing both to the public and to retailers.
For self-published authors both new and old, comps probably come naturally to you: have you ever said to someone interested in your work, “my book is like X, but with Y and Z?” You just named a comp for your book!
The benefits of being self-published when it comes to comps is that you make the rules. You can have the final say on which books your title is being compared to, and can continue that trend during your publishing career.
Where do I find comps?
Everywhere! The best way to find comps for your title is to think of the books that inspired you, not just to write in general, but to write this book specifically. Chances are, these books are similar in subject matter, tone, theme, or other material. These books are great starting points, and can help you know what to look for when finalizing your comps or searching for more.
If you’re struggling to think of comps for your book, ask a friend, a family member, or your editor (if you have one). Those at a bit of a distance from your work might be able to come up with ideas for comps that you have never even considered.
If all else fails, it’s time to research. Search engines are your friend, but if trawling through pages of results isn’t your thing, try out these tips:
- Visit your local library or bookstore
- Read book reviews in newspapers and magazines
- Check out review aggregators like Book Marks
- Utilize your own wish lists and library on Kobo as reference
What’s a BISAC code, and what does it have to do with comps?
A BISAC code is a code that helps to categorize your book using metadata – or, the behind-the-scenes information that helps digital catalogues used by libraries, retailers, and eBook stores (including Kobo’s!) to ensure your book ends up in the right section across all platforms.
BISAC stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications, and a BISAC code looks something like this:
FIC027020 FICTION / Romance / Contemporary
This structure is standard – numerical code, general category, and following specifications. There are hundreds of BISACs in use and more are created or updated each year in the fall.
You can use BISACs to help you find comps – and to make sure your book can be found amongst its contemporaries. For more information about BISACs, review this FAQ from the Book Industry Study Group site.
Will comps help with my sales?
The short answer? Yes.
The longer answer: Yes, but only if you use them to your advantage when it comes to marketing (see below).
For a general marketing refresher, check out these tips on improving your sales!
Can comps help me market my book successfully?
Yes – and no. You need to be strategic with your comps, and make sure they are relevant, recognizable, and a true reflection of what your book contains. Comps are a necessary part of drawing reader interest. A great summary and intriguing tagline are only the beginning of describing your book – comps help to draw everything together.
People like the books they like – if you can connect your title to one of their favourites, they will undoubtedly be drawn in!
Some more tips:
- Really highlight the comps BEFORE your book is published, during your pre-order and pre-publication advertising period.
- Keep your comp description to one sentence or less – remember the “[title] is like X, but with Y and Z” formula? Try that out until it reads well and stays short and snappy.
- Try and choose books that were published in the last five years, ideally in the last one or two.
- Don’t overuse classics or extremely popular, evergreen books, as these can quickly become overdone.
- Don’t use a book as a comp if you haven’t read it!
- And, of course, have fun with it, and feel free to shake up your comps down the line – there is no hard and fast rule saying you must stick to the same comps for the entirety of your book’s publication history.
What’s AI got to do with it?
Still feeling stuck? Let AI find comps for you. Artificial intelligence has its advantages in helping you get your book out there, and it’s not as complicated as you might think. AI, in this context, can simply help you compile data on similar titles that you can then cross-reference and compare to your book without having to spend hours researching on your own.
BookNet Canada published this great article on taking advantage of what artificial intelligence can do when it comes to publishing a book, including how AI can help you find comp titles.
The takeaway? Comparison can be beneficial when it comes to books.
Don’t shy away from comparing your books to others or using similar titles as talking points. In fact, it is greatly encouraged. Books – and their authors – exist in conversation with one another. Spend some time selecting ideal comps for your book and see how it helps you take another step ahead on your self-publishing journey.