October 20, 2010

RTW: Can I get a comp comp!

Each week, YA Highway hosts Road Trip Wednesday, a blog carnival in which contributors discuss a topic on their blogs and invite readers to do the same. This week's RTW topic is:

Who are your comp titles/authors? (click for Nathan Bransford's explanation).

For me, one of the most difficult YA Highway topics ever broached. I don't like comps. When I query, I won't be including comp titles/authors unless an agent requires them.

It's hard for me to pick a comp title because:

1.) I'm afraid naming a comp title or author will do more to give an agent false expectations than get them in the "right frame of mind."

2.) I'm not as well-read in YA as I'd like to be. Until 2 years ago, I only knew YA as a reading level instead of the genre full of sub-genres with a growing market and fanbase. I've spent the last 2 years playing catch-up, but reading simply takes time.

At a writer's conference in February, an agent said my query of PRODIGAL MAGGIE reminded her of Holly Black's TITHE and O.R. Melling's THE HUNTER'S MOON.

I don't think TITHE is much like my book except that it deals with a female teen's interactions with fantastical creatures, especially since its dark, gritty tone is very unlike MAGGIE's story.

THE HUNTER'S MOON, I'm not sure. I bought it months ago but have yet to read it, although I plan to before I query. From the description of the book, it sounds the most similar so far, in that Irish folklore is at the core of the story and mythical creatures act as the main character's guide in a dangerous trek across Ireland, though my novel deals not with fairies but a less common (in literature, anyway) fantastical creature.

From Amazon:

The Hunter’s Moon follows two cousins, Gwen and Findabhair, as they backpack around Ireland in search of the country’s magical past. But the girls go too far when they dare to spend the night in a known fairy mound. Finn is stolen away by the dark king of Faerie to become his bride sacrifice to the Great Worm, or Hunter. It is up to timid Gwen to rescue her intrepid cousin, and she wonders if the task will be too much the first time she catches a glimpse of the Little People at play. "Gwen quaked inside. This wild abandon…was beyond anything she could imagine…Exquisite chaos." But with the help of a fairy doctress and her handsome grandson, Gwen assembles a rag tag team of heroes determined to bring Finn back -- even if it means the destruction of Faerie itself.

Just as a side note, my inspiration for PRODIGAL is the HARRY POTTER series, though I wouldn't dare compare it to that, since it's, ya know... the most popular series on the planet, and the only real similarity is in the world-building.

What titles or authors are comparable to your WIPs?


Holly Dodson said...

My inspiration for EMERALD was the HARRY POTTER series too, but don't tell anybody! lol ;)

Anonymous said...

I could never compare my WiPs either, mostly because of the first reason you mentioned. That, and I fear appearing too conceited, depending on which books I pick.

I do tend to mention, however, if a book of mine is inspired by a novel, especially a classics. My NaNo novel is definitely touched by THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, though not entirely. :)

Jennifer Hoffine said...

It does seem like publishing professionals are eager to pigeonhole, which I do consider a bad thing, in general.

The flip side of that is that it's human nature to grasp onto the unknown with the known. If market comparisons help an agent grasp your work and start to read then it's probably a good thing.

Alicia Gregoire said...

I think you nailed it when you said that you don't want to give them false expectations. This is a deep-hidden issue for me. (I think.)

Sarah Nicolas said...

This was the hardest RTW yet for me, too. I also won't be supplying comp titles to agents unless it's 100% required - not on this book anyway.

I just feel like anything I'd compare it to would be ... I dunno, presumptious

Samantha Mabry said...

abby...you are making ya fantasy less scary. for some reason this is the final frontier genre for me.

Pam Harris said...

Quita and I felt strange about comparing our works, too--we didn't want to sound presumptuous or anything (and I think I totally butchered the spelling). That's so cool that you got feedback from an agent, though--that means they see potential in your work. :)

KO said...

I hear you Abby-- I think it's a really fine line--
I like what I've read on blogs today:
"this book will appeal to fans of X and Y" as a way of associating yourself with someone else but remaining distinct.

Katy Upperman said...

I don't like to use comps in queries either, unless the agent specifically asks for them, and then I say something like "will appeal to fans of... whatever."

Based on the comp titles you mentioned, your story sounds very cool!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

It's hard to make comparisons based on a book's blurb--you're right, it can create expectations that don't match up. Based on my query, one person thought my book was going to be like the Bloody Jack series--despite some superficial similarities in the blurbs, they are not at all alike.

Claire Dawn said...

I will admit that I did compare a novel of mine to Lord of the Rings. But that was because the interviewer kept insisting on a comp. Plus I figured it's a Japanese regional newspaper, noone in the publishing industry will ever see this.

I hope.

(PS Just because you mentioned Ireland, I thought of Wicked Lovely, but that's also fairies.)

Missed Periods said...

You make a good point. I can't think of any comps for my novel. I had better start reading.

Leila Austin said...

It's a tricky balance, definitely! One of my WIPs could theoretically comp with The Hunger Games, but the thought of comparing any of my work with a series that popular scares me to death.

I love Irish folklore. Definitely have to track down The Hunter's Moon some time!

Bri said...

1.) I'm afraid naming a comp title or author will do more to give an agent false expectations than get them in the "right frame of mind."

I definitely agree with that fear.

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