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March Crafty Tips with Mary Boone

Crafty Tip: Use Comp Titles to Strengthen Your Pitch

By Mary Boone

Just mention the term “comp title” in a room of writers. and you’re bound to hear a few moans and groans. This necessary element of querying and pitching is underappreciated, to say the least. But I’m here to suggest that better understanding comp titles can go a long way to improving relationships with them.

“Comp” is short for “comparable.” Comp titles are published books that would appeal to the same sort of readers as your book. The books may be similar in tone, voice, theme, subject, or style. If your book has an unreliable narrator, for instance, then at least one of your comp titles should probably have an unreliable narrator. If your book is funny, you’ll want at least a couple funny comps.

Ideally, writers include two to three comp titles when querying. I like to think of them as a shortcut that helps an agent or editor quickly understand what your manuscript is like or about. 

Already have an agent who represents your work, so you think you don’t need to worry about comp titles? Think again. Supplying your agent (who is undoubtedly busy pitching many clients’ work at the same time) with comps can help them more easily sell your manuscript to an editor.

The best comp titles are books that share similarities with yours but aren’t TOO much like yours. Think about it: If a book exactly like yours is out there selling well and winning awards, why would the KidLit world need another? Yes, there are a lot of books out there about the first day of school or nature walks or friendship. Your comp titles should help an agent or editor understand what makes your manuscript about these tried-but-true topics special and saleable. 

  • When I pitch my nonfiction picture book manuscripts, I often say something like: MY BOOK will appeal to curious readers who loved X or Y. 

  • You might also point out how your story differs from your comp titles: MY BOOK is like X but with aliens/dragons/STEM elements. 

  • Or, you might pitch your manuscript as a mashup of several books: MY BOOK is like X meets Y.

A few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind as you search for the perfect comp titles.

  1. Do start your search online, through sites like Amazon or Goodreads. 

  2. Don’t overlook the value of talking to your favorite booksellers and librarians about your manuscript. They may have some really fantastic comp title recommendations.

  3. Do read the books you use as comps. Presuming the reviews you’ve read online are accurate is not good enough. 

  4. Do aim for comp titles that have been released within the past five years. Newer is better.

  5. Don’t use classics or international best-sellers as comps. It can come across as boastful to say your work is comparable to that of someone like Mo Willems or Sandra Boynton.

  6. Don’t wait until the day you plan to query to start looking for comps. If picture book writing is your passion, you should be reading them all the time. Keep a list or database of the books you read. It may aid in your quest for the perfect comp title.

Comp titles aren’t just another hoop agents and editors want to see you jump through. When carefully selected and presented, they can help others see where your books would fit in the market – and could result in the offer you’ve been waiting for.

Author Bio: Mary Boone has written many nonfiction books for young readers including SCHOOL OF FISH (Albert Whitman & Co., 2024) and BUGS For BREAKFAST (Chicago Review Press, 2021).

She has two more picture book biographies on the horizon: PEDAL PUSHER (Henry Holt & Co., 2025) and FLYING FEMINIST (Andersen Press, 2026). Visit Mary’s website to learn more about her work. Or find her on Instagram, Threads or X at @boonewrites


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