One of the perhaps forgotten challenges to writing and publishing books is explaining to others what it’s about. In the publishing world, this struggle is combated with what we know as “comp titles,” which Penguin Random House defines as “an elevator pitch for your book.”
I worked as an editorial intern at Dark Horse Comics in Milwaukie, Oregon, during PSU’s winter term this year, and while I was there, I ended up learning more than I ever anticipated. In my previous post on my time at the Dark Horse offices, I focused on explaining DHDPs and work orders. In this entry, I’ll continue my detailed look into what exactly a comics editor does, and I’ll focus on two more editorial tasks: creating bookmaps and comp lists.
Looking at comparative titles, or comp titles, is a great way to understand the market potential of a book project. To put it simply, a comp title is an already published book that has shared sales, genre, and marketing qualities to a developing manuscript that hasn’t been released yet. We use comp titles in publishing because they contextualize the future of an acquired manuscript by giving us information on how similar books performed, and they also help us strategize our marketing efforts as a project goes through the publishing process. But what makes a good comp title?
Before we publish a title, we must determine if it will actually sell; to do that, we need to compare the title with similar books that are already on the market. That’s where comparative (comp) titles come in.
Realistically, most first-time authors seeking out a literary agent to pitch their book probably aren’t going to know all there is to know about their respective genre, and that is where the agent comes into play.