Choosing anything is difficult for me. I get decision anxiety when someone asks me a question that starts with "What is your favorite...?" or "If you could pick only one..."
So, choosing comp titles is just as tricky for me. I have struggled with this for Liftoff as much as I've struggled with my book blurb.
So, I did some research, and I came up with these three key components for choosing comp titles:
1. Comp Titles and Your Audience
Knowing who your ideal book audience helps with book creation and book marketing. I have a tendency to write for an imaginary audience with some similarities to myself. In the case of Liftoff, I literally wrote the book to entertain myself during the early days of COVID, but I after writing it, I realized I really wrote it for a younger me, or the younger me inside of me.
My ideal audience is a nerd teen fangirl of SFF, pop culture, literature, action flicks, and sweet romance. Teen fanboys and adults who are all good with finding their inner teen spirit are all welcome, of course, but my ideal audience is pretty specific.
So, what Comp Titles work?
I originally thought of Captain Marvel (strong heroine, action-packed movie, SFF), Cobra Kai (pop culture, 80s references, action, cheesy/sweet romance), and Code 8 (action-packed, SFF, Netflix Movie, popcorn movie.). I liked these, and then I thought, wait, what about books? I named all movies. Is that okay? I don't know. Aaaagh.
So, after a momentary panic, I went back to my idea cave, and I thought, maybe a better comp title might be:
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson.
But then, oy. Am I comparing myself to Brandon Sanderson? That's...crazy.
Maybe Guardians of the Galaxy...wait, movie again.
And, then I remembered. My novella is supposed to be the text equivalent of an action-packed popcorn movie. I wanted it to be that way. Maybe all movie/show comps are okay?
2. Comp Titles and Your Genre
Knowing your genre and understanding the books/movies/music in your genre can help you understand your audience more, or even hone in on your audience.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson is an excellent teen girl driven Science Fiction novel, so it's in my genre, but is it really in my genre when I think about sub-genres? Skyward is more serious in nature than my novella. It does have sweet romance, but it's a slow build sort of sweet romance, mine moves a little faster. It does have action, but it also has plenty of think time for the character. Hmm. It is also a full novel. Mine is a novella. Okay, so the more I thought about it, Skyward isn't a really good comp title for my book.
Liftoff is a little more space opera and quite a bit more like a popcorn movie - fast, action-packed, with tropes (On Purpose!)
I would really love my audience to look a little like this when they are reading it:
If I were going to have the temerity to pick a Brandon Sanderson novel to compare to Liftoff, I would go with Steelheart, from his Reckoners Trilogy about teen superheroes. Liftoff has more in common with the themes in those books.
3. The Promise of the Comp
Oy. This is the one that was really a problem for me when I was comparing my novella to Sanderson's work (any of it). I don't know if my novella really would satisfy fans of Sanderson. He writes some really in-depth, detailed descriptions in most of his world-building. I don't. I love world-building, but honestly, I leave a lot of it off the page and just stick with the hard and fast necessities.
One of the original reasons I chose Code 8 (Netflix Movie) for one of my comp titles is that I wanted to let the audience know the level of novella I've written. I haven't written the next best SF novel for teen readers. I haven't written something comparative really to some mega-star author's book. I have written a fun, entertaining, popcorn-movie style novella. It's definitely more like Code 8 and Cobra Kai than any of the other comp titles I could come up with.
So why Cobra Kai? It was a Youtube show created by people who loved the Karate Kid series. It leans into tropes and it bends them a bit. The romance is definitely sweet teen romance, complicated by drama, assumptions, and miscommunication. There are some beats there that suit my novella. Plus, it's action-packed and really fun to watch.
Do you see the refrain: action, fun, tropes, entertainment, popcorn.
So, I went back to my comp title selection and re-configured it a bit.
For SFF and sweet romance readers who like the action-packed levels of Cobra Kai, Code 8, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
So, why did I drop Captain Marvel? Because although I do have a strong heroine, and there are some parallels to the story (aliens and humans), I think Liftoff is a little more like Guardians of the Galaxy than Captain Marvel in tone and pacing.
So, yeah, I think I found my comp titles.
Although if I think about it too much I feel like this again:
So, how do you choose comp titles? Do they inform your reading decisions? Please let me know in the comments.