I liked the idea of using comp titles in my queries, because I wanted to show that I had done my research. But finding the right titles is tricky. You can't claim to be the next mega-bestseller, and you don't want to choose something obscure. Instead, agent Kristin Nelson says not to compare yourself to other authors- just mention that your work will appeal to their fans.
But I was still stuck, so I asked for help. Kirsten read my first query draft for Refuge and immediately said, "What sets this apart from Beautiful Creatures?" To which I immediately said, "....Crap, there's another southern witches YA already?" and rushed out to buy it.
Eventually I ended up with this highly refined *cough* recipe for Refuge: Toss Beautiful Creatures (for the hook) into a blender with Shiver (for the style) and mix with Friday Night Lights and/or the movie "Varsity Blues" (for the good 'ole boy factor). Add "y'alls" to taste.
My contemporary was a little easier. Once I finished After The Fall, I made a point of seeking out books I thought might be comps, and settled on Story of a Girl and Jumping Off Swings. But then Michelle S. read it and suggested Some Girls Are, both for style and because the main characters have a certain... shall we say, similarity in likeability or lack thereof.
Later, as I talked to agents, John Green's Looking For Alaska was also mentioned a lot, probably because they share a "before and after" format. And now my agent has added Sarah Dessen and Elizabeth Scott to the mix! *insert heart attack here*
Picking comp titles is hard, but it helped me focus my pitch... and it's a great excuse to buy new books. Come play along with Road Trip Wednesday at YA Highway, tell us the comp titles for your works in progress, and get suggestions for other great books to read!