Comparative titles are confounding. And we've all heard the adage "No comp is better than a bad comp." But recently, I've been hearing a lot of agents wanting comps. Those Query Forms that many agencies are switching over to, 90% of the time require them, and I've been told on multiple occasions by agents and editors that, regardless of preferences stated on informal media like Twitter, comps are necessary because they show you are aware of a few things.
1) You know your book's market.
2) You can paint a short, to the point picture that a query reader can begin to relate your book to.
3) You know your competition in the market.
It also doesn't hurt (or help, in the querying author's case) that having comps in the initial stages of selling your manuscript means that you and your future agent will have an easier time coming up with comps later when selling to publishing companies... Because, yes, comps are absolutely required for later stages of selling your novels to pubs.
I won't lie, though. Most of the time, I find it extremely difficult to find books that "X meets Y equals my manuscript." So...
I just don't do that anymore.
There are a couple different strategies you can use that are so much easier.
One strategy is to use matching themes, voice, style, character, or other small parts of a book to pull out a comp. Find something similar in a story and compare that to yours.
For example: MANUSCRIPT is in the style of A Series of Unfortunate Events with themes of loyalty and friendship found in the Harry Potter Series.
Or another example: The character of Bridget Jones meets themes of intergalactic infection of James S.A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes, in MANUSCRIPT complete at xxx,000 words.
(Of course, I would caution anyone using such LARGE and DATED comps as Lemony Snicket and JK Rowling... These are just examples. Stick to more relevant and current books, preferably books published in the last five years or so.)
Another comping strategy is to use a book plus other media. You always need to make sure you use a book... However, alternative media such as graphic novels, anime, movies, tv, popular webtoons, etc. are all great choices. Anything that has character and plot really would work.
For example: MANUSCRIPT is Claribel Ortega's Ghost Squad meets Scooby Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost (2019).
Or another example: This story is popular webtoon Siren's Lament with the themes of family similar to Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi.
Granted, I am having fun with these comps, but the examples are still valid. Be creative. Find new ways to comp your novel. It DOESN'T have to be a straight X meets Y to give someone an idea of what your book is about. Use those unnecessary lines that introduce themes (that I keep seeing a lot of) and put them to use as comp fodder. If your book is a "hard hitting thriller with themes free will, and life and death" find a book or a movie that has those themes as well and use that to paint a picture for your query reader.
That's what comps are for. They paint a short, sweet picture that your query reader can relate to.
So ignore the impulse to X meets Y... And get creative! I promise, it'll make comping sooooo much easier, and even a lot more fun!
***And the requisite disclaimer that all writing advice is just advice and never to be taken as the end-all of techniques. This is just one of many ways to comp, and shouldn't be taken as the one-and-only way.***