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  • Comparative novels

    Posted by Martin Roberts on 26 October 2023 at 10:43

    <div>I wonder if anyone has a view on the issue of comparative novels in the query letter?</div><div>


    Here’s the thing – I just can’t find ANYTHING quite like my novel. It’s not like I haven’t read any books – I reckon I’ve read over 1000 – I just can’t think of anything that I could reference which would add value to my proposition. If anything, referencing other writers feels disingenuous as I would just be doing it for the sake of it.

    Furthermore, if I did site other works, I think it would just end up being counter-productive. Having done some research and found authors who are writing in the same genre, every time I think ‘No, no, no. My book’s not like that! If I reference that, I’m leading you up the wrong path completely.’

    Siting comparative titles seems to be something you just can’t leave out of your letter. So the question is – what if you do?

    Here’s a summary of the style of my book:

    The Painting is a political novel of 100,000 words set in the pre-Brexit world of 2015. It covers contemporary themes of racism, colonialism, right-wing popularism and the social and personal injustices that these cause.

    Is it fair to leave it at that? To be kind of saying to agents ‘You do the math?’

    That said – anyone got any ideas?


    Footnote: Reading this back it sounds like I’m saying I have written something so extraordionary that it brooks no comparison. Sadly this is not true!


    william-wodhams Wodhams replied 4 months ago 7 Members · 7 Replies
  • 7 Replies
  • Libby Leyland

    26 October 2023 at 11:22

    Hi Martin, the online event on 24th Oct, Ask An Agent Anything with Sam Hiyate and Kiya Evans, had helpful info about comps. Online events usually appear on Jericho after a few days or a week or so for premium members.

  • Karen Vincent-jones

    26 October 2023 at 11:46

    NB When you mean to reference, it’s cite, not site!

    • Karen Vincent-jones

      26 October 2023 at 11:49

      I have the same problem with my books – never managed to find a comparable title to my book about revolutionaries in Rome in the 1970s. Maybe too much Marxism, not enough sex? Or the reverse?

      As for my book about a naive English girl ferreting out the secrets of a sinister aristocratic family in the 1960s….

  • Julie Cooper

    26 October 2023 at 14:16

    It is a real bugbear for many of us, I know I struggled. If desperate, you could resort to other media – is there a film or TV show with a similar vibe? Comps don’t have to be about content. Is there a writing style out there similar to yours? Have you asked everyone who has read it for ideas?

    I paid Jericho to have an editorial assessment of my first novel, and the editor suggested an excellent comp – so keep asking and researching!

  • cds cds

    26 October 2023 at 14:41

    I read (I think in a JW profile) an agent say that they like comps where you’d say something along the lines of:

    ‘love story of Romeo & Juliet meets the spy world of Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’

    (titles picked at random for illustrative purposes).

    so you are signposting which aspects of your book you are comparing with the titles you have chosen.

  • Rose Blakeney

    26 October 2023 at 14:58

    Hello Martin

    Comparables – uh! This has been a problem for me, too, yet some agents seem to consider them essential. As Julie suggests, the answer for you might be in a reference to other media. I’ve got round it by saying something like “My novel would appeal to readers who enjoy the work of Amelia Clotworthy and Gerald Kneebone”.

  • william-wodhams Wodhams

    27 October 2023 at 23:19

    On “Ask An Agent Anything” the agents recommended using television programs or movies, and explaining why you thought the comp was chosen