The Art of the Elusive Comp

Writing comp titles really is an art form. Boiling a story down to “when x meets y” requires a lot of skill. Some tips I’ve heard before are:

  • Nix the bestselling titles (a.k.a. Please don’t think you’re John Grisham)
  • Try to use semi-current works
  • Use ones in a similar genre (some folks recommend using just books, while others are okay with references to short stories or films)

I thought I’d try my hand at making up a comp for my short story, “Those Holiday Blues.” It’s part of Festive Mayhem, a recently released anthology collection by an amazing group of diverse crime fiction writers.

I also asked the other contributors to come up with individual comps for their stories. Here goes (this is organized by story title in the anthology):

“The New Year’s Hex” by Carolyn Marie Wilkins:
Ghost meets Murder She Wrote meets black history circa 1920.

“Pipe Dreams” by S.G. Wong: 
Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister meets Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love.

“A Christmas Tip” by Elizabeth Wilkerson:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Good Girls

“The Stranger in the House” by Stella Oni:
Miss Marple meets Mma Ramotswe

“What Lies Inside” by Kia Dennis:
The Tell-tale Heart meets You 

 “A Deadly First” by Delia C. Pitts:
Motherless Brooklyn meets Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.”

“The Holiday Murder Mélange” by Myra Jolivet:
MC Beaton’s Quiche of Death meets the movie, Eve’s Bayou

 “Those Holiday Blues” by Jennifer J. Chow:
Nancy Drew meets He’s Just Not That Into You and set on the beach

“Holiday Holdup” by Paige Sleuth:
Mimi Lee Gets a Clue meets Bad Santa


(P.S. I can’t believe Mimi Lee Gets a Clue was used in a comp. I’m so flattered!)

Can’t wait to read what we’ve written, given those stellar comps?

Share your favorite comps below (ones that you’ve written or others that you’ve read):

34 thoughts on “The Art of the Elusive Comp

  1. These are great. I’m terrible with comps. I always feel like I shouldn’t be daring to compare myself to other (better) writers. I did, however, love the tag for my Homefront Mysteries a friend gave me – Rosie the Riveter meets Sam Spade. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I’ve tried to make my Natalie McMasters Mysteries as original as possible, so it is really difficult to find other books to compare them to. Rather than write a comp, I focus on finding books whose also boughts I can use for keywords on Amazon ads. This strategy has netted me a steady stream of sales since I’ve been doing it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Jen, this anthology sounds amazing—what an awesome group of writers and stories! I used “If Angela Lansbury and Cameron Diaz teamed up to solve murders in Southwesr FL—Murder She Wrote meets In Her Shoes.” (Ladies Smythe & Westin Mysteries).

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Really great, Jen. Making a comp list is an art form, as you say. As a mostly nonfiction writer, I know how hard it is to come up with a cohesive list. As others here have said, I spend a lot of time perfecting “key words” before I even get started. And then I try to think of the “elevator pitch” I”d give friends, family and strangers: “X meets Y meets Z.” Keeping the list to publications within the last few years is key, too — influences often start in our childhoods!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. These comps totally grabbed me — look forward to reading! (You had me at Nancy Drew, Jen!)
    I pitched The Liv & Di series as a little bit Lucy and Ethel, a little bit Thelma and Louise.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I write my titles before I write my books, so I’m good with finding the perfect comp then writing a book to match! That said, for my middle grade time travel romps my comp was “Peabody and Sherman meet Quantum Leap.”

    Liked by 4 people

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