Monday, 27 March 2023


I often get asked about comparison titles – how to choose them, where to find them and are they needed? So, I thought it might be a good subject to discuss on Picture Book Den.

When I was first submitting and querying, comparison titles weren’t ‘a thing’ for picture books. (If they were, I wasn’t using them!) However, I’m hearing more and more that they are an important part of a query, and therefore deserve serious consideration and research.


What are comparison titles?


When you’re ready to query your picture book, you’ll need to find titles that are similar to include in your submission. These should be successful books that will help to convince an agent or editor that there is a market for your story. They also serve to show industry professionals how you are offering something different - a new angle/tone/subject that they haven’t seen before. Comparison titles are also called comparable titles and comp titles for short.


How do you choose a comparison title?


Firstly, look for a book on a similar subject to yours – if your picture book is about manners, find another picture book about manners. It’s best not to select a book that was published more than a few years ago. Aim for those published in the last five years and avoid any that are out of print. Many older books wouldn’t be relevant to today’s readers, and you want to showcase your awareness of the current market. Try to avoid smash hits too, like The Gruffalo, The Hungry CaterpillarRoom on The Broom, because these could also suggest that you don’t know the breadth of today’s market well enough.

What if you can’t find a comparison title?


Finding a direct comparison title can be a tall order, but don’t panic! It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It might mean you’ve found a niche or something original or a twist on a classic. However, to ensure there is a ready-made market for your idea and to help an agent/editor visualise it, it’s ideal if you can find concrete examples of books it has elements of, and/or to show writers whose styles yours is similar too. Which authors do you think you sit alongside? Do you write bouncy rhyming texts like Lu Fraser and Rachel Morrisroe? Or heartfelt, emotional storylines like Tom Percival and Dr Wendy Meddour? Or accessible non-fiction like Nicola Davies and Isabel Thomas? 

You don’t have to find just one comparison - you can use combinations. If you're submitting a picture book, it’s best to use picture books as comp titles. But if there’s a gap in your age group, you could reference another format/age group to justify why yours is a good idea.


Try using the following key phrases:


Thomas the Tank Engine meets Fairytale Hairdresser

For fans of Lu Fraser and Rachel Morrisroe 

Shakespeare for picture book readers


Where to find comparison titles:


Bookshops and libraries are a great place to start. You could also look at book lists and reviews on sites such as Books For Topics, Booktrust and Books That Help.


However, if you’re still struggling to find the perfect comparison books, you could also consider TV shows and films.

How to include comparison titles:

If I was submitting my picture books today, I might write something like the below. It is important to include the author/illustrator in your description.


TheTide: Like The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and Dana Wyss, for families living with dementia


How Rude: Mr Men and Little Miss by Roger Hargreaves meets the animated TV series, Pocoyo


Poo! Is that you? For fans of You’re called What? by Kes Gray and Nikki Dyson and Poo In the Zoo! By Steve Smallman and Ada Gray.


Why use comparison titles?

In July 2022, agent Lorna Hemmingway ran a picture book SlushpileChallenge for SCBWI writers and illustrators. Lorna asked toreceive one OR two picture book texts per submission with a summary paragraph to describe each text including comps to books on the market/or films.”

Lorna selected Poka Paka’s Colour Quest by Stephanie Cotela as her winner. She sums up the power of good comparison titles:

“This submission really caught my eye from the start where Stephanie used some wonderful comps: For fans of The Christmas Extravaganza Hotel by Tracey Corderoy and The Rainbow Bear by Michael Morpurgo – This instantly grabbed my attention and painted the picture for what I was about to read!”


This sums up nicely the power of good comp titles!

I noticed that in the marketing material for my new book with Ana Sanfellipo, Sunny Side Up, the publisher has included comparison titles. These presumably help gatekeepers such as parents and booksellers match books to readers.


Sunny Side Up: “Just like Happy by Nicola Edwards and Katie Hickey, The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas and The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright and Chris Chatterton, Sunny Side Up is the ideal book for exploring difficult emotions.”


To sum up, comparison titles can be tricky to find, but if done correctly, they give agents and editors an idea of where your book would fit in the marketplace, how large would the audience be and an indication of what sales might be like. This helps them to pitch and ultimately, sell, your book. It also gives them a sense of how your book is different to what is currently out there.


Comparison titles aren’t just for submissions – they’re a great way of vetting an idea at the early stages, to make sure your text is offering something new or something in a new way, making it a competitive and credible text for acquisitions.

If you're on submission or soon to be... good luck!

If you've got a new idea that you want to write, what comparative titles would it sit alongside?


Clare Helen Welsh is a children's writer from Devon. She writes fiction and non-fiction picture book texts - sometimes funny, sometimes lyrical and everything in between! She founded the #BooksThatHelp initiative that aims to create honest emotional spaces for children through a love of reading and books. She has published over 50 books since 2015, and she currently has books in development with Little Tiger Press, Quarto, Andersen and Nosy Crow. You can find out more about her at her website or on Twitter @ClareHelenWelsh . Clare is represented by Alice Williams at Alice Williams Literary.

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