Dear Editor – What is the difference between a mentor text and a comp title?
—May, Los Angeles
Dear May – A mentor text is all about craft, as it’s a book that helps you shape your manuscript. A mentor text could cover a subject matter or concept that’s comparable to your story. It might mirror your story arc, utilize a format you’d like to explore, or have a main character with a similar obstacle to overcome. It may use a voice or POV you want to try, or be written with a brand of humor or sense of irony you are looking to emulate. So the right mentor text can provide a template for figuring out one or more challenging elements in your own work.
A comp title is all about sales, as it’s a book that helps you sell your manuscript. It garners interest in your story, shows where it belongs in the market, illustrates sales potential, and identifies the target audience. The perfect comp title allows the person you are pitching to immediately “get” your project, and can accompany your manuscript as it’s pitched to agents and editors, as well as to sales and marketing teams. And once your book is published, that same comp title can be used to court retailers and consumers. Finally, finding a solid comp title or two demonstrates that you understand the marketplace.
While mentor texts and comp titles are invaluable tools, their purposes are very different. The former can assist in crafting your story. But you would not pitch a mentor text with your story, as they might be viewed as having too much overlap, thus making yours redundant. That’s where the comp title comes in, as a successful book with a similar audience and market potential can be integral to a winning pitch.
Tara Luebbe is a former children’s bookstore owner turned picture book author. She and her sister Becky Cattie are coauthors of I Am Famous, Shark Nate-O, I Used To Be Famous, Operation Photobomb, and Ronan The Librarian.
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Image courtesy of the corresponding author.