Just to stir the pot a little more, without gainsaying anything posted above by those far more knowledgeable than me, and also fully accepting that the plural of 'anecdote' is not ' data'... 😁
In the Jericho webinar on pitches just before Christmas with two agents on the call (one UK-based and one in the US) the topic of comp titles and their necessity came up in the questions. Both agents stated that for them comp titles were a 'nice to have', but they weren't expected, and their lack wouldn't affect their response to an otherwise well-written query.
I confess I was a little surprised by that, as I'd read in a variety of places that not including at least two comps published within your genre and within the last five years was seen as a cardinal sin and would result in instant rejection.
Absolutely Jon. Plus agents are people and they all place emphasis on different things. I've heard some agents in the past who said that they didn't put much emphasis on the synopsis or don't read them, whereas it's a more important tool for others.
My logic when I submitted is that I wanted to put all chances possible on my side to stand out in the sea of submissions. I had heard a few agents saying they like comp titles, some of them who were on my list so I decided to have comp titles on my letter. Never heard anybody who said they hated so it couldn't hurt, just help. But that's just me.
I love that phrase, Jon! And I think this is very true about them being 'nice to have'. I didn't include comp titles in my covering letter for my debut. I didn't know at the time (2013) that I needed to. When I went on submission to publishers though, my agent used comp titles (Apple Tree Yard, Precious Thing and The Girl on the Train - this was before that was every comp title for every thriller!)
Publishing loves comp titles because they love any shorthand that can sum a book and its market up quickly. But an agent won't put a submission in the bin unread if the pitch didn't include a comparison.
Thanks Holly, this is great insight. The only thing I worry about is getting the comp titles wrong. I worry it will reflect badly, for example if I put 'will appeal to readers of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London and Mark Hayden's 13th Witch' as a very basic example, that's where I would like to think I am. However, before even reading my submission, I worry that by using such a big name that they wouldn't even consider it, as they'd think I'm a little self-important?
I keep coming back to this, and I think it's a confidence thing. Perhaps I just need to give myself some space from... well, myself!