How to Find Comp Titles Using ChatGPT

Image: a pair of eyeglasses rests on a table next to a smartphone which is displaying a ChatGPT interface.
Photo by Matheus Bertelli

Today’s guest post is by John Matthew Fox (@bookfox), author of The Linchpin Writer.

Finding comp titles used to be a gigantic chore.

You’d comb through hundreds of books, trying to find just the right two to suggest in your query letter. You didn’t want books too similar, and yet obviously they couldn’t be very different either.

And most of the time, you had doubts whether you’d picked the right two.

Well, ChatGPT makes finding comp titles easier than ever.

Here are five steps to finding your ideal comp titles for your query letter or book proposal. At the end I’ll put all five steps together in a prompt that you can use for your book.

1. Tell ChatGPT to pick titles published in the last three years.

Agents aren’t looking for books published a decade ago. They certainly aren’t looking for books published twenty or thirty years ago.

That’s because when they pitch publishers, they have to include recent titles. That shows publishers there is current appetite for this type of book.

2. Tell ChatGPT to choose mid-level books (not super-famous books).

Comp titles should never be Harry Potter and Jack Reacher—I don’t care how similar your book is to them. Sure, it’s one step above “I don’t have any comp titles” but not much better.

By picking super famous books, you are communicating to the agent:

  • You’re lazy
  • You don’t read much
  • You have an inflated sense of your book’s potential

Now, I know you don’t have access to sales numbers to help you choose the best possible “mid-level” book, and you can’t even ask ChatGPT for Goodreads review numbers or Amazon review numbers. But you can say: don’t include any books that have appeared on bestseller lists.

3. Tell ChatGPT to pick books in your genre.

Describe your genre to ChatGPT. Be as specific as possible. For instance, don’t just say fantasy. Say high fantasy, grimdark fantasy, or paranormal romance fantasy.

Don’t just say mystery. Say cozy mystery, gumshoe mysteries, or capers.

If you don’t have a specific, nameable genre, then try some of these words:

  • upmarket (between commercial and literary)
  • literary
  • realist
  • commercial
  • experimental
  • book club book
  • young adult
  • new adult
  • coming of age

The more specific you get, the more likely ChatGPT will suggest books that are perfect for your comp titles.

You also need to use negative commands, for example (if appropriate):

  • Do not include nonfiction books.
  • Do not include poetry.
  • Do not include memoirs.

4. Choose the number of books.

I would recommend asking ChatGPT for either 10 or 20 books.

Anything more than that and you’ll have to do too much research to try to figure out the right titles. Anything less than that and you might not end up with two winners.

Remember, all you need is a couple comp titles. One isn’t enough, and as many as three might not be necessary, at least for fiction. (Nonfiction authors, you may need more for your proposal’s competitive title section.)

5. Specify a certain place or theme or topic.

Ask ChatGPT for books set where your book is set (Montana? Thailand?).

Ask ChatGPT for books on similar themes (anxiety? immigration?).

Ask ChatGPT for books on certain topics (divorce, children with special needs).

The more specificity you can provide, the more it will be able to suggest comp titles that are right for your book.

Sample prompts for ChatGPT

  • Suggest 10 comp titles published in the last three years for a literary novel set in New York that features drug use. Do not include any books that have appeared on bestseller lists. Do not include nonfiction books.
  • Give me 10 comp titles for a historical romance novel set in England in the 1800s. Only include books published in the last three years. Do not include any books that have appeared on bestseller lists. Do not include nonfiction books.
  • List 5 comp titles for an upmarket fantasy book about a home for children with magical powers. Only include books published in the last three years. Do not include any books that have appeared on bestseller lists. Do not include nonfiction books.
  • Suggest 20 comp titles for nonfiction books about brain atrophy in the elderly. Do not include bestselling books. Do not include any novels. Do not include any books that have appeared on bestseller lists.

After you get some results

It’s usually good to ask follow-up questions. So if you didn’t get what you were looking for, give ChatGPT additional questions that specify exactly what you need.

Of course you’ll need to do research on each of the suggested titles. Make sure they exist. (ChatGPT may hallucinate titles that don’t exist.) Do they really overlap with the themes in your book? Ensure they aren’t bestsellers.

In my experience, using prompts like this, ChatGPT is pretty close to the mark on the first round. But if you have a particularly challenging situation, you might need to re-prompt it for another round or two.

For old-fashioned methods of finding your comps, read this post.

Share on:
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments