Wednesday, January 24, 2018

ANATOMY OF A COMP TITLE / MENTOR TEXT: Found Dogs by Erica Sirotich. Thoughts by Lynne Marie

WHY COMPS?
When I am very passionate about a project or manuscript (not all ideas, all drafts, or all completed manuscripts are or should be publishable -- some are for learning, practicing and exercising), I pull up my library website and start ordering comp titles (also called mentor texts).

There's many reasons to do this. To see what's ALREADY out there, what's DIFFERENT and what's BETTER about the books out there -- sometimes, even what's WORSE.  I need my manuscript to be DIFFERENT and BETTER - A CUT ABOVE THE REST.

So in this example, I have a completed manuscript entitled 10 Little Pound Dogs.

WHEN COMPS?
Always. Always make sure to read comps. As children's writers, we need to know what's out there, what our "comp"etition is, AND who publishes what type of books. Obviously from this exercise I learned that the subject publisher will publish author/illustrators, dog books and concept books.

WHICH COMPS?
I cross-reference subject matter (dogs, pound dogs, community helpers, counting books) and order in any and every picture book remotely related (usually 25-50 books, but as many as I can find). If I can't find all at the library, I also purchase from the book store or Amazon Kindle, and sometimes get them ordered into my library. Importantly, And I read them ALL.

A CASE STUDY OF FOUND DOGS
I found that I really liked the title and that I liked mine just as much. Yet, it was different, so that was a plus. When I opened the book, the title page portrayed a city shelter. So while I liked that idea, that was a minus in the "been done before" category.

I noted, on the title page, that this book was published by Dial Books for Young Readers (2017), so of course, I would not submit to THAT publisher. Maybe there's another publishing house that doesn't already have a counting book that also teaches children the community helpers.

Text:
1 dog, long and low.

This ended up being a plus. My book counts down from 10 and also has an added level, that the dogs are being adopted by community helpers. So this was good.

I must admit here, that this book is simpler than mine, but in a good way. And the pictures were cute and provided fun counting opportunities.  Also, this counted back down, which is nice. Mine was also rhyme, which for this age is a plus, but since the other one was too, perhaps a minus, but ultimately cancelling each other out.

In the case of this book, I did feel that mine had an important additional layer with the community helpers, therefore, it was different and had added take-away value.

Had it been counting dogs up and down and just somewhat random adjectives for dogs (and by that I mean not tied into the story theme), I might have set my story aside for good. But I feel my the art for mine would be very different, so all in all, more positives than negatives after reviewing this book.

But I read on and compare to the other comps. I hope you are doing the same, or if not, I hope I've inspired you to start!

Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions and support in the comment section.

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