Chloe’s Comps

Newsletter #14

Chloe’s Comps

“War and Peace” for our times.

“The Great Gatsby” meets “The Catcher in the Rye”

“Harry Potter” in space.

It’s a bit like “Dune”. And “Pride and Prejudice”.

If you’re trying to sell a book, one of the things you need to know are your “Comps” – your Comparative Titles.

You’re trying to persuade a potential reader that your book is special. Out of all the thousands of books out there, yours is the one worth picking up and reading.

Waterstones, in Hove. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Chloe piled up on tables like that all over the country?

Ironically, sometimes the best way to make it stand out is to show that it’s similar to something else that really stood out.

You might be trying to persuade an agent that it’s worth their time taking on your book. They’ll only do that if they think they can persuade an editor to read it. The editor has to persuade their publisher’s acquisition committee. The publishers have to persuade reviewers to review, and booksellers to stock. Readers have to be persuaded to buy. And, hopefully, those readers persuade other readers, and the book hits the top of the bestsellers lists.

And all that is so much easier if you can tell everyone, at every stage of the process, that the book is “a bit like [insert best seller here]”.

So, what Comps can I find for The Descent of Chloe Jackson, when the time comes?

It’s “literary fiction”, but (hopefully) not highfalutin. 

It’s “historical”, but comes right up to the present day.

Is it really a novel at all? Or a collection of short stories? A “portmanteau” novel?

And there’s a “coming of age” story threaded through all the historical ones.

I struggle with this.

The book is, genuinely, “a bit different”. But there are books out there – successful books – that combine multiple stories into a single volume, or tell a single story over multiple decades or even centuries.

And I am allowed to claim them as “Comps” even if I can’t hope to aspire to their quality or their commercial success – there’s absolutely no point claiming them if they’re rubbish. So, I should put modesty, false or otherwise, to one side.

Help me out here.

I only need two or three titles.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. 

Having said I struggle to find comparative titles, here’s almost a dozen possibilities…

In alphabetical order, by author, together with their Amazon blurb

Possession by A. S. Byatt

An exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

A group of Medieval pilgrims, crossing a Medieval English landscape, is bound for Canterbury. Their journey is one of penitence and piousness, and they seek the chance to demonstrate their faith in the most holy of places. Along the way, they each tell stories to pass the time.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years. They’re each looking for something – a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope . . .

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

The first in Ken Follett’s breathtaking Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants is a captivating novel that follows five families through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The story of seven generations of the Buendia family and of Macondo, the town they have built. […] Blending political reality with magic realism, fantasy and comic invention, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most daringly original works of the twentieth century.

The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner

Through four interconnected fables of a way of living in rural England that has now disappeared, Alan Garner vividly brings to life a landscape situated on the outskirts of industrial Manchester.

Smiths and chandlers, steeplejacks and quarrymen, labourers and artisans all live and work hand in hand with the seasons, the elements, and the land. […] These fables beautifully recapture and restore that lost world in simple, searching prose.

Dubliners by James Joyce

Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

Miguel Street by V. S. Naipaul

V. S. Naipaul writes with prescient wisdom and crackling wit about the lives and legends that make up Miguel Street (Port of Spain, Trinidad): a living theatre, a world in microcosm, a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells – all seen through the eyes of a fatherless boy. 

London by Edward Rutherford

In this epic novel Edward Rutherfurd takes the reader on a magnificent journey across sixteen centuries from the days of the Romans to the Victorian engineers of Tower Bridge and the dockland development of today. Through the lives and adventures of his colourful cast of characters he brings all the richness of London’s past unforgettably to life.

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford

November 1944. A German rocket strikes London, and five young lives are atomised in an instant.

November 1944. That rocket never lands. A single second in time is altered, and five young lives go on – to experience all the unimaginable changes of the twentieth century.

What do you think?

Any others I should be considering?

As of this moment, I’m inclined towards Girl, Woman, Other and Light Perpetual. 

But there’s no rush. I’ve got a book to write first.

As always, if you’ve enjoyed this Newsletter, and if you have like-minded, book-reading, story-loving friends who might enjoy it too, please do pass it on to them. They sound like just the kind of person I’d love to share this journey with. 

Let’s sign them up at

All the best