Making Comparisons, Part II

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 10 2010

I’ve also read in a few places that comparing your novel to other published works is iffy at best, and comparing it to best sellers/classic novels is suicide. Are there two schools of thought on this?

I think I’ve blogged on this before, but after three years of blogging it’s sometimes starting to feel like I’ve blogged on everything and, I suppose, it never hurts to repeat things. Believe it or not, sometimes my thinking changes on things.

This question came in response on my previous post on Making Comparisons. And yes, the reader is correct, I think comparing your novel to other works is “iffy at best,” and I don’t recommend doing it unless you are absolutely certain your comparison will grab an agent’s attention. The reason agents can make the comparison is because we have a personal relationship with editors and know what types of books editors are looking for or, even better, what authors editors and houses wish they had on their lists.


10 responses to “Making Comparisons, Part II”

  1. Avatar Kimber An says:

    I stopped comparing my Queryland novel to PEEPS by Scott Westerfeld simply because I decided it wasn't vital enough to clutter up the query with. Awesome book, PEEPS, by the way, it's just I decided it wasn't necessary. My story needed to fly on its own.

    We have so few words in which to hook an agent or editor on our stories, we have to make sure every single one is absolutely necessary.

  2. Good point that what an agent can do in a pitch to an editor is quite different from what an author can/should do in a pitch to an agent or editor.

    An agent can also get away with some things an author can't because they are removed one space from the book… IOW, they aren't the author and can give at least the illusion of some objectivity.

  3. I don't know if this counts as a comparison so much, but I do often query agents because they represent a book or author that is in some way similar to what I'm working on, and I usually mention how much I admire those things they represent. But I think you have to be careful with that, it's usually something like a book in the same genre or something that resonates with the writing… probably not a good idea to query an agent with a book too much like someone on their current client list.

  4. It seems like it varies by agents. Some encourage it because it shows you've researched potential markets (if you phrase it as "my work is similar to that of Author X"), but nobody wants you to compare yourself to a very esteemed writer or best-selling mega-author. Then it sounds like you think you will have success, and nobody can know for sure whether you'll actually be a bestseller. Still, I agree with Kimber An: queries are short enough as is, and I'd rather use that space to sell my work rather than compare it to someone else's.

  5. Good advice. I've never done it and never will.

  6. Avatar Desert Mama says:

    I attended an SCBWI conference recently that had an optional critique. The editor who reviewed my ten pages wrote that it was very [Popular-YA-Author]-esque. When I am ready to query, would it make sense to say that readers of [said YA author] would also enjoy this book? Or that it's in the vein of [YA author]?

  7. Trying to make comparisons has always bothered me. Thanks for your thoughts!

  8. Avatar Crazy Cat Lady says:

    I always found writers comparing themselves to hit list big shots as terribly conceited. Fine, confidence is a good currency to possess, but … seriously? You're the next J.K.Rowling? Yeah, and I'm the next Oprah…

  9. Keep up the good work! I invite you to see my post, I hope you will find interesting too.

  10. What I find interesting is that, in meetings I've had with agents, they want comparisons, whereas in meetings I have with editors, they want to know how my work is different from what's out there.