Nathan Bransford, Author

Monday, November 9, 2009

Comparing Your Book to Other Books in the Query

One of the very most common questions I receive: how/whether to compare your book to another book or books in the query.

I personally don't mind at all if you compare your book to another book or author or two to put me in the right frame of mind. This is completely optional, so don't feel as if you have to, and honestly I'd just use your best judgment about whether you think it would be helpful.

The only thing I would suggest is that you don't compare your book to 1) a megabestseller or 2) something extremely obscure.


1) We agents get zillions of queries that declare themselves to be the next DA VINCI TWLIGHT POTTER SECRET, and trust me, you don't want to be in the company of those queries. Honestly, people, what megabestseller is anything like the last megabestseller?

2) If the reference is too obscure you are risking that the agent is going to be all, "Dear god man, I haven't read everything."

At the same time, the right mix can indeed put an agent in the right mindset. So compare away! If you like.


Liberty Speidel said...

The way I'm describing my NaNo project is that it's like J.D. Robb's 'In Death' series meets Disney/Pixar's 'The Incredibles' with a Christian twist. It's the only way to describe it to me. :)

Ken Hannahs said...

What a great and pertinent topic! I was just thinking this today while I was writing...

What about an old Stephen King book? I am about half way through my MS, and I realized there are some definite links with a book by SK... but then again, I guess any time you write horror it has already been done by Stephen. Can I use this?

kalen said...

As the marketing director, I *want* authors providing comps. It demonstrates to me that they really do know their field and they understand what the competing works are.

I recently had an author provide me with a list of about half a dozen titles, explaining how hers was different from each one. It was so helpful for me in understanding her book better and also explaining it to my sales reps, especially because it was in a category we'd not published before.

Saying, "this is so unique there's nothing else like it!" doesn't fly (and I say so on our author questionnaire), but I agree with your suggestion that authors not use mega-bestsellers or obscure books.

Liana Brooks said...

Hmm, well, for fun... My 2009 NaNo novel is what would happen if Shakespeare, Jim Butcher, Jane Austen, and Kim Harrison decided to collaborate on a novel and tossed Pratchett in for some of the funnier scenes.

It's an urban fantasy, of sorts.


I didn't say I was going to query it! I'm just writing this one for fun!

DebraLSchubert said...

Thanks, once again, for the great advice. I attended a conference where we spent nearly an entire day coming up with the "right" authors to compare our work to. The key is to be smart. As you said, the goal is to get the agent in the "right frame of mind."

Sam said...

good advice, I figure when I start querying soon I'll leave the comparisons out and let the synopsis do the talking. if the agent thinks "oh, this reminds me of X meets Y..." well that's fine and they're probably right, but I'd prefer to let my stuff do it's own talking as long as possible.

Cynthia said...

I don't know if I agree with this. I guess it puts things in context but do you really want to compare yourself with Shakespeare? Really? If you're a writer, you have your own voice, and you should figure out a way to convey that without using the great works of literature as crutches.

J. Nelson Leith said...

"My book is a Melvillean noir suspense novel about a government conspiracy with hints of X-Files and the Arian controversy, written with a Tolkienesque mytholinguistic research method, subverting Knox's 10 Commandments and reading like the anti-Da Vinci Code because the investigator has no idea about the ancient secrets being revealed. Also, the sequel has vampires. And pirates."

Mark Terry said...

Hey, I'm working on a novel that's like Moby Dick meets The Koran meets Dot and Jane meets the Encyclopedia Brittanica. But it's written in iambic pentameter, like all of Shakespear's plays. Interested?

ann foxlee said...

This is something I've struggled with so much I think I've decided not to include comps for the time-being.
It seems like so many YA books have become big sellers (if not mega-sellers) that finding something similar is hard. I read a heckofalotta YA, and it seems like they're either huge, or unknown. Or maybe that's just my perspective.
Sigh. Glad to hear it doesn't matter much one way or another, since I am stumped on what to do about it!

Dara said...

I always think about how to compare my book to one that's out there, but I can never think of anything...maybe I need to read more :P Or not worry about it as much.

doctorquery said...

I agree with Ann above.

I think it depends upon whether what you're writing is in a genre where there are comparable books which are not mega-sellers. More and more, there are only the huge and the obscure, and not much in between.

Citing a similar book works for me, though, if you can find one that's apt.

Don said...

Then there's the classic Kevin Gilbert lyric, "you sound like Air Supply Meets Gwar, but in a good way."

Marva said...

I avoided the comparison thing until recently. I finally decided that agents might need this to get an immediate idea of where my books fit in the grand scheme. Of course, I think my stuff is completely different, but if I need to say it's the next Twilight-Davinci Code-Harry Potter, then so be it.

Well, I didn't use that, obviously, but I did try to find a familiar comparison for my MC with a known MC. Will it work? Don't know yet.

sraasch said...

I think you and Kate Testerman are on the same blog-wave-length:

You know something is important if two people blog about it!

Steph Damore said...

I just did this today - not in comparing my MS to a particular work, but rather a specific author's writing style - hope the agent I queried has the same opinion as you!

Della Luna said...

An editor at a local conference gave everybody a formula of x meets y = your book. It was a hit but did bother me for a while. But I think I've adjusted.

My question though: Is "Lost Horizons" by James Hilton too obscure?

Sam said...

Hell, I just wrote a "Rite-Aid" novel, the kind of book they keep in the drugstore next to the crossword puzzles and those pamphlets that tell you if you have a disease. My novel is like TV...

Sissy said...

Here's my query question...most advice says to include information about other things you have had published. What if I've never published anything, and this is the first thing I've written? How do I gracefully tell an agent that?

Sissy said...

Oh, your sidebar just answered my question! Thanks.

Lisa Dez said...

I didn't compare my book to anyone else's in my query cuz then everyone would know who I stole my stuff from. ;)

Jacob Martin said...

My NaNo is like Chuck Palahniuk crossed with Train Man by Hitori Nakano and Welcome to the NHK.

My problem is that my ideas for books aren't easy to compare to books people know about, unless it's been made into a movie like The Ring for example.

To make it even more confusing my other not-as-Japanesey manuscripts are inspired by Changeling myths, and Changelings never sell as well as vampires even though I use them in my stories and have empathy for them because they used to be mistaken for autistic people like me in the Middle Ages... but Keith Donahue's The Stolen Child is a must read Changeling book, I have the first edition...

Jenna said...

I'd like my work to have an Anne Lamott flair - in her early years.

Love her.


Terry said...

This is something that's causing me a bit of trouble. I appreciate your thoughts on it.

At best, I seem to keep seeing movies or TV series, but not books.

Nathan, Is it proper to use movies or TV? Or a faux pas?

Susan Quinn said...

What if the agent represents Book X, which would make a great comparison? And it's one of their "hits"? Does that mean you should query elsewhere?

I read Book X and thought, "The agent that likes this, will like my MS, too . . ."

Jen Chandler said...

Very sound advice. I haven't compared my novel to another but I have used another work as a reference for the type of work I've done.

I wouldn't have the audacity to compare my work with the greats!


TJ Bennett said...

My publisher asked me to name three comp titles with both of my books because it helped the sales force get a better idea of how to market them. And, "Gee, I don't know who else writes stuff like this," was not an option. :-)

I've heard a good approach is to say, "Readers who enjoy Mega Novelist's NAME OF HER BOOK might enjoy NAME OF MY BOOK, too." That way, you are not arrogantly claiming to be better than the megaseller, but that her readers might enjoy your work as well.

This at least gives everyone involved an idea what genre/style/market in which to place your work.

Anonymous said...

I tried to find an answer to this in your FAQ's and just about everywhere else on your blog. So if I missed it, please accept my apologies in advance. I have read on various blogs and pages that a lot of (and I get the impression that it was closer to most) agents shy away when a new author queries with a proposal for a book series, and that they should write a stand-alone first. So after finishing my first book, I now realise that there is a very real potential for two more books. I have written the book as a stand-alone but have I also written an alternative ending (plus epilogue). The advice also suggests that I should not mention anything about follow-on books. Now, to my question: When I slave over my query letter, do I or do I not suggest this possibility. And (should I be so lucky to have someone want to read my manuscript), do I send the stand-alone version, the carry-on version (including optional epilogue) or both endings with an explanation?

Vacuum Queen said...

Wha?! You haven't read everything? Slacker.

Momzilla said...

And here I was hoping avoiding comparisons was the best choice. Well, at least it's optional and I have lots of time since my NaNo project will need a complete rewrite and several revisions before I even consider querying.

But really, you don't read everything? My illusions are shattered!

Gordon Jerome said...

Seriously though it doesn't really matter, does it? I mean who in their right mind in publishing would be publishing a new author these days? Or at least to anything other than an e-book, and even then, why would they bother with all the formatting, editing, and marketing required.

By all means, prove me wrong, but I'd like to know what debut authors of fiction have come out in the last half of 2009.

I just can't imagine anyone cutting an advance check for a new fiction author today. I just don't know who would do that.

So, what's the point of an agent, Nathan? Seriously, tell us why we should have an agent. self-publishers to Kindle don't need them. Those who get published through small indi publishers don't need them, so honestly, what are you going on about query letters for anymore?

Rick Daley said...

I'll just relate my novel to movies, abstract art, and classic rock and I'm sure I'll be fine then.

WORD VERIFICATION: hation. A poor speller from Haiti.

joelle said...

An editor once told me that my writing reminded her of a certain author. Since the author was very good, well-known, but not of JK Rowling or Dan Brown standing, it seemed like a great line to use in my query. It gave the agent a feel without being too specific. Even if no editor told you this, you probably have an idea of an author who writes in your style...

A Paperback Writer said...

I don't like to compare my work to anything in a query. How would I know if the agent happens to loathe a certain author and will automatically reject my query without any further consideration if I compare myself to said author? I'd prefer to be judged by my own writing skills, even if I"m a complete nobody in the minds of the agents, thanks very much.

Aspiring Nurse and Writer said...

Don't you think it might be better not to do a comparison? Honestly, I think I would rather be set apart than compare myself to someone else and fall short. Even if they weren't a bestseller, I am still not confident enough to put myself in the leagues of most of the authors I read.

Kristi said...

Great post and I read Kate's post on this as well - I'm in the process of fine-tuning my query while I wait on beta readers and I've gone back and forth with this issue.

While I understand not wanting to compare your work to a specific author in case the agent happens to hate that author's writing, I guess I'd rather know said agent's taste up front - it may lead to a rejection but then were they really the right agent for you anyway? At this point, my author comparison remains in my query but I still have a month or two to change my mind :)

wendy said...

Oh, that's interesting, kalen, thanks! I always winced when I read queries with comparisons. But if there's a practical reason, then why not? I don't think I'll be doing any comparisons though as the only book which is close to my plot is a mega best-seller. Mine was written before said best-seller, but this matters not in publishing. I probably should just let it go and start another project, but the amount of work I put into it is phenominal as the story was originally intended to be a stage musical.

No, I think I'll keep faith.

Josin L. McQuein said...


Not sure why you like coming on agent blogs and being so negative, but I can tell you at least one debut author who sold, through an agent, (at auction, IIRC) within the last few months.

"The D.U.F.F" was pitched as "reminiscent of Juno and She's Come Undone" - a very effective comparison since the author, a teenager who posts to Absolute Write, sold it for publication by Little Brown in Fall 2010.

She's a great writer, too.

Sharon Mayhew said...


Do you know who Enid Blyton is? I aspire to write like Enid....

Mystery Robin said...

Do you think it's a bad idea to compare your book to a movie as shorthand? Does that come across as though you don't read? I think more people tend to see the same movies, so it's a better bet that the agent has heard of it. Just curious!


Nathan Bransford said...

I think you could probably get away with comparing to one movie, but I wouldn't make it movie and movie. Does that make sense? But I'm sure it's worked for someone in the past.

Anonymous said...

Gordon, you were essentially kicked off PubRants, and if you haven't noticed, no one is listening to you here. By all means, keep writing into the echo chamber if you wish, but you're wasting your time.

Anonymous said...

I just can't imagine anyone cutting an advance check for a new fiction author today. I just don't know who would do that.

Whether you can imagine it or not (because if Gordon can't imagine it, it can't be happening, right?) debut fiction authors are selling. It's called Publishers Marketplace. Maybe you should check it out before writing your ignorant posts.

T. Anne said...

I usually mention another book, if mine has the feel of a similar novel. I've never done the Twilight Potter comparison though.

I'm glad you don't mind in general.

ann foxlee said...

I suppose if I had a gun to my head and had to choose an author whose voice was closest to mine, it would probably be Diana Wynne-Jones... but man, that sets the bar high, so I don't think I'll throw that name out there in a query!
If an agent or an editor brought up that kind of a comparison, though, I'd be flattered as hell.

Word verification: 'inhack' = a backwards cough.

Kaitlyne said...

I've got two questions related to this.

1) Is this mostly meant in terms of tone or plot? I can think of stories that are very similar in tone, but I wouldn't want to compare it to anything similar in terms of plot because the tone of mine is so different.

2) Is it okay to use TV? I know that we're told to use books and I don't want to look like I never read, but the humor in my book could probably best be compared to Hawkeye and BJ on MASH. I've actually considered saying that my main character has a "Hawkeye Pierce sense of humor" in my synopsis, but have always shied away from this.

I think the main concern I have is sounding like I'm trying to ride on the coattails of something else.

Mira said...

This is good advice, Nathan. Makes sense. Simple, but important.

I, however, will not be following your good advice, due to my special situation. My problem is that people keep basing their books off of mine. This is especially annoying since I haven't even written my book yet.

Once I do though, Stephen King and I are going to have a real showdown. He needs to stop copying me. I mean, I don't write horror or well, fiction, for that matter, but in every other way, his books are identical to mine.

Stop it Stephen. Write your own darn books.

I plan to tell my potential agent all about it in my query letter - how published book A + published book B are both rip offs of mine, separated into two parts.

I hope I finally get some justice here.

p.s. Welcome back to the our fair State, Nathan. :)

Donna Hole said...

I've had so many yay's and nay's on this topic in my critique group that I'm completely confused.

So, comparing yourself to a "midlist" book is OK, but not like, Joci Piccoult or JD Robb?

It's just so hard to know. I think I'll pass on the comparison, unless asked to produce a list of similar novels by the agent. THE AGENT, that is, that discovers my unique voice and story line.

And J Nelson: I think I'd have to actually read your novel, and all those listed, to see if you're right. Ok never mind, I'd like to read that novel. Can I pretend to be an agent to get you to send it to me?

Go Mira: I'm with you girl.


Maya / מיה said...

Will it make me sound like an idiot to say that my Biblical fiction novel is more "Philippa Gregory" than "The Red Tent"? That's honestly one way I thought of it as the idea developed... it includes events from a Biblical story, but its focus is more on a girl struggling to find her place among the power struggle in a court.

(I was thinking of comparing it to something more obscure, so thanks for the heads up!)

Other Lisa said...

Er, Gordon, me?

June 2010. Be there. Aloha.

Andrew said...

I wonder if there's like an institute for these people somewhere who use comparisons to blockbusters or random books....coz lets face it there's only 3 reasons why you'd do it

1) Delusional
2) Conceited as hell
3) So thick and uniformed they think this is what everyone does.

I think an institute would be good for them - I don't want these people out on the street driving cars or cooking my burger to be honest....hehe

Can you imagine going to a job interview and saying at the end...."by the way I'll have yourjob in six months, tops. Give me five years and I'll be running this place and doing it a damn site better than the current MD. Mug!"......someone would pull a lever and you'd disappear through a hole in the floor. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauren Hutchin said...

This is an interesting one! I don't see harm in comparisons. I guess you are making the yes or no pile quicker for them!

Lauren Hutchin said...

Hey Nathan,
What book comparison title would make you more inclined to like the query?

Anonymous said...

Um, Nathan? What if...

1) Your type of novel has only ever been written by one other author
2) Different authors have done not exactly similar things
3) The author whose work is most like my current piece tops the NY Times and London Times bestseller lists every time he has a new book out
4) He's one of the richest authors in my country

Should I compare myself to him, or is setting the bar extremely high?

Richard Lewis said...

Mine? Hannibal Lecter in EAT PRAY LOVE.

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy said...

This is good advice; advice I am delighted to hear and take. Too often I have been told that I MUST compare my novel to other works in a solid query. My WIP - like the other novels I have and am shopping around - is unlike anything else so it is good to know that I need not search for a comparison.

Andrew said...

Lets have a competition!!

Who can best confuse the notion of something being "LIKE" something with that of it being "IDENTICAL" with something.

Anon 3:13:

1) Lets face it, there probably is, you just haven't read it.
2) Duh! Exactly similar is identical and therefore copyright
3) WOAH! Sounds a bit like hero worship and plagurism
4) AH! Now you just sound like you want to copy said author for money.

Even if, IF, you're right and it's 1 novel thats NOTHING LIKE another, the comparison will just sound like copying anyway.

OK, i'm exaggerating for the purposes of humour. I suspect you're not being cynical at all but I also suspect that your book isn't only LIKE one other novel.


See above, point 1). Though you probably don't mean it this way at all, it comes across niave to say you've got several books that are "UNLIKE anything else", because almost certainly you haven't. There may be differences, sure, but that's what seperates 'like' with 'identical'.

Word verification - Uncompa: Proof that 'uncomplicated' isn't when it comes to being spelt.

Dave Todaro said...

Very interesting. Like a couple of other posters, I got advice from an editor at a conference who gave me the "X + Y = your book" spiel and acted as though mentioning the comps was a cardinal act of importance. I guess what it comes down to is research the agent you're querying, and use some common sense. So Nathan, next time I query you maybe I will, and maybe I won't!

Anonymous said...

Andrew, it's anonymous 3:13.

My current novel (set on my own world with my own characters etc) is similar to Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Other novellists have written comic fantasies (eg Tom Holt) but none have written them like Pratchett.

Yeah, I get you were exagerrating for comedy purposes. I'm just wondering do I send in my synopsis knowing the agent will probably make the connection, or not mention it?

Janny said...

I'm with A Paperback Writer.

I've always told writers in my workshops and other places that, if in doubt, leave a comparison OUT. Reason being if you tell me, "Think of my book as a cross between _____ (author) and ____ (author)," and I HATE both of those likely is that to color what I see in front of me next? I'm only human; I'm going to be thinking, "Oh, dog, not ANOTHER one."

But then, again, I have been known to be a contrarian in the bunch...

And, if pressed, I can say, "Jan Karon meets Karen Kingsbury meets Mary Higgins Clark." Gentle, emotional, and suspenseful...or at least that's what I'm aiming at. (!)


jc said...

I got a great response from an agent when I compared the tone and genre of my book to one of her other authors. If I mentioned the book, I think most people would think it's a bit obscure, but it was clear to the agent where I was situating myself and it was clear to her that I did some research on her.

Question for Nathan: once a full ms. is requested, how long should I expect to wait for a response?

Terry said...

One movie, then. Thanks.

Andrew said...

Anon (5:04 now)

OK, I think it's the definition of LIKE you're struggling with, not finding authors.

Pratchett is not unique. Granted he's damn good, but you've already mentioned Tom Holt which many people will already say is LIKE Pratchet. Piers Anthony's Xanath series I remember being compared (though I've never read any, just an article somewhere that mentioned both in the same breath).

Yes, noone does it like Pratchet, but that's a reference to his quality, not his stories. I've got a book at home called "go quest young man" by K.B.bogan that I adore....I'd say that's 'LIKE' Pratchet without it having the shear depth of Discworld.

To use LIKE in a reference fashion such as a query letter doesn't mean it's got minimum 90% in common with it.

I'd leave it out. As soon as you say comic fantasy they're going to think Pratchet anyway.

Anonymous said...

(Anon (504) now)

Yeah, that's true. He does dominate the genre. Okay, cheers.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ann Foxlee @4:33

*I read a heckofalotta YA, and it seems like they're either huge, or unknown.*

Most YA *is* huge or unknown. I live in a mid-size city, not a metropolis, but definitely not hicksville. I'm stunned when I see award nominees sometimes, and have never seen any of those books on store shelves. It almost has to be huge (Stephenie Meyers) or they don't stock it. Depressing for those of us that hate vamp/werewolf/winged creatures and have yes, already read Sarah Desson, thanks.

Gordon Jerome said...

I realize there are new authors coming out in 2009, but those deals were probably made in 2007. And I fully admit, I could be wrong, and also that I'm exaggerating a little, because surely, someone has to be published.

But what are the contracts like? A ten thousand-dollar advance, broken up in three pieces and shared with an agent, or no advance, small print run and limited distribution is probably worse than subsidy publishing, especially when they take the e-book rights in this now modern age of publishing.

And while I'm on a rant, what is it with these agent blog cults, anyway? I mean, are any of you actually clients of Nathan Bransford, or Curtis Brown?

You all ought to get together and start a co-op publishing company. I mean, why don't you? See, this is what gets me: somewhere underneath what is happening is what's really happening. And, to answer the one poster above, that's why I come in here. I come here, because I'm intrigued by the dynamics. There's something about writing--no strike that--this has nothing to do with writing; there's something about being published that holds a magical spell over people, and I think it has something to do with validation of an existence. It's a way to be somebody in a world where individual identity and importance is extinguished as easily as a Marlboro butt.

I look at the faces of the people posting in here, and I wonder about them, and I see them wanting to be noticed--to be seen, myself included, I suppose.

Well, folks there has to be another way. Because the time is coming fast when your only hope of being an author will be a deal for e-book only and royalties only. And when that day comes, your book will sit beside everyone else's and there won't be any sense of sanctity. What will you do then?

Can't we even talk about this? Hell, I'll post this over on my blog, and we can talk about it there if you don't want to talk about it here. Either way is good for me. Nathan, too. I'd like to hear his take on it.

Scott said...

Nathan, is there a danger in turning off an agent by perhaps mentioning an author or title that they may identify as unmarketable in the current publishing climate?

For example, I'm working on something that takes some Philip K. Dick-ian themes into the realm of accessible commercial fiction via elements of love and romance which I find seriously lacking in a lot of deep science fiction.

Not to sound overly crass, but does only Hollywood do Dick anymore?

Jill Kemerer said...

Thanks for this. I've read about agents who do not want a comparison, so it's nice to hear the flip side.

Giles said...

Nathan, is saying that my book would appeal to fans of "X" be the same as comparing my book to "X"?

For example: I'm writing up my query letter right now, and my book would appeal to fans of The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. While there are similarities in the settings and themes of those books and mine, I don't want to turn agents off just by mentioning that they share some aspects. How would I go about mentioning who my book would appeal to without looking like I expect my book to be the next big thing?

Mira said...

Thanks, Donna. It's a challenge, getting people to stop copying my unwritten manuscript, but I have faith I can make a difference. :)

Also, my interpretation of what Nathan is saying - comparisions to mega-bestsellers are risky. But a comparision to a well-known novel makes sense.

Gordon - I do think you're wrong about the debut author thing. Publishers are always looking for the next mega-bestseller, and they look to debut authors for that.

The difference nowadays is that they are more willing to go to the slush pile when looking for debut authors. It used to be you had to know someone in the business.

Anonymous said...

Scott, can't wait to read that something you're working on. Sounds so cool.

Scott said...

Oh, well cheers, Anon! I'll be updating my blog as I go, so feel free to stop by.

Wordy Birdie said...

Gordon, a debut YA author I know ( a client of mine, actually) just got a six figure advance for a book that will be published next year.

So it does happen for some. Isn't that great?

Cammie said...

Thanks a lot, Nathan - very useable advice!

Gordon Jerome said...

Gordon - I do think you're wrong about the debut author thing. Publishers are always looking for the next mega-bestseller, and they look to debut authors for that.

The difference nowadays is that they are more willing to go to the slush pile when looking for debut authors. It used to be you had to know someone in the business.

Maybe you're right, Mira. I mean, I don't really know what will be required to be published in the future. I'm going to start my own indi next year, so all my books will be published through that.

What I do know is that I think my comments here have been inappropriate. They were probably inappropriate in Kristin Nelson's blog, too. I don't really want to argue or be negative. I really just want to communicate with other writers, and all the writers seem to be on agent blogs these days, at least the serious ones. Maybe I should stick to that and keep my anti-traditional publishing comments at bay.

Good luck in your efforts to be discovered. The next five years is going to be very interesting for all of us.

Gordon Jerome said...

Gordon, a debut YA author I know ( a client of mine, actually) just got a six figure advance for a book that will be published next year.

So it does happen for some. Isn't that great?

That is great. Absolutely.

And believe it or not, I'm glad to be wrong. I just wonder why a publisher would throw a hundred thousand (minimum)at a new author's book? But, I suppose they aren't just going to roll over and die, they have to do business, right? And that's the publishing business.

I'm very happy for you and your client. I hope her books become very popular.

Wordy Birdie said...

Thanks Gordon, me too! :)

(She actually took the lesser of two offers. One was over 300k! Yeah, my jaw dropped, too.)

Nathan Bransford said...


Books are definitely still selling. It's harder than it ever has been, particularly for people who write adult fiction, but the right project there still sells as well. I think you're like a lot of people, who approach the business from an understandable place of frustration. The publishing world seems like a cold, capricious, unforgiving place. But spend enough time on publishing blogs and meeting people in the industry and I think you'll find that people are (for the most part) extremely well-intentioned and doing the best they can in a really tough market.

The fact is that the public is buying fewer books and when they do buy books they often go for one of about 100 authors. Which is great for those 100 top sellers. Really tough for everyone else.

Mira said...

"Good luck in your efforts to be discovered. The next five years is going to be very interesting for all of us."

Gordon - I agree! Same to you as well. That's exciting that you're starting an indie publishing company - good luck!

Well, I don't know if your comments are inappropriate, so much as off topic. My sense of Nathan is that he's all about honest, friendly debate, but he really does prefer if people stick to the thread topic.

Of course, I'm not Nathan, so I don't want to exactly speak for him (that's a complete and utter lie, I totally wish Nathan would give me carte blanche to speak for him ALL the time), but that's my sense of things having been on this blog for awhile.

For the record, I think you have some good points. I have some problems with the 'system' as it is too, although I do see some good points as well, and think there's a difference between the system and the people working within it.

But maybe that's a topic for another thread. :)

Anonymous said...

Gordon, I think lots of people have anti-traditional publishing ideas -- those are usually the people that haven't been able to get an agent, or break into the business, and declare it publishings' fault.

They are also the ones that self-publish, and we all know that is a very hard road to travel and the books that stem from it often unprofessional, mistake-ridden, and end up costing way more than the author makes.

Yes, going on publishing blogs and railing against publishing as a whole probably isn't a good idea. Certainly publishing has its problems, but to have an attitude that Publishing=the devil isn't a valid viewpoint, it only sounds like sour grapes. THAT'S why you got kicked off Kristin's blog.

I sense that trying to get an agent and get published has kicked your ass at some point, and it has me too. But this is the system we have. We can write, rewrite, and polish our ms. We can work on query letters and try to pair ourselves up with the appropriate agent, we can come up with new ideas and write a second or fifth or tenth book if the first doesn't pan out. OR, we can complain. Complaining won't get you published.

terri said...

Dear Mr. Bransford:

My new book is the greatest thing since the dictionary. Like Webster's, it has lots of words that sound really cool and are hard to spell. I put mine in different order though, just to keep you guessing. Yur gonna luv it!

R.E. JectMe

Seriously, I can see how getting the agent's mindset turned toward a certain reading demographic might be useful.

Scott said...

I sit in hope that all those kids reading all that published YA grow up and decide to write meaningful adult fiction. My fear is that it's mostly adult-aged people reading YA and the kids are playing video games.

Anonymous said...

What about listing movies and TV shows that prove that your genre is popular, if not "hot"? I don't compare my book to these shows, I just want to point out that this genre does appeal to the masses. Plus it's usually more efficient to list a few TV and movie titles than an obscure author & long book title... What do you think?

Fred A. said...

I was thinking I'd point out in my query letter that Stephen King and Dean Koontz are just hacks who wish their books were as good as mine, which is the sort of novel theirs aspire to be but fall far short of.

I figure I won't have to query more than one or two agents before landing a deal.

Melony said...

Nathan, I have the same question as Giles. What if you say "My book is targeted to the Teen/Mom audience who enjoyed XXXXX? I wouldn't compare my plot or talent to XXXX but I do think the same audience might enjoy that going to be interpreted as a comparison? The reason I want to do it that way is because there's still a question of whether my book is going to go YA or Adult and I think both audiences would like it. I really want YA so I can get both age-groups. If I go adult I think it'd be next to impossible to get the teen readers, even though my MS is clean. My MC's are right on the brink... and so draws out my biggest quandary in querying anyway...should I query as YA or Adult? UGH - sorry off-topic :) I slapped my own wrists, if that helps anyone...

Nathan Bransford said...

Just don't overthink it. I think it's perfectly fine to compare your book to bestsellers, however you want to go about that (and I agree the "will appeal to readers of" is a good way of doing that).

What I wouldn't recommend is comparing your book to the top ten or so flavor of moment bestsellers. So if you steer clear (currently) of THE DA VINCI CODE, TWILIGHT, THE SECRET, HARRY POTTER, etc. etc. you'll be fine.

There are 5,000 editors looking for the next Jody Piccoult, and she's a perfectly fine comparison.

Gordon Jerome said...

But spend enough time on publishing blogs and meeting people in the industry and I think you'll find that people are (for the most part) extremely well-intentioned and doing the best they can in a really tough market.

Hey Nathan,

The fact is that the public is buying fewer books and when they do buy books they often go for one of about 100 authors. Which is great for those 100 top sellers. Really tough for everyone else.

Well, everything is changing these days, the economy, publishing (especially fiction), the rise of self-publishing which just became much much easier to do, and the role of the independent publisher (since now they can actually afford to publish at least e-books, and things seem to be going that way). I suppose we'll have to see how things iron out over the next few years as e-readers gain in popularity.

But I apologize for my previous rudeness. There's no reason to fight against a system I don't plan on participating in. I still plan to speak my mind, mind you, but I'm going to try to be more civil about it.


You've given me about sixteen reasons now why I've been expelled from Kristin's blog via her own self-destructive comments moderation. Let me put this plainly. I don't give a damn. But, please keep telling me how I've blown all my opportunity in life as an author because I've angered Kristin. As long as you're talking about me in blogs, that's all I care about.



Theresa Milstein said...

This was very helpful because my recent manuscript is a vampire story, but I didn't want to compare it to, Twilight because it isn't Twilight. It's a challenge to bring up another book without worrying that my project will seem unoriginal. I've heard it's good to write that the book is a cross between two books or a book and a movie or television show. Do you agree?

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