Friday, August 26, 2011

Shall I Compare Thee...

No, I’m not going to go all Shakespeare on you. The topic of interest for me is: comparisons related to books. For the writers out there, you know the collective opinion is a bit muddled with regards to comparing one work to other works. Some people say, “Yes! Please give me those comparisons!” Others say, “Oh no, good God, please refrain!” Regardless of your opinion, there are different kinds of comparisons authors and agents use, so let’s discuss a few of them.

Genre-Bender Comparison

Format: *Title of book on offer* is a *insert genre* version of *insert well-known and much beloved movie or book title from another genre*

Genre Bender Comparison

Nice-to-meet-you Comparison

Format: *Title of book on offer* is *insert first well-known and much beloved movie or book title from another genre* meets *insert second well-known and much beloved movie or book title from another genre*

Nice-to-meet-you Comparison

In-the-Shade Comparison

Format: *Title of book on offer* is a *insert genre* with shades of *insert well-known and much beloved movie or book title from another genre*

In-the-Shade Comparison

Examples: CATCH is a MG contemporary with shades of FIELD OF DREAMS. LOATHSOME IN LOREDO is a YA contemporary with shades of SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

Fanny-Pack Comparison

Format: Fans of *insert well-known and much beloved movie or book title from another genre* will enjoy *similar aspects* when reading *title of book on offer*

Fanny-Pack Comparison
Examples: Fans of FIELD OF DREAMS will enjoy a similar fusion of magical realism and baseball history in CATCH.

And those are just a few types of comparisons. There are authors, agents, editors, and readers who support the use of such comparisons. Then there are those who hate seeing them. Now for our audience participation segment of this post:

Time to Participate
1) Do you like and support the use of comparisons? Yay or Nay?
2) To have some fun with it, choose one type of comparison above, and use it to describe a published book. Can’t wait to see these comparisons.


  1. I am so guilty of doing this with my books. I really like it because it gives an instant picture of what the book is about. I'm constantly doing the comparing them to other books. I think the most famous I've seen recently was the one that the producers of the HBO adaptation of George RR Martin's (there's a shock that I went there) A Game of Thrones. It was "pitched" as "Lord of the Rings meets The Sopranos."

    I've said before that my book, Winter's Discord, is "A Game of Thrones meets Gossip Girl," which has hooked some folks while it has repelled people because the comparison is so...weird.


    I can't think of any others off the top of my head.

  2. I'm not sure how I feel about comparisons, to be honest. I like, as John says, that it gives you an instant picture of the book, but it also has the potential to instantly turn a reader off, if the comparison isn't favorable in their opinion or is in some way strange or unappealing to them. And you have to wonder how accurate some comparisons actually are...

    I suppose I really like the idea of a book standing on its own, but I recognize there are advantages to making comparisons, as well.

  3. John: Love the HUNGER GAMES comparison.

    Dawn: True, a book needs to stand on its own.

  4. I think the reason why eds and agents don't like it is because they never really see the payoff. Unless you wrote Maze Runner and are billing it as another Hunger Games, and it actually pays off like another Hunger Games, these people are just going to be pissed off for being teased.

    If you can put your story where your fanny pack is, I say go ahead. But you'd better be right.

    *And Alien WAS Jaws on a spaceship.

  5. There. Now you have three comments. Stop whining and think about all those starving kids in Hurricane Irene's path with no comments at all.

  6. Lesli - hahaha!

    I don't think I'm witty enough to come up with the comparisons. I think publishers do it all the time, and I don't mind at all when a jacket copy has a comparison or something like that. But when authors are trying to pitch their book a certain way? It makes me feel squiffy...even if it is a good comparison.

  7. The only one I'd feel comfortable using myself would be 'similar aspects'. I do know that some agents use the comparison when they are pitching to editors though, so I think it might help to come up with one of your own if an agent needs it.

    I have a hard time thinking of the ones where you use a couple of other books or movies.

    Leslie, I love "And Alien WAS Jaws on a spaceship" !

  8. Lesli: Thanks for the third official comment. And the Alien comp is good. I've had a long couple days. Sorry if it comes off like I'm whining.

    Marissa: I see agents and editors do it all the time as well, especially on the PM deals. I actually use the comps for my own books, too.

    Dee:How about this? WILDFIRE RUN is a MG AIR FORCE ONE on land.

  9. I like hearing comparisons, especially reading the ones on the recent book deals, but have only used the technique once for pitching my own work.

  10. Comparisons don't bother me. If I'm interested in the book I'll read it even if I don't like the comparison.

    As for me, I'd be happy if someone thought my work was good enough to be compared with a published book :-)

  11. Personally, I don't do this. There are those who do it very well, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that it if works for them, but for me, this is a combination of saying my work is as good as ... such and such, and my work is a lot like ... such and such. When honestly? My work is nothing like anything I've ever read, and that's just the way I like it.

    Whether or not it's as good as anything I've ever read remains to be seen.

  12. I use these all the time and highly recommend them. It's the fastest way to do an elevator pitch. Not only that, it's a great way to get the creative juices flowing when you're looking for an idea.

    Here are a few as-yet-unwritten mash-ups I'd pay to read:

    1. Chaucer's Split Pea Soup is a children's picture book similar to Canterbury Tales, if Canterbury Tales had met The Exorcist in a cold dark alley without a knife.
    2. Yule B Sorry is a romantic coming-of-age story for young adults who like to torment their parents at Christmas. Also, it's like, uh, oh...I don't know; let's say The Hunger Games. You like that book, right?
    3. Lord of the Lederhosen is Lord of the Rings meets Lord of the Dance meets Lord of the Flies, except Gollum wins.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!