Utterly Original: A Rant

snowflakes“To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been written. Ever. It is utterly fresh, mine and complete.”

That was a line in a query I received.

It’s hard to explain how this sounds to agents and editors who get pitched everything under the sun, are typically well-read, and are aware of what’s going on in the publishing marketplace. The book might be unique but not to the extent the writer seems to think.

When pitching your work, you have to walk a fine line: Be confident, but don’t come off as grandiose. Stress your original and fresh voice, yet don’t be afraid to acknowledge there have been other books similar to yours, whether in plot, style, theme, whatever. Yes, you want to be unique, but you can’t make wild claims that just aren’t true. Every book published has some similarities to something that came before; yet yours must also have something fresh and different about it.

In non-fiction book proposals, we always have to provide comparable titles (the “Competition” section) and increasingly, editors are asking us for comps even for fiction. Many authors write something like, “There are no books similar to mine.” What it says is, “I haven’t taken the time to properly research the market and I have no idea what other books could be compared to mine.”

Remember, it’s not bad to be able to compare your book to others people have heard of. It’s good. It helps people begin to capture a vision for the type of book you’ve written. If you can point out the ways your book is similar and different, and why you think yours is a good complement to the other, you can further help a publisher understand what your book is all about. Don’t ever claim “There are no books like mine.” If that’s your impression, go back to the bookstore and find some.

You don’t have to give comp titles in your query, but when you get further down the road, you may be asked what books you think yours is similar to, so it’s a good idea to be ready.

Of course, if the book in question really was amazingly fresh and original, my response to the query would not be quite so negative. Alas, it was not the case. Most of the time when people try so hard to tell me their book is awesome, rather than just showing me an awesome idea and letting me figure it out for myself… it’s usually not awesome.

Unsurprisingly, the same writer who told me their book was utterly fresh responded to my pass letter with the observation: “This is probably one of the most spectacular works of fiction ever written.”

My loss then, I guess. Bummer.

Do you have a hard time finding books to compare with yours?

Winners!

Chuck Sambuchino and the Writers Digest team have chosen the three winners of the Worst Storyline Ever Contest 2.0. Here are the winners, and their winning Worst Storylines. Drum roll please…   Linda Hofke After his wife leaves him, an old, bald, former 80s rock star goes on a quest to reunite with his first […]

[ Read More → ]

The Introvert’s Guide to Conferences

woman hiding behind book

Okay, so you notice there’s no shortage of advice out there about how to make the most of a conference. But what about those of us who are introverts? It can be even more difficult for us to navigate these social situations. Oh, how we envy our extrovert friends! Are there any special tips for […]

[ Read More → ]

The Worst Storyline Ever Contest 2.0

guide to literary agents 2016

Guest Blogger: Chuck Sambuchino, editor and writer for Writer’s Digest, and host of the Guide To Literary Agents blog.   Here’s Chuck:   September 2015 sees the release of three of my new books, the 2016 Guide to Literary Agents, the 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, and the anti-clown humor book When Clowns Attack: A […]

[ Read More → ]

5 Things To Do Before Hiring a Freelance Editor

Self Editing For Fiction Writers

More writers are hiring editors these days, whether they’re going indie or just making sure the manuscript is polished before submitting to agents and publishers. If you’re a newer writer, unpublished, here are some things I think you should do before spending your hard-earned money on a freelance editor. (1) Get objective feedback. It’s best to have […]

[ Read More → ]

And to Whom Should I Reply?

I can never understand why so many writers have websites and/or blogs, but do not have their email address or a “contact me” link easily visible. It’s a frequent source of frustration for me. Why would you bother putting yourself out there without giving people a way to contact you?There are two circumstances in which I come […]

[ Read More → ]

Create a Compelling Book Title

I’ve been coaching several of my clients through the process of coming up with a good title for their book, so I thought I’d share my tips with you. Let’s start by acknowledging a few things. The publisher is usually responsible for the final decision on title, and in the query stage, it’s not that […]

[ Read More → ]

How to Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how difficult it can be to write about yourself in a bio—after all, you’re a writer! But I understand it’s not as simple as that, so here are a few tips to make it easier. Write your bio in first person for query letters, third person for most other purposes including proposals, book jackets, […]

[ Read More → ]

What the Heck is Content Marketing?

Paper and pencil

I’m always talking with authors about marketing their books and growing their platforms. It’s a challenge for most writers, who are constantly trying to figure out the formula for gathering more fans (i.e. potential book-buyers).   While writers typically don’t love the idea of marketing their books, ironically they’re more suited to it than many other […]

[ Read More → ]

Your Elevator Pitch

86538827

You are standing in an elevator and have two minutes to tell someone about your book. Today we’re going to talk about crafting that one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence (elevator) pitch. This is not your book’s tagline! What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book. Why: To get someone interested […]

[ Read More → ]

Thick Skin: The Key to a Writer’s Survival

How many times have you heard the new-writer’s advice: Develop a thick skin. You’d think this would be even more of a requirement for an agent. It’s good advice for anyone who’s visible on the Internet, frequently giving their opinion on things. So all in all, you probably think I’d be a person with a thick […]

[ Read More → ]

OMG! What if B&N Closes?

Man freaking out

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” So said Mark Twain in 1897, and I’m wondering if Barnes & Noble might be saying the same thing right about now.   Over the last week, an article by Michael Levin has been making the rounds, causing fear and trembling among certain groups of authors and […]

[ Read More → ]

Nobody Writes Good First Drafts

Crumpled paper

I spend a lot of time working with my clients to edit and revise their proposals and manuscripts. I give notes and suggestions for improvements. Sometimes I take them through draft after draft, until everything seems just right.   I know it’s tiring for them, and sometimes frustrating to be pushed to go over it […]

[ Read More → ]

Books Covers and My Experience with 99 Designs

How Do I Decide

Whether you’re self-publishing or working with a publisher, creating an effective book cover is extremely important. I’ve worked with publishers on hundreds of covers, and now I have the experience of working with designers on the cover of my own first e-book. From my perspective, the single most important thing to understand about book covers […]

[ Read More → ]
[ ← Newer Posts ][ Older Posts → ]
line
Site by Author Media © Rachelle Gardner.