Stop the comparisons, stop trying to be the next big thing, and just write your book.
Every day—several times a day, in fact—I see “What to read after ____” or “If you liked ___, you’ll love__,” and I must admit, I just shake my head. I get it—everyone wants to promote their book, wants it to be the next big thing, but my knee-jerk reaction is always, “Why the comparison? Don’t you want to stand on your own?”
Sometimes I laugh, especially if I’ve read both books and they’re not similar in the slightest. When this happens, I can’t help but wonder what the authors are thinking. They must know that these are marketing tactics to draw readers’ attention to the book, but sometimes there’s no real substance to them. I mean, is anyone really writing the next Fifty Shades of Grey? There’s no doubt we’d all like our books to be as successful, of course, but aren’t we all writing our own original novels?
Do these comparisons even work? Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’d be easy for them to backfire and either categorize the book in a niche it may not belong, and therefore turns off readers who may have otherwise read the book, or it paint books with a very broad brush and stereotypes the entire category the book belongs to.
And what about the book to which it’s being compared? Doesn’t that author have a say? Honestly, what if they think the book being compared to theirs is terrible? Or is nothing like theirs—in theme or concept or genre, etc.? I know legally the comparisons must be allowed; it wouldn’t be so prevalent if it weren’t. I just wonder if it’s the right thing.
What happened to marketing that describes the actual book you’re considering? Is blurb writing a lost art form? From my publishing house days, I know it’s one of the hardest parts of writing a book—condensing said story into 150 or 300 words—and we’d spend hours back and forth with the author, fine-tuning to get just the right words for the perfect impression. A good synopsis, done skillfully, can turn a disinterested scan of a cover into a sale. And this brings me back to my point, which is to focus on your writing.
I’m not saying your book will sell itself. Let’s not be crazy. You’ll have to work to sell your book. But focus on writing the very best book you can write first. And then market it based on its qualities. Stop comparing yourself to Author Q and Writer J. Author Q and Writer J sold bazillions of copies of their books because said books filled a need readers weren’t even aware they had. The laws of economics being what they are, that demand has been supplied, so find the need that your book will fill and market it there.
But you’ll never have anything to market if you don’t stop the comparisons, stop trying to be the next big thing, and just write your book. Because when everything else is stripped away—the marketing, the pretty cover, the well-written blurb—a good book stands on its own.