I hate comparing books.
I feel like I’ve been complaining a lot of here, and I’m sorry about that – really, there are many good things in my life right now, not least of which is that I actually have time to write, which is just amazing and hasn’t been true for many years. I promise I’ll write about some good things on here too.
But first, I really need to repeat this.
I HATE comparing books.
This doesn’t just apply to my own books. My pet peeve is that, for years after Harry Potter got popular, every fantasy book published had a quote on the cover somewhere comparing it to Harry Potter. “The next thing to read after Harry Potter!” “When you’ve grown out of Harry Potter, try this!” Or my least favorite: “Watch out, Harry!”
Several big problems with this in my mind – first, the comparison didn’t do justice to either book. Harry Potter is great, but this other book either 1) has the same feel, but isn’t as well done, 2) has the same kind of ideas, but a very different feel, or 3) has nothing in common except that it’s on the fantasy shelf. And maybe has a young protagonist? In any of these cases you’re either saying that HP isn’t as good as this, or this isn’t as good as HP, or (most likely) they just really hope someone will buy it on pure name recognition and disappoint some grandchild somewhere for their birthday. It isn’t Harry Potter. And that’s totally fine! It’s a different book, and you might even like it better. Or in a different way.
Second, it promotes this dumb competition between books. Which is completely stupid. I don’t know a single person who reads only one book series and books that are compared to it. I know lots of people who read whatever they can get their hands on, especially within a particular genre, but none of those people care if a book has been compared to another book they love, except that it might lead to someone else recommending it to them (and yes I see that’s the point – I’ll get to that). I do sadly know a few people who only read one book or series of books, period. No amount of comparing will get these people to read something else. They just like what they like.
All this is not to say that I don’t understand why this exists – I fully blame Amazon for this – we have this, “Ok, I read this, what’s next?” mindset. It’s a dumb thing to do to ourselves for the reasons I’ve listed above – we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and not broadening our horizons. We need to stop chasing after that feeling we had when we read that one book, and realize that other books have other feels and experiences to offer us. Different ones. Which is good.
Anyway, this is a long rant to say that a lot of agents require comparables – a list of books that your book is like. I hate trying to do this – I always feel like I’m either reaching too high or not high enough. And I don’t want to sound full of myself and say nothing is like Quirk, but I can’t think of anything like Quirk. Which is why I wrote it in the first place – I wanted to read a book that didn’t exist yet. Comparables might reduce risk in picking a book to represent. But it also might weed out books that are different, and keep the reading public from seeing new things. If we keep churning out more of the same, we’re going to start missing things that could make us grow.