Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reading Your Genre

What are the current bestselling novels in your genre? What are some of the all-time bestsellers in your genre? If you don't know the answers to these questions then chances are you're doing yourself a disservice by not reading your genre thoroughly enough. In this ever tightening market where publisher's lists are shrinking and competition is becoming fiercer, you need every advantage you can get. You don't have to write what sells, you can still write what's in your heart, but you must know what is selling. Knowledge is power.

When an agent or editor asks for comparables, you need to be able to give them accurate comps and the only way to do that is to be well read in your genre. If your answer is "it's completely original, there's nothing out there like it," chances are you may not be as well read as you should be. That answer is a red flag to agents and editors. Agent Ginger Clark recently tweeted something very similar to that statement. If your story is completely original (and it may be) that's great, but there are still comps out there. 

Maybe another author has a writing style that is reminiscent of yours, chances are it's someone you admire. I love lyrical novels with rich description and characters that I can clearly visualize, this is reflected in my own writing. Therefore my comps are novels that have a style which reflects those things. If you write in first person chances are your comps would be novels written in first person (though not always). If you write novels in multiple POV's, chances are your comps are novels that are written in multiple POV's. You can see where I'm going with this. There are always exceptions of course, but the idea is to know what's out there, know what you write, and support the industry you want to work in by reading.

On a personal side note, today is the last day to enter the Tour Of Secrets contest so if YA is your genre, stop by my blog to enter to win some great YA books or a gift certificate!


  1. This can be a tough one, Heather. I've struggled with it, and was finally thrilled about six months ago to discover a comp. by going to a movie (The Ghost Writer) based on a novel. I probably wouldn't have discovered this author, as he's European and not on our shelves, but the movie made the comp recognizable to editors and agents. Tricky, though, because if you say I write like xx, or my book is like xx, and you select famous comps you're setting yourself up for a difficult comparison! Here's something I discovered that worked: I qualified my statement about the comp by identifying what parts of structure and style were comparable, so the agents wouldn't think the whole novel was.

  2. Linda, that's excellent! I'm so glad you found one. It is very tricky, so true. We never want to sound like we're trying to say we're the next Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling. Identifying parts of the structure and style of others that yours is similar to is an excellent way to go!

  3. Heather, I love this! But on the other side of this coin, in San Diego I realized that my book was similar to Bob Dugoni... A thriller with a female protag. But at the PNWA when I mentioned that, I was told... "No! Find your own voice." Well, I have my own voice... but this was an interesting thought because while they say, "who are you similar to?" They also want you to be yourself. Can we accidentally adapt a voice of the people we read?
    Anyway, I love reading so many different genres. And you've inspired my post for Friday! Thank you!!

  4. Fellow campaigner stopping by to say hi. Nice to meet you!