Just like George Clooney...but different

Two editors (one paid by me and one not) independently identified the protagonist in my manuscript as having a Holden Caufield-like voice although the story bears no resemblance to "Catcher." I originally had thought of adding a description like that to my queries, but I reasoned that you would probably Snark me to smithereens. Was I correct?

Yup. But not for the reason you think.

If I had a dollar for every time some nitwit (not you dear Snarkling) said their book was like Catcher in the Rye or (fill in the blank of the best selling novel of the day), I'd buy a round of gin for everyone at Yankee Stadium in the next World Series.

It's a terribly overused comparison. Being overused means it carries no weight and in fact is now seen as a negative.

Let your writing stand on its own. If you MUST use a comparison to indicate genre or approach or tone at least phrase it as "readers who found Holden Caulfield's voice compelling are the target audience for this novel".

If you want to include the editors' comments, a little self deprecating humor can go a long way toward making the point "I don't think my mom paid the editor to make Holden Caulfield comparisons but here's her number if you'd like to verify it". Now, I'm not saying to be dumb silly or stupid, just try not to sound pretentious overblown and full of yourself. Those are the three first things that come to mind if JD Salinger appears in your query letter in any form other than "I"m the long lost love child of Joyce Maynard and JD Salinger".

This is like the bozo who told me he looked just like George Clooney but different when I was meeting him for the first time. After seeing him, it was more like George Costanza. He may have been a perfectly nice guy but disappointment nixed the deal. Don't set your work up for disappointment by over reaching on comparisons. If you're good, we'll see it.


ralph said...
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ssas said...

I'm glad to know that. I was advised to insert comparisons in my queries so I look like I'm thinking about marketing. It never sat right with me. I wrote two of those letters against my better judgement and never heard back.

And the compulsion toward your blog turns to addiction...

Dave Kuzminski said...

Hmmm, based on this, I shall not tell anyone I resemble Miss Snark. While I could passably swill gin from a bucket, I doubt that I could also keep my balance on stiletto heels. ;)

Ira Rosofsky said...

what if your agent says your book reminds me of so-and-so? How might the agent use this when peddling around to publishers?

Bernita said...

Think what Kathy Reichs' agent may have said re Reichs and Patricial Cornwell.