…Written in the Style of Shakespeare and Sylvia Plath.
Authors inspire new and upcoming authors, and books inspire books. When trying to entice a reader, it’s tempting to talk about your influences–and to compare your novel favorably to other recent hits.
Resist the temptation.
Don’t name drop. Sure, you might be writing in the tradition of Bill Bryson, Tolkien, or William Gibson, and you want to reach people who love those authors too. The problem? By citing authors, you risk…
- Sounding conceited. Let’s face it: no one is JK Rowling except Rowling.
- Creating unmet expectations. Your story will differ from what your role model writes (or it should) and fans won’t be happy to see originality where they wanted another Zalazny.
- Turning off those readers who like the premise, but had bad experiences with the authors you cite.
So save it for the author interviews.
Let the story summary speak to your target fans, instead:
NO: “Written like JK Rowling.”
YES: “A world of magic and wizardry.”
NO: “These aren’t Meyer’s glittery vampires from Twilight.”
YES: “Fierce, predatory creatures that don’t stop to chat with their food.”
NO: “A Tolkienesque journey through a Douglas Adams-type universe with a walloping of Stephen King!”
YES: “…an epic fantasy with elements of absurdism and suspense?”
And if you really must compare your book or cite your influences, use the acknowledgement section. Or better yet, wait until a reviewer says it for you, and then quote liberally.
Caveat: It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “May appeal to fans of [author name], [author name], and [author name].” though.
Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar? Email it our way with the subject “Pitch Article Submission” at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is really useful! And you raise good points. I will refrain from mentioning influences in letters to agents (although some people say you should do this?)
It largely depends on what you’re doing. If you’re pitching your book to a reader or reviewer through a kind of back-of-the-book-blurb, your focus is to draw the reader in and convince that reader to give the book a try. In this situation, it can be counterproductive to name-drop.
But if you’re writing to an agent, you may want to explain where you see the book in the large scale of things. I’d use specific names judiciously, but (example) if Tolkien is big, and you want to appeal to that crowd, you may find yourself telling the agent that this is your target audience and reading niche.
Ahh I see now. Thanks! 🙂
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