Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Comp Titles

Ah, the grueling process of querying. It's fun, right? But let's talk about comp titles. This is when you take a book already on the market and compare it to your work. But it's kind of a double-edged sword. If you say, "my book is reminiscent of HARRY POTTER," the agent sees, "Oh look at me! I'm going to be a best seller! I'm the new J.K. Rowling. La-de-da!"

But if you say, "My book is in the vein of BOOK NO ONE'S HEARD OF," the agent goes, "What is this book? Does the author even know their market?"

Some agents like comp titles. Some don't. The point is, agents aren't just one cookie-cutter person. They're all unique human beings. To play it safe, I've generally opted to leave out the comp titles. If my work (and query) is good enough, it will speak for itself.

Dear Agent (where you of course put in the agent's real name,)

I see from your website you're actively seeking YA fantasy, and I am excited to present MY BOOK, a YA fantasy romance for your review. Told from the viewpoint of a frog turned prince, it's complete at 75,000 words.

From there straight into the query.

But if you do use comp titles, which I have, I think it's best to use them very, very carefully.

Dear Agent (where you of course put in the agent's real name,)

I see from your website you're actively seeking YA fantasy, and I am excited to present MY BOOK, a YA fantasy romance for your review. Told from the viewpoint of a frog turned prince, it's complete at 75,000 words, and I believe, will appeal to fans of Marissa Meyer's, CINDER.

Key words: I believe, will appeal to
In other words, I'm saying, "This is just my opinion. People who like CINDER might also like my book." It shows you have some knowledge of your market without coming off as someone with delusions of grandeur. 

You can also call out one of the agent's own books. 

Dear Mary,

I am a huge fan of your client, John Smith's book, THE RELUCTANT PRINCESS, and I am excited to present my YA fantasy romance for your review. I definitely took inspiration from John's work, especially in his fantastic world building. Told from the viewpoint of a frog turned prince, MY BOOK is complete at 75,000 words.

I always find a little brown-nosing never hurts. You've also shown you know your market, and you've done your research on the agent. But this could also backfire. If your work is too similar to John Smith's, the agent could pass simply because she already has a John Smith. Why does she need two?

I generally take it agent by agent. If you find a call out you can use, use it. If not, I've never had any issues with keeping things generic. If your writing is good enough, it will make it past the gates. If not, that's where you really need to focus your time.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why I'm Almost a Vegetarian

Truth? I can't give up hot dogs. Which is the absolute worst meat out there, I know. You don't have to tell me the gory details. I do my best not to think about it as I bite into those savory meat tubes, usually slathered with cheese. Sometimes onions and peppers...so good.

Everyone thinks that's odd. But my reasons for not eating meat are not the usual ones. I do care about animals. But I also wear leather boots. I use sugar in my coffee. Eat eggs. Cheese. Seafood. I don't like to lecture people on what they should do. I don't like to put myself in boxes. I really don't eat meat because it grosses me out.

I live in fear of that chewy piece of cartilage you find in your chicken salad. The bit of grissle on the edge of a piece of steak. That string of fat that gets caught in your teeth. The rubbery ends of a strip of a bacon that take hours to chew. That smell of a raw turkey. The juice leaking off of it, filled with salmonella. When I cooked with meat, I would have to wipe down my entire kitchen with Clorox wipes and went to bed worrying about that one missed spot, teeming with the animated on the bacteria on the Lysol commercials. I would take a bite of my dinner wondering, "Did I cook this enough? Am I going to get sick?"

You don't have to worry about that with tofu. It doesn't matter if zucchini is under cooked. You can eat it raw. I love the taste of veggie burgers. Veggie sausage. Tempeh. I don't feel disgustingly full after gorging myself on a salad. But I kept thinking, "Why don't I just go all the way. Why can't I give it all up?"

Then I met a woman at a party who said, "My new philosophy? Do it ninety percent. It's better than nothing."

I don't know why I needed permission to hear that. I think because we like to put ourselves into little categories. "I am a vegetarian. I am a heterosexual. I am a web designer." It leaves little room for you to do anything else. You've categorized yourself. You're afraid someone will judge you for breaking out of the category, which they probably will, and so you start lying, hiding, or criticizing yourself for reaching beyond your self-imposed box.

That sucks.

You can't expand if you've closed yourself in a cage. You shouldn't have to feel guilty if you want a hot dog. Or want to change careers, Or fall in love with a woman instead of a man. Leave that open door. That 10% (or more) that allows you to do what you want.