If your author vibe is Liane Moriarty or Marian Keyes, own it

The following questions are asked often enough when an author submits their work to publishers:

Is there an author or authors whose work is similar to your writing style? Or Name several published works you feel are similar to your manuscript.

I used to struggle with this. I used to think, ‘My work is unique. My work is my work. It’s like, how I am me, I’m uniquely me. How can I be like anybody else?’

One of the mistakes I made early on was to take the definition too literally. And, I’ll admit it, I let a shaft of ego blind the light.

Some years ago, I submitted a category romance manuscript to a publisher. It was really hard to choose comparison authors because I wasn’t really into category romance (which could be one of the reasons why I didn’t achieve fame and fortune in this genre!)

Readers can get a handle on an author’s style through author comparisons. Photo: Karolina Grabowska

Back in the day (early to mid-2000s) I read a couple of American author Jennifer Crusie’s books. I enjoyed her humour and stories that weren’t solely focused on the relationship between the hero and heroine (which is what category usually wants – or at least it did back then).

Crusie became my go-to comparison author even though I’m not sure my writing style was anything like hers. It was more the feel of it. The connection.

A lot of water has passed under the writing bridge since then and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Lately, I’ve tried to pull out comparison authors whose writing resonates with my style. Authors who include Monica McInerney (The Godmothers), Marian Keyes (Grown Ups) and Liane Moriarty (why not reach for the stars! Truly Madly Guilty). These authors write contemporary fiction with the focus on family matters and the family dynamic.

I recently read a promo for a novel Recipe For Family by Tori Haschka, which guided potential readers with this author comparison: ‘Perfect for fans of Meg Mason and Sally Hepworth…’ Haschka’s first novel Grace Under Pressure was described as ‘Big Little Lies meets Marian Keyes with a dash of Donna Hay…’ Get it? Got it.

I guess every Australian author would like to be compared to Liane Moriarty! Join the bandwagon.

I’m still not sure where my literary style sits. It has a sprinkle of Moriarty’s contemporary Australian insights with a scattering of Marian Keyes’ humour. A reader who gave Return to Desiree Bay a review threw in a Jane Harper comparison (not sure where that came from! because Harper is a crime/thriller writer to a T).

I wonder who Marian and Liane were compared to when they first started out?

Like it or not, comparisons are a part of the pitch and publishing process. If you are an author with a product to sell, it’s a good idea to start thinking about authors whose work you admire and who have influenced your own style.

Once you get this sorted, you can move the focus to the role of your own authentic voice and how it shapes the stories you write.

What’s trending now in publishing

I recently attended a Zoom presentation where members of the Penguin Random House Australia team talked about the changing face of publishing and gave some insider tips on publishing trends.

I scrupulously took notes. And now I can’t find them!

But I promised I would get this post out to my readership of four, maybe three (eternally grateful – you know who you are). Drawing like crazy on my fragmented alcohol-addled recall skills, here’s an overview of what’s about to be hot or is already scorching.

What’s hot for little kids
Forget the reading and writing. It’s all about arithmetic when it comes to the new trend in children’s books.

Since COVID-19, there’s been a push for educators in Australia to focus more on STEM subjects. These are the science, maths and computing subjects that can sometimes be skimmed over in children’s early years of schooling.

Children’s authors who can weave maths and science into a story in an entertaining and engaging fashion are in demand. Author, presenter and political commentator Jamila Rizvi has written a picture book I’m a Hero Too set in a COVID-19 world that revolves around a character whose mum is a scientist working to find a medicine to help stop the pandemic. Rizvi already has a huge public profile and was recently named one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence by Australian Financial Review.

Trends in adult non-fiction
Memoirs are hot. If you have an exciting story to tell, then my advice is write it. BUT it is more likely to grab the attention of a publisher if it contains trauma. The more traumatic the experience, the better. Let’s look at two memoirs, not written by famous people, that have shot up the bestseller lists in the last two years. American author Tara Westover’s Educated and Australian Bri Lee’s Eggshell Skull, remain hugely popular.

These women’s compelling stories have trauma by the truckload. But they also contain hope. And in these dark times of pandemics, recessions, climate change, deforestation of the planet and global chaos, that’s what everyone is looking for.

H-O-P-E
Turia Pitt, who has several memoirs behind her that deal with her traumatic experience of suffering burns to 65 per cent of her body, has a new book titled Happy – and other aspirations. Pitt has interviewed lots of famous people on the topic of happiness.

The ‘self help’ genre is flourishing big time during COVID-19 with books with titles like Untamed, stop pleasing start living by one of Oprah’s favourites Glennon Doyle and Think Like a Monk by ‘social media supertstar’ Jay Shetty.

Adult fiction favours historical but don’t go too far back
Historical fiction that focuses on the more recent past (we’re talking 19th century to early to mid 20th century) is trending. Natasha Lester, whose books are set, usually in Europe and specifically Paris in the early to mid 1900s, was mentioned in glowing terms in the Zoom presentation even though her books are published by Hachette Australia.

If I had my notes, I would be able to tell you about a recent PRH aquisition. All I can remember is that the novel is set in Sydney in the late 1800s/early 1900s? Let me dig up those notes… if only I could find them.

But back to Lester. In June, Hachette Australia announced a world rights deal for two books for the Perth based author. These are To Lillie, From Paris and The Riviera House.

Australian crime thrillers are hot to trot, especially where the setting takes on a life of its own. Think Jane Harper’a The Dry and Chris Hammer’s Scrublands.

Recent movements such as #metoo and #blacklivesmatter have also spurred a flurry of relevant publications and for books to be brought back from the archives to find a new readership. Likewise with the pandemic, which has generated apocalyptic fiction that is pretty bloody scary.