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!)
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.