Monday, October 20, 2008

At least it's not a feel-good Oprah book. Though it seems like she likes books about incest.

Hi Rejecter,

So glad you're back. Congrats on the book doing so well!

So, I'm pitching a memoir, and in my first-draft letter, I say, "this is not some feel-good Oprah book; it's more like [name of snarky, popular author this agent represented]." Is it okay to say your work is like someone else's, or is that amateurish, or a potential set-up for failure? (ie, I say I'm like Author X, agent reads my first chapter, and thinks I'm nothing like Author X.) Should I just leave out references/comparisons to other writers altogether?


I'm not going to say, "No, never mention another author and compare yourself to them." There's very few "nevers" in publishing. That said, it's not a good idea. I know a lot of sites and books recommend it and I don't know why they do that, because it always looks tacky to us. If we work in that genre, we're probably already familiar with bestselling authors in said genre anyway, and can make the comparisons ourselves if we want. Let your summation of the book in the query speak for itself.

P.S. I'm logging off tonight for Shemini Atzeret/Simfas Torah, so don't expect your comments to be approved until Wednesday night.


Anonymous said...

yeah, Oprah books aren't all feel-good.... House of Sand and Fog, or The Road, anyone?

Etiquette Bitch said...

Thanks, Rejecter! ms

The Rejection Queen said...

Well...let's just say that if Oprah picks your are set for the rest of your life!

Adrienne said...

I'd be wary of insulting Oprah books in your letter. You have no idea if the agent maybe worked in a previous position on one of said books, or whether or not the agent's favourite book happens to be also an Oprah pick. Aside from that, as Anon said, not all Oprah books are feel good.

To me it just comes across as snarky and slightly ignorant of the industry. Though you may be neither, this is still the impression it gives off and that alone is not a good thing.

Gate Keeper said...

Agree with Rejecter and Adrienne. A flip side, though, is that I think it's a good idea to say something like, "I saw you represent [agent's author], whose work I love more than kittens, and so I thought I'd have a go at you, too." Not on those words, of course, but general idea. I know that I always like seeing that in a query; means the author has some vague idea of who they're querying, at least, and that they've read good books (if the agent represents it, of course it's good ^_^). Won't help if the writing is crap, but always good to build those brownie points early.