I’m not a big fan of pitching a story by saying, “It’s like The Lord of the Rings.” Even if the comparison is less ambitious (and more realistic), it still doesn’t sit well with me when an author compares his or her work to a more successful, more established work. I just don’t think a writer can claim someone else’s glory for themselves with any credibility. It comes across as vain and absurd.
There are (sort of) exceptions to this. When you use references to another work as a thematic element within your own, that’s builds credibility while paying homage to the work you include as a thematic element. In which case, acknowledging the thematic relationship in your marketing boosts your credibility instead of detracting from it. It’s like making a comparison, but without the vanity.
Now here’s another exception: Other people can compare your work to a previous work, saying, “If you liked X, then you’ll love Y!” without losing credibility for themselves or for your work—unless, of course, they’re just plain wrong.
I’ve never been satisfied with a book that I’ve tried because it claimed to be like something else. I have, however, been satisfied with books that claim to be “in the tradition of…” and then use the original work thematically. More recently, I was reading an article about Star-Crossed, which compared CW’s Star-Crossed to the WB’s Roswell.
I’d never seen Roswell, but I did enjoy quite a few of the other WB shows mentioned in this extended comparison. I also have Netflix, which has the entirety of Roswell available through their streaming option. I decided to give it a try and I got sucked right in. I watched three seasons of Roswell in less than a month, though that’s partially because I’ve been experiencing far too much insomnia lately.
The point is this:
- DON’T compare your work to the famous works of others or even the less famous work of famous others.
- DO reference other works as thematic elements embedded within your own (when appropriate) and, if you do so, do acknowledge the thematic connection in your marketing materials.
- DO encourage others to make appropriate comparisons when they like your work, just so long as they’re not writing marketing copy that will be presented as your own words.
Some things work, others don’t. Vanity doesn’t work. But honest enthusiasm does.