do and don't · query problems

The same spot on the shelf

Only some people will buy your book — duh, nobody likes everything. You need to have a general idea which readers will enjoy your work: readers of Stephen King? Robin Talley? Chuck Wendig?

The questions “Who will the readers be?” and “Where does it fit on the shelf?” really ask: what genre/subgenre is it and what archetypes does it use?

What is the feel of the book, and what style of emotional and mental journey will it take me on?

“If you forced me to classify my novel…” is a line I see often in queries. Authors balk at having to pin down their voice and themes with common words like Gothic horror or contemporary YA. They feel it makes them sound less unique and more like every other book in the genre.

But to an extent, likeness is a good thing. Readers know what they like. To induce them to buy your book, you must promise to deliver the same old experience–wrapped in a unique storyline and unique characters.

Your book’s singularity doesn’t come from its feel or genre.

Writers take the same old patterns — seven-point plot, three-act rise and fall, the Call to the Return — and build originality inside them. Writing balances recycling old ideas with adding new ones.

Don’t complain about telling me your genre and comps. The complaint sounds pretentious and naive. If your book is a unique flower, show me in the pitch.


2 thoughts on “The same spot on the shelf

  1. Hi I just found your awesome blog from the New Leaf tumblr and I’m going to read every word tonight. you are a rockstar for helping writers like me, as QOTKU says, a poor shy woodland creature lol tysm

    Liked by 1 person

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