No matter where you are in your career, this is good advice. If you’re querying a novel, you think maybe if you compare your book / voice / appeal to a certain bestselling author, this will make you more appealing to agents. Then, down the line, you start lining up your accomplishments alongside someone who debuted around the same time you did. This is a dark road, my friends, and I recommend steering away.
See, nobody comes out of that a winner. The agent who reads the query that says, “This book is the next Twilight,” (or whatever the current hot title is), has probably seen that a thousand times. It doesn’t make your work standout. And then, once you do sell a book and you’re conditioned to compare your career trajectory to others, you can’t stop looking at what other people are doing instead of taking pride in your own achievements. Granted, it’s not an instant transformation, but I know writers who would be considered wildly successful, and yet they’re incapable of being pleased by anything they accomplish.
Why? Because of those poisonous comparisons. At first Author B was just delighted to be in print. But then, she made a list. Instead of being happy about it, she had to hit higher with the next book. Then USA Today wasn’t enough. Why wasn’t she on the NYT, too? When she hit that list, it wasn’t enough to be on the extended list; she had to get under 21, then it was the top ten, and then it ate away at this writer. Why, oh, why couldn’t she hit number one? It destroyed her pleasure in her work… and that’s so sad.
So my advice to you is this. From the beginning, keep a healthy mindset. In those queries, write something like, “This book should appeal to readers who enjoy…” (and name several books that give context for your work without aggrandizing it). Later, once you’ve sold? Don’t get on the achievement treadmill, where each accomplishment loses all value because it’s not another step up the ladder. This applies to all aspects of life, actually, so I’m reminding you to enjoy where you are, right here, right now.
Tis the season to be full of good cheer! So what’s your latest accomplishment? Share in comments.