Today’s guest is Greer Macallister, a poet, short story writer, playwright, and novelist whose work has appeared in publications like The North American Review, The Missouri Review, and The Messenger. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing.
Her debut novel, The Magician’s Lie–released TODAY–has been getting tremendous buzz. It was selected as a monthly or weekly pick by Indie Next, Library Reads, She Reads, Midwest Connections, Publishers Weekly, and People magazine.
Raised in the Midwest, Greer now lives with her family on the East Coast.
[pullquote]“Smart and intricately plotted… a richly imagined thriller.” People Magazine on The Magician’s Lie [/pullquote]
The Art of the Comp
Many authors resist having their books compared to others. Most of us are striving for originality, to write a book that no one else has written or could write. But there’s an art to coming up with the right comparison (“comp” for short) that can pique the interest of readers. And comparisons in publishing are inevitable; why not be the first out of the gate with the right one?
My book, The Magician’s Lie (out today!) is about a famous female illusionist in 1905 who comes under suspicion for murder. So yes, it’s probably the only book that fits that description, and for readers who are particularly passionate about that time period, or magicians, or murder mysteries, that pitch might be enough.
But if I’ve only got a few moments to tell someone about the book – or if there’s only room in print or online for a single sentence – I might be better off using this comp: it’s The Night Circus meets Water for Elephants. There’s good reason to think that readers who enjoyed one or both of those comp titles would enjoy The Magician’s Lie as well.
(It doesn’t hurt that both were bestsellers. The Magician’s Lie could just as accurately be described as Alias Grace meets Carter Beats the Devil, but the number of people who’ve read both of those books is probably in the thousands, not the millions. You could also throw The Usual Suspects into the mix, but books are better comps than movies.)
There are dangers, of course. You never know how readers might feel about a particular title. My Goodreads reviews often cite one or both of the comp titles, but in very different ways. A few direct quotes:
- This really is a mixture of The Night Circus – the elaborate lifestyle, traveling by train for a show a night, the magic of it all – meets Water for Elephants – the darker elements of abuse and psychological distraught.
- Touted by critics as a novel for fans of Water For Elephants and The Night Circus, I must admit to being like many of Arden’s audience members, skeptical.
- The description of a mix of Water for Elephants and The Night Circus are what drew me to this title, and it didn’t disappoint.
- When anything tries to compare itself to The Night Circus I am hesitant. The Night Circus is such a hauntingly beautiful novel that holds such a special place in my heart that nothing ever seems to come close to touching it.
- For me, the first promo/review I read, comparing this book to The Night Circus meets Water for Elephants was a disservice to the book.
- While the book has been compared to The Night Circus, I liked it much better.
- I’ve seen this book compared to The Night Circus and Water For Elephants so I wasn’t sure what to expect because I loved Water For Elephants, but I didn’t care for The Night Circus.
And of course your readers aren’t limited to the comp you came up with. More Goodreads quotes:
- If you liked The Night Circus, with the feel of Downton Abbey, you’ll enjoy The Magician’s Lie.
- It reminded me of Carter Beats the Devil which I also loved.
- I enjoyed the homage to One Thousand and One Nights, as Arden weaves the story of her life, and was intrigued by the duel between these two characters.
- It evoked the same feelings I felt whilst reading Like Water for Chocolate.
- This novel is a concoction of The Night Circus, Water for Elephants, a splash of Downton Abbey, a pinch of American Horror Story: Freak Show, and a sprinkle of The Hunger Games.
There’s a healthy debate about whether comps should be used in query letters, and I think that’s a discussion for another day. But as a way to help potential readers connect with your book, definitely keep the idea of the comp in mind.
Do comps make you more curious to read a book? Are there some examples of particularly good comps you can share? Have you ever used comps for one of your books?