Thursday, January 20, 2011

Comparable Books

What?

So I have heard tell agents like you, in your query, to say something along the lines of:

“Readers of   [successful but not wildly popular because we know you aren't that good book] will love this, as will people who loved ['nother-- somewhat dissimilar but still like yours] and [movie here to be different].

And I've always ignored that part.

You see... if my books were like OTHER books, I wouldn't have needed to WRITE them!!! I thought this was an agent insecurity... or maybe I just figured I had NO HOPE so why stress about it. This is not a deal breaker. Agents SAY they like it but don't say no for not having it...

But it is ALSO something they'd like in the ABNA pitches... and there I am more hesitant to just... you know... blow off that part...

SO I NEED YOUR HELP!!!

Helen comes from a world very like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. No problem.

But my delinquency associations are The Outsiders (where the bad guys are good and the rich guys are bad), the movie The Warriors (which just doesn't really fit)...

HELP ME!!!

One of my characters is reminiscent of 'Cut' but I need HELP finding appropriate books to bring to the REFORM SCHOOL table! The list has things like Holes (which I LOVE, but which my book is NOT like...)  and the EROTICA, which my book ALSO is not...


So two things from you, Blogger friends...


Do you know of any reform school books or movies where MOST of the residents are actually pretty bad rather than sympathetic?


And...


How do you approach this part? Do you have appropriate comparisons in mind all along, or do you madly scramble finding something?


Okay, so short, as I am writing from the Sleep Lab (about which I will tell you TOMORROW!)

All content by Hart Johnson except the two book covers, which should be obvious... and published at Confessions of a Watery Tart

27 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Wish I could help you, but I can only remember good kids in reform school books. I'm not as familiar with "Holes" but I think those kids are good, aren't they? Best wishes for the sleep lab!

Old Kitty said...

Gosh - I'd say Scum (1979) starring Ray Winstone. Pretty bleak and unforgiving!

I love the Oustiders!!!

Good luck!! Take care
x

Briony said...

Not so much a reform school, but a young woman's psych ward: Girl Interrupted (movie with Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder).

Been ages since I've seen it though, so the details are more than sketchy.


Also just heard an excellent discussion on the radio with an author and a publisher. Will check if it goes up on the website as a podcast, but not sure if it will...

Deb and Barbara said...

As I am so busy trying to get this revision done,. I've allowed myself very limited browsing time, and have missed the imperative that ABNA requires similar book references. I made it through the pitch round last year and didn't have one (nor did I have a word-count). So, dunno... As for your question: I'm useless (but will think on it)

Good luck!! B
The Middle Ages

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

well, i'm like you and i don't do this. I just can't really make comparrisons like that. It's like my brain ins't wired that way.
I like The Outsides comp, because yeah, even though we're sympathetic to those boys, many of them were still criminals.
You may want to ask Matthew Rush. He actually attended a reform school, so he may know some good books or movies. I feel like there's an obvious movie, but i'm drawing a blank. I'll think on it today

Hart Johnson said...

Elizabeth-Yeah, the Holes kids are pretty sympathetic and the situation is more... obviously fiction? I mean it's a fabulous story, but it's definitely a PG/fiction story rather than a PG13/almost R realistic.

Jenny-I will have to look at Scum--thank you!

BrioNI-HA! Good excuse to see Girl Interrupted! I've wanted to anyway. Maybe I will rent it for Nat and I--we have this sleep lab and on Friday night will have several hours to kill.

Barbara--well that's a RELIEF to hear you made it without. I didn't have it (did the WC, but not comparisons) but i didn't make it...

Sarah-my other Outsiders issue is they are FREE and mine are all locked up together... but it IS closer than much of what I can think of. I will have to track down Matther--I bet he does know some... I didn't know that about him...

Thanks, guys! erm... girls!

ViolaNut said...

I'm with Briony - got a definite Girl, Interrupted vibe going on. Read it AND watch it. Y'know, just to be thorough. ;-)

Katie Anderson said...

I don't have any helpful suggestions.... but this sounds like a really interesting story!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Reform school with unsympathetic characters? Now that's tough. Sorry, Hart - none come to mind outside of Girl, Interupted, which has already been mentioned.

LTM said...

I got nuthin along those lines... Maybe the Chocolate War? But it can be a good thing to strike new ground.

Perhaps you could compare your style of writing to another author's? That's what I try to do--rather than a particular book. Yes? ((hug)) :o)

Kassy with a K said...

I thought Girl, Interrupted first too. One of my very favorite movies (and books for that matter). Wish I had more to add, but my book knowledge is sadly limited, and my movie knowledge is even worse.

Hart Johnson said...

Okay! Just reserved Girl, Interrupted, both book and movie from the library... The book I ought to be able to pick up tomorrow, as they just need to transfer from another branch. Movie I may have to wait through the weekend on.

Leanne-so glad you chimed in, as you've both read a little of it and read more OTHER stuff than anyone I know.

Thanks so much for suggestions, everyone!

Arlee Bird said...

It's somewhat helpful sometimes to have a point of reference to compare one thing to something else. I'm not much help since I have a difficult time remembering most of the books I read and the movies I've seen and I don't remember anything with reform schools.
I want to know about the sleep lab.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Rachel Morgan said...

I'm afraid I don't have any suggestions.... only a thought: I'd be embarassed to compare my book to other already published and successful books! But I guess you have to sell yourself... Good luck with this!

Talli Roland said...

Um, um, um... there's a series called 'Skins' in the UK where the kids seem pretty messed up! It'd be an obscure reference in the US, though!

Sorry!

SY said...

oh my... I guess I should've just not even commented because I'm drawing a blank....

but... there is a book it's pretty ethnic (my way of say black) where a troubled girl spends some time in a juvenile center...

called "the coldest winter ever" by sistah souljah

i don't know if it will help but the behavior of this girl throughout the story tells of a messed up upbringing...

Hart Johnson said...

Ha! Leigh and Kassy, you snuck (not sneaked *winks at Leigh*) in there last time I commented!

Leigh-I am not sure I think there are authors I sound like either. I mean on the blogs I have a couple (my sister Tart and I sound similar when I'm having a really 'on' day--I think she's always on)--there are cozy authors my cozy stuff is reminiscent of but that is sort of a genre thing...

Kas-I've been watching some clips today, and I am amazed I haven't seen it before. It looks good.

Leigh-that memory thing is part of my problem too. I remember broad impressions rather than details. (And sleep lab stuff is tomorrow! I was going to do it today but when this came up, it was more time urgent)

Rachel-I feel a little that way, too. It feels arrogant to me, but I guess it is what is done...

Talli--actually the US has some shows, now that I think about it... the "Boot Camp" and "Scared Straight" type stuff, but those are reality TV which I avoid, so I have NO CLUE if they'd fit...

Hart Johnson said...

HA! And there SY snuck in! I will definitely look at that one, THANK YOU!

Raquel Byrnes said...

OH man thats really hard. I know from experience pitching at conferences that they want to know what your book will fit next to on the shelf...Maybe White Oleander? It has some reform school stuff.

Edge of Your Seat Romance

Cold As Heaven said...

I have some books in mind, by Jean Genet. His book are very autobiographical and take place in orphanages and youth-jails, where basically all residents are criminal (and gay, which doesn't imply bad). Check out The Thief's Journal and The Miracle of the Rose. Great books >:)

Cold As Heaven

Ciara said...

All I thought about while reading your post was Girl, Interupted. I thought it would be just me until I read the other comments. :)

Helen Ginger said...

I haven't compared my writing to other books. It seems like dangerous ice to tread on. Your book may be like such and such in your mind, but when someone hears that they think of that book you compared it to and they remember or hated something different, then they associate that with your book, which wasn't what you intended.

Terry Odell said...

Don't watch much tv. See even fewer movies. This part of the "job" is almost impossible. The closest I came was a pitch that was something like, "Pollyanna meets Delta Force." Only then I found some folks were turned off by the Pollyanna part, but I couldn't think of another example of a 'looks on the bright side' heroine. A reviewer called it "Barbie meets Wolverine." Of course, I'd never seen Wolverine, so I don't know if that was apt. As for books -- we try NOT to make our books like the others. One editor rejected one of my manuscripts by saying it was too close to Author A and Author B. I'd made a point of being different from Author A and I'd never heard of Author B.

All I can say is "good luck."

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

VR Barkowski said...

The only reform school story I recall is Born Innocent (TV movie and book), but it was based on a true story. Of course so was Girl, Interrupted. Comparisons are difficult, and I've only done genres (e.g. my books will appeal to readers of x and y genre). If I had to pick a comparison for myself I'd go with with books by Tana French and Gillian Flynn, but that's wishful thinking - not a bad way to go with ABNA, I would think.

Rusty Webb said...

hmmm... I've got nothing. If you can work Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure into it though, I'll be waiting in line to purchase.

erica and christy said...

I don't think I can help you. Michael Grant's Gone series deals with some really nasty reform school delinquents, but isn't anything like your book.

And comps are difficult. I really, really, really see shades of Sarah Dessen in my ABNA submission. But then people say "yeah, right." And last year she was an ABNA judge, so then they'll say "that's so last year." *sigh*

Al said...

I have no idea I am sorry.
I think I would rather have problems with rebellious characters!