Monday, July 23, 2012

Comparisons- Are People Overdoing it?

Several years ago, when Twilight was first published, everything was compared to it. If I had walked into a bookstore in 2008 all I would have seen would be "perfect for fans of Twilight" or "If you liked Twilight..." on the backs of book covers. Not to mention the endless blurbs from Stephanie Meyer.

Even before that, people were looking for "The Next Harry Potter". So was the onslaught of Harry Potter getting endless mentions in praise and reviews of drastically different genres. I would pick up a memoir, and it would be compared to HP. (Like your life story is about getting stalked by an evil wizard.)

The trinity. (from ashworthcollege.com)

The next (actually good) big thing was The Hunger Games. In response came the floods of Dystopias, lapping up at reader's feet, drowning them in a flurry of "If you liked the Hunger Games, don't miss this."

The difference was, however, The Hunger Games was actually a good novel, so to be compared to it is a win/lose situation.

But it's also meaningless.

You don't want to be compared to something successful. That's like Google Chrome saying it's the next Facebook. You don't want to replace something that WORKS. You want to BE the mold breaker. There's a reason that The Hunger Games booted Twilight from its throne. Because it was wholly different. No one compared The Hunger Games to Twilight.

I was reading the blurbs on Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, and a lot of them compared it to THG. One blurb said,

"...watch out Katniss, I think Celaena [MC] could give you a run for your money!" [Taken from physical ARC]
Although this was said in the best intentions, I have to say that if someone said that about my book, I'd be pissed. That's pretty much saying, "Oh, your book is good, I guess maybe it could be as good as The Hunger Games..."

On the other hand, Fifty Shades of Grey is now mainstream, despite being of a very niche genre. It, too is getting compared to everything. (I should add that romance novels getting compared to 50 Shades is completely wrong... erotica is NOT romance. At all.)

Prompting this tweet from Elsie Chapman, author of the 2013 Dystopian debut, Dualed:

 True story.

All authors shouldn't have to go through the pain of getting compared to something else, even if it's good. But if it's bad- that's another story.

Plus, as the saying goes, you can't compare apples and oranges.

So, what do you think? Apples or oranges?

20 comments:

  1. Totally agree with your post! I've started to grow wary with the comparisons because I noticed that every book that is even 1% similar gets compared to a more popular (THG, Twilight, HP) series. Especially when I DO pick it up and its NOTHING like that series and I even end up not liking it. However I agree on the point that authors DONT want to be compared to successful stories/franchise since they want to be their own, unique. This comparison thing is getting out of hand!

    awesome post!!

    - juhina

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    1. Totally agree. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I absolutely agree, I even wonder this sometimes. I can only imagine how other authors feel when being compered to the huge series. Great post Isabelle! :) -josie

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  3. I agree, thanks for sharing this! Comparisons are so unhealthy and books an author's books should be judged by their own qualities. not someone else's. I just found your blog and will definitely be following it from now on :) I recently added some summer reading lists to my new blog if you want to take a look: http://heartisinthewriteplace.blogspot.com/
    Thanks again!

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    1. Infinitely true. To be judged by someone else's qualities is not to truly judge a book.

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  4. At the library once, some book had a blurb that said something like, "This is as good as a James Patterson book." So, I put it back on the shelf- don't like James Patterson. Don't want to read a Patterson clone. But, your post made me think and wonder, why do the publishers do this? Because it's obviously a marketing thing. What I'm thinking is that it's not for us- we're "REAL Readers". I mean, looking at people's Goodreads Challenge goals, most bloggers read 50-100 books a year. At 50 books that's about 7 times what the average American reads in a year. It would take the average American about 14 years to read 100 books. And, I think that people who aren't real readers normally stick to a few favorite authors- like Patterson- or best seller books only. (Like THG, Harry Potter, etc.) So, I think that the publishers compare books to HP and THG and 50 Shades because those are probably some of the few books the average American has heard of.

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    1. Never really thought of it that way... I suppose you have to appeal to the mass market somehow, even if that's describing every horror as King.

      And I don't like Patterson either. He's tacky. :P

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    2. Yes, that's exactly it. Even non-readers have heard of King. That's probably the whole point.

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  5. I've always was pissed about that. I would look and hear people compare two things that aren't even similar in anyway. Some are similar but they are totally not the same and they make it sound the same! Geez, just comment and don't compare, please.

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    1. If you do tags:

      I have tagged you for the Would You Rather...? tag. Don't worry, it's fun, and about books. Learn more here:
      http://therandomranterer.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-have-made-tag-its-would-you-rather-tag.html

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  6. I can't wait to tell my friends about this post, thank you for speaking the truth. Now try to get that through millions of other people lol.

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  7. I totally agree with you here! The other day I got a review request for a book (I'm sure you did too), and their pitch was: Harry Potter meets Twilight. I deleted it without replying. How exactly would that even work? Have these people read either one? How can they possibly 'meet' at all? And even if they can, it screams of unoriginality and is, quite frankly, pathetic.
    Great post.

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    1. Wow... I didn't get that pitch but that's just stupid. That's like saying Aquaman is a cross between Batman and Superman. You can't just take a bunch of popular books to make a crappy book seem less crappy.

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  8. I totally get what you're saying, and I def agree with saying book is better, but I think there is something to be said for general comparisons, if you liked a, then you might like b. Twilight got me into book blogging, since I was looking for something else new and great to read.
    GREAT post.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  10. I totally agree! As much as I love THG (which was my first love), I avoid books that compare themselves to it as much as I can. I love THG because at the time, it was unique. It was a different level of experience altogether. But now I see dystopian everywhere and it's like fuuuuuuu. I guess that's why I am reading contemporary and fantasy more these days.

    New follower here :"> Came on Aa'Ishah's "recommendation". Looking forward to your next posts XD

    [Deleted the other one because it had a typo. Grammar Nazi.]

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  11. Oh, yes, people are totally overdoing it! They should also realize that not everyone likes the books they're comparing another book to. THG is one of my favorite series, so when Divergent came out with a blurb saying, "The next The Hunger Games" (or something like that), I was sold. I spent 6 hours of my life comparing it to THG with no positive result. But don't get me wrong. The book was enjoyable and it WOULD have been more enjoyable if they hadn't compared it to the awesomeness of THG.

    I think that instead of comparing upcoming books to popular ones, they should concentrate on making their own names - not on becoming a shadow to another book, because most readers are not looking for the next Twilight or the next The Hunger Games. Most readers want something new, right? That's why I feel bad for Veronica Roth, the author of Divergent, because her book is soo good it doesn't deserve to be called the next THG.

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  12. It makes sense in a couple ways: first, and the most obvious, is marketing. If something's popular, then it would behoove those selling the book to make it as appealing as possible. The problem, of course, is like you said: it often doesn't end well for the new book. And it's not just professionals, I had a friend once call A Great and Terrible Beauty "Harry Potter with girls." That's what made me pick it up...and it is not. There are girls, in a boarding school, and they discover a secret magical land. (Narnia would have been an equally not-really-good comparison). That's it. There's nothing in it that contained what made HP so fun.

    And that's related to the second reason: readers, by themselves, want to read more of what they like. But since what makes any individual book enjoyable is a combination of things, the comparisons are usually based on superficial things: Hunger Games and everything else dystopian, for instance. I wrote post recently about exactly that and what books might actually be good follow-ups *because* it's nigh impossible to find anyone else looking deeper than "it's dystopian and has a female protagonist."

    No one compared The Hunger Games to Twilight.
    I think that is an excellent point, and should be brought up much more often. Things that get popular might not have something new, per se (there were dystopians, and good ones, that preceded THG, like the Uglies trilogy, and Harry Potter's magical-boarding-school premise is hardly unique) but they do have something that works: for me, HP's combination of a unique world, good characters, and humor; or even Twilight's very fairy-tale-like unreality combined with a very simple and easy-to-get-into reading style (and I don't like vampires. Or romance. Or teenage relationships).

    But I can think of few books that followed any of the popular big names that has had even a remotely similar reaction. Even the Divergent, which gets good comparisons to THG all the time, doesn't have nearly the same kind of buzz.

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  13. I enjoyed this post. I hate it when you have the new book fad because everything gets compared to it. Don't get me wrong, it's awesome that we have something non-readers reading, but I hate it when people ask me, "Is it as good as The Hunger Games?" or "Did you like the Twilight series?" Those aren't the only books out there...

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  14. I think the people who write these things have the wrong idea about what readers want. We don't want another version of something we've already read. Readers want something to love that's exciting in new ways. I loved The Hunger Games and Harry Potter but I don't go searching for books that are exactly like it.

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