6 January 2015

"If You Loved GONE GIRL..." Do Book Comparisons Actually Work?

Take a look at the two covers below, and their taglines. Tell me honestly; would you be inclined to pick up the second after having read and enjoyed* the first?

(*I understand some of you did not enjoy Gone Girl. That's fine. We're hypothesising.)

 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

My answer is, yes I would. And I did. I picked up The Good Girl as a holiday read after thoroughly enjoying Gone Girl and wanting something similar to entertain me as I lay by the pool. I wasn't disappointed; The Good Girl was the same genre, same pacing, same character types, same use of an interesting twist. It had enough original elements to make it easy to tell the two apart, whilst containing extremely similar elements I had already tried and tested with Gone Girl

The question is, would I have picked up the second book if it didn't look so strikingly similar to the first, even going so far as to use a quote directly comparing the two on the cover? 

This morning in the Twitterverse, user @alisonbarrow posed a couple of questions that got me thinking about the way publishers/indie authors market their books in comparison to already successful works. 

My initial response was to say that multiple comparisons in terms of genre/style are helpful to me when choosing what to read next; a simple statement splashed across the cover that "THIS IS THE NEXT HUNGER GAMES!!" is more annoying than helpful. 

The second question, however, made me think a little more on my previous statement. Gone Girl and The Good Girl were the first books to spring to mind and I had indeed picked up the second because it was directly compared to the first. Despite the fact that the almost patronisingly similar cover design and title made me hesitate rather than grab, overall I was convinced to buy this book based on it's relation to something else I had already read. We don't all always read to expand our horizons and broaden our minds; sometimes we want to lie by the pool/on the sofa/cuddle up in Starbucks and loose a few hours to a paperback we are 90% sure we'll enjoy, because we've already read the-same-but-different. 

So, comparisons do work for some people, sometimes. But for a debut novel do you really want to be thought of only as good-but-same-again offering in the shadow of an already established author?

When thinking about the novel I'm working on right now, I'd put it in the same genre as (but not in the same league as) John Green and E Lockhart. I'd say it's of the same tone, tackles some of the same issues and would hopefully appeal to the same audience. However I would never go so far as to say it's the next Boyfriend List or if you loved The Fault In Our Stars you'll love this... Because I don't see it as the next anything; I see it as the first of something else. And that's how I'd like it to be seen by others. 

 On the same shelf; not the same book

Covers from the same genre will always look similar, because they're trying to appeal to the same audience. Taglines for chick lit will be similar to each other, just as taglines for mystery novels will. But whilst I will be tempted to pick up a new book because it's cited as being similar to something else I've enjoyed, I'm much more likely to pick up something cited as being different. Although the cover for The Good Girl caught by eye because of it's similarity to Gone Girl, more often I'm enticed by something that looks of the same genre, but something new. 

Are you ever convinced to buy a book based on it's comparison? Do you find them more patronising than helpful? What books/authors would you compare your own work to, if any?

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