THIS WEEK: If a prospective publisher asked you to compare your work to that of one or two well-known authors, whom would you choose?
I haven’t had a prospective publisher ask me that yet, but when I was hoping to publish an easy entertaining and cooking book, I thought I needed to have an agent, so I went fishing. Most of the agent’s guidelines asked for this very thing to be included in a query letter.
#1: I had to start a blog instead of a book because I found that there are no publishers interested in cooking/entertaining books. People want those done by celebrities. Not just the big flux of celebrity chefs, but ANY celebrity, known for ANYTHING, is marketable.
#2: I found that it is almost definitely necessary to have representation to get a play read, but I digress.]
I expected to put anecdotes and info strewn in with the whys and hows of being able to entertain and cook, which I found few people believed themselves to be capable. I wanted them to laugh and be put at ease, and I had hoped to encourage people to tell their own family stories to each other because that seems to be getting lost.
(Unfortunately, that has not worked in my blog, which is a shame, but once again, I digress.)
At the time of my searching others brought up Erma Bombeck, but she didn’t really fit; I used her with a caveat.
The one writer that I did enjoy and did not realize that I may have been emulating was Thalassa Crusoe, who wrote the book “Making Things Grow” and also had a short-lived series on the topic. In the 1970s , she was a frequent guest on all the talk shows, night and day.
For those of you who don’t know her, she was an older English woman with a severe bun, who ruthlessly tore at roots as she repotted plants. It sounds awful, but she was very amusing in a subtle way and highly likable. (You have to realize that 20 years ago the 1970s were not nearly as far away as now and older agents would likely have remembered her.)
She was published a great deal and when I got my hands on her book, I laughed and cried. I learned quite a bit, but the anecdotes and her explanations were what kept me reading and learning. (She kept a tree on her property that needed to be taken down. She left it until it was ready to fall because part of her property had been an old orchard and when they removed it, she had promised that there would always be an apple tree there; she planted another. Good story, but her telling was short and sweet.)
I still have that book on my shelf of favorites.
My poetry? I wish I could say that I am like Edna St.Vincent Millay or even Robert Louis Stevenson, but I don’t think that I can presume that much.
As for my fiction, I don’t think that I could pigeonhole it. I am rather all over the place. I’ve written romance, mystery, supernatural, children’s.holiday and historic; those based on actual events, some out of pure imagination. I know they say to get one genre and stick to it to become a better writer, but my head is way too eclectic for that. It would be like saying, “OK, so you like Italian, Asian, Hispanic, and good standard American foods, but choose only one to always cook and eat.”
I have written non-fiction stories and articles and had them published, but as a reporter, I can’t thnk of anyone with whom I would compare my small contributions
Better that someone should just read me and do their own pigeon-holing.
I’d never heard of Thalassa Cruso! She’s described as an archaeologist as well as a horticulturist. Reading her bio, she sounds like a fascinating person, and one worthy of emulating!
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Gosh, I never bothered to look her up! An archaeologist! How I wanted to be one when I was a kid! I just love her book…I should see if she wrote more.
Excellent points. And the analogy with types of food is perfect — most authors have eclectic interests, even if they publish mainly in one genre.
As far as pigeon-holing — which rankles me in too many ways to get into here — evidently many readers demand it. Witness those authors who adopt a different pseudonym when they dare to venture from their “established” genre.
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I know, right? I considered using different names but let them figure it out! I suppose you feel the same way.
It’s very hard to compare yourself to any other author. Most good authors have an individual “voice.”
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I know, really , and trying to copy someone else will only invite comparison to a famous author, which can only make you look bad .