Recently, an agent asked me about the writing style of my psychological mystery, A GUILTY MIND, or more specifically, “Who did I write like?” This is a question I think many writers struggle with, particularly because we all think we’re unique. Still, I understood where he was coming from and I’d heard the question a few times before. And my answer then was, “I don’t know.” But this time, I did have an answer. “My novel is written in the style of a Lisa Unger or a Laura Lippmann book,” I told him, “with secrets and choices resulting in deadly consequences.” His response was to comment on how much he liked Ms. Lippmann and ask for the full manuscript. Yes!
In case you’re wondering, I did not pull this answer out of thin air. It actually came from a complete stranger I met at a writer’s conference when we were exchanging “what do you write?” pleasantries. I described my book, detailing some of the plot and the protagonist. She immediately responded by saying it sounded like a Lisa Unger novel. Now at this point, I had never read one of Ms. Unger’s books but I marched right out and picked up a couple and read them. Hmmm, the stranger was right. I could see the comparison. Well, I wondered, who did Lisa Unger write like? This led me to Laura Lippmann, another author I had not read yet. I zipped through a couple of her books and again, saw a similarity. This was good news on many fronts. First, I finally had an answer to that confounding question and second, I’d found two new authors I liked. (You can find their websites in my blogroll).
My point with this is that sometimes you need to let someone else tell you “who you write like”. I realized that the question doesn’t mean a reader would mistake my manuscript for one from either Ms. Unger or Ms. Lippmann. It only means if a reader likes one of their books, they might like mine. Also, if you can, use the comparison in your query letter and target it to agents who represent that style of books.
It seems like an easy question but it’s harder than it sounds. I found my answer at a conference but you can find it at the library or the bookstore. Give a brief description of the book you’ve written and ask if they have anything like that. Then read it! Do NOT make any assumptions until after you’ve read their recommendations. Then read another book by that author (if there is one) to be sure. If that author isn’t right, ask someone else until you’ve got it. Good luck and happy reading.
Who do you write like?