It’s easy to be seduced by the quick and dirty movie-reference pitch to summarize your novel.
It’s a way of capturing the entire plot and feel in one quick sentence. When it works, I think it’s an impressive tool and well worth using. When it doesn’t, boy, does it flop like a dying fish.
One of my current authors pitched me this way in her original query. She wrote, “my most recently completed manuscript is a 100,000 word contemporary fantasy with a chick-lit style — think Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter” in the first line of her second query paragraph.
I was intrigued. I had to see sample pages. And when I read them, she was exactly right. It was Bridget Jones in a Harry Potter-type world. It totally worked and we sold that novel to Ballantine (the book—Enchanted, Inc.)
The trick is that it has to be an accurate description so when the agent actually reads the novel, she sees it and it makes sense. If I read the sample pages and I’m thinking, this doesn’t feel like Ordinary People (or whatever comparison was used), the tool backfires and you’ll get a quick NO. The work is misrepresented.
The other trick is that the comparison has to make sense—literally. Some of my favs that didn’t:
This story is Anne of Green Gables meets The Hunt For Red October.
I can’t even wrap my mind around this. Anne is on a submarine and is going to face off with the Russians? The comparison shouldn’t make me giggle with incomprehension.
This is a modern-day version of Les Miserables and The Exorcist combined in one compelling novel.
Wow. I’m really thinking these two masterpieces should not be mentioned in the same sentence.
So, use the tool. Use it wisely.