Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.
The topic for this post came to me thanks to one of the comments on a review I posted. The review in question was for Lydia Sherrer her book Love Lies and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings, the first book in her Lily Springer series. The blurb states: “If you enjoy magic-filled adventures like Harry Potter and Sabrina the Teenage Witch then you’ll love Lydia Sherrer’s delightful new series.”. Someone who commented mentioned they weren’t into harry Potter and weren’t sure if this book was for them, which got me thinking about the comparison and how this book compared to Harry Potter and it brought me to a point I think about more often, namely what such a comparison actually means and what gets compared. I know a lot of books use comparisons like these in their blurb, often things like “XX meets XX” or “for fans of XX”. I can see why sentences like that can be helpful, but at the same time they can also work the other way around. So I thought book comparisons would make for a good topic for discussion post! Be warned this post is going to get a bit rambly.
What do you compare when you compare two books?
One of the first things I always ask myself when I see a book comparison is what does get compared in that scenario. Lets stick with Harry Potter for this example, if you say a book is for fans for harry Potter or similar to Harry Potter, that still leaves the question to what exactly it is similar. Harry Potter has lots of different topics, to name a few: magic, wizards and witches, magic use, boarding school, castle, secrets, wizards and muggles, prejudice, coming of age, main character that doesn’t know their parents, orphan, bad parental figures, dangerous magic, dark versus light, different houses, battles etc. And that are just some themes or topics I can list from the top of my head.
So which of these elements can you expect in a book similar to Harry Potter? I wouldn’t expect the book to have all the same elements, but still enough to have some of the same feeling or appeal to the same readers. But then that begs the question why does someone like the Harry Potter books? If someone likes the books because of the young main character they might not like an adult book that’s similar to Harry Potter. If they like harry Potter because of the magic, they might like other fantasy books with magic. The book I mentioned above is similar in some sense to Harry Potter, both Lilly and Harry don’t fully know their parents, there is magic in both and there are wizards and witches. But there are also so many differences. The main character in the Lily Singer series actually did know her mom, but is angry with her because she never told her about her magic. And while there is magic it’s totally different than in harry Potter. While there are wizards and witches they are different than in harry Potter. Having said that I can see the ways in which the book is similar and comparing a book to a well known book as Harry Potter can be handy as people know that one. So overall I think it is a fitting comparison.
Book Comparisons yay or nay?
I always find it difficult to give a definite answer to whether I like book comparisons or not. I used to be firmly in the no camp. Mostly because I want to read original stories, not books similar to X or Y. And it always rubbed me wrong how those book comparison made it feel like the book on itself needed that comparison to explain what it’s about. But lately I’ve grown more positive towards comparisons and I’ve realized the point is not to diminish the uniqueness of a book, but to compare a book with something people already know and to make them curious. I think comparisons can be done well and if I am looking to something similar to certain movies or books I read it can be nice to know where to start. I even picked up a few books because of the comparison with Firefly or Star Trek last year. I like sci-fi, but not necessarily hard sci-fi, but I do like Star Trek, so the comparison with star trek has made me pick up some books I might not have else. Firefly is actually more complicated as there are parts I loved about that series and parts I disliked. So if books get compared to that I always wonder to what part of Firefly they compare to, like I mentioned above. Often the rest of the blurb can give a bit of a feel which similarities I might expect. A western sci-fi setting or maybe a low tech sci-fi setting or a close group of friends who might not be totally on the right side of the law? Yes count me in! But if the similarities go to the darker side of the series or torture scenes I rather stay away. But in the end the book comparison in combination with the blurb can be very helpful in determinign fi something is a book for me.
From a marketing point of view I can also see how comparison like this can be helpful. Deciding whether a book is for you, can be very difficult and a comparison to books in the same genre can be helpful. I also see reviewers often mention other series or author a book is similar to in their review, which is a bit of an indication people actually think in such terms as well. I also think a comparison doesn’t mean a book is exactly the same as the book it get’s compared to, but it does give the reader some sense of what to expect and it’s another tool in deciding whether it’s a book for you or not. In some cases I also am very aware the comparison is probably just a marketing tool and it can make it easy to dismiss it for that reason at times.
What I would like to see in a Book Comparisons
I personally would like to see book comparison be more specific, I want to know in which ways a book is similar to the one it gets compared to. Which themes of book A I must like to also enjoy book B or which themes are similar between books and what different. But at the same time I understand that there is no space in a blurb to go into this. Blurbs have to be short and to the point and to have a comparison be as specific as I would like them to you would need a whole paragraph just for that, so that will never work. Which basically brings me back to how comparisons are done now and maybe that’s the only way they will ever work. Short and to the point and just enough to make readers curious and maybe have them wonder why these books get compared.
What is a good Comparison?
My ramblings about my personal opinion about book comparisons also makes me wonder what is a good comparison? As I mentioned before you can never have books that are similar to every aspect, nor would you want to. Because if you want exactly that book, you can just as well read that book. So what does make for a good book comparison? I think a good book comparison is if the books have enough in common to appeal to the same audience and maybe have the same feel and some same themes. Or maybe not the same themes exactly, but still have a similar feel or the big lines appeal to similar audiences?
To get back at the comparison with which I started the post. I do think it’s a decent comparison. Having read the book I can say it’s not 100% accurate, but I do see the similarities with Harry Potter, but also the differences. I also feel that having the book be compared to two things, namely Harry Potter and Sabrina the Teenage Witch is also a good thing as it gives a more complex feel for the book and at the same time the elements like magic that are present in both those are present in this book as well. As far as comparisons go it’s a pretty good one but that’s not to say people who don’t like either of those won’t enjoy this book, because at the same time this is it’s own book and different than both of those.
Book Comparisons work both ways
As I just mentioned I do think book comparisons have their place, but while they can help readers decide to pick up a book I also think they can work the opposite way and using readers away. Either because readers don’t like comparison in general, or because they think the book has a part they don’t like which is similar to the book/ movie it gets compared to or because they don’t know or don’t like the book/ movie it gets compared to. If I don’t know the book/ movie a book gets compared to I feel like a comparison has less influence on my decision process then when I do. Although even if I haven’t read or watched the movie I might still have heard of it and certain ideas about it anyway. Like when a book gets compared to Game of Thrones I assume that means it has lots of character death’s and high fantasy themes, as that’s all that I know about that without having read or seen it.
I think the worst case scenario is when a reader doesn’t like the book or movie a book gets compared to and decides to not read the book because of that. Ofcourse this can be a good thing if this isn’t a book for that reader indeed. But I always image I might miss a good book because of something like that. This can also apply to other things like blurbs, covers etc. Sometimes one thing can make me decide not to read a book while with another cover and blurb I would pick it up and enjoy it. I know thinking like that doesn’t get me anywhere. But it does make me wonder if book comparisons work as much two ways and if in the end it is worth it or not? As these comparison seem to get more and more common I figure they must help or people think they help. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
To sum it up, nowadays I am sort of okay with book comparisons, I can see how they can be helpful in some situations when deciding what to read and I have picked up a book myself because of a comparison sometimes. Although at the same time I can’t help myself and have to pull them apart as well, wonder on what part the comparison is meant for and how two books are similar to not. For books I read I can usually see why the comparison was made, but at the same time I often can see the differences better as well. I think book comparisons can be a valuable marketing technique if you compare your book to a well known book or movie. On the other hand I do think comparisons can work the other way around as well and push people away from a book because of it. Then again I think a comparison is only one tool a reader can use to decided whether to read a book or not and as long as you have a good blurb, cover and reviews next to that book comparison I think the right readers will find the book. As most readers will look at multiple things and take that into account when deciding to pick up a book or not. I also think that with book comparison it’s important to keep in mind that even with the similarities with the compared books there also will be differences as well as each book is different. So in the end I think I land on the slightly positive side in my opinion to book comparisons.