“For fans of…”

I’ve been back on Twitter for a while now, and one thing I see a lot of is authors comparing their works to those of other writers, to help indicate who might (or might not!) like it. It’s not exclusive to Twitter either, and I see it a lot on Amazon’s pages.

I can really, really understand why people do it. I quite often say to people ‘oh, if you liked x book, you’d probably enjoy y book too’. But for an author, particularly a first-time writer, I think it’s dangerous. More often than not, you’re comparing your work to a very well-established (full-time) writer, with a team of editors and sub-editors, an agent and many, many resources at their fingertips. It’s useful shorthand, but it’s also dangerous. One I saw recently said ‘for fans of Brandon Sanderson’.

Now Elantris, Sanderson’s first work, was published in 2005, fourteen years ago. Since then, he’s written a breathtaking number of words across at least forty novels and novellas, from a quick glance at Wikipedia. I absolutely adore most of his work – Elantris, the first two books of the Stormlight archive and Final Empire in particular are truly magnificent – and I’m in awe of what he did with picking up Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga when Jordan passed away.

In some of his books, Sanderson’s world-creation is beyond compare. His sense of plotting is insanely tight, and his characters shine. So to set yourself up on a pedestal seems a very dangerous thing to do – sure, it might sell your first book, but you’re setting a very high bar.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I’d rather just write a good description of a book. I’m not saying that I won’t ever do this – I’ve just replied to a tweet about my current WIP using exactly this shorthand – and I get that it’s really tough to make it as a writer. But as an author, we’re here for the long haul, and I honestly think that it’s better to establish your own character and feel as a writer than try to put yourself next to someone else. And who knows – you might just be a better writer than them in time…