PDA

View Full Version : a question of ethics



iwannabepublished
03-09-2011, 05:59 PM
I have read that it is a good idea to include in a query letter something about the target market. This suggestion extends to the inclusion of similar books. My questions is, If similar books are included in the query letter must they have been read? Various internet searches can easily provide book titles, summaries, reviews, and even author statements, similar to the one being submitted in a query letter.

In other words, if I read all about a book, but not actually read the book, is it ethical to mention it in my query for purposes of identifying the target market?

Chris P
03-09-2011, 06:05 PM
I've only seen suggestions to include the target market and competition in nonfiction proposals, not fiction.

The short answer to your question is no, you don't have to read all of the competing books. The book Damn! Why didn't I write that? mentions some very simple tools to estimate the target market and competition. Although you don't have to read ALL of the competing titles (good grief, it would take YEARS just to read all the books on the US Civil War) the more you know about who you're up against will better prepare you to write an effective proposal and tailor your book so it's unique and better than the others.

Jamesaritchie
03-09-2011, 07:00 PM
With fiction, an agent should know the target market better than you do. If she doesn't, why would you want her representing you?

The books you should read are simply as many current books in your genre as possible, and as many books the agent has represented as possible.

CaroGirl
03-09-2011, 07:07 PM
If you're submitting directly to small publishers, they often ask that you read some of the books on their list to make sure yours fits in with the kind of books they publish. Sometimes they'll ask you to compare/contrast your book with another from their list. This is common and, if you plan to go this route, I recommend reading the book(s).

PinkAmy
03-09-2011, 08:39 PM
I have read that it is a good idea to include in a query letter something about the target market. This suggestion extends to the inclusion of similar books. My questions is, If similar books are included in the query letter must they have been read? Various internet searches can easily provide book titles, summaries, reviews, and even author statements, similar to the one being submitted in a query letter.

In other words, if I read all about a book, but not actually read the book, is it ethical to mention it in my query for purposes of identifying the target market?

I don't think it's unethical to say X book is similar to mine, because you aren't saying I read X book and found it similar to mine. I do not think listing a book you haven't read is dishonest or unethical unless you lie about having read it. If the agent is repping the book, I think you want to read it out of respect for the agent and just in case it comes up in conversation.

That said, for fiction I think listing other works sets up the potential that your book will not measure up to a published book (since it hasn't been through professional editing and a publisher). You're also lengthening a query letter which should be short.
In a nonfiction proposal, there is a competition section, but it wouldn't go in the query letter.

Jamesaritchie
03-09-2011, 09:47 PM
I don't think it's unethical to say X book is similar to mine, because you aren't saying I read X book and found it similar to mine. I do not think listing a book you haven't read is dishonest or unethical unless you lie about having read it. If the agent is repping the book, I think you want to read it out of respect for the agent and just in case it comes up in conversation.

That said, for fiction I think listing other works sets up the potential that your book will not measure up to a published book (since it hasn't been through professional editing and a publisher). You're also lengthening a query letter which should be short.
In a nonfiction proposal, there is a competition section, but it wouldn't go in the query letter.

Definitely not unethical, if you've actually read the book. But it usually won't do you any good, either, and many agents hate it when a writer compares his book to another.

Tromboli
03-10-2011, 12:05 AM
I think that it would be fine to compare your book to a book you haven't read unless it is a book in which the agent represents. If that is the case then I really think you should read the novel before mentioning it. A lot of times it is the tone and voice that will make or break it. An agent will generally have a deep connection to a novel they represent so if you claim that your novel is similar-- it had better be.

p.s. I too have heard that agents like when you compare your book to others. The only thing I have heard that annoys agents is when people say-- "This is just like Harry Potter and will sell just as well!". Don't compare it to something just because it was successful and has one small aspect that is similar. Compare it because they are similar!

Miriel
03-10-2011, 07:52 AM
How long does it take to read the book? I guess I don't know what genre you're in, but...maybe four hours?

How long are you going to worry that an agent's going to chat about one of those books with you? (As in, during a phone call, mention, "Oh, yes X scene made me think of Y in this book. Were you thinking of that, too?")

Agents might never ask questions like this, but I'm great at worrying -- I'd easily spend more time worrying than reading the book. Besides, if it's kind of what you're writing, wouldn't reading it be enjoyable?

I don't think any ethics committee is going to hunt you down for not reading it, but I think the implication's there that you have...and why not read it?

Nick Blaze
03-10-2011, 11:22 AM
I agree that if it's like your book, it would BENEFIT you from reading it. However, I also don't think it's unethical to say you book is like one you haven't read (but instead got information on). It is to lie and say you read X Book and never actually did, of course.

LisaAnn
03-10-2011, 10:09 PM
I don't think any ethics committee is going to hunt you down for not reading it, but I think the implication's there that you have...and why not read it?

I'm with Miriel... I think you're fine if you don't read the book, but it might make you feel more at ease if you do. One less thing to worry about during a time of incredible uncertainty, you know? ;)

the addster
03-12-2011, 01:29 AM
The advantage in reading the book would be having the information to make a better comparison to your own, but I think it's more important to know about the books market and sales.

Nobody is going to give you a pop quiz.

efultz
03-12-2011, 02:00 AM
That said, for fiction I think listing other works sets up the potential that your book will not measure up to a published book (since it hasn't been through professional editing and a publisher). You're also lengthening a query letter which should be short.
In a nonfiction proposal, there is a competition section, but it wouldn't go in the query letter.

I've also heard that it's not a good idea to compare your work to other books. Not only might yours seem less impressive in comparison, agents get sick of reading that everyone's book is just luck something by John Grisham or James Patterson or is the next TWILIGHT. From the research I've done, it's bet to let your work speak for itself and let your agent pitch the market to the editor.

Cyia
03-12-2011, 07:31 AM
My book is comparable to XXX meets YYY...

Readers who enjoy XXX's style of YYY plots would enjoy [my book title]...

^
|
Either of these gives a ballpark for an agent to go by as to where you think your book fits (and whether or not it fits in with their client list); it also shows that you know your market and your target audience. No need to go into "My book is the next mega-seller" territory.

Hillgate
03-12-2011, 09:35 PM
Unless you've actually read a book you're going to completely miss tone and subtext. It's like people having their books full of shelves they've never read. Why? If you want the agent to treat you with the same respect that you treat them then the only comparisons you can make with any certainty are those that fall within your own sphere of knowledge.

It doesn't mean you have to read every book on a subject, just that one would hope you'd read a fair few in your chosen field or genre BEFORE you started writing your book and well before querying it therefore giving you an idea of your target before spending days/weeks/months/years writing. It's not impressive. It's lazy.