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Nonicks
12-15-2016, 12:01 PM
So I wrote a book and it has a military academy in a fantasy world. And now I found out about "An Ember in the Ashes", which also has military academy. The only difference is that Ember is a bestseller and I want to die.

I mean, all this work - for nothing?
I just started reading it and I don't know how similar it is to my book. I'm pretty sure it's different since two different people can't write the same book. But there's that element in both of the books and I think when agents see "military academy" in a query they automatically reject the project because "it's not a fresh idea".
On the other hand, why is it recommended to compare my work with other books at the end of the query?
Should I just erase the words "military academy" from my query or leave it on purpose and then say something like "it would appeal to fans of an ember in the ashes"?

Has anyone ever been in such frustrating situation? I'm absolutely depressed that my work worth nothing now just because of the timing.

BradCarsten
12-15-2016, 12:38 PM
It doesn't matter what book you write, someone will be able to draw a comparison to something else that is already out there and selling well. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn't give it a second thought.
I wrote a fantasy that had travelling people with massive dogs and a leader called the seeker, and then I read the wheel of time and guess what, they had travelling people with massive dogs and a leader called the seeker.

Edit*
if it is selling well then that means there is a market for your story, with ravenous fans that are looking for more, so that's actually a plus. The only time you need to be concerned is when everyone jumps onto a new trend and the market gets flooded.

cornflake
12-15-2016, 12:58 PM
I'm pretty sure I could find you a dozen books with a military academy in a fantasy world in under five minutes of looking, starting with Ender, though it's more SF than F. A single Amazon search gives me Blood Song, Lightbringer series, the Emperor's Blade, The Magicians....

Nonicks
12-15-2016, 01:04 PM
Thank you, ave and cornflake, I was losing my mind here. So should I mention the military academy in my query and compare my book to ember?

BradCarsten
12-15-2016, 01:20 PM
Thank you, ave and cornflake, I was losing my mind here. So should I mention the military academy in my query and compare my book to ember?

I'd finish reading the book first and see if it is in fact similar. Even though it may share one thing in common with yours, it may end up appealing to a completely different audience. If you feel that it would in fact appeal to Ember readers then go for it.
Yes, certainly mention the militarily academy as part of your query, and mention the characters and what they are up against, and that's what's going to make your story stand out.

spork
12-15-2016, 05:56 PM
I wouldn't worry too much about having a similar setting to another established book unless it's extremely unique. A military academy in a fantasy novel is pretty vague. If you said that your MC rode around on a magic carpet made of squirrel tails and there was another book where the MC rode around on a magic carpet made of squirrel tails, that might be problematic.

I would read a little more of the other novel to see if there are any glaring similarities in the finer details, but otherwise, I wouldn't sweat it.

Nonicks
12-15-2016, 07:06 PM
I'll definitely read more.

I'm just asking if anybody has any idea how an agent would see it in a query. As a bonus or a drawback?

lizmonster
12-15-2016, 07:19 PM
I'll definitely read more.

I'm just asking if anybody has any idea how an agent would see it in a query. As a bonus or a drawback?

That depends entirely on whether or not they think they can sell yours, which also depends in part on whether or not they already represent an author writing similar stuff. We're often advised to give comp titles in query letters; this sounds like it'd be a good one for you.

I found out a couple of rather eerie similarities between my stuff and a fairly famous series after I'd sold a trilogy, through my agent, to a publisher. The similatiries are only on the surface, but I find myself glad that I hadn't read her work before I started writing mine. (And yes, the marketing people have used her as a RIYL for my books, so there you go; although I can't tell if it's helped or not!)

mayqueen
12-15-2016, 08:06 PM
Keep in mind that agents see hundreds and thousands of queries a year. Statistically, yours is very unlikely to be the only military academy SFF in the bunch. It's very likely to look to agents just like any other trope* in fiction. You wouldn't want to present a love triangle in a romance novel as the most novel and amazing thing ever. But it's also nothing to shy away from, either, because tropes are popular for a reason. You'll need to think very broadly about the recent publishing history of your genre and home in on what makes your story unique. You shouldn't shy away from the trope or despair that it's appeared before, but you also shouldn't present it like the thing that makes your manuscript cool. You know?

Visit QLH. Follow some agents on twitter. It's not the end of the world to have similarities.

That being said, when I was writing a manuscript a few years ago, a novel came out that was pretty similar on the surface. I read it and it was nothing like mine. And yet an agent still cited it in a rejection. So who knows. It sucks, but you can't control anything except your own work.


*I'm not sure if military academy is a trope in SFF, as I don't read it that much, but I still think my advice holds.

Dennis E. Taylor
12-15-2016, 08:06 PM
I'm getting frequent comparisons of my current book to others in SF. To quite a few others, as a matter of fact, and some of the comparisons are a stretch. The point, though, is if all those books are similar to mine, then they're all similar to each other as well.

There are very few really truly original ideas. There are only original treatments of ideas.

Nonicks
12-15-2016, 10:17 PM
Thank you, that's encouraging!

mayqueen, but you still published your novel, as I understand? Even though one agent said it was too close to something else. That means another agent thought differently. :)

mayqueen
12-15-2016, 10:46 PM
mayqueen, but you still published your novel, as I understand?
Not to be a buzzkill, but nope. :) No one wanted it and I remain unagented to this day. But I write historical fiction, which is a difficult genre to try to get published in.

Nonicks
12-16-2016, 12:20 PM
gulp
That's not very much encouraging... Why didn't you try to self publish it then? As the last resort.

Old Hack
12-16-2016, 03:25 PM
gulp
That's not very much encouraging... Why didn't you try to self publish it then? As the last resort.

Self publishing should only ever be done because you want to be a publisher. There's far too much work involved for it to be taken on lightly; and suggesting it's a "last resort" is insulting to the many writers who work their socks off to self publish effectively.

Nonicks
12-16-2016, 05:32 PM
I didn't mean to insult, I'm sorry. I just said it because I've met too many people that decided to self publish because agents rejected them, and for a good reason (those people never wished to learn the craft and can't stand criticism) . So for me, self publishing is somehow connected with bad writing.

mayqueen
12-16-2016, 06:00 PM
Probably best to avoid that statement. :) Plenty of folks self-publish and it has nothing to do with being bad writers.

I may yet self-publish. The market for what I write is unlikely to change drastically enough to make a big publisher interested in me any time soon. Meanwhile, I'm taking a long view on this. Very few people get an agent or a publishing deal with their first manuscript. It can take three, five, ten, or more. I just keep trying to write a better manuscript each time. And when I get to the point where I just can't keep querying anymore, then I'll reevaluate.

I didn't bring up my experience to be discouraging. Far from it. Mine is an exceptional case because the genre is so small and the thing that was the same was so unique. (It wasn't "lady of the court gets involved in Tudor/Borgia/Medici intrigue" kind of similarity. Which again is great and popular for a reason! But were I writing that, I'd need to show how my lady of the court getting involved in famous family intrigue is different.)

Basically: write the best manuscript you can. Edit the hell out of it. Repeat as necessary.

Dennis E. Taylor
12-16-2016, 08:11 PM
I've told this story before, but it's relevant here, I think.

I came upon a book in Amazon whose blurb was so close to a story idea on my list that I could have written the blurb myself. The idea actually popped into my mind for a moment that the author had somehow hacked into my PC and stolen this particular idea.

Anyway, I bought the book, just to see what he did with it. Took about 3 pages to realize that this book and what I was planning would never be considered similar, beyond the blurb. There are so many ways you can go with a given story prompt. Just look at themed short story anthologies, where multiple authors are given a story subject, then go off and write something. Very rarely do two stories come back so similar that the editors can only pick one of them.

Nonicks
12-16-2016, 11:51 PM
I agree, Dennis, but I'm trying to think what an agent might think while reading a query: "Hmm. Well, there's already XYZ, people won't read another XZY. I need something fresh. REJECT!"

Aggy B.
12-17-2016, 12:02 AM
I agree, Dennis, but I'm trying to think what an agent might think while reading a query: "Hmm. Well, there's already XYZ, people won't read another XZY. I need something fresh. REJECT!"

Yes, but if XYZ were successful, I think folks would at least want to see if your book had that potential. I mean, yes. You don't necessarily want someone to read your query and think "This sounds kind of like Star Wars," but at the same time, Star Wars is such a successful franchise that folks do look for things that are like it because they just want more of what they love.

So the challenge is to try and make certain your thing sounds as original as possible, and where it can't be "original" make it at least sound like something that did well and that folks love. (That's why when you compare your book to existing titles - if you do happen to structure your query that way - you want to look for things that are recent and best sellers to the best of your ability.)

Jo Zebedee
12-17-2016, 12:26 AM
I really don't think it's a problem at all. Just mention it will appeal to readers of...x and that tells an agent where to place it.

As to the self publishing thing. My second novel was agented by a top agent, but failed to sell. I took it back and self published despite offers on it - because I thought that platform suited the story better and left me with fewer compromises. The book has become something of a cult hit and is the backbone of my reputation - so no regrets. But! That book takes up a lot of my time in comparison to my 3 trad published! Self publishing - well - is only really for when the project is right and the writer can be proactive with it.

IsraellaBaht
12-22-2016, 01:17 AM
That sounds awesome regardless of whether there's another military academy based story out there. Also, many stories (and animes) have that theme. I can list a million fanfics and novels that are based on a high school girl and a vampire falling in love that came out after Twilight. There's going to be at least one story similar to yours. There's probably hundreds. I don't think anyone will care unless the character's are very similar, the problem in the story is similar, the setting is similar, etc. If that's the case, then me and everyone else in the YA section, the Fantasy section and DEFINITELY the sci-fi section are in major trouble. I say put the military academy thing in your query AND mention that it can appeal to the fans of that best-seller.

Cindyt
12-22-2016, 01:24 AM
Dean Koontz's Phantoms reads like a play on Stephen King's IT. Feature a monster eating town folk. Stephen King's The Stand is comparable to Richard Matheson's I Am Legend.

I'd read the book and if it bears too much a resemblance to yours you can always edit it with your own take.

meowzilla
12-30-2016, 01:11 AM
For me, I wouldn't worry about the similarities at all, especially if you've already finished your book. IF you read it while you were still writing yours, you might have been unconsciously influenced and thus you'd always be paranoid - but since it was after the fact, I'd just read it to check out your competition, but with the knowledge that there's plenty of room in the category. Good luck!

blacbird
01-01-2017, 07:08 AM
Don't try to sell your idea. Sell your story.

caw

Nonicks
01-11-2017, 05:04 PM
Update: I read the book and it has zero resemblance to mine. :) These books are absolutely different so I've been worrying for nothing. Even the military academy is different.

Barbara R.
01-11-2017, 06:19 PM
Deep breath, Nonicks. This happens all the time, and it doesn't mean a thing; nor does it affect the value of your work for better or worse. If anything the published book helps, if it does well, by building a market for fantasy military academies. BTW, that's not at all an uncommon trope; I've seen it in books I've edited. But it's not so common that agents are going to roll their eyes and say "I've seen this a million times before." One book does not exactly oversaturate the market.

Leave the terms military academy in your query. And if Ember really is a bestseller (lots of books make that claim falsely), then by all means make that connection in your query letter. You're not comparing the two books, you're just showing agents that there is indeed a receptive market for the genre.

Good luck and don't worry!

Nonicks
01-12-2017, 03:44 PM
Thank you Barbara R. It's totally different, so I can't even compare my book to Ember, the voice is different, the characters, the plot, the academy itself… :)