Today’s reader question is from Deborah. She asks:
What do you do when an editor/agent points out that your book is too similar to another (published five years ago)? Do you keep submitting to others or think about re-writing your story?
Funnily enough, I just encountered this in my query box myself and shared the same feedback – that the book is too close to a well known, modern classic.
As an agent, I wouldn’t take on something that could be compared so directly (in this case, it was both in structure, tone and concept – so it could have actually been part of that well known series had it been written by the original author) to something that is still selling so well. I would assume that editors would feel the same way, as well as their marketing team who would look at the sales numbers of the established classic and figure that a debut could not compete so directly. Also, depending on how close it is, their legal team might not want to take the risk of being sued.
So on the one hand, one editor or agent’s feedback is just one opinion – and this business is highly subjective.
But on the other hand, if you’re not getting requests, it’s possible that other agents/editors felt the same way but just didn’t share that feedback.
It’s hard to say without seeing the work – but I would buy/borrow the book that’s referenced and really read that and your story with a critical eye. Better yet, take someone who will give you honest feedback – so probably not a relative – and ask them if they think the stories are too similar. If they say yes, I would start thinking about ways to give you story a new twist or hook. And if you have another editor/agent give the same feedback – that it’s too similar to something already out there – then I would take that to heart as well.
Hope this helps!