Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If you like this, then you'll enjoy...

Back in my days as a bookseller, I often talked with customers who looked for recommendations based on authors they liked.

"I like Nelson DeMille," I'd hear. "Got any books like that?"

We had cheat sheets that told us "if a customer likes THIS author, recommend THAT author." After a while, you got a feel for what people wanted and could make recommendations without even thinking.

There's been an interesting discussion on Adbooks recently that stemmed from one person's request that people recommend titles that are "like" TWILIGHT. The subsequent answers have often surprised (and occasionally amused) me. Sometimes I'd go, "That's a fair comparison" and other times I'd think, "Those two books are NOTHING alike." It got me to thinking: what exactly do we mean when we say one book (or author) is like another?

Are we comparing style of writing? Similar theme? Pacing? In the case of TWILIGHT, when asking for a comp title, do we mean something that's romancey? Angsty? Vampirey? More importantly, when someone asks for a recommendation, do we offer suggests based on what WE feel is comparative or what we think the OTHER person feels is comparative?

When someone asks you for a comparable title, which area do you typically default to?


Maggie Stiefvater said...

I really hesitate to answer a straight up question like that without asking them what they liked about a certain book. What they're responding too.

Carlie at Librarilly Blonde did a great post about this the other day.

Christy Raedeke said...

I make some pretty bizarre recommendations that have nothing to do with story or genre. I fall in love with voice, so for me it comes down to whom the main character would get along with or be related to. For instance, to me Emma from Barbara Shoup’s “Everything You Want” seems like she could be the older cousin of Melinda in “Speak” and I think Peter Cameron’s James in “Someday this Pain Will be Useful to You” and Carolyn Mackler’s Virginia in “The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things” would probably enjoy hanging out in a lonely NYC coffee shop talking smack about their parents. This kind of screwy logic is why a particular section on IQ tests always baffles me, but when applied to books it works pretty well.

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