I had intended today to post a discussion of editing one's work (since I'm busy procrastinating on just that task), but a post on Rachel Abbott's blog about writing blurbs got me thinking. Not just thinking that there's one more thing I should probably revise (again), but about one particular bit that hit a nerve.
Guest blogger Mark Edwards, writing about writing blurbs, encourages us to use the names of known authors (he calls it namechecking). You know the thing: "if so-and-so wrote such-and-such. . . ". Now, I can certainly see the power of this in advertising. Associating your unknown name and book with a name everyone (or everyone interested in your genre) will recognize is a great way to get some attention, maybe draw in some readers.
And yet. I have seen this done so much, and so clumsily. "This book has been compared to 'Harry Potter' and 'The Lord of the Rings'!" "It's like Steinbeck and Shakespeare met for a few drinks and wrote a novel together!" Things that sound both boastful and stupid. I guess if the reviewer for the NYT compares your book (in a positive way) to the work of a best-selling author, you should grab hold and go with that--and give the attribution and the link. But if your Mom says "oh, honey, you write even better than Danielle Steele" (NB: my mother doesn't read Danielle Steele and would never say such an insulting thing to me, especially as I don't write romances), you might want to rethink the comparison.
Of course, everyone wants to know what your book is like, and comparing it to something they know is the fast and easy way to get there. But it's a fine line between useful and reasonable name-dropping and something that sounds like a playground boast.
So here's what I think: I have no idea where the balance lies.
My inclination is to use words like "reminiscent of" and "in the spirit of" or even "inspired by the likes of." Actually, so far my inclination has been to avoid any such comparisons. But now I'm thinking about it, and thinking about a little revision of my blurbs to include some.
"The Ninja Librarian is a tall tale in the (slightly outrageous) spirit of Mark Twain and Robert McCloskey's Homer Price." (This might at least attract the attention of the parents and grandparents of my juvenile readers, though I'm not sure how many 4th graders will recognize either name, more's the pity). Or maybe "Hank the Cowdog would feel right at home in Skunk Corners." (Adult readers without children may, in their turn, need to look up who Hank is. Great fun for family read-alouds. Sort of like the NL. Check it out).
Is that too weird?
What do you think about "namechecking" in blurbs by unknown authors?