Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Query Question: My comp is DaVinci Code

I'm querying a mystery/thriller MS and I'm having trouble finding comps because my real comp is The Da Vinci Code. I bet you just cringed. But the truth is that I was inspired to write my MS after reading Da Vinci Code.

Specifically, I loved the chase through Vatican City, Rome, and the surrounding countryside. I loved solving the clues and exploring the merits of a conspiracy theory. I wanted to mirror these same aspects in my MS. So I found a different conspiracy theory and spent several years researching it. I've made up my own math and science clues and run them past multiple co-workers who hold PhDs in math. I set my story in a foreign country and traveled there myself as well as spent days researching satellite maps and interviewing people from that country.

Knowing we aren't supposed to compare our work to a bestseller like Da Vinci Code or Twilight or Harry Potter, I searched high and low for a different comp. I've spent days on Goodreads creating shelves and looking for recommendations that are similar to Da Vinci Code. I've gone through half a dozen library sites where librarians suggest books similar to Da Vinci Code. I've ordered and read books that seem like a promising comparable because it was a thriller set in modern-day with realistic historic/scientific clues to solve, but inevitably find the book is derivative of other Templar/religious conspiracies (my MS's conspiracy is neither) and/or the quality is just not as good as Da Vinci Code.

So for the sake of having a newer, not-as-popular comp, do I compare my work to a substandard derivative? I've sent out a dozen queries that uses the Da Vinci Code comp, and gotten 6 rejections within a week. I'm afraid agents are writing off my query as soon as they get to that comp.

Your problem isn't that your comp title is The DaVinci Code. It's that your book sounds like a knockoff of one of the biggest bestsellers of all time from TEN YEARS AGO.  Agents were looking for DVC knockoffs in 2002, when the publisher was inundating the world with advance reading copies of DVC and everyone knew it was going to be huge.

Two years ago everyone wanted the next 50 Shades of Gray.

Two years from now everyone will want the next Patrick Lee. (I devoutly hope!)

In other words:The DaVinci Code ship has sailed and you will never row fast enough to keep up.

The good news for you though is that you are no longer limited to the narrow visioned agents and editors who want the Next Big Thing.  You can publish this on your own, find an audience and make us all look shortsighted.

Or you can write your next book, pop this one in your steamer trunk for later when you're a famous writer and your publisher will be glad to publish it.


Kitty said...

I don't know why "The DaVinci Code" got such a scathing reaction. I loved the book and didn't care if others found problems with its writing or its religious content (and I'm a practicing Catholic). I read it as fiction, not gospel, and absolutely loved the story. What a shame you can't compare your MS to it because I'd love to read another in that genre.

Joyce Tremel said...

My advice is if you send out queries, don't mention a comp at all. There's no rule that you have to use one. I didn't.

You really want to make sure your story doesn't sound like a rehash of DaVinci in your query, too. You don't want anyone to think it's basically the same plot in a different setting.

french sojourn said...

All these pearls of wisdomy-insight are so helpful. Thanks.

But then again what would you expect from a Shark?...

Time to go comp diving.

Anita Joy said...

I have to agree with Joyce Tremel. Why include a comp at all? Write a killer query and let the story sell itself.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Publish it on your own, let us know and we will make you famous.
Just remember - invite us to the screening of the movie and say nice things about our own self-published hits.
Ah, so what was that stuff I put in my coffee this morning?

RichR said...

I'm not an agent, but as a former chain book buyer, the whole point of comp titles is a realistic clue as to the audience for a book. If a publisher furnished Harry Potter, DVC, or any other runaway bestseller as a comp I would have taken them much less seriously, as that level of success can't be predicted.

Don't be sniffy about "derivative" books like DVC in theme or execution: after all, that's what you intended your book to be.

LynnRodz said...

I, too, wouldn't mention a comp if you can't find one similar to your ms. The turnoff is due to agents constantly seeing comparisons to bestsellers that don't deliver.

I think agents and publishers take the "been there, done that" thing too far. I'm with Kitty, I loved the Da Vinci Code and I would love to read another thriller in the same vein, if it's done well. So what if it came out 10 years ago? IMHO, it's time for another!

alaskaravenclaw said...

Yeah, don't mention a comp.

But goodness, I don't see any point in trunking the book before you even query it!

stacy said...

These things are cyclical. By the time you get yours published, it might be time for a new Da Vinci Code. :)

DK said...

To me, the craziest thing about this question is the idea that the scene from The Da Vinci Code that inspired the questioner was the "chase through Vatican City, Rome." It's been a long time since I read Dan Brown's books, but I'm pretty sure Da Vinci Code never went near Rome. That was Angels and Demons. The Da Vinci Code had a big chase through Paris, France.

Granted, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons were very similar stories, but this seems like an odd detail to get wrong in a question to an agent like this. said...

Big phat phew!

I have been struggling to find comps for my latest WIP - just to give my agent a helping hand..., but...maybe that's the good news in some way? I.e. it's uniquely mine? IDK. What I do know is I love all these nuggets from her Sharkliness!

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

Is it overkill to pile on with the likes of Joyce and Anita? I agree with them and others that the simple solution is to ditch the comp title. I know the idea is to show you know your market, but in the end, I think the query - the story - is ultimately what grabs an agent's eye.

If the query sounds too much like DaVinci Code/Angels and Demons (and really, let's not quibble over that), then that familiarity will already have turned off (or on) an agent. Also, take heart: 6 rejections does not a shelved (or turn to self-publishing) novel make. :D

DLM said...

I did not comp in my query, and got some very high quality agents requesting fulls. Not all stories necessarily need to be filtered that way; agents are smart, and if the story is self-evident, they don't need to be told.

Oddly enough, the novel I wrote (and am polishing for one agent) is about the founder of the Merovingian dynasty. He never claimed to be descended from Jesus - but from a sea monster(/god). He was also the first Catholic king in Western Europe. (And he too never went near Rome. :))

Michael Seese said...

DK, you're correct about the settings of the two books.

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

DLM: That would be the DaVinci Cod, then, right? [rimshot]

I want to read your novel of Merovinge. I want to write one about Caesarius of Arles, trying so valiantly to do away with paganism, same area, a little later. Yeah, we should talk....

Mick said...

Don't use a comp.

You'd be mad to simply trunk the novel. The only things you have to lose are time and postage money, right? Send it out to folks you think might bite. If they don't bite, *maybe* consider the self-pub route. Thing is, by the time you're done sending this one out to everyone, you may have written another novel and you can set about querying that one.

It may be hard to get an agent with this novel but it's even harder if you don't actually query them.

Jenz said...

"Don't be sniffy about "derivative" books like DVC in theme or execution: after all, that's what you intended your book to be."

Yes, what RichR said. And really, you can't find ANY other books that relate? They don't have to be exact matches, it could be the intrigue of X combined with the adventure of Y.

The fact that no other book will do implies some real problems: that this seriously is a DVC knock-off, or the author isn't widely read enough in the genres. And if this is a straight-up derivative, it's going to show whether the comp title is used or not, and many agents will shy away from it.

DLM said...

@NotAWarriorPrincess, would love to talk! We can start with a gentle punch in the neck for that rimshot. ;P I'm at (home of Gossamer the Editor Cat, too) and I've just pulled up your blogs as well.

The Ax and the Vase is still in the pre-agented phase, but we're getting there ... Some excerpts, an Author's Note, and scads of posting about it at the URL.

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

DLM: Imma read that stuff and then I shall contact you through your blog and we can talk Old Provence! Janet once again proves to be A Very Useful Shark!!