Sunday, January 19, 2020

Readers, a reader needs your help!

O Toothy Queen of the Known Universe, 

I have a request for the Reiders, actually. I know that your Esteemed, Salty Majesty is not a fantasy reader, but I am a fantasy writer. And what I'm writing, I'm rather ashamed to say, I can't find other books to read that match it. 

I'm probably not the most well-read writer that ever was. But I definitely do read my genre, including debuts and new releases when I can. This isn't only my integrity for reading on the line, though. I've asked my reading friends; I've asked fantasy readers who work in bookstores; I've asked librarians. No one has a good answer. 

The book I'm writing, and thus the type I want to read, is fantasy of course. Set in modern day, so you might think urban fantasy, but in my book, the existence of magic is not a secret. It's so in the open, in fact, that laws and government organizations revolve around regulating its use. Nor is it post-apocalyptic. Magic didn't bash its way in and wreck society. Magic is, and has always been, a known part of society, but it's not the most practical thing to use, and it doesn't do a lot of things that technology does, so technology also evolved. It's not magic realism because it's definitely MAGIC, not ambiguity. 

It's today, but with magic, and everyone knows magic is a thing. There's no magical creatures, like vampires or fairies. 

And I swear, may I be trapped forever on my hamster wheel, I haven't read a book like this not from any lack of trying. I had resigned myself to leaving off comps and just not telling any agent I query that I've never read a book like the one I've written before, but then I thought maybe the Reiders knew of books that had slipped through all my efforts.

32 comments:

Lennon Faris said...

OP, I wish I could help. Your post, almost word for word, could have been mine. I know I just haven't read the right books so far, but that doesn't really help, now does it? Search terms on Goodreads & Google don't help, either.

I'm really hoping someone will mosey on over on this Sunday and chime in with some good ideas.

KariV said...

I wonder that you're trying to hard, OP. Comps are useful to give an agent an idea of where your book fits in the market and who would buy it. This goes deeper than just a direct comparison. It sounds like you have a really interesting premise, so what else is going on that you could comp to.

For example:

It's Harry Potter, but where everyone, Muggles included,know about magic.

It's Hunger Games, but where magic plays as big a role in survival as skill.

It's Pride and Prejudice with a magical twist.

...

Point being, don't try to comp the magic system - that's what makes you dif. Try to comp some of the bigger story/themes. Is it a romance? A government conspiracy? A survival story? Sibling rivalry? Start with comping that, then add magic. Take heart, you'll get there. And as a final word of encouragement, it's worth noting that Disney's Lion King is Macbeth, but with lions ...

Bunny said...

Movies might provide more relevant comps.

Craig F said...

There is an odd little sub=genre called Arcanepunk fantasy. It basically is the space where technology and magic wander hand in hand. I think this is where the lotus blossom of your imagination opened.

Some, somewhat, older examples:

Too Many Magicians-Randall Garrett

Darkness-Harry Turtledove

Magic Inc.- Heinlein.

Hope all of you are having a great weekend. Watching that front slide down and rain on us.

mhleader said...

There ARE various fantasy/magic novels where magic is part of the regular world. Consider Patricia Briggs's HUGELY successful Mercy Thompson series, as one example. Yes, that includes magical creatures (werewolves, fae, vampires, etc.), but the point is that there is MAGIC there. Or think about Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate (yes, set in a steampunk world, but still). Almost any story that features witches, wizards, and warlocks will include "regular" magic.

Or (fabulous example) Anne Bishops The Others series (first book WRITTEN IN RED). The world is an alternate history story, very contemporary, but with shapeshifting Others who are in fact the apex predators in the world--not humans. The "magic" is shapeshifting, but the world is contemporary-ish complete with cell phones, cars, and television.

And do not forget Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series (Sookie Stackhouse). Or her Harper Connelly series (psychic, not magic).

In a more SF-y vein, think about Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son series. Older, but absolutely magic set in the otherwise real world.

I think what I'm suggesting is that while your world may use "regular" magic and not magical creatures, shapeshifters, or psychic characters, from a reader's POV, magic is magic is magic. (Sorry, cribbed that line.) Readers who like your story probably ALSO like stories with psychic characters, stories with other magical type characters, stories with shapeshifting characters.

IOW, identify the themes and types of general stories that are similar to yours, even if those worlds aren't exactly like yours in some way. What is your main character's problem? What do they want and why can't they get it? That's more important than how you specifically build magic into your world.

It's NOT the magic that makes your story appealing. It's how well you build your world, how enticing your characters are, how interesting your story line is. Magic is the yummy chocolate coating, not the delicious creamy center of your ms.

But best of luck with your concept. It sounds really fascinating! I hope you do well with it.

Jerry said...

I don’t think urban fantasy requires that magic be secret, nor does it require a lack of technology. From your limited description, it sounds a lot like the Dresden Files or Monster Hunter International without strange creatures. Or Diana Wynne Jones’s commonplace magic I'm the Chrestomanci worlds.

Four lights said...

Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy

Brittany said...

Check out the trope page for Mundane Fantastic: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MundaneFantastic It seems to be most common in animation (Miyazaki and Steven Universe are a couple of prominent examples) but there are some entries under literature.

If the plot has to do with magic, it's probably still urban fantasy even if it's not a masquerade. If the magic is incidental, you'd be looking more at magical realism (with the caveat that the term describes a very specific slice of Latin American literature, but can also be useful for discussing stories with a similar vibe).

Though I agree with KariV that you don't necessarily have to comp the setting. You can also comp the plot, or the character dynamics, or the romance, or the sense of humor, or any of the other things that would make a reader of Comp want to check out your book.

Alena said...

It seems to me (also an avid fantasy reader) that there are a TON of possible comps. Queen Shark always says to read widely in your genre. Perhaps that is the problem here. OP's MS sounds a bit like an alternate history, like Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series, or maybe an alternate earth, like Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Good luck OP!

Brooke Johnson said...

I agree with the other commenter about it being like if the wizarding world and the muggle world collided, with magic and tech existing side by side. The concept reminds me of some of Diana Wynne Jones' fantasy (Deep Secrets comes to mind), though most of her work was written before modern cellphones and whatnot and have a sort of timeless feel to them. Also, consider Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but if everyone had access to magic.

Emma said...

"The Magicians" is kind of like that - normal world, normal people, magic exists and magicians are in every aspect of society, though they prefer to keep it on the DL. The TV show is probably better than the books, but as a general comp, it sounds close to what you're describing.

Good luck with it!

J.A. Haigh said...

Have you checked out the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch? Could be woth a look - in any case, it's a great series.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Just jumped on after a day of chasing a two year old.
OP your book sounds fascinating. I have nothing to add to the wisdom of the commenters other than to wish you well. The concept is intriguing. Love it.

Karen McCoy said...

What a great concept! I would totally read this.

Ditto the Gail Carriger rec. The Shades of Magic series by V.E. (Victoria)Schwab also comes to mind. Good luck, Opie!

Brian Wells said...

Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series (published in the 80s) takes place in modern times, and the magic is ubiquitous. Death drives a Corvette.

Laurie said...

Hi there!
Ooooo, my novel is like this. The Butterfly Stone by Laurie Bell. It is a YA fantasy where magic is known to the world and Mage-kind are regulated by the government. Set in the modern day around a girl who is mage-kind. Magic users must have a licence and carry a mark. Students also have to wear a mark and are not allowed to use magic outside of the home/camp. Not all in this universe are magic users and the regular folk are not overly happy and those who have the ability to use magic.
Cheers
Laurie

KDJames said...

I'm probably the last person who should give advice on comps (never tried to find any), but I absolutely agree with what KariV said. The presence of magic is an interesting feature of your story, but it doesn't give any real sense of what the story is about. Focus on that for a comp. Sometimes we're too close to our story to see what that is, so ask a critique partner or a friend to tell you what they think it's about (they might be wrong, but it's a place to start).

If you just want recs of more books with a similar feature, in addition to those already mentioned, I highly recommend WR Gingell and Kate Stradling. It wasn't my focus while reading, but I don't recall the existence of magic being a secret or surprising to anyone. There was often some astonishment or awe at how powerful the magic was in certain people, but not surprise that it existed. Hope that helps. Best of luck with it.

Hannah said...

Like KariV and mhleader said, your setting is not the most important part of a comp title. All of the books that everyone has suggested are wildly different in tone and focus, and you may find that your book is best compared to a book with a similar feel and plot but a different setting. If your story is a lighthearted heist novel, it'll be marketed a lot differently than a depressing revenge story. I'm no expert, but but in my mind, comp titles are important for describing an audience-- if the people who liked books A and B read book C, they'll like C too. Additionally, comp titles have to be recent-- I think published in the last five years? Many of the books suggested here won't work as official comp titles for your book because of age alone.

That said, I think you should still try to read as many of these suggestions as you can. It is important to have a feel for your genre, to know what works and what doesn't. I'd say you're almost certainly urban fantasy, for the record!

Now, suggestions! These came out in the last five years, and are in order of how relevant I think they would be to your book (and also kind of how much I love them).

1. Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz. Magic comes from obsession and love for a craft. The protagonist is a bureaucromancer trying to save his daughter through the power of paperwork and illegal drug manufacturing.

2. The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller. Everyone can do magic, but in general, women are best at it. This has massive implications for technology, warfare, and women's rights. Set in WW1.

3. The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman. In Israel, a group of sorcerers fight for acceptance and government protection from an influential group of religious extremists. Full disclaimer-- I haven't read this yet, but it looks awesome and relevent!

4. Titianshade by Dan Stout. If this one's not too strange for publishing, yours isn't either. Magic, aliens and murder on a distant planet that's also somehow 1970s America, complete with arguments about disco.

5. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. Cheating a bit on this one, which is why it's so low. There's not much magic, but the writing makes like there is. The monsters in Pet are our monsters, people who hurt other people, but they're mythologized in a fascinating and effective way. Set in a present that could've happened, if we'd fought the monsters in a different way.

Hannah said...

Sorry, forgot to add these-- here are some older titles that your book reminded me of! Might be worth checking out as well. None of them are exactly the same, but again, they might be helpful in narrowing down what your book is and what your audience could be.

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Pandemonium by Daryll Gregory

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Felix Castor series by Mike Carey

Sorcery and Cecelia, or, the enchanted coffee pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Bone Song by John Meaney

Good luck!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Someone already came up with the ones I had in mind- The Magicians, Etc

And your comps don’t have to be the exact same as your book- they can have the same conflict even if they are set in alternative realities. As I understand, comps should take up same shelves in bookstore as you hope your book will. Maybe I am over-simplifying.

Megan V said...


Sounds to me like OP has an alternate world fantasy (more common with an alternate history rather than modern day, but not impossible).


Things like th YA Bartimaeus series
The Devil’s Tower by Mark Sumner
Burning Bright by Melissa McShane
Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

But you can absolutely find it with contemporary setting!

Side note: For those who think their book might be Magical Realism, please know that Magical Realism doesn't precisely mean the modern world with magic. There's a whole lot more to it.

Leslie said...

So many brilliant and creative people here (not just Janet!)! This is why I read this blog and the comments daily. I cannot tell you guys how much I've learned from you.

Sophia M said...

Magic for Liars came out fairly recently and is set in the “normal” contemporary world, but with wizards/magic. It’s very much a mystery novel with magical elements so it might not be the best comp. But I wouldn’t sweat the comps too much. Fantasy is such a wide ranging genre and sub-genres are so tricky to pin down (something I’m going through with my WIP now!). Don’t comp to Tolkien and you’ll probably be fine ;)

Fearless Reider said...

Furiously jotting down titles here -- these sound like great fun, and OP's novel will be a welcome addition to the shelf. If I understand comps correctly, the point isn't to identify works that are (almost) just like yours; it's to identify the readers who are likely to snap up your book, based on the fact that they snapped up THIS TITLE and THAT TITLE, which have some things in common with YOUR TITLE, which is new and exciting and different and special and salable.

Melinda Szymanik said...

The Curse Workers Trilogy by Holly Black ('White Cat', 'Red Glove', and 'Black Heart') has magic as an accepted, everyday part of society. Very gritty and real - great stories.

Aphra Pell said...

I second the suggestion of trying the Rivers of London series - it's not exactly what you describe (there are some magical creatures, and magic is known to the authorities, but not the populace) - but its close in a lot of other ways.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I'm not exactly sure if this is what you're looking for but what about NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo? I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I was blown away by how much I enjoyed it.

tsquared said...

Maybe try works by Neil Gaimon or Kat Howard. Gaimon's 'Norse Gods' was really good at getting a reader to go along with just about anything. Howard is a fast fun read. Glen Duncan's 'The Last Werewolf' is a raunchy, believable romp.

They're not really what you're looking for by they might have some ideas for you.

I'm writing something similar about the gods of ancient Egypt...

Good luck.

Ryan Neely said...

I'm late to the party, and while I agree with other posters that comps maybe don't have to mimic the exact style of fantasy, I can also empathize with the desire to see how someone else successfully pulled off what you're doing. We all inherently believe there's no way we are magical unicorns putting together these worlds for the first time. Right?

To that end, the first book that popped into my head reading your description was Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia. Admittedly, it is alternate history and is set in the early- to mid-20th century rather than today, but it sounds identical to what you have deacribed.

A second option I though of was Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. This is, literally, Jane Austen with magic so, again, not set today, but quite similar to what you have deacribed.

luciakaku said...

Thank you SO MUCH everyone! Opie here, and I'm taking furious notes and reading blurbs to pick where to start. So many amazing recommendations!

I regret including the word "comps" in my request, since the main purpose of the request was reading material. So many replies focused on that as if I was majorly worried about it. It would be cool to get a comp out of it, but I really just need to read more books with a similar setting for ideas of how other writers navigated it, treated it, and used it to do work for their stories.

I'm so excited to get to reading! (Especially Laurie's! That has some STARK similarities to the way I structured things as well.)

Laurie said...

Opie... I can't wait to hear more about your story! :-) Best of luck with the writing! And reading ;-) I want links when you get something out there! And all the comps above sound awesome... I love Reiders (Though get on Gaiman. I'm extremely biased, love his work)
Laurie

Chelsea McGlynn said...

This is the type of stuff I write too! I usually call it "Modern Fantasy" or "Contemporary Fantasy", because the tone is significantly different than traditional "Urban Fantasy".

My number one rec would be Charles de Lint's The Onion Girl. Magic is still on the outskirts of the human world (it's not known by all humans), but he really plays with what magic would be like in a normal, modern human setting without werewolves or vampires. His writing is actually what started the Urban Fantasy subgenre, although that genre has taken off in it's own unique direction.

Other books that could fit/ interest you are:
-Max Gladstone's the Craft Sequence
-Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys
-Rainbow Rowell's Carry On
-Alex Bledsoe's Tufa series
-Nina Kiriki Hoffman's A Fist Full of Sky
-Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells
-Charlie Holmberg's The Paper Magician