How many times have you picked up a book at the bookstore or looked at a book on Goodreads to see on the cover or in the blurb something like “THE NEXT HARRY POTTER” or “THE HUNGER GAMES FOR A NEW GENERATION”? Personally, I’ve lost count.
I get that when it comes to marketing a book, you want to make it sound as appealing as possible and reach out to readers who are interested in the type of book you’re publishing. You’re publishing a book that involves young kids and magic? Let’s try to get Harry Potter fans to give it a try! I get it.
What I don’t think publishers get is that this is really annoying. Maybe I’m the only one it annoys – but I doubt it. I’ve found that if something bothers me, I’m usually not alone. But why does it annoy me?
To me, labeling a book “the next X” is 1. setting expectations extremely high and 2. doing a disservice to the new book.
It’s unlikely that any book or series is going to live up to the label of “the next Harry Potter.” That book was an international phenomenon, appealing to readers of many different ages and backgrounds. It had great characters, great world-building, and wonderful writing. (This isn’t to say it didn’t have its flaws, but that’s not the point of this post.) It was incredibly popular for many different reasons. As much as other authors may want to be the next J.K. Rowling, it’s unlikely for the majority of authors that they’ll ever reach that level of fame.
By labeling a book “the next Harry Potter” you’re setting readers up to be disappointed. They’re going to go into that book expecting every little thing that they loved about Harry Potter to be in this book too. When that inevitably doesn’t happen, readers are going to be really let down – more so than they would be if they had gone into the book with no expectations – and the book’s sales may suffer as a result.
This brings me to point #2: publishers are doing a disservice to the new book. They aren’t allowing the book to exist in its own right, to be its own book. They’re not allowing it to be itself in all its glory – they’re automatically comparing it to another book. It’s almost as if they’re assuming that this new book isn’t good enough to attract readers on its own. I’m no marketing or publicity expert and I know that with all the books that exist in this world, you have to do what you can to get people to notice your book. But is comparing it to a book that it will likely never be as good as the way to get readers? Let readers discover the book another way. Design a fantastic cover that will entice people. Put out ads. Talk about it on your website or social media accounts. There are a lot of other ways to make the book known and make it seem interesting.
I know this strategy must work to at least some extent or else publishers wouldn’t still be labeling books like this. But dear lord, I wish publishers would find other ways to describe and talk about their new books without setting readers up to be disappointed. Let books exist in their own right, without being automatically compared to other books. Let readers go into a new book without expecting something as perfect and lovable as their all-time favorite book. Please, publishers, I’m begging you.