AUPQ: How Not To Panic When Authors Have Your Ideas

Hello, Readers! Our Ask Us Pub Questions page is growing again so we want to say thank you for trusting us with your questions and we look forward to answering them! Also ICYMI, our website themes for this month and next are here. Come participate with us.

Today, Kemaya wants to know: How do you avoid panicking when you see the plot summary of a writer with a book deal, is similar to a book you’re querying?


Lucia

This is a really good question Kemaya. I had a querying friend once tell me about an MS of hers that hadn’t gotten an agent, and how a popular author had a book coming out soon with the same premise and even same MCs name; she’d been so devastated about this. People told her No for her story last year, now next year a story just like hers was coming out and her chance to ever use the premise would be gone.

It really is a tough place to be as a writer without an agent/book deal. What I told her was that no two writers can possibly write the same story—unless they share the same brain, which they don’t—so that’s my advice here too. Sure the premise might be alike, and your MCs might even be namesakes, but there will always be concrete differences in how you tell these stories. Why? Because you’re different people with different experiences and different viewpoints on life. So the chances that your story will be verbatim with an author with a book deal is about 5%. And a bright side to consider is that when that book gets published, it can become a comp for your own upcoming book!

(Edit: Oh I also want to add that most might’ve noticed how public with my WIP/book ideas I’ve suddenly been on Twitter recently. But truth is, I didn’t even want to participate in DVPit at first because my story is super high concept hence the idea is also easily stealable. But it’s this belief that no matter what, no one can write my stories the way I do—especially not with the inspiration of life events that birthed them or with the pieces of my heart in those stories—that’s given me the bolster to be somewhat public with my ideas. So this is a sample of a viewpoint that can give you confidence against that panic of losing your story🙂.)

—Lucia, the YA Fantasy Writer!

Amber

Totally valid to panic over something like this, because I still do! I think Lucia’s right to say that no two writers can write the same story, even if the stories have the same premise/concept, because execution is a deeply personal thing. However, I’m also not going to sugarcoat things and say that it’s going to have zero effect on your own querying and sub journey, because like it or not it will have some impact depending on exactly how similar the entire plot is. Particularly for marginalised authors, I think we’ll feel the anxiety even more because the industry is known for limiting the shelf space available for our books and you often hear stories where agents/editors say things like “oh we already have something like that on our list so it’s a no”.

When something like that happens, my advice would be to focus on things that are within your control, instead of things that are not. The book deals that will show up tomorrow are out of our control. Our books are. If you are deeply passionate about your book and concept, keep trying! If there is space for a dozen chosen one toppling evil empires stories, then there’ll be someone out there who believes there’s space for your book, even if there’s already a similar one in the market. While doing that, also write that next book! As someone who got agented on Book 2 but went on sub with Book 1 first, I’d say that no books are permanently “dead”, so you can always come back to older books and still sell them one day, when the time is right 🙂

-Amber, YA/NA SFF!

Briana

This is honestly a great question and actually it happens more than people realize, especially in the film industry. Take the films No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits. Both films came out in 2011 months after each other and had very similar premises. But after watching both films, you see that they’re different. Sophie Gonzalez even mentioned that another book was coming out around the same time as Only Mostly Devastated and had the same comp (Grease) but was totally different.

The thing is, publishing takes time. It takes a really long time to go from draft to querying to agent to sub to publishing. And even if your book and the other book have a similar premise, there’s a high chance that agents and even readers will be wanting something similar in that style. I know that at first it feels like everything is crushing under you. All the hard work you did for your novel and someone else beat you to it? But try to remember that it is your story. At the end of the day it is your words that matter and it is what you are trying to tell others.

Briana, Mystery Writer

Alex

Once upon a time a beta reader told me once that she was skeptical on reading my book because the plot was played out a lot in other novels. Which is a completely fair statement. One of the things that I always remember when I come across with these scenarios is 1. I have a new comp title 2. My voice is different. The other thing to remember is that every story is different because of the voice and writing style, but if we are going to be simplistic about this we need to remember that there are typically 7 basic plots (rebirth, rags to riches, etc) and as a writer and reader myself, I usually read and write something that compels to me.

Not to say I don’t panic! I really do, but as a romance writer and also fantasy writer, I remember that even the biggest authors we currently read, have similarities with other stories. (ACOTAR by Sarah J Maas with Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr). As Bri and Amber mentioned above focus on what you can control and your story is your words.

-Alex, Romance Writer!

Mariana

This is actually a very interesting question, and by what I’ve read above, it’s common to feel anxious about this happening. I think it’s very natural to experience this panic, and I’m not sure you can really avoid it. The important thing is to decide what to do next. Will this be end of the road for your book? Will you push forward or make any changes? As Amber said, you will never have control over what others write or the timing in the market. It’s true that although the premise of two books can be the same, the execution and the voice of the writer will surely be different. Why? Because each one of us leaves a piece of ourselves in our stories; so even if they have similar elements to other books, in the end, it won’t be exactly the same. I totally agree with Lucia that our life experiences and points of view leave a distinctive print in our writing, which makes it unique in a special way.

Of course, having a book that is close to one that will be published soon or has just been published might be a bit harder to sell for the moment, but that doesn’t mean the book will never come to exist. It’s all about timing and finding the right people. If you believe in your story, keep querying. You already know that the premise is good because it got a book deal, and as Lucia and Alex mentioned, you have now another comp for your book. However, you also need to consider that you always have the option to revise your book and make some changes, if you decide that’s the best thing to do. In the end, the key is to not be discouraged, don’t let the panic stop you from following your dream, and focus on writing your next story.

-Mariana, PB Writer


What are your thoughts? We would like to know!

Published by path2pub

From The Trenches To The Shelves

8 thoughts on “AUPQ: How Not To Panic When Authors Have Your Ideas

  1. I finished reading this post and thought ‘wow, this feels so real’. This is a real problem some writers go through in the trenches and I can’t start to say how great it is that you addressed it here. Also SO to Kemaya for the honest question!

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  2. You’ve all given great advice here and I can’t think of anything to add, except that it’s crushing to feel like someone got the chance to use your idea before you. Thank you for honest answers 🙂

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  3. It’s hard but you have to trust that your book is different enough and also be ready to make changes if the similarities are much.

    Another snakey advice is that when the book is released, if you haven’t gotten an agent/book deal then, look at their story and look for things it lacks that you can add to your story to make yours better 😉. Always seek out positives

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  4. This is the post I needed to see today. Thank you for your honest answers and for sharing that you sometimes have this fear or know people that have them. 😇

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