Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Writers play mind games. I’m sure you’ve heard about the What if _____ game. That’s where many of our stories start. Something catches our attention and triggers our imagination. Suppose a cat suddenly darts across the street. We slam on our brakes and swerve into the next lane, then we find ourselves thinking what if that had been a woman who woke up to find an intruder in her house and the intruder is chasing her with a gun. She . . . But there’s another game writers play. It takes place most often in book stores or when we’re invited to speak to book clubs. Librarians play it too.

This second game is called If you like _______, you should try _______. It’s played like this: I’m sitting at a little author’s table in the local Seagull Book and a lady rushes up to me saying, “I just love your books. I own every one of them and I just wish you wrote faster.”

That’s where I politely thank her for letting me know she enjoys my books, offer her a piece of candy, and sign a bookmark for her. Then I ask, which was your favorite book? Which other authors do you like? If I know which books she likes and why, then I can play the game. “Oh, you liked the Bracelet series because you like books based on Church history and the settling of the West?”
“Yes, those people had a hard time. My ancestors made a lot of sacrifices to get to Utah.”
Okay, here’s where I need to know something about other LDS writers so I can say, “Since you’ve read all of my books, you should try Annette Lyon’s temple books. She’s an excellent writer and has carefully researched the sacrifices our pioneer ancestors made to build temples.”
“Wait a minute,” you may say. “Why are you selling Annette Lyon’s book. Isn’t she a competitor?”
Actually, no she isn’t a competitor; she’s a fellow LDS writer. Few readers buy just one author’s books and none write fast enough to satisfy really avid readers. If that fan walks out of the store with Annette’s book and enjoys it, I’ve gained two things. I’ve cemented my fan’s trust in me because I helped her find another author she enjoys and I’ve done a small bit toward strengthening the LDS market. I’ve also shown interest in her that isn’t linked to buying one of my books. Had I not recommended another author, the fan would have most likely purchased another book anyway, perhaps one she wouldn’t enjoy as much or one that leads her away from the LDS market. Besides I like to help whatever store I’m signing in make as many sales as possible and if the customer has read all of my books, I like helping them find something else they’ll enjoy.

This is a little different from the approach most of us use when signing with another author. When two or more of us are signing together, it’s easy to point out, even brag about, the good qualities of the other writer’s book. It’s sometimes easier to push another respected writer’s books than our own. It doesn’t feel so boastful or conceited. But with the If you like game you need to have a repertoire of match ups in your head.

Here is a short list of some of my match ups. Remember they’re not perfect matches. There’s just a quality I’ve found each pair of matchups share. And some writers such as myself, Kerry Blair, Jeff Savage, Dean Hughes, and quite a few others write in more than one genre so we may have a number of matchups depending on which of our books are liked best by a particular reader. I’ve had readers, librarians, and other writers compare my books to those of dozens of other writers including Mary Higgins Clark, Karen Robards, Lee Nelson, Michele Bell, Jeanne Williams, Anita Stansfield, Clair Poulson, Annette Lyon, and Josi Killpack. I don’t always see the comparison, but it is fun to explore the reasons why someone finds a similarity. Look at my list, then join in the game. Tell me whose books you would suggest if a reader has read all of one favorite writer and you were to recommend another author to that reader.

If you like David Woolley you should try Robert Marcum
If you like Clair Poulson you should try Gary Hansen
If you like Betsy Green you should try Tracy Abramson
If you like Heather Moore you should try Sariah Wilson
If you like Kerry Blair you should try Toni Sorenson (Brown)
If you like Rob Wells you should try Matthew Buckley
If you like Stephanie Black you should try Gregg Luke
If you like Janette Rallison you should try Lisa McKendrick
If you like Anita Stansfield you should try Jason Wright
If you like Michele Bell you should try Rachel Nunes
If you like GG Vandagriff you should try Marlene Austin
If you like Elodia Strain you should try Jennifer Griffith

By the way, I’ll be speaking and signing my newest books at the Murray Library, 5300 South 166 East in Murray, Utah, on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Come on over and say hello.


Cheri J. Crane said...

Great blog, Jennie. =) I usually suggest author possibilities to people who are looking for a good book. It will vary, depending on the genre that person is looking for, but I have recommended a lot of the same authors you have.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Oh, man. I have a good one.

If you like Jane Austen, you should try Anna Jones Buttimore.

Michele Ashman Bell said...

Loved your blog! When it comes to signings there's no one I'd reather be with that Jennie Hansen. I feel guilty because she's so busy promoting my books as much as her own! I

Jeri Gilchrist said...

What a fun blog, Jennie! When I know people are looking for a good book, I usually recommend books that I have enjoyed reading. Like Cheri, I also suggest author possibilities depending on what they are looking for.

Annette Lyon said...

Jennie, Great concept--something I've done at signings as well. Thanks so much for the mention. I'm happy to be put in the same sentene with you any day!