By Lindsay Bandy
My eighth-grade self was sitting at the kitchen table with my engineer father, dripping tears on pre-algebra homework: “But Daddy, why are there letters mixed with the numbers?” That pretty well sums up my relationship with mathematics.
However, the X meets Y formula is one even math phobics want to familiarize themselves with as they work on preparing a manuscript for submission. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it helps to give editors and agents an instant taste of what your manuscript is like. You’ll find it on the backs/reviews of many novels, and even some picture books. So, take a deep breath and prepare yourself for a little math lesson: The formula is supposed to go like this….
Once upon a time, X met Y, had a beautiful word baby named Z, and lived happily and famously ever after.
It’s important to consider is where your manuscript fits in the market and who your readers will be. If you have a 20th century British saga with a supernatural twist, you might say “Downton Abbey enters the Twlight Zone in this exciting YA novel.” (But please don’t try this at home…it sounds truly dreadful.) Can you think about a similar author and say “Z will appeal to fans of Ms. X?” Or, “This story will appeal to fans of X movie or Y television show.”
Nathan Bransford, author and former literary agent at the Curtis Brown agency, says on his blog:
I personally don’t mind at all if you compare your book to another book or author or two to put me in the right frame of mind. This is completely optional, so don’t feel as if you have to, and honestly I’d just use your best judgment about whether you think it would be helpful.
For more of Nathan’s insights, you can visit his blog here http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/11/comparing-your-book-to-other-books-in.html
Here are a few examples of the X meets Y formula to get you thinking. I don’t know about you, but this one can be hard for me to conceptualize, so I’m glad it’s not always necessary. But, it’s where reading like a writer, watching TV and movies like a writer, and being well-versed in your genre really matters.
- “The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Lost in this chilling exploration of love and memory…Haunting, sophisticated, and ultimately exquisite.” Kirkus starred review of the Printz winner MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick (My absolute favorite book I’ve read this year!!)
- Greek mythology meets Mean Girls in Oh. My. Gods by Tera Lynn Child
For examples of queries that worked, you can visit Writer’s Digest’s web site and check out their Successful Queries series here http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries