Learning to Love your Book-alikes

Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parrybullrider wrapWhen my very first book Heart of a Shepherd came out back in 2009 I met Suzanne Morgan Williams from the Class of 2K9 marketing group whose book Bull Rider was astonishingly similar to mine. It was all the more surprising because they were western stories about ranching families with family members deployed to the Middle East. Not exactly the most crowded genre. It was very tempting to think of this as a disaster, a head to head competition, a diminishment of what I had worked so hard on. But my husband pointed out that selling a book is not like selling a car. It’s not like a person buys a book and then doesn’t need another for 5 to 10 years. A very helpful perspective. The beauty of the book business is that the more people read good books the more they want new good books.

And the really terrific thing was getting to know Suzanne and working together to promote our books because we’ve found that if a reader likes one of our stories, they will probably like the other. They aren’t identical books after all. The main character in Suzanne’s story is a little bit older. Heart of a Shepherd is about the experience of having a deployed parent. Bull Rider is about the experience of having a brother return from war with a traumatic brain injury. We’ve done joint book store appearances, spoken together on panels and in workshops at writers conferences, and even sold our books together at the Reno Rodeo. And much to our mutual delight these books have flourished side by side.

But I’ve also known people who’ve worked for months, years even, and seen a book published  which is very similar to their own manuscript, and then decided to drop their own project completely. It’s such a shame because there is often plenty of room for multiple


books on a topic. I think of them as “book-alikes” and in some ways they can be an asset to your own work. If somebody has written a book similar to mine then it’s a great strategy to encourage my book to be grouped in with a similar book. Often teachers are looking for several books from a historical era so that there will be something to suit every reading level in her class. Many bookstores prefer to host multi-author events. The picture to the right is myself and Elizabeth Rusch (dressed as Nannerl Mozart) and Virginia Euwer Wolff. We are doing an event which drew dozens of vocal and instrumental performers and lots of families to a community center to celebrate our three music-themed books: Virginia’s Mozart Season, an absolute classic YA story of a girl preparing for a music competition, Liz’s picture book biography For the Love of Music about Mozart’s big sister, and my middle grade novel Second Fiddle.

I’ve learned to love my Book-Alikes over the years and have become good friends of people whose books are similar to mine. And in celebration of that here are four books who like my story Written in Stone are set in America in the early part of the 20th century. They are Crossing Stones by Helen Frost, A Whistle in the Dark by Sue Hill Long, Born of Illusion by Teri Brown and In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters.


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3 thoughts on “Learning to Love your Book-alikes

  1. kell andrews

    Wonderful post! I have a “Book Alike” with a very similar title and the same month of release — I am thinking of it as you are (with some effort!). Book lovers need more books!

  2. Arjay C.

    I was a military brat whose father served in Vietnam. Those years were many times traumatic- as I and my family experienced a lot of hostility and discrimination from anti-war activists on the home front. This was coupled at times with racism. I am an American Indian- and I remember those against the Vietnam War being rather vulgar on how an American Indian, like my father could be serving in a the USA military… which the protestors had no respect for.

    Telling them that many American Indians had deep convictions about protecting America and that veterans were respected amongst many American Indian communities… fell on deaf ears. The treatment of those who served in Vietnam and their families (on the home front) by the media and general public was deplorable during those years.

    I am very glad to see books that portray children from military families. Those children have experiences and emotions that most American children never experience. The last time American children experienced this nationwide was WWII. Since, then children in military families have been minorities amongst other children.

    I am very glad that Suzanne Morgan Williams’ Bull Rider and your book Heart of a Shepherd has been available to show what it is like for kids in military families. Thank you.

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