BOXED SET -- A novel by Bernie Kohn & Gina M. Smith

An unemployed Chicago sports writer quickly finds himself broke and homeless, but he uses his gift with words and some inspiration from Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac to turn his life around, help his fellow homeless and to get the girl, a perky tech at the local plasma clinic who thinks a boob job will solve everything.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

In the search for comps, one is found

It was suggested to me today that this little tale might be unbelievable. Discussing the novel last night at length with a new old friend and fellow journalist, a mention of author Jess Walter was made. When receiving back a paid-for query- and synopsis-edit this morning from writing coach Lara Willard, she suggested I check out Jess Walter's The Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel.

I am embarrassed to say that until yesterday I was not familiar with the work of Jess Walter. So I honed in on his latest, Beautiful Ruins: A Novel, hoping to lose myself on the Amalfi Coast or in someone else's romance.

Then I read the summary for The Financial Lives of the Poets. And got goosebumps.

This is the Amazon synopsis: "The Financial Lives of the Poets is a comic and heartfelt novel from National Book Award nominee Jess Walter, author of Citizen Vince and The Zero, about how we get to the edge of ruin—and how we begin to make our way back.
Walter tells the story of Matt Prior, who’s losing his job, his wife, his house, and his mind—until, all of a sudden, he discovers a way that he might just possibly be able to save it all . . . and have a pretty damn great time doing it."

The search for any comps for Boxed Set has been a challenge. Tagging on to the tails or tales of Carl Hiassen, Tim Dorsey and Christopher Moore either for humor or moral messages delivered with a light hand, felt just okay, not exactly right.

Before I go on, let me say that in finding comps (comparable titles) a writer, especially a debut author, does not mean to assume 'Gilt by Association.' Hiassen, Dorsey and Moore, as well as Walter now, are best-selling authors I admire from afar. I don't seek to imitate or even emulate, or imply that I could.

Nevertheless, agents will ask authors about comps for their work. This, not only to ensure the author is a well-informed, well-rounded reader and current member of the human race, but more importantly, to figure out where the proposed or queried novel would fit upon a bookstore shelf. Are there too many books like it already? How big is the potential audience for a work like this? Can the agent successfully sell this work to a publisher? Can the agent or publisher gain shelf space for it with book-sellers?

So I've been looking endlessly for a good comp (or two) and somehow missed Jess Walter's The Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel. I wonder how fast I can get it into my hands and my head? And heart? I'd buy it for my Kindle right this minute, but I have this 'thing' that important books have to be held and felt, and slept with, and inhaled. Soonest.

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