One question a publisher asks an author is what other works are like the one that’s being offered. That is, competing works and how yours differs.
When it came to Subway Hitchhikers’ original appearance in 1990, here’s the tack:
I know of no other work quite like Subway Hitchhikers. Perhaps Trout Fishing in America comes closest, even though that work is a generation earlier, has dated badly over the years, and is both rural and West Coast in its orientation. As I noted earlier, most of the presentations dealing with the hitchhikers’ period in history tend to focus on events that I relegate to the background. (Indeed, how often is hitchhiking even mentioned, much less discussed?)
As for the subject of subways, fictional accounts usually place them as a brief scene of terror, rather than treating them as a fascinating entity in their own right (The Taking of the Pelham Express or Frank King’s new Take the D Train are two examples); non-fiction tends either toward the technical or else toward reports on the important layers beneath the city streets – the sewers, cables, steam pipes, and so on.
The closest work in terms of subject matter appears to be the just-published Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination by Rosalind Williams (MIT Press, 265 pages, $19.95, illustrated). Judging from a review in the Boston Globe, her work is a scholarly examination of both fiction and technology: “As the natural environment dwindles, the constructed or artificial environment assumes further importance.” Her work, however informative, is clearly not intended to amuse, delight, or humor. I see her volume as an academic (and more expensive) adjunct giving increased credibility to the mission of Subway Hitchhikers.
A big question mark involves the volume that Jim Dyer is preparing. As the subway columnist three times a week for New York Newsday since its inception (four years ago?), he has a lode of insider’s information on the workings and bizarre inhabitants of New York’s system. His leave and acting replacement were announced in the weekly Editor & Publisher magazine in early February, so we should have time to beat him to the gate. Perhaps his opus, whatever its form, will add to an overall interest in subways as such, and in the end benefit sales of our Hitchhikers.
To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.