Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Writing Wednesdays: The Trouble With Genres

The trouble with genres is...well, it's just so darn hard to stick to one! With the first novel I tried to query, I knew the book was chick lit, but I certainly didn't want to call it that (this was just as chick lit was starting to be declared dead by publishers - I have seriously bad timing with these things). So I called it commercial women's fiction. But then I was told that there is no such thing as commercial women's fiction - if there's a female protagonist, it's women's fiction. Obviously there's "upmarket" or "literary" or "mystery" or "romance," but my novel didn't really fall into any of those categories. I gave up on that novel pretty quickly and moved on to what I thought would be straight-up women's fiction. Somehow I ended up writing a mystery, albeit one with a commercial voice, and I found myself back in the same place. Several agents said they loved the book, but they didn't know how to sell it. Dammit if I wasn't right back where I started.

I thought for Friday I was set with genre: you've got anything "undead," it's Paranormal, right? But lately, I've been thinking it could definitely be called Urban Fantasy too (or as my friend Erin suggested, "Rural Fantasy" since it's set in Montana). At the moment, I kind of like the idea of avoiding the Paranormal label, because agents seem to be sick of it. For many people, Paranormal automatically means vampires, werewolves, angels, demons or witches, and my book doesn't contain any of those things. I thought that by making up my own mythology, I could avoid the Paranormal curse, but that may not be the case. For my next few queries, I'm going to try going with Urban Fantasy and see if it makes any difference. It's sort of sad that the industry is so hung up on labels, but it's just the nature of the beast, unfortunately.

I also sort of decided some time between last night and this morning that I want to rewrite my last book as YA, since it's contemporary (AND a mystery, of course, but not fantastical at all) and that seems easier to sell at this point in time. Knowing me, I'll miss the boat, AGAIN. But since I can't put all my focus into the Russian book just yet, it seems like something worth trying. At least I know that book will be Urban Fantasy.

You know, one with elements of folklore, horror, romance, and mystery...


Jessie Humphries said...

I don't really like the labels either, but I know they are necessary for marketing purposes. I call mine a contemporary YA thriller. But I've also said YA legal thriller. I don't know which one is more appropriate though.

Mara Rae said...

Those sound relatively interchangeable, at least! And you have the chops to back up the legal stuff, so I'm sure throwing that in there helps! Urban Fantasy vs Paranormal is just throwing me for a loop :P But I'm sure in the end it's not the label that really matters, of course.