Saturday, January 26, 2013

Does genre really matter?

I got in trouble with a reviewer once for describing a new adult book as young adult. (Don't miss Alexandra Lanc's visit to my blog next month where she explains the difference.) Another time I reviewed a children's adventure that was really young adult. Then there are mysteries that are actually horror, romances that read more like drama, Christian fiction with more of a vaguely spiritual fantasy feel. (Don't forget edgy Christian fiction too). A friend wanted to write a query letter and asked me what genre I'd put her novel in. Luckily she also asked lots of other people and did some great research on the internet. After all my reviewing, I'm really not sure I could have helped her.

If a novel includes people falling in love, does that make it a romance? (Troy and Lydia fall in love in Divide by Zero, but there's lots more going on.)

If somebody dies and the cops are involved, does that make it police procedural? (They're only minimally involved in Divide by Zero.)

What if someone's a murderer? Does that make the novel suspense? If it includes multiple generations, is it a family drama? If it's set in the 60s is it history? (Not if it's English I guess, since our history's kind of long.)

If there are angels and demons (as there are in Flower Child), will they turn the story into horror? And if the Bible's involved does it have to be religious? Or Christian?

I guess, in the end, most tales involve more than one theme. The primary theme could determine genre except that it's probably bound up in secondary ones--hence double-barreled genres like Christian suspense, romantic comedy, science fiction horror, and more. But I wonder if it isn't the sales pitch where genre really gets determined. If romance sells, play up the romantic element. If horror, go for that.

I classify my novellas (from Gypsy Shadow Publishing) as spiritual speculative fiction, but what else could they be?
  • Flower Child involves a boy and girl falling in love, therefore romance.
  • A woman deals with miscarriage, feminine issues perhaps?
  • Angels and demons, therefore horror.
  • Hints of the Bible suggest it might be religious.
  • Imaginary worlds, so fantasy or speculative...
Which would you choose?

Psalm Stories, from my Five-Minute Bible Story series (Cape Arago Press) reached #1 in Children's religious fiction and Christian Old Testament reference when they were promoted on kindle. My publisher must have done a really good job of classifying them (though I do wonder what a reader expects from fiction and reference combined--contemporary children's stories, based on the Bible, with author notes in the back...).

And then there's Divide by Zero again, from Publishing:
  • Boy meets girl, therefore romance
  • Predator in the woods, so suspense or horror
  • Grandchildren growing up, so family drama
  • Set in the recent past, in America, so maybe historical
  • Set in a small university town, small-town drama perhaps
  • Includes a Christian church, so Christian drama, but there are non-believers too who won't get converted...
I'm going for small-town drama, or family drama, but I'm not sure. What would make you more likely to choose to read it?

And does genre really matter?

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