Welcome Wednesday guests for October:
10/01 Finding Sky author, Susan O'Brien;
10/08 Award-winning Hank Phillippi Ryan (Truth Be Told);
10/15 Indie authors Polly Iyer (Backlash) and Ellis Vidler (Prime Target);
10/22 Murder by the Month author, Jess Lourey;
10/29 Marilyn Levinson, Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery author.

Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.

Don't miss this month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.

KM Rockwood's
short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Monday, August 23, 2010

Classifying Your Novel

My first instinct, when people ask what my novel is about, is to say it’s unique. Em, yeah. Isn’t everyone’s book unique?

Categorizing one’s book is a hard decision, one that can determine if the book will be published. Among mysteries there are subcategories. Is the book contemporary or historical? Hard boiled, noir, police procedural or amateur sleuth? The list is almost endless.

Cross-genre books pose an even more interesting dilemma to authors. Books must be categorized by the author to figure out which agents to query. Some agents only handle romance or mystery or science fiction, etc. Then, the agent further categorizes the book to sell to a publishing house. Some publishers will only deal in certain genres or have created imprints for publishing specific genres. By the time your book goes to a publisher, they will have determined what to categorize your book for the market shelves, which is the ultimate categorization. Those books within a single category have an easier time making it onto the shelves, and yet the market seems to favor those books of cross-genre flavor.

I balk at categorization even though I know it is necessary. When I first started writing FIGHTING SPIRITS, the new working title of my book, I classified it as a paranormal romantic mystery. In a recent class I took, the instructor said that anything with ghosts or demons would be categorized in the horror section. Me, write a horror book? No way!

In the paranormal genre, the current bestsellers focus on vampires and shape-shifters. My book has neither, but I want to call it paranormal because it is more menacing supernatural than horror. There are also the mystery and romance elements distinguishing it further from horror. Although my book is darker than Carolyn Hart’s new ghost series, which is still classified as a mystery even if solved by a ghost, my book’s main character is a human amateur sleuth, so I think of it as primarily a mystery.

One of the criticisms that I received by members of my chapter-by-chapter novel critique group, The Mayhem Gang, is that I focused on humor rather than on horror, which was necessary for the hook. I admit that I need to increase the darkness, the fear aspect, but know where I’m going with this book—to the good and positive. Unfortunately, I’m so against writing a “horror” novel that I sabotaged my hook by not starting with darkness. All will be changed and revealed eventually, but I have to start with darkness to get to the light. So, yes, perhaps I must write a bit of horror. But since, during the course of the book, good prevails, I’m still hesitant to classify it as horror because it is only one aspect.

How do you categorize your books? What characteristics define each category? How is a book categorized when it combines and crosses lines among the various subgenres? Categorizing you book in the wrong genre may kill its chance for publication. Are you afraid of getting cut by an incorrect choice?

9 comments:

Ramona said...

Elaine, what about calling your book a "dark mystery" or a "traditional mystery with a dark center?"

No, wait, that last one sounds like a candy bar. Maybe someone else is better at this.

E. B. Davis said...

Will that fly with agents? I'm not sure anymore what the sub-genres are with all the genres crossing. There are a lot of mysteries with ghosts, but I'm not sure how to categorize the addition of demons. The first book will be fairly dark but by the end there will be humor in with the dark.

Polly said...

Ohh, touchy subject. I write in cross genres, and I don't know what the problem is with agents who think only of where to place it on the shelf. I've often wondered if that's just an excuse for rejecting a book. All my books are character-driven. One has paranormal elements because the MC is a child psychic who grows up to be an entertainer, a la Kreskin. They all fall into suspense, except the one I'm writing now, all have a romance, and none have a body on the first page. I'm screwed.

E. B. Davis said...

The very position I don't want to be in Polly. Another author suggested that I go with paranormal mystery and call it Toasting Fear. What do you'all think?

Betsy Bitner said...

Would it help to compare your work to authors an agent would know - like Stephen King meets Janet Evanovich (probably not an accurate description of your work, but I was trying to think of horror and humor) rather than trying to stick a subgenre label on it?

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, I could do that, but choosing the right agents is still a problem. Some just won't "do" horror and although there will be dark parts, as a whole, I think of it as a mystery with another dimension added. Some agents say they are helped by comparisons, other say don't do it because it's pompous comparing yourself to the "greats." I've done it before but am not really comfortable comparing myself-by contrast I might look horrible.

Ricky Bush said...

Great post. I went through the same scenario when asked to stick my novel, RIVER BOTTOM BLUES, into a slot. When someone asked me what I was writing, normally I'd just say, a mystery. You're right though, that was too broad a category for some agents/editors. To some, it wasn't a mystery in a strict sense. It definitely wasn't a cozy, nor a noir, nor hard boiled detective. In the end, I reckoned that it was a fictional crime story, so I stuck it with crime novel and stuck with that.

E. B. Davis said...

I'm glad you figured out how to classify your novel-especially since it will be published soon! Hopefully, by the time my last revision is made, I'll know what to call it, which agents to query and how to market it. Thanks Ricky-who I will be interviewing soon here.

Polly said...

I remember when I was looking for an agent, I sent a query to Janet Reid. I can't remember how I described my book, but she wrote back and asked why it wasn't crime fiction. I think some genre categories are fairly generic, like suspense or, yes, crime fiction. Even romance has subcategories. All are probably safe for that initial entre. I think your paranormal romantic mystery works, or just paranormal mystery. i doubt anyone would declassify that because there's a romance. Many books have romantic elements without calling them romance. And I take exception that all books with ghosts or demons are always horror, especially in film. Some are funny. Maybe they're not supposed to be, though. :-)