Okay, you’ve written your latest masterpiece. It’s finished. You’ve got your cover ready, the editor has done their work, the proofreading is finally over, you got a back cover blurb, dedication page, table of contents, etc. In short, your baby is ready too be published.
You’ve only got one thing left to do, make it available. So you go to Smashwords, Kindle, Lulu, whoever you use to publish your precious labor of love, and you start getting asked a bunch of questions. What’s the title? How many pages? The name of the author? Do you have a synopsis ready? A blurb? Then you reach “What genre is your work?” “What label do you want to put it under?”
Now, if you have an agent…
No not that kind, the other kind, the ones who represent books. Curse you Marvel!
Anyway, if have an “literary agent” you already know what genre you were working in, because one of the key elements in finding an agent is knowing what genres they represent. In turn, your agent would’ve shopped your work around to a publisher who specializes in that genre. So you should be okay. But what if your an Indie Author? Then this question can become more problematic for you. Not always mind you, but sometimes.
I for one am finding myself slowly falling into that latter category. Why, you ask? Simple, I’m one of those authors who crosses genres sometimes without even meaning to. My Para-Earth series covers mystery, horror, paranormal, and even science fiction, all in one book. But it doesn’t stop there! Oh no! I brought in a gay couple into my work and now I have another section of audience I might miss if I don’t label the book correctly. In fact, I’ve had to use a few different labels for “THE SHIP”, as compared to the ones I originally put “THE BRIDGE” under.
You see, I emphasized the gay aspect of the second book because of my main characters were a lesbian couple. Now they appeared in the first book and played a large role in it, however they were the second lead couple and the focus was not as fixed on them.
So even though both books are part of my Para-Earth Series, and the characters were recurring ones, the focus had shifted thanks to who was the lead couple this time.
But this is only the beginning, my friends. The more I’ve researched genres, the more I’ve found things have changed. What was once horror, may now be considered Fantasy, or Paranormal. Thrillers can be set in modern day or in the future (wouldn’t that be sci-fi?).
This is not a new issue folks. I’ve seen this going on for decades. HP Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, is a prime example for “What genre did he really fall under?” Many consider him the master of the macabre and automatically put him under Horror. Yet, a number of his creations like the Old Ones, or the Elder Things from “The Mountains of Madness” were beings from outer space. Outer space? Doesn’t that fall under Sci-Fi? I’ve found him in books stores under both Horror and Sci-Fi (a fair solution).
But what if you find yourself telling a love story, which is impacted by a huge mystery, that involves ghosts, psychics, and beings from an alternate reality? What do you call that? Horror? Mystery, Paranormal Mystery? Some people suggested a genre called “Dark Fantasy” which seems to combine these elements under one label. Great solution right? Wrong!
When you go to Smashwords, Kindle, Createspace, etc. you don’t see Dark Fantasy as one of your choices to answer the question “What genre is this book?” Instead you get: Horror, Gay/Lesbian, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, etc. You don’t get ‘blended’ options.’ Oh you get offered sub-genres which will let you add some of those, but the main genre you place your book under is the first label people will see when they do a search. And if that label doesn’t fall into their usual reading choices, you probably won’t even get them giving your book a ‘sampling’.
Determining the genre of your book is a huge thing. But there are other problems. Even within those “main” genres, there’s a lot of disagreement about what falls under them. Which is going to be the subject of my next blog entry, because I’m running out of room on this one. And the topic is a big one that a lot of writers struggle with and I want to give it equal and fair room for discussion.
In the meantime, if anyone would like to share their thoughts or experiences in dealing with how to define your book by genre, please leave some comments down below. As I’ve stated many times in the past, the purpose of this blog is so we can all learn from one another. As readers and writers, we’re all in the same boat, so pooled knowledge can be a powerful tool for us all.
Until next time, take care all and keep writing.