PICKING A GENRE IS NO EASY TASK
January 31, 2024 | Author Friend Promo
from Anne Montgomery
The moment I mention the impending arrival of a new book, prospective readers ask, “What’s the genre?”
“Well, um…it’s hard to say,” I respond, staring at my shoes, wondering why such a simple question has no equally simple answer.
I have a tendency to write stories without giving thought to where they might fit in literary culture. So far, my titles have been variously listed as soft-thriller, contemporary fiction, romantic suspense, historical fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult fiction. So you can see why labeling my work tends to make my head spin.
Still, identifying a genre for your novel is important.
A Light in the Desert is a suspense novel.
“We use genre as a way to identify the category of a book. Where it should be sold in a store. Or who its competition will be,” long-time literary agent Steve Laub wrote in his blog article Does Genre Matter? “The best way to describe it is to say that publishers and booksellers sell books out of boxes. The boxes are labeled “Romance” “Thriller” “Mystery” etc. Before we resist that exercise I would claim that we consumers buy books out of those boxes. It is quite possible that the boxes were created by us (the consumers).”
Wild Horses on the Salt has been called women’s fiction and suspense with a touch of romance.
There is some dispute about which English book should be called the first novel. Some believe Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote of La Mancha, published in 1605, deserves the honor. Others opine that Daniel Defoe’s 1719 Robinson Crusoe should get the nod. Either way, neither author had to think too hard about genre.
“In 1719, when “Robinson Crusoe” appeared, many people considered “the novel,” in itself, to be a genre,” said Joshua Rothman in his The New Yorker article titled A Better Way to Think About The Genre Debate. “The novel was a new thing—a long, fictitious, drama-filled work of prose—and its competitors were other prose genres: histories, biographies, political tracts, sermons, testimonies about travel to far-off lands. What set the novel apart from those other prose genres was its ostentatious fictitiousness.”
Clearly, modern-day authors can find labeling their work infinitely more complicated than those early novelists. Look at today’s overwhelming number of possible fiction genres. The Book Industry Study Group’s list of fiction topics includes approximately 140 genres, all of which can be combined in what seems like a never-ending number of possibilities.
The Scent of Rain was marketed as young-adult fiction.
I’ll admit, sometimes I’m jealous of my romance-writer friends, their covers bursting with muscled torsos and over-flowing bodices that leave not a hint of confusion about what type of story resides inside. Still, as difficult as pinning down that perfect genre might be, there’s no way around it, especially if you want to contact agents, or publishers, or editors, or reviewers, because those folks are pretty specific about the types of book they’re interested in. If you want to be considered an amateur in the publishing world, go ahead and send a query about your sci-fi, apocalyptic, young adult romance to someone who has made clear their genre of choice is Regency historical fiction. (And you were wondering why you hadn’t heard back.)
While some authors may be tempted to leave the genre decision to others, remember you wrote the book. You know the story and the characters better than anyone. Ultimately, you should choose. An article on the blog Rock Your Writing called How To Figure Out Your Book’s Genre suggests you consider, “who is the mostly likely to seek out this particular type of book, buy this type of book, and enjoy this type of book.”
While the decision on genre is yours, it’s the reader we authors need to consider, because, as Laub pointed out, if our “baby” is in the wrong box, maybe those readers won’t find it.
The Castle is contemporary women’s fiction/suspense
Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.
Maggie, a National Park Ranger, is back at the Castle – an ancient Native American pueblo carved into the face of a limestone cliff in Arizona. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt. As part of her therapy Maggie volunteers at the local rape crisis clinic.
Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, always greets her with a warm smile and fills pink boxes with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver, is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses a deep spring filled with strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Then there’s Dave, with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.
One of these men is a serial rapist, and Maggie is his next target.
This is my latest release. It’s Native American Literature and U.S. Historical Fiction. Picking a genre definitely is not easy.
In 1939, archaeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate beadwork, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine-hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archaeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.
When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.