Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Don't Stress Over Genre Classification

Recently, I had a discussion with a few writers about how to classify a particular manuscript. Was it a romantic suspense, suspense with romantic elements, or romance with some suspense? This is tricky because romantic suspense is a genre with a wide variety of stories. There are those that begin with a killing; some that start light and fluffy, but are interrupted with some sort of suspense; others that show a little humor mixed in with the suspense; and the list goes on. This particular classification really depends on the publisher. I’ve read romantic suspense novels that were at least 60% romance and 40% suspense (or less), but they were still considered r/s in the publisher’s mind. Sometimes, the scale is tipped even further. Certain publishers call a book a romantic suspense, when their competition has similar books out as romance with elements of suspense.

Considering all this, the author of the story was stressed. She didn’t know under what genre she should place her novel. After reading agent Jessica Faust’s post today, I think we can all rest a little easier. She says it doesn’t matter so much under which genre you put your story because that’s not what’s going to get it accepted or rejected. Agents simply like to know what your vision is for the book. If you said your story was a cozy mystery, but the agent felt it was better classified as a general mystery, she’d just re-categorize it. So, relax. Write the story, call it what you believe it to be, and let the experts go from there.

Have you been stressing over the classification of your book? What do you use as a guide when choosing the right genre for your manuscript?

12 comments:

  1. I stressed out about genre initially. I have a story that seems to fit under both paranormal romance and urban fantasy. I think the split is like 70 UR / 30 PR. I didn't know what to call it. I eventually went with the higher number and labled it Urban Fantasy. If an agent or editor thinks different, no problem. I'm not a stickler. LoL

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  2. Great post, Lynnette! I like your clarity here.

    I've learned, too, that writing comes first, and thoughts over genre come later. One might not know what they have until it's done! And I like trusting that an agent would point us in the right direction.

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  3. I don't know if I stress over it, since I don't have a finished product yet anyway. I have thought about it though and wondered how to classify things. Like most things however, I just figure it will work itself out in the end.

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  4. I've stressed (still do sometimes, quietly when I'm alone). I have a stupid fear that if I classify my novel as Horror in any way, I'll never escape the genre. I don't write much horror in general, so it's a little scary.

    I've decided to called it science fiction/horror, so I have an escape route when my next manuscript doesn't have the undead in it.

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  5. Thanks for the info. One less thing to stress about!

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  6. I used to, because mine would be literary horror and there "aint" no genre like that! (anymore... ah poe..."

    BUT I simply never addressed it in my query process and no agent seemed confused. AND I have had great success with the query process which leads me to beleive that it is not as important as the interweb makes it seem.

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  7. My biggest problem right now is figuring out which age group I'm writing toward. I thought I had it figured out and had read STACKS of Y.A. fiction, only to have an agent say my children's writing isn't as sophisticated as the teen market today and it's more middle grade. Of course, that's one agent, but I'd been reading cheerier teen fiction and I'm hearing most of the Y.A. audience prefers angst-filled "issue" type books. That's not me. I'm more Meg Cabot. If I did tackle the issue of cancer or pregnancy, I'd still be stepping around, trying not to warp too many teen minds!

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  8. Omg yes. Genres are so hard for my current WIP I query due to the fact it deals with a woman, romance, and quite a lot of SF that can also be considered paranormal! Ah! LOL!

    This post, and Jessica's made me feel much better. I agree, agents probably know what's best for your novel because they see so many of them. Great post!

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  9. My stress is over whether my current WIP is YA or not. I'm thinking it would appeal to a 16 to 30 year-old age group. Maybe higher. Does that make it a young adult with cross-over potential? How do you query that? I've read many times, that I have to pick either YA or Adult and stick with it when querring, b/c publishers don't market "cross-overs." I'm going to evaluate it once I'm actually done and a few people have read it. Right now, I think the voice leans toward YA. Hmmm.

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  10. hey, Lynnette. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment above over on my blog. The age of my MC (which actually is 18) is the biggest factor leaning me toward the YA market.

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  11. I used to worry about genre classification... but I find these days I write to the genre itself, tailoring the outline to make sure I stay within the confines of the genre. Then again, I have plenty of other ideas rattling around in my brain that could be classified one way or the other, and as for my WIPs? It won't be me who makes the final call on that anyway, so... I will try to put it out of my mind once and for all... :)

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