Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Genre

literary genre (Wikipedia) is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary techniquetonecontent, or even (as in the case of fiction) length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children's. They also must not be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book. The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups.


I write young adult, but I don't write with a specific sub-genre in mind. Defining the sub-genre of my last manuscript got a little tricky, probably because it could fit into more than one sub-genre depending on the way its presented. The toughest choice was between Paranormal and Urban Fantasy. Sure, there's a distinct difference between the two - paranormal is a romance sub-genre with fantastical elements and urban fantasy is a fantasy sub-genre primarily set in a city. BUT, my novel is also young adult, which means there is a healthy bit of romance thrown in there too (I know, not all YA novels have romance, but I'm pretty sure the majority do).


Romance with fantasy or fantasy with romance. It would be easy to decide if the romance element was the strongest aspect of the MS, or if the romance took a backseat to the fantastical. Unfortunately (for my sub-genre assignment task), romance and fantasy are given equal weight. So, I checked the genre for YA novels which I felt might be in the same category as my MS. The first books I looked up were Evermore by Alison Noel and Fallen by Lauren Kate and guess what? They are both categorized under paranormal AND urban fantasy. Is that allowed?


In the end, I'm not sure how important it is to get the sub-genre exactly right, especially if the MS doesn't fit perfectly into a single sub-genre box, but I wanted to emphasize the fantasy elements while querying so I went with Urban Fantasy.


What about you? Have you had trouble defining the genre or sub-genre for any of your works? How did you decide?

23 comments:

  1. Mine falls into sci-fi and urban fantasy, so I think of it as speculative. Or science fantasy.

    That image is AMAZING! Sooo pretty!

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  2. Oh yes, there's so much about genre these days. My first book was about two men so it got lumped with erotica even though there was no explicit sex at all in the book. It's actually a suspense. I asked a friend (who's not an author) the other day what genre she liked reading and she asked, "What's genre?" I wonder we need to worry too much about genre...

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    1. I wish I didn't have to worry about genre so much but the genre I choose does determine who I can query (some agents accept urban fantasy, but not paranormal for example).

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  3. Hello, A.K.! Genre and sub-genre can be so tricky. A group of ten people could have very different ideas about what constitutes which sub-genre. Genre doesn't really matter to me, and I think most books fall into multiple sub-genre categories anyway. There must be a simpler way to categorize genre... but what's the fun in that? LoL!

    Hope you have a great weekend and happy A to Z!!

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    1. So true! When you find the simpler way to categorize, let me know :D

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  4. As I understand it, genre matters more for marketing than it does anything else. First, booksellers want to know where to place the book on their bookshelves. They typically group books by genre, so knowing a book's genre helps them shelve it correctly. Second, most people shop by genre. It may not be very specific, but I daresay most of us do this even subconsciously. For example, I don't typically buy horror, or erotica, and I'm not usually drawn to books aimed for a primarily female audience. These are not hard and fast rules (except perhaps with erotica), but when I go to Barnes & Noble, there are shelves I'm drawn to and shelves I avoid.

    So determining genre is important for helping publishers and booksellers get your book into the hands of the people most likely to read it. I have read, however, that most agents expect you to make a reasonable attempt assign your book a genre, but if they decide your fantasy romance would be better categorized as urban fantasy, or romance, they will recommend the change. As long as they love the story, being slightly off on the genre does not always result in a form rejection.

    My WIP could be either sci-fi or historical. However, since the majority of the story is in a historical setting, I'm going with historical--even though the MC is an alien. :)

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    1. I agree - it's definitely about the branding and marketing. And I'm sure hoping for my very own agent one day who will tell me how best to label my MS :D

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  5. Genres always usually confuse me. I often just say that I write contemporary YA, but I'm sure I should also include a sub-genre. Great post!

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    1. I don't even know the sub-genres of contemporary! *shame*

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  6. Agh! I totally have the same problem! My book is like post-apocalyptic/dystopian/high fantasy but all "lite" as in a lot of it reads (I think) like urban fantasy with a dystopian twist. There's high-school drama, government cover-ups, people being erased, an underground resistance, an adventure journey beyond the walls of the city, and little gnomes that tumbled through a portal from another world and cause all sorts of problems in their attempts to help. Do you know what genre this sounds like? Cause I don't, and I've been thinking about it every day for the past six months!

    Argh! Why did I have to write something totally unmarketable!?

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    1. I doubt it's unmarketable ;) Sounds like urban fantasy to me - set in the future. But it's hard to be sure without reading it...need another Beta? :D

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    2. Ha! Actually next week I probably will!

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    3. It might take me a couple of weeks, but if you aren't in a terrible hurry, I'd love to read it! You can send it to me at kfotinoshoyer(at)gmail(dot)com if you decide you'd like my perspective :)

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  7. I agree with Colin. Genre only matters when it comes to marketing. As far as I'm concerned, when I'm writing, I write what I want to write. You raise a good point though, A.K. It can be difficult trying to decide. If you get it wrong you might miss half your market!

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    1. Exactly! It seems so unimportant, and yet...you might miss out on querying the perfect agent if you get it wrong.

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  8. Total confusion! New types pop up every day. I write a cross between paranormal, fantasy, si-fi, young adult, dystopian mixed in with romance. Try Putting a label on that!

    CarolynBrown-Books

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    1. Thanks for the follow :D And yes, your work sounds tough to label...what will you choose when it comes time to market it?

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  9. I haven't had this problem, but that's mostly because I write contemp and sci-fi (sometimes at the same time) but I can see how it would be difficult to label them at times. Gets so confusing. :D

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  10. Just came across your Blog from the AtoZ challenge. I read your posts so far, and I have to say, they look really good. Thanks for sharing.

    Von L
    The Growing Writer

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    1. Thank you, I'm so glad you've enjoyed them :D

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  11. I don't think a lot of people understand genre, especially when it comes to Paranormal/Urban Fantasy. Personally, I see Paranormal as involving mythological creatures, and Urban Fantasy any book that has a magic world hidden in it. Thus most current YA Paranormals are Urban Fantasy and viceversa, but not all.


    Aurora Celeste
    yasff.blogspot.com
    dramaticthreads.com

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