by J. I. Kendall
It’s a problem, don’t you think? When you’ve written your story and you know it’s a keeper, and the publisher, or the agent, or the indie bookseller asks, “What’s your genre?” And you have to scratch your head before you’re forced to answer, “Well...it’s sort of a crossover.”
No one wants to hear that.
They want to know there’s a snug little nook for your story in one of the classic categories: mystery, romance, historical fiction...whatever. An obvious slot for it on a bookshelf, in a magazine, or in an anthology. And most of the time, let’s face it, there isn’t.
You may have written a semi-true account of a semi-romantic character who has to deal with some sort of “issue” that might involve a murder. And this character most certainly has some sexual or at least kissy-face type involvement with someone. How do you categorize your work? And why would you want to? Don’t you want readers of general fiction to find it and read it?
I’ve thought this way, having created a new genre that’s a hybrid of existing ones. But it’s a problem, my problem.
say they don’t know how to market literary works muddied by blurry genres, and publishers say they don’t know how to sell them. These are valid objections, showstoppers really. Publishing is a business after all, and the products that writers produce have to compete in the marketplace. So even though we might want to think of our work as art, it gets treated more like a commodity in the marketplace. Like coffee, for example. Your mug can contain a cappuccino, a latte, or an espresso, but coffee beans are still the “sellable type” that is the common ingredient. Stories need to have a sellable type that is familiar, known and loved, by readers of that type.
Remember that anyone who publishes your work probably has more at stake than you do, financially at least. So pick a genre, declare it, and write to it. You can still include the semi-romantic character in the semi-true account. But don’t get carried away by your own confusion. If you know you’re writing a mystery, you must follow the mystery “formula”. Same for a romance. Write to the formula. There’s a lot of freedom in writing to a formula. Your readers will know where you’re headed and will go along with you willingly, and eagerly if your story is compelling.
If you stick to the formula, your readers will stick with your story.
And the people who you partner with in getting your story to the market, will understand the product, know how to sell it, and give those longed-for readers the chance to discover your work.
J.I. Kendall worked for many years in the IT industry. She has combined her experience as a professional writer and human resources manager, to write Outsourced, and Make Believe, the first 2 books in The Greater-Than-Riches mystery series. You can read excerpts at http://greater-than-riches-mysteries.blogspot.com/