Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Whole "Genre" Issue

How to Sell Your Book: Tip #1—Determine the genre.

Duh, I remember thinking back when I was writing AURELIA, it’s a young adult fantasy. On to tip #2.

Why did I think it was so obvious that Aurelia was a fantasy? Because in my head I categorize it with the following novels I love: Alanna, the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn, and Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. Strong heroine. Check. Palace/royal setting. Check. Fantasy world. Check.

I always thought of Aurelia as a fantasy. Had absolutely no doubt.

Until later when researching query letters online, I stumbled into a list of fantasy subgenres and realized that not one of the fifteen descriptions failed to include magic.

There is no magic in Aurelia.

“Why not?” you ask.

That is a whole other blog post.

So . . . concerned by this long list of fantasy subgenres that didn’t include my book, I e-mailed someone on the SCBWI discussion page and asked, “Can’t you have a fantasy without magic?” I explained the whole princess-in-a-fantasy-world thing.

“Yes,” was the reply. “A fairytale fantasy.”

Problem-solved, I thought. Moving on. And forgot about the issue.

Until the book came out. And I read—in the reviews, newspaper articles, and various synopsis—that Aurelia was a “mystery,” a “teen romance,” and “historical fiction.”

This past week, an interviewer asked me if my books are “cross-genre.” I’d never heard of that term before. (I know, you probably have, but clearly my master’s degree in education; master’s focus in ESL, ed, and Spanish; bachelor of arts degree; major in elementary ed; minor in Spanish; second teaching fields in Spanish and English; and multitude of haphazard post-graduate coursework have left me uneducated). To me, everything is a mix of genres. There are mysteries to be solved in fantasies, levels of suspense in horror novels, romance within contemporary fiction. It’s just a matter of degrees. Isn’t it?

Perhaps not.

I’ve also heard that some ideas are “too genre.”

And here, I assumed everything was a genre.

So . . . LOL. I think it’s very clear that I don’t know what a “genre” is.

Aurelia: Yes you do.

Me: Oh, do I?

Aurelia: My story is a fantasy.

Me: Well, I’m glad you’re certain. And does that go for Exile as well as Aurelia?

Aurelia: Of course.

Me: And what genre are people going to call Exile?

Aurelia: Um . . . a teen adventure historical romance?

Me: LOL! We’ll see.


  1. Sheesh. Nothing can be simple anymore, can it? Well, whatever you classify Aurelia as, it's still fantastic!

  2. Hahaha I made the same mistake with my first book! I was like fiction, later was told YA sci-fi and a couple of other things it really has your mind spinning

  3. The story I'm working could be classified as a family-drama/comedy/romance, but honestly, it's such a mix between the three that I can't keep it all together. I hate just saying it's a "romance," because obviously that's not ALL it is. There are layers and levels to everything. For instance, your own "Academy 7." You can't just call it a "sci-fi romance," because there's really more of a focus on academia, government and family relations. The romance only comes into it near the very end (even though it's hinted at continuosly without).
    So it all depends on what the author intends...and what the audience reads!