Posts Tagged genre categories

Sparring with a Literary Agent

In a recent conversation with a literary agent, we discussed how books are classified shelved categorized pigeon-holed identified. Genres puzzle me. How does anybody figure out where a book goes, especially when most cross over “the lines”?

Music offers a similar problem. The demise of music stores pleased me. Don’t hate. I find it a huge relief to search for a song on some internet database rather than shuffling through bins of vinyl (gack!) or stacks of CDs in the hopes of striking paydirt. Especially since I never know the name of the song or the artist. Usually the only thing I can remember are a few inaccurate lyrics. 

So I demanded to know politely asked for an explanation of why novels once listed as mysteries are now touted as romantic suspense. Books which once-upon-a-time could be found on the horror shelf are now stashed in with thrillers, general fiction, and whatnot. What gives, Agent Lady?

You brilliant people probably already know the answer.

I badgered the topic back and forth with Stilletto Woman until conversational sallies whipped through the air like a birdie in a badminton match (raise your hand if you know what that means). We concluded…not much.

Basically it boiled down to books go wherever-makes-the-novel-more-appealing-to-the-buyer.

The tricky part of this now, is the challenge of finding books that are characterized in ways I might not think to load in the browser.

In the old timey pursuit of new reading material, inside a brick-and-mortar storefront, I could meander aisles, grope through the stacks, and poke at interesting spines.

Today I buy most of my books in digital format or over the internet. I like the convenience. Searching out obscure texts is easier than ever – but finding fun reads is a bit more complicated.

A few months back I was surprised to learn the “dark” leanings in some of my writing is perceived as horror. Huh, interesting. I never thought of myself as a horror writer, but, okay. I’m not alarmed by that nugget of identity. Me and Poe, we’re good with being misunderstood.

What does frustrate me is the idea of consistency.  Whether it’s a publishing house, an agency, a book distributor, an online archive, a listing on a website…how do you make sure your work is where you want it to land? Some folks even adhere to the idea that if you write in one genre, you’re typecast. Sorry, you can’t write that western slasher romance because up till now you’ve only written apocalyptic how-to guides for surviving lemming attacks.

Too bad. So sad.

Reading L'Illustre by Edouard Manet, 1879.

That sorta sucks if you want to try something new…and I’m pretty certain most of us will, at one time or another, feel the urge to kick over some new words and pounce on a unique idea. Beware the attitude of once a sci-fi writer, always a…that’s just nonsense. Ludicrous.

Art, people, lifestyles, popular culture, technology…it all changes. You either roll along with the tides or you atrophy on the seashore, stuck in a clump of seaweed. Nobody wants that! Small children will scamper past and tell each other you stink. Not good.

Voice is what makes a writer unique and I think that carries across genres and styles. There are plenty of people writing in multiple areas of interest, I insisted. The agent harrumphed and a lively discussion ensued (which is code for: we argued some more).

Opinions flew. It passed the time. Words like branding and platform got tossed around a lot. I slung them a time or two myself, and half the fun of disagreeing is flinging out all the current buzzwords. The people sitting around us were either amused or fled to the other side of the waiting area. By the time we boarded our respective flights, we pretty much agreed that whichever route a writer takes, publishing is a demanding business.

Many authors talk about making money. I’m all for that. Compensation is good but income is not the only motivation for writers. Heaven knows, there are easier and faster ways to make a living (…let us count the ways). In fact, most of the writers with whom I’ve interacted, are happy to collect a few bucks but it’s the desire to share our love of words that stabs at the collective heart.

The manipulation of language is lovely, but even more than that…stories matter.

What do you desire from the publication journey? What drives your motivation to spew the words out? Is there a story in your head that simply must be told?