Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Genres - What’s Your Game?


I’ve been thinking a lot about genres the past few years, and the concept gets more complicated by the day. Now that self-publishing has really gained a foothold, a lot of the old rules simply don’t apply anymore. Crossover fiction is becoming much more accepted, so labeling your book for potential readers is increasingly challenging.

What’s your book genre? Romance? Thriller? Romantic Thriller? Mystery? Romantic Mystery? Noir Romance? Cozy Mystery with Innocent Romance? Ack!

And what about age groups? Young Adult (YA) has a new sub-category called New Adult (NA) for a slightly older reader from 18-25. Why? Because the romance was too steamy, but not yet jaded like for older adults? Could be.

A search at Wikipedia for more information leads to an exhaustive list of possible fiction genres.

Excuse me while my head explodes.


Is it any wonder I keep flip-flopping while writing my current romantic mystery novel that sometimes becomes an erotic thriller? What do you do when your characters don’t behave as they should? Switch genres?

To that end, I’m paying close attention to how other authors bill their books. For light entertainment, I’m a sucker for cowboy or musician bad-boy billionaire romance novels, and I say “romance” rather than “erotica” because the hero has to be a really good guy under that wicked public persona. I also want to see the happily-ever-after (HEA) without too much interference from old and perfect girlfriends or mothers or other control freaks trying to mess things up for the heroine. Is there a specific sub-genre for that kind of story? Upbeat Bad-Boy Romantica with Happy Ending? Yikes.

Join us this month as we discuss book genres in depth. Do you have any questions about the topic? What’s your book genre? Leave us a comment and we’ll chat about it.

Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter

15 comments :

  1. It’s not always about sex. Sometimes it might be graphic violence that is too R-rated for YA. But mostly the NA label is just related to the age of the protagonist (18-30) and reflects the age-related issues the characters are dealing with, e.g., going to college, landing and starting her first job, building a career from the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, moving out of her parents’ house, getting her first apartment... any of that could form the background situation to any genre: a romance like Bridget Jones; a thriller – corporate espionage, medical/pharmaceutical conspiracy; drama; comedy, etc. There was clearly a demand for books that featured protagonists in this age range and dealing with these “firsts” – just as YA sometimes deals with school, bullying, first crush, first love. YA readers probably wouldn’t really yet be into stories about someone so much “older” that they have a job, while readers who are 30+ might have a been-there-done-that eye-roll response to the angst of the first job interview, for example. But, as with all things, readers choose what they want to read: some older readers will pick up YA books because they enjoy the experience of feeling like a virtual teenager again. My theory is that the Harry Potter books, and the influx of YA that followed, bred a generation of readers who are now 18+ and demanding NA books.

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    1. Where do you get your numbers, Elle. 30? I see 25 everywhere I read about NA.

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    2. New Adult (NA) fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18–25 age bracket. St. Martin's Press first coined the term in 2009, when they held a special call for "...fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an 'older YA' or 'new adult'."
      New-adult fiction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New-adult_fictionWikipedia

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    3. Right there in the very same Wikipedia entry you're quoting, but the point that has an actual citation ;-)

      "This category is intended to be marketed to post-adolescents and young-adults ages 18 to 30. This age group is considered to be the lucrative "cross-over" category of young-adult titles that appeal to both the young-adult market and to an adult audience." Beckett, Sandra L. (2008). Crossover Fiction: Global and Historical Perspectives. pp. 111, 119–126.

      And here's an interesting Guardian discussion that really highlights the issues with lumping everyone into an age-range regardless of tastes, personal experiences, and reading ability.

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  2. I remember having a discussion about music genres with my musician dad ... in his mind there were only two kinds of music: good and bad. I kinda feel that way about books. Happy 4th, folks ... see ya next week.

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  3. Elle, that is a good explanation of the trending label of "new adult" fiction. I still believe that even in this mish-mash era that the central core of a story matters. If I sit down to a mystery but it is mostly romance, I don't read that author again. I'm not against romance, it just isn't my thing. Same thing with graphic sex, gore, endless battle scenes, torture, rape, etc. I do want to know what kind of story I am being offered so I can choose wisely. It all comes down to the promise you make to the reader. Warning labels for books, like movie ratings, aren't a bad idea for books. Most negative reviews, aside from blatant trolls, are from readers who have been burned by false promises.

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    1. I agree about the warning labels, Diana. Years ago, I edited and published a book that contained more violence than I am comfortable with. However, the fiction story, which was based on actual events, needed to be out there because it depicted so accurately how childhood abuse can create a very dysfunctional adult who can be both dangerous to others and destructive to self. Therefore, I included a "rating" in the front matter, advising readers that some material in the book might be inappropriate for youngsters and sensitive adults. I think such warnings should be the norm rather than the exception.

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  4. My publisher has helped me settle on what genre my books are, space opera romances, but there are a lot of different categories out there. I like suspense or thriller with romance thrown it.
    Susan Says

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  5. I always suggest that a writer who can’t guess their genre go to a site like RTBookclub which covers most of the popular genre and subgenre and read reviews until they find writers telling the kind of stories they are and note the genre. They should then read those books, find others by means of reviews, and features like Amazon’s book suggestion to find more, then read them. Read as widely as possible.

    If the book you want to write is cross-genre, then you should be well-read in BOTH genres because you have two sets of fans to please.

    The same advice is true if you want to write for a specific publisher. Read what they have to offer so you get a sense of what they want.

    If you write cross-genre, then one of those genres will be the engine that drives the plot. Figure that out, and it will be easier to classify your novel. For more info on this process, read this article.

    http://mbyerly.blogspot.com/2012/06/classifying-cross-genre.html

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    1. Good advice - but it still gets ever more confusing. I pitched my first book in 1970 and life seemed a whole lot less complicated with fewer choices.

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  6. I find that I'm all the more interested in a book if it defies genre classification. That tells me the author has done something unique, and if the writing is good then unique is what it's all about for me. That's the fun of storytelling, isn't it, the possibility of surprise?

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    1. Yep. I wish more readers were like you. My novels don't follow any specific genre guidelines/requirements because I focus on story rather than requirements in my quest for a realistic tale that appeals to readers of different ages and genres. However, this doesn't exactly fit into the "system."

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    2. Most writers focus on the story first - it's the ones who want to be as good at promoting who then tackle the genre issue with intelligence and maybe even some enthusiasm. Part of the success story IS knowing how to work the system, and it's especially important for self-published authors who don't have a house to make those decisions for them.

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  7. My agent says my Mad Max series is women's fiction. My reviewers call it genre-bending. My publisher says it's mystery Do I care? Not really. In a way, the confusion works well for me.
    Readers find the books and leave comments or reviews. Guess genre-bending may be the way to go.

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  8. I was told to classify my books as crime fiction. That incorporates mystery, suspense, and thriller. But I also have romance in my books. I usually say suspense with a hint of romance, but my books are not romantic suspense. Are you thoroughly confused? Also, I have a disclaimer that says my books contain adult language and situations, but I still get a review or two that complains about "those words." Can't please everyone. I've even had someone complain about the sex in one of my erotic romances written under another name. Now really.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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