Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Genres and Where Should Your Book Live?

I thought I’d talk a little about genres. They can be so confusing, yeah? Yeah.

One of the biggest things writers have to know when they are submitting their work to agents and publishers is what genre their book is. It seems like this should be pretty obvious to most people, I mean, you wrote your book, you should know this, right? Eh, maybe.

Here’s how it can get confusing.

One big example is Dystopian vs. Post-Apocalyptic. A lot of the time these two terms are thrown around as interchangeable and they really are not.

Dystopian, as you can imagine, comes from the concept of Utopian. The big thing about Dystopian books is that the characters in the book don’t actually realize they are living in a Dystopian society, they’re supposed to believe they’re in a Utopian society and then come to realize, as the story goes, that things aren’t so awesome.

The Hunger Games is a Dystopian story. The farther away you live from the Capital, the more obvious your life isn’t awesome, but supposedly life is better than it was before.

Post-apocalyptic means the world has ended and you know, and the characters know, life is officially crap and you’re just trying to survive until you can make things better. There is no fooling anyone when it comes to Post-apocalyptic like there is in Dystopian.

I recently read The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. That is Post-apocalyptic. The aliens have invaded and they are systematically wiping out the human population (that is not a spoiler by the way; you know that by page one). You’re running around, just trying to survive and find other survivors and not get vaporized by the creepy alien dudes. No fooling anyone there.

Another confusion set of genres is Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy.

I write in Urban Fantasy, almost exclusively. Urban Fantasy (UF) is set in a real world, modern city setting. Paranormal Romance (PR) can be set in the exact same space. UF has magic. So does PR. What’s the big difference? Whether or not the story hinges on the romantic plot of two characters.

In PR the whole story, no matter what is going on, depends on the developing romantic relationship in the story. In UF there can be a romantic subplot going through the story, but the main conflict of the story does not depend on the romantic subplot. See why my Elemental series wasn’t a Paranormal Romance? In the beginning Shay and Jensen are coming together and apart all the damn time but the big conflict had nothing to do with them hooking up. The big conflict was Shay and her friends rescuing someone before the big bad villain killed them.

So if you’re trying to decide what genre your book is, take a moment and think, “Where would a bookstore shelve my book?” Then decide what the subgenre is. And don’t think your book doesn’t fit into a specific genre. I often hear writers say, “Well, my book could be this or that or A or B…” No. It fits in one place and then you can say what its subgenre is.

For example, a Paranormal Romance is first a Fantasy because it has fantastical elements, like magic. So your book, The Magical Ride of the Phoenix is Fantasy: Paranormal Romance. And of course the age group is important.

So, speaking of Age Groups! There’s a lot of hoopla going around the internets lately about a newly emerging age group: New Adult. A lot of people are against letting this become a thing. Personally, I am not. I think there is a strong market for New Adult, just not a lot of people know about it yet.

The basic age groups go like this: Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult.  

Picture books are obviously for kids who can’t read yet. Then Chapter Books are for kids who can read up until about age 10 or so (give or take depending on the kid). Then Middle Grade is for kids ages 10-12 and then Young Adult is intended for Teens, so 13-18. Obviously we all accept that when someone is 18-years-old they are officially an adult, right? So anything that has characters older than 18 means that book is an Adult book. Sure, sure, but do you remember being 18 or 19 years old? Are you in your late 20’s now? How about 30’s or 40’s? Have your experiences with life drastically changed over the years?

Would you say your life from ages 18-21 were ANYTHING like your life from age 28-35? Probably not, right? I started college when I was 17 years old and graduated at 21 years old. I was engaged to be married at 22 ½ and married at 24. Not a huge length of time between 17 and 24, right? But you can just imagine how different my life was while in college than what is was like by the time I was engaged and planning a wedding.

So I think there is a place in the book world for “New Adult.” People are making jokes that if we allow New Adult that soon we’ll have Middle Aged and Senior Citizen, blah blah blah. I get that argument, but I think it’s farfetched personally, but you could disagree.

But back to classifying your work. So, when I was deciding what Earth: Book One in the Elemental Series was it came down to this: Young Adult Urban Fantasy.

So do your research and don’t make it so hard on yourself. Your book has a home somewhere, not somewheres.


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