Using Genre

From Jane Friedman’s blog: How Important Is Genre When Pitching and Promoting Your Book?

Spoiler: very important.

I love working with books that are cross-genre or genre-bending, but crucially, every book still has a primary genre. Naming one primary genre tells me that you understand genre, that you’re a reader, and that you know where your book fits in the market. When I sell books that cross the boundaries between literary fiction and fantasy, for example, to literary fiction editors, I’ll call it a “work of literary fiction with speculative elements,” and to sci-fi & fantasy (SFF) editors I’ll call it “literary fantasy.”

Of course the bits bolded above caught my eye. The bolding is mine. The person quoted defines “literary” in “literary fantasy” as a quality describing the writing, by the way.

I never know how to talk about the Death’s Lady trilogy.

I usually say “literary fantasy” when I mention the first book. But the other two — still literary fantasy? Or epic fantasy? Or something else? If literary in this context means refers mainly to the quality of the writing, I guess I feel more comfortable calling the whole thing “literary fantasy.” In contrast, if “literary fantasy” were to indicate minimal fantasy elements, the first book fits, but the other two don’t.

I’m pretty pleased with Kuomat’s story at this point, by the way. It was a challenge to write in a couple of ways. It proved a good deal more difficult to write from the pov of a Talasayan person than an American, for reasons which are probably obvious — syntax and phrasing and also attitudes and just everything required a lot more conscious, deliberate focus all the way through. In contrast, writing from the pov of either Jenna and Daniel is much easier, even restful. That’s not why a subsequent novel would be written from their points of view, but it’s a significant benefit to doing it that way.

Here’s the cover for Kuomat’s story, by the way:

You can see which title I decided to go with. I kind of expect to go on with this series eventually, and at that time I expect I will have a chance to use some of those other titles. This one fits this story, flows from the previous sets of titles, and I like it.

It’s 75,000 words, by the way. I don’t know whether that quite makes it a full novel, but it’s about 12,000 words longer than The Year’s Midnight — even counting the Interlude. That’s why I went ahead and made it “Book 4” rather than listing it as associated content.

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6 thoughts on “Using Genre”

  1. I must admit, part of the reason I love the Death’s Lady trilogy so much is the syntax. Seriously. The formal language, the rhythm of it, the incorporation of their religious tenets- the king speaking to Emelan is especially moving , because of the formality of your prose. I do confess it!!

  2. Love the covers!

    As far as genre goes, I’ve never found marketing genres to be that useful in deciding what book I would like, other than generally veering toward the fantasy/sci fi shelves (but fantasy/sci fi subgenres are meaningless to me). The Writing Excuses “elemental genres” I find much more helpful: what is the reader experience I want to have? They talk about wonder, idea, adventure, horror, mystery, thriller, humor, relationship, drama, issue, and ensemble stories, and that’s more how I think about what I feel like reading. (And the whole season of podcasts goes into each in depth, if anyone is interested.)

  3. @ Alison,
    I second that. I really enjoy the syntax of the Death’s Lady trilogy, and the underlying history that’s so clearly different than ours is just delightful.

    I’m really looking forward to ‘Shines now, and Heretofore’.

  4. Ah, well. I’ve read a post-apocalyptic-America high-fantasy hard-boiled detective story.

    (Frozen Dreams by Moe Lane. Quite good.)

  5. I’m happy you like the syntax and history, Alison and EC — I was going for “You have left America” and of course I enjoy formal language. It’s interesting and fun for me because “formal” is so different for Mitereh versus, say, Aras, even though they both speak so formally most of the time. But the formal style of the Lau is a lot like ours and Talasayan formal style is different.

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