Category versus description
Regarding your 9/30 post on Nomenclature for Novels, could you please tell me how important it is for a writer to identify the category of the manuscript in a query letter? I ask because I'm receiving contradictory messages on whether or not to mention the category, but also on what the category of my manuscript is (e.g., chick lit vs. women's lit vs. hen lit vs. marriage lit, etc.)
Categories are how books are sorted out at the library, or at a bookstore.
Description is less formal, a shorthand way to convey content:
roman a clef
Lots of times there are certain descriptions that fall out favor: "I've seen enough chick lit, I never want to see another book of chick lit again" from an editor means that my novel is NOW categorized as something different. It's the same book but I'm not letting too many pepto bismal pink covers get in the way of making a sale.
In a cover letter I'd stick as close to category as possible. You can't call a memoir “science fiction” unless you’re born on Mars or beyond and you can't call a biography “fiction” so try to be accurate, but don't pigeonhole yourself.
Hen lit, marriage lit, lad lit, all are horrid names and I hate them.
I like "rip roaring, page turning, keep you glued to the couch, compelling fiction".
Feel free to cut and paste.