A Snarkling is getting her knickers in a twist...and not in a good way:
Dearest Miss Snark, I've heard very different opinions about the importance of categorizing my book. I believe it's accessible and intelligent, but it doesn't fit into a category like thriller or mystery. My instinct is to call it a "literary novel," but some of my colleagues here at work think that is too vague or limiting from a sales stand point (we're in sales/marketing). They suggest I call it commercial fiction or compare it to other books (as in "a literary novel in the vein of...") to make it an easier sell. I'm wary of doing either. I understand and often depend on the usefulness of a good sales hook, but when I put on my novelist cap, I have a hard time reducing two years of labor to a "[bestselling author] meets [critically acclaimed author]" formula. If the rest of my one-page query letter describes the ideas and action of the book and why the reader should give a hoot, and if my five page sample shows off the style and voice, do I need tell the agent I'm querying about anything other than a literary novel? Thanks
First dearest Snarkling, and every Snarkling in the entire world, you will never ever, and I mean not ever EVER use the phrase "literary novel". You will find Miss Snark swooping down upon you, talons ablaze, fresh from the speakeasy, wielding her gin pail like a lacrosse stick. Stronger men and WOMEN than you have wept at that sight.
You may use ONE of the following phrases: literary fiction. Novel. Fiction. Mainstream fiction. Crime novel. Novel of crime. You may not ever say : fictional novel, or literary novel. Ever.
Now, what are you? Don't worry. Pick the best fit. Mainstream fiction is fine. We'll figure out where you belong if your writing is strong. Your job is to write. Ours is to pigeon hole you correctly.
Now, repeat after me: Novel. Fiction. Mainstream fiction.
Comparisons work if you're accurate. You may want to say "readers who like Genghis Khan's Memoir of a Silk Road Chow Hound and Nancy Drew's Roadster Moll will like this book." People who tell me they write like Dan Brown set themselves up to fail cause I don't like his writing. "People who were fascinated by The DaVinci Code" is a less negative comparison.
No, repeat after me: Novel. Fiction. Mainstream fiction.