I am trapped in the Twilight Zone of genre definitions.
My MS is a romance novel set in the late Regency Period which coincided with the early California Gold Rush Period. Since it was set in a certain period of history, I thought it was a historical romance. I ran the Synopsis through the Crapometer where it was posted as #97. I have been querying agents about the work.
One agent replied that I could send him my first 100 or so pages and he would review them. He was honest in his request, saying that he wasn't taking on new historicals just now, so mine would have to floor him for him to consider it. He wrote back that he really liked the story, but his historical list was full. Essentially, the MS didn't knock him off his feet. Just this weekend, I did equeries to some other agents who specified that they were looking for historicals. Two of them replied that my MS was not a historical because it has a male protagonist and that makes it a mainstream love story and not a historical and they are not looking for mainstream.
My MS has a strong female love who ultimately proves wiser than the male, at least in matters of the heart, which is sort of my view of the universe. However, I can't deny that the male figure is central to the story, and it is essentially his conflicts that are at the heart of the
obstacles and resolution.
What exactly is a historical romance verses a mainstream love story? Frankly, I thought the historical market generally was shrinking, and a mainstream love story might have a wider market base, which would be a good thing. But I find this whole thing to be a lot like the Twilight Zone. The same MS has been rejected by one agent because it is a historical and he's not taking on more historicals and then rejected by two others because it isn't a historical and they want historicals. The whole situation has me feeling like my law school roommate's hamster who spent a lot of time running around his little wheel and never getting anywhere.
I emptied the gin pail but that just left me frustrated and hungover, so I've come to the great one for help. (more gin is the cure for a hangover...that's why you buy pails not paltry little bottles)
Thanks in advance,
Unlike Popeye ("I yam what I yam") genre isn't genre. I can't tell you the number of times I've called something "a western" or "chick lit" when I really think it's something else, but hey, if I can make a persuasive case that it IS, who's to say it's not.
Categories can be fluid, but the trick is to remember to focus your query or cover letter to emphasize the parts that reinforce the genre you're pitching. In a western I emphasize the setting is (duhh) The West; that the heroine runs a ranch; that she's beset by evil lien holders. All are standard tropes of The Western.
I can also pitch this as chick lit, romance, and on days I need to really run on the hamster wheel: science fiction (ok, just kidding about that).
If one agent is looking for historicals, you pitch that. If his historical list is really full, you pitch to the side that isn't.
What you don't say is "this is a historical with elements of ..and then a long list". Pick ONE thing for each query, and assemble your case that this book fits that category for that query letter.
Genre bending is something I see a lot of now, particularly in mystery. Charlie Huston's dead detective makes him a vampire, but honest to dog, it's a mystery not a horror novel even though there are zombies.
This is very similar to wearing a Chanel suit to a negotiation. You're the same person you were in your bunny slippers but people are prepared to take you tad more seriously cause of how you present yourself.