Dissing Dewey in the Stacks

Dear Miss Snark,

My novel combines elements of alternate history, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction.

My twenty eight year old black coworker thought that the book should be labeled as “African American” because four out of eight main characters are black.

My thirty five year old wife thought that if I removed the sex scene (not going to happen) it should be YA because the main character is sixteen.

My seventy five year old cousin thought it should be alternate history track because he enjoyed carefully researched parts about World War II the most.

My thirty two year old friend who only reads mystery thought it would do well as murder mystery.

As for me, I think it’s an urban fantasy because there is “magic” involved, even thought I attempted to make it plausible to the point that one of the people who read it claims that she was able to stop wrist pain following my book’s instructions

My fear is that by choosing one aspect of the book and labeling it urban or contemporary fantasy I will shut many doors.

I can see Miss Snark reading my query and saying, “Hmm
Fantasy? That’s an automatic no. Where is that pesky form letter? Oh, well, this tissue would do, I only used it once. Okay, maybe twice, but who’s counting?”

If you can see me reading this in a cover letter and saying "interesting" your optician is a miracle worker.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: when in doubt "commercial fiction" works very nicely.

I pay very very little attention when writers tell me their books should be lableled such and so. About 25% of the time they are flat out wrong. Another 25% of the time, they're half right but chose the wrong category.

Don't worry about this. Write compellingly and I'll read it.


whitemouse said...

Find out what categories the agent takes, and then put a spin on your query letter to make your book sound like one of those (provided that it arguably could be one of those; I'm not suggesting you lie).

This is an opportunity! You can query more agents than someone whose book is, for example, definitely a mystery.

Good luck with it; this sounds like an intriguing book.

Eliza said...

Yanno (stolen), I was about two days away from asking a similar question. Is it a thriller? Is it crime? Is it historical? Is it women's?

Commercial floats my boat better than a pigeonhole. Sweet.

desert snarkling said...

Anyone who thinks you need to remove the sex to make a novel YA doesn't know the YA genre.

bebe said...

Yes, YA books can have sex scenes.

See: the oral sex scene in Looking for Alaska. One of the most "graphic" sex scenes I've ever seen in a book for young readers as far as describing exactly what's happening. And yet...hilariously appropriate for the age group.