Pretend I’m an agent/publisher. You want to sell your novel. We’re in an elevator together during your favorite writer’s conference. You’re giving me your 1-minute pitch, and it’s going well. I’m nodding and smiling, not looking at my watch. Then I ask: “What Genre is your novel?”
So quick, tell me. Which genre?
Tell me now. Talk to your computer screen. Pretend I can hear you. Do it. Do it now.
Did you say something like “Well, it’s a Sci-Fi Thriller with a Romance, so kind of three genres?”
(It’s okay, you can admit it. I’ve done it too.)
But no. Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that. Even if it’s true, don’t say that.
Kimberly Richardson, an author and an editor with Kerlak Publishing, has heard this at conferences and conventions more times than she’d like to recall. During a workshop with author Alan D. Lewis about Agent/Publisher Pitches at the Nashville Writer’s Meetup, Richardson revealed that being unable to decide on the genre of your book shows a certain amateurism, and a lack of understanding of the industry. In a time when money is tight and competition fierce, agents and publishers are hesitant to take on an author who isn’t informed about the publishing process. That author is seen as a liability.
Of course your book includes a little bit from several different genres; most good books do. You shouldn’t cut down on the intergenrenality (is that a word? I’m making it a word) of your work. The best books borrow devices from several genres. Look at the Harry Potter books – they are YA fantasy, but also have the makings of a good thriller, romance, and even horror. That is how it should be.
But if an agent or publisher asks: “Which genre is your book?” You should have an answer. AN answer. One.
But how do you know which one?
It’s easier than you think – the one the agent/publisher you are speaking with represents/publishes.
Obviously lying will get you nowhere, but if your book is genuinely a “sci-fi thriller with a romance,” then you have the opportunity to cast a wide net. When you approach agents who represent sci-fi, then that is the genre of your book. When you approach a publisher who really only puts out romance novels, then pitch your book as you would a romance novel. And so forth. So approach the right people. Look for agents/publishers who represent and publish sci-fi with thriller or romance subplots. Or for agents/publishers who are looking for thrillers in a sci-fi setting or with a romance subplot. Or for romance publishers who like to branch out into romance on other worlds or romance in the midst of a situation resembling a thriller.
If you are fortunate enough to have written a book that spans three genres of which you can take advantage, make your novel of three genres work for you, instead of letting it trip you up. Come up with three separate pitches, and know to whom you are pitching. It’s just one more thing that can separate you from the rest.