There's No "Pure Genius" Genre

| Friday, October 12, 2012
Today's Tune: True Romance

In case you didn't hear, recently someone else wrote yet another article about what a horrible tragedy it would be for their books to be labeled YA. Because YA is frivolous nonsense full of fluff and teenage girl hormones or something, I don't know.

Hardly the first author to balk at the idea of their book being classified as an oh-so-dreaded Genre Novel. Not that YA is a genre (it is not; it's a category), but many YA novels do fall into the genre classification. It seems like this is something a lot of people struggle with. They don't want their novel to be another disposable one-time read that vanishes into the ether. Who does? They want their novel to be THE NOVEL, the one that gets attention and royalties and fan followings. Something important and meaningful that's reprinted for years to come.

But this abhorrence of genre literature as though it is lesser, as though it's something on the bottom of your shoe, has got to stop. It's fine if it's not your intention to write genre literature. If you're a literary writer, then go for it. No bones to pick here. It's when an author writes something that could potentially work in a genre classification and then GETS OFFENDED when a publisher dares to suggest that their book might work there that it becomes silly.

I'll repeat something here that I posted on Twitter:

To expand: no one is going to make you your own Special Snowflake shelf. If a professional book marketer is telling you where they think your book is most likely to succeed, they maybe know what they're talking about. They're not trying to *water down your genius*. They're trying to sell your book. In order to do that, they have to try and figure out where it might be most successful. Even if you are publishing your novel yourself or through an indie publisher, this still applies. Your book has to go somewhere that readers looking for the sort of thing you wrote are most likely to find it.

I'm not saying this is a perfect science. Sometimes editors and publishers have suggestions for your work that go against the core of what you were trying to convey, and it's okay to say no. But it's equally important to hear them out and understand their reasons before you say no. If you're stamping your feet because you feel like your book needs to be in the *Very Important Works of Supreme Magnificence* section and they're telling you they want to put it in General Fiction, then get over it. If you intentionally wrote something for an older audience and they're trying to get you to age it down to fit in YA, then okay, say no thank you. But not because you think being in a certain section is going to diminish the quality of your work by association.

If you wrote a good novel, then that novel will be good regardless of the section it winds up in.

I know marketing can suck, especially for people who are completely uninterested in playing the marketing game. But ultimately, marketing has its purpose. It's supposed to find you readers. It's all well and good if your book is put on a pedestal with celestial lights shining on it from above, but is that what's going to get readers to pick it up? Or will it maybe find a better home among science fiction fans?

I tend to bristle a little at the implication that marketing folk are out to Destroy Art, if you couldn't tell! What say you, readers?


{ JeffO } at: October 12, 2012 at 7:37 AM said...

I'm going to guess that the reason someone would bristle at being 'stuck' in the YA section isn't necessarily that they think it's fluff and nonsense (though I'm sure some do think that) as much as it's the fear that the people they're really writing for are going to miss their book, that they're going to miss it because they're not interested in reading YA. Now, if you're aiming for adults and everyone's telling you you've got a YA book on your hands, you may need to rethink how you write, but that's another story.

{ Kristan Hoffman } at: October 12, 2012 at 8:02 AM said...

Well said! (And JeffO's comments are a good addition to the discussion as well.)

{ Blair B. Burke } at: October 12, 2012 at 8:33 AM said...

What I don't get, especially in this case, is the argument against cross-listing it as YA. I mean, YA pretty much includes every genre, so a book shelved in the adult section AND again in the YA section (physically and online), is getting double exposure. It can only help sales. Pure arrogance (and stupidity) to complain about that.

{ Tor Hershman } at: October 12, 2012 at 10:33 AM said...

Well, strangers have stopped me on the street to ask if me hair is real. The last added, "It's pretty," to which I replied, "My DNA thanks you."
It's considerably longer, now, than in my blog pic.

WTF 'twere moi plannin' on saying before I read that line...duuuuuuuh, forgot.

I may have been to your blog before this, you look rather familiar.

Stay on groovin' safari,

{ Tor Hershman } at: October 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM said...

Oh, that's right...
I was going to say, the only slot I know of that a published writer really thinks is horrible to be in is the Ain't Selling grouping.

{ Andrew Leon } at: October 12, 2012 at 10:39 AM said...

What I think is that I wish I had someone to do my marketing for me, because it's a pain in the butt.

Just to reiterate what you said, I don't want anyone to suggest that my book go in the YA genre, because it tweaks me every time someone calls it a genre. My book is fantasy. YA fantasy, specifically, but it is not YA. Gah!

And thank you for differentiating.

{ Yael } at: October 12, 2012 at 3:00 PM said...

What really gets me about this mentality is that people think their book won't do well in genre fiction/YA because those audiences aren't smart enough to appreciate good literature--which is stupid, because there are a lot of very intelligent people, some of whom have a strong appreciation for the literature as an art form, that read genre fiction in addition to literary classics.

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