My answer was quick, “General fiction with speculative elements and mild erotica.” She may have thought it was a simple question. What she didn’t know is that I have been “forced” to ask myself that question for the past five or six years since I first attended Pikes Peak Writers Conference and was asked the same question.
How do writers feel about this question? How do YOU feel about this question? I think most of us hate it. It’s like asking, “Which tiny airless box would you like to cram yourself into and stay for the rest of your life?”
Uhm…. none of them?
Sorry, that’s not an option.
How do we answer that question? For some writers, it is easy. But for most of us, it’s not. If you know your genre, great! But if you don’t, either look for a book similar to your own, or figure out where your book would be placed on the shelf of a bookstore, like Barnes & Noble.
Now-a-days, there is what’s called the “cross-over” novel which can be very popular, like The Time Traveler’s Wife. When I look at what’s popular, what’s similar to my latest novel, A Siren’s Lament, and where I would expect it to be placed on a bookstore’s shelf, I decided on “General fiction.” Mind you, I’m not using the words literary or commercial because my novel has a little of both.
Then I added “speculative elements”. A speculative element is something like time travel, as in the novel mentioned above. My main character has Siren DNA and is turning into a mermaid-vampire. This can’t happen in “real life,” so it’s considered “speculative.”
Finally, I added “mild erotica” to take advantage of the popularity of Shades of Grey, otherwise I wouldn’t even bother to mention it.
It’s a complicated question, but if you put your mind to it, maybe in 5 years you will easily be able to define your novel too!