How to Define Your Genre to Anyone (who will listen)
A few days ago I was asked what type of novels I write. As I have the tendency to ramble, especially when talking about my books—any books, if the truth be told—I opted for the shortcut of genre specificity. “Romance,” was my answer. After The Lifted Brows of Oh-So-You-Write-Kinky-Sex appeared, I rushed to clarify. “Women’s Fiction featuring a central romance,” I said.
The Lifted Brows of Oh-So-You-Write-Kinky-Sex were replaced by The Furrowed Brow of What-the-Hell-is-That?
“Uh, Contemporary Romance?” I offered, knowing it was a Hail Mary.
In a perfect world he would have nodded, lifted his index finger into the air, and declared, “Ah, yes! Contemporary Romance. Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?” Alas, no. The gentleman—who is intelligent, educated, and well read—still had no idea what I was talking about. This left me scrambling to name other authors and books similar to mine that he might recognize. I’m ashamed to say I was so flummoxed that my brain blanked on me. The best I could do was, “Er . . . um . . .”
What kind of dumbass author can’t succinctly describe her own books? (Urp. This kind, apparently.)
Genres are most helpful to booksellers so they know where a book belongs on the shelf. It helps readers with their shopping. But not every book falls squarely into a single category. My Fireflies books, for instance, are Women’s Fiction/Romance and have also been categorized by my publisher as Paranormal. But readers who routinely feast on a diet of Paranormal novels will read mine and wonder where the spooky stuff is. While there is a paranormal element in those three novels, they aren’t Paranormal stories. (The same is not true for the book I recently finished writing in which the hero is a ghost—still not spooky though. He’s a handsome, stubborn Englishman and was so fun to write.)
It honestly never occurred to me that Women’s Fiction/Romance and the myriad nuances therein would not be understood by everyone. But while genre breakdowns are part of my lexicon, such is not true for all. And, of course, in some cases a person’s understanding of genres may be compromised by pop culture. The old standard used to be, “Romance? Oh, so you write bodice-rippers.” (No, I do not.) Nowadays, non-Romance readers are more likely to say, “Oh, you write stuff like Fifty Shades of Grey,” accompanied by wriggling brows and a leer, with the assumption being that all Romance contains graphic sex. (No, it does not.)
The Romance genre runs the gamut from cool to steamy to blazing hot. Beyond that are the levels of erotic and too-hot-to-handle. There are Romance novels that include open-door sex (that’s the graphic stuff), those like mine which include closed-door sex (I’ll take you right up to the bedroom door, but your imagination must do the rest), and some with no sex at all (Inspirational Romance sometimes won’t even include kissing). Bottom line, under the Romance umbrella there is something to accommodate the tastes of every reader, but those who don’t read Romance novels are unlikely to know this. All they know about Romance is what Fifty Shades and its accompanying wildfire popularity told them. Women’s Fiction, the same.
For example, my knowledge of Horror is monumentally limited. I don’t read Horror because it scares me. I don’t like to be scared. But promise me two characters overcoming obstacles to fall in love, a stray dog that finds its forever home, a happy ending for all involved, and I’m all in. (Yeah, I know. To some people—you know who you are—the romance-y stuff is more terrifying than anything Stephen King can dream up.)
So how does an author explain his/her genre to someone who isn’t familiar? The best way is, of course, to have at the tip of one’s tongue the names of more famous authors whose work might be recognizable to anyone. My work has been likened to that of Robyn Carr and Emily March. Flattering to me, certainly, in the extreme, and readers of Romance will nod and say, “Oh, okay! Got it.” But laudable as those authors are, their names are unlikely to resonate with everyone, especially if the person in question is buried hip deep in George R.R. Martin novels. So what’s a flustered author to do?
Well, you had to know I would offer a solution. 🙂
Create a logline or “elevator pitch” describing your work, but gear it toward those for whom “genre” is not a clearly identifying word. While saying “I write medium-heat, closed-door, small-town, contemporary romance” might be perfect to describe your novels to another author at a writer’s conference, I don’t recommend it for general use. Create something short and descriptive that everyone will understand. Better yet, write something that might generate additional questions by your inquirer. When next asked what I write, my response will be:
“My novels are centered around memorable characters whose lives are brimming with romance, humor, mystery, the paranormal, and always an animal rescue because I believe in happy endings for everyone, furry and otherwise.”
Whew! That wasn’t so hard. And isn’t that more interesting than simply saying Romance or Women’s Fiction? The real work will be learning to recite my logline without sounding as if I’m reading from a teleprompter. The words might feel funny on my tongue at first, but I’ll get used to it. Better than the “um, er, duh” routine I’ve relied on for so long.
So what’s your logline? If you’re a writer, tell me about your work in 30 words or less. If you aren’t a writer, tell me what I need to know about you in 30 words or less. Please share your personal logline in the comments below. You know I’ll comment back!
Have a happy day, and may laughter and smiles brighten your hours. See you next week!
Romance is good for your heart! To purchase your copy of Love Built to Last, Love to Believe, or Love to Win in eBook or print just click the book cover on this blog’s sidebar. Autographed copies are available for purchase on my HOME page. 🙂 The audio versions of Love Built to Last, Love to Believe, and Love to Win are available HERE now!