Monday, March 09, 2009

Big LoveCategory

I've had a spate of queries that subscribe to the infomercial style of description:

It goes here!, and and it also goes there, and wait, here too, and if you stand on your head, it does THIS! And all for only 49,000 words! In verse!

In other words, it's a crime novel that could also appeal to readers of Sophie Kinsella, AND readers of Orson Scott Card, with of course a nod to Jane Kenyon.

Well hang on there just a second.

You don't need to write a book that could be on every bookshelf in the store. You don't have to be all things to all readers.

Do one thing well. Write a great crime novel. Call it that.

Write a great frothy fun romance. Call it that.

Write amazing science fiction. Call it that (well, sans the amazing part, leave that adjective to your readers)

Write poems. (Don't send them to me of course but feel free to write as much as you like.)

In other words, when you're telling me where the book goes on the shelf, pick ONE.
You don't even have to be right.

You just have to be, well, monogamous.


Miriam S.Forster said...

Hahaha. I'm having an Aladdin flashback...

"Look at this, yes, combination hookah and coffeemaker, also makes Julienne fries. Will not break! Will not... It broke."

acpaul said...

What about a crime novel set in a fantasy world?

Anonymous said...

Janet, While I absolutely agree with everything your say, this advice needs a rider. It should say, "Pick one, if you want to be published."

I suppose you think that goes without saying but I got stuck between categories with the last-but-one novel I wrote. It was sci-fi. I was pretty sure it was sci-fi. But the publisher I ended up talking to (which is a sci-fi imprint of a major publishing house) said, "Meh, maybe not so much. It would be so much easier to sell internally if you could play down the sci-fi elements, then it would be lit. fic.." Or words to that effect.

The next novel I wrote, in the light of that experience, is sci-fi. Absolutely no argument.

But is it YA or not...?

Scott said...

What happens when the category doesn't exist? A comment from an agent on my current out to query project: chick lit with a gay narrator! Okay, so is it 'chick lit' (definitely not my intent) or is it a new category called 'gay lit' or is it the subcategory 'chick lit w/a gay narrator'. Aaaaagghhh - I think my head just exploded.

Thanks for the post. Always useful information.

P. Bradley Robb said...

"Write poems. (Don't send them to me of course but feel free to write as much as you like.)"

Nice subtle dig at those who don't bother to research agents. I approve.

Margaret Yang said...

@acpaul, I'm guessing that a crime novel set in a fantasy world is a fantasy. The structure may be crime novel, but the world is fantasy. Therefore, your readers are fantasy readers.

As they say in the "Highlander" movies, "There can be only one."

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Moniza and I LOVE YOUR BLOG.

I just had to let you know how much I love you after reading the comment you left on Nathan Bransford's website about queryfail.

You've done a fabulous job spreading the word on good query-writing. You really help aspiring writers, even though you don't have to. I love queryshark.

Thanks for everything :)

Jessica said...


Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I wrote what I thought was a romantic suspense, but e-stores also list it under mystery/thriller.

When I talked to the events manager at our local Chapters bookstore, her eyes lit up at the thought of a cross-genre book.

However, I totally agree with querying the agent with one genre and one only.

If an author wrote a cross-genre book (whether by accident or on purpose), would you advise calling it a romance for romance agents, and calling it a thriller for agents who take thrillers?

Amber Lynn Argyle said...

Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

I understand your point, but I'm sure some authors query like that because they're not sure where their book will fit. What about a book that has been written for adults but whose main character is a teenager? Is it YA because the character is a YA, or is it adult because the issues are very adult, or is it historical because it's set in the middle ages? Confusing!


T. Anne said...

So you didn't like my crossover novel?

I kid, I haven't been rejected by you since last August. I feel a sudden craving for I go to construct such a query.

Shelli said...

a new rule - no polygomy please... :)

acpaul said...

@Margaret Yang -- I was afraid of that.

There goes my last hope of sending a query to Janet, since I'm not about to query in a genre she doesn't represent.

I'll just have to be satisfied with reading her wonderful blog.

Elissa M said...

I love the "monogamous" line.

Glenn Cook's fantasy crime novels are shelved under fantasy.

A teen protagonist does not automatically mean a novel is YA.

Gay lit isn't really a new category.

Think about where your book would most likely end up in a book store and call it that. Unless you think it'll be on the best-seller rack.

Kim Kasch said...


I want to be it all
Short, skinny, fat, tall

Don’t try to limit me
I'm going to be the best I can be

Poetry, romance, thriller, memoir, horror and crime
My book has it all – my characters transport through time

It’s like Poe, Cussler, Gaiman, Cleary, Bloom and King
It will teach you adventure - how to dance and to sing.

Why only sit on one shelf in the store?
My book offers so much and then some more

Monogamy went out in the sixties – this is a new age
Let me tell you all about it, just read my first page


Elizabeth said...

I just read your post about loglines, and I'm writing this here so you'll see it, Ms. Reid. Your frenemy, the slithery (and fun!) Barbara Poelle, gave me a funny logline in her thoughtful rejection of my manuscript: "Sisterhood of the Traveling Sweatpants." Not bad, and a pretty nice gift to go with the "no."

Tara Maya said...

That's my kind of poetry! Short and funny. :)

Megoblocks said...

Reminds me of the Richard Jeni bit on infomercials. Worth digging it up if you havent heard it.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Not really relevant to anything on this post, but ...

My old, decrepit, balding, but smart as a wip uncle person/non-fiction writing partner is teaching a creative writing course to children. I'm helping with the class blog. I've posted on of our young student's stories.

It would be very nice of you more experienced writers if you'd leave her a helpful comment. Be as pointed as you wish, just remember our students are children, middle-school age to HS freshmen. So be gentle too. If you remember that age, they're very insecure.

Just tell her who you are, what you write, and make what comments you wish.

The blog is

Help me out here, please.

The Pixie
The Mommie
The Queen of Goats
The Lady of Typos
The Owner of a Pet Scotsman (tough job)

Ummmm oh, yes, and the maker of delicious oat meal cookies, even if i say so myself.

B. W. Schulz said...

Little pixies should remember who has the photo album with the diaper-change photos.

Decrepit? I can still clip your wings, little one.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear PAUB (Pleasingly Aged Uncle Bruce),

I've tried to think of an appropriate response to blackmail.

How cruel! The diaper change naked butt photos. ...

I've thumbed through my photos of YOU, and I just can't find one that is as blackmaily, not even the one we took at Lincoln City, though it is an interesting photo of someone’s tummy.

Dang! I'm really left without a retort. ... It's unkind to leave a pixie speechless.