Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Your book is categorically not fiction. What is it?

I'm currently in the process of drafting query letters, but I'm having a genre problem.

I've written an extensive collection of limericks on mental and social health. I know it's not fiction. It's closer to non-fiction, but submission instructions for non-fiction often ask for sample chapters, and this collection won't be in chapter format.

Ok, fine, it's a poetry book, but... I think of poetry as relatively esoteric stuff, and I don't see this book belonging in the poetry section. I think it makes more sense to present it as a kind of humorous self-help book, or a novelty book one buys near the cash register at Urban Outfitters.

Thanks for any guidance you can offer on creating an appropriate and effective query letter. 

You're closest with "novelty book" but the correct term is gift book.
You query this as you would non-fiction, and while it's true you don't have sample chapters, you have sample pages. You'd include some of the limericks.

Were this to cross my desk the first thing I'd look for is platform. This is the kind of book that needs 10,000+ Instagram followers to be viable.

Also, I don't know what "social health" means.

The trick to getting category right is find books that are like yours.  Look at the back cover. Often there will be a category listed for the book.

This is the back cover of Life's Little Instruction Book which is a gift book, and also considered self-help.  Most books have this kind of information somewhere on the back cover.

Here's are some other examples from three books pulled at random from my shelf:

Lower center

Upper Left corner

Upper left corner


AJ Blythe said...

Should I admit I had no idea category was listed on the back of books? Just pulled a few to check and it seems so obvious. A duh *forehead slap* moment.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

OP, as I read your description I thought of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She writes shorts and non-fiction in addition to novels. I don't own any of her books yet so can't tell you the category on the back cover. Wishing you all the best.

Claire Bobrow said...

I'm with AJ - I had no idea. And now I'm disappointed the book I'm reading doesn't have its category listed next to the ISBN! Thankfully, it's pretty clear from the title what the book is about :-) King George - What Was His Problem? The Whole Hilarious Story of the American Revolution, by Steve Sheinkin and Tim Robinson (illustrator).

JEN Garrett said...

Wahoo! I learned something new! But I guess it's only nonfiction or maybe adult fiction. None of my research books (all children's) have the category listed. I'll have to keep checking the call numbers at the library, I guess. Sigh. You genre writers have it so easy ;).

Sherry Howard said...

With the others, a duh moment. I’d noticed before, but hadn’t ever considered its relationship to a query. So, great to know! I love to learn something new, geek that I am!

Jen said...

Same. I've never even seen that before.

[scurries off to bookshelf to see where my stuff might land inside a store...]

C.M. Monson said...

I wish publishers did this to fiction books.

MA Hudson said...

A book of limericks on mental health? If it's in the right tone it should be a winner. Most of us know someone with mental health struggles and most of us struggle with finding interesting new gift ideas. Good luck OP.

Melissa said...

We would've called this Humor/Inspiration at my publisher.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Whoa! Add me to the list of people who'd noticed this but never thought of it in relationship to a query!
Thanks, QOTKU!

Matthew Ari Lowe said...

MAHudson! Thanks so much for your encouragement!

John Davis Frain said...


You'll find folks like MAHudson swimming all around this reef. Here's a virtual high-five for ya! Now go tackle some queries, and let us know how things transpire.

It should be noted that I originally began this comment with There once was a dude named J Frain ... but I'm being kind to y'all. Kinda like eschewing singing at a party. Or Jeff Somers! putting pants on before he answers the door. (Like that ever happens IRL.)

Jeffrey Teo said...

Great Article ! Thanks For Sharing 🙂 This awesome Post. free online prelisting site.