Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saturday afternoon at the Farmer's Market Question booth

I don't know what genre to call my novel. The protagonist is a vampire (medical examiner), so urban fantasy seems the most appropriate. But, I don't write high fantasy. I don't even like to read high fantasy - and it seems that urban fantasy tends to focus on the fantasy part. Agents have told me my writing has a noir feel - and I do like to read noir and crime fiction in general.

Here's my question (finally) - is paranormal or supernatural crime fiction an 'acceptable' genre?

Intuitively it seems to matter if I call my work urban fantasy vs paranormal or supernatural crime fiction. I imagine the expectations for each category are different. Or am I worrying too darn much about this? Is it possible an agent would read my work, like it - but say 'hey, it's not really UF or the other, so you clearly don't know what you're doing."

When in doubt, don't mention a category.  It's really easy to get it wrong, and it's very hard to get it right. And none of us know for sure anyway. I've sold books that were urban fantasy much to my surprise.  Of course, I didn't refuse the deal cause I thought the book was a crackerjack crime novel, nosirreebub I did not.

When I'm thinking of which editors to approach for pitching a novel like this here are the questions I would ask myself:

Does the vampire solve crimes using vampire tricks of the trade? OR, does the vampire solve crimes the old fashioned way and his/her vampire self is just part of the character?

If the answer is yes, vampire tricks of the trade are key, I would probably approach editors who acquire urban fantasy or even SF.  SF/urban fantasy readers are more likely to buy in to vampire elements being "real" than crime readers are.

If the vampire solves crimes the old fashioned way, I'd approach crime editors. Crime readers are notorious for wanting the solutions to the crimes to be "real." The solution to the crime has to be logical.

Think of it like this:  if cats can solve crimes, that's pretty fantastical, but those books are always shelved in crime, not fantasy. Cats are real, vampire are not.

But it's a tricky question.  And I don't stop reading queries if someone fails to mention a category.  I do stop reading if they say "fantasy" cause I don't do fantasy at all.


steeleweed said...

Declaring a genre has always been difficult for me. A novel which borders on chick-lit but without some of the standard ingredients; a novella that's a cops-and-robbers, semi-comic romance, full of crimes and criminals without being a 'crime novel' as commonly known.

I have read - don't know if it's true - that all writing getting published today has to be in a well-defined/recognized genre. If true, whatever happened to belle lettres?

Ashes said...

At the risk of sounding like a novice, is there a difference between Genre and Category? Is there a definitive list of genres/categories out there somewhere?

Josin L. McQuein said...

This might me a case where it's beneficial to check out similar titles. Vampire + noir = PN Elrod. Her vamp's a PI, but the logistics seem similar, so you might check those books out on Amazon or B&N to see how they're tagged.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Josin - excellent suggestion, sending her to PN Elrod. I'm pretty sure she calls it urban fantasy. To those not familiar with her work, her vamp PI uses the combo of old-fashioned crime fighting and vampy stuff to solve the mysteries. All in a very noir setting.


Sam Mills said...

That sounds exactly like urban fantasy to me. In fact, sometimes it's hard to find a book tagged urban fantasy that *isn't* also a crime novel, and many of them attempt a noir feel to greater or lesser success.

I's say: if the character being a vampire is important to the plot and character development, then it's an urban fantasy. It is the fantastic in an urban environment. If the character being a vampire has nothing to do with anything else that happens... why the heck is the character a vampire? Just write a regular crime novel then.

Sam Mills said...

*I'd. Dangit.