An author who spoke at the last conference I attended said something along the lines of :
“You can’t have a book that straddles genres. It’s either this or that, it can never be both.”
First, I narrowed the genres to Thriller, Crime, Mystery, and Sci-Fi, but it also fits with Police Procedural and Speculative Fiction, but these aren’t listed as “main” genres.
Then I looked up my comps and found that one was filed at the bookstore under “Police Procedural” and another with a similar concept was “Science Fiction”, and yet another was “Thriller”. Truthfully, mine has all of these aspects, and all had similar themes and concepts - so I’m well and truly befuddled.
Can you (or should you) not categorize your book in two genres? Do you list a “main”, then mention the others nonchalantly in the rest of the query?
“I write Erotica, but it’s a period piece set in prehistoric times with interspecies elements.”
Books can't straddle genres?
That's utter bunk.
Your own research verifies that; you found books in multiple places, listed in a variety of genres.
Category and genre is often in the eye of the beholder. Books I thought were thrillers got published and sold as science fiction. Books I thought were literary fiction got picked up by the Science Fiction Book Club.
There's no one right or wrong answer on category for a lot of books, particularly ones that play with form, setting, style and genre "requirements."
In fact some of the most interesting books I know are ones that straddle genre.
Which makes me wonder who is saying this kind of absolutlist nonsense. People who make definitive statements about what is or isn't ok/acceptable/done/not done are just begging to be proved wrong.
My turn at bat was one cozy afternoon sitting with a bunch of sharks in training. They were reading queries, and I was
Silently, a senior colleague walked to her office and returned with a very thick paperback.
1.2 pound mass market (mass market paperbacks run 6-8 ounces--I checked!)
About a million words.
And that is verifiable because the woman who handed it to me was the editor of the book.
So just when you think there are absolute rules, you find out there aren't.
BUT category is a slippery beast. Y'all get it wrong almost as often as you get it right.
To get it right: know the rules of your genre and category. Even if you break them, it doesn't mean you're not in that category.
Pick the one where your book mostly falls. If it's two categories like science fiction thriller, know that thriller readers don't often shop in the sf section of book stores. Who is the more likely reader for your book? What published book will your reader know and like?
This is exactly why I tell writers to put category LAST in their query no matter what the query guidelines say to do. You don't want an agent passing on your SF novel cause she doesn't do SF when in fact you've got a thriller set in space.
And be wary of anyone telling you things are always this or always that and never this other. EVEN ME. When figuring out how to query, I'd listen to agents first, editors second, and authors last. Authors aren't reading the incoming queries. I am. Authors aren't wrangling with editors on category for a variety of books. I am. Authors know a lot about writing, and listening to them about craft is a good idea.
Sorry this was late. I thought I'd hit publish but it was saved as a draft.