Everyone seems to be using the same word to describe the publishing industry today: Shrinking. Sales are shrinking, bookstores are shrinking, readership is shrinking.
However, one aspect of the literary world that isn’t in contraction, and in fact seems to be flourishing like never before, is the prevalence of genres. Brand new writer? Need a niche? Just grab a dartboard and some Post Its. Check out this list for just a “few” examples:
I acquired this list from just a glancing blow at Wikipedia. Deeper digging turned up even more genres, sub-genres, and basically just made up genres. And you know what?
My MS doesn’t fit into any of them.
It’s easy (and not at all wrong) to be a fan of, say, urban fantasy, or historical romance, or hard science fiction, and decide you want to write in that genre. You know the rules, the guidelines, and you can craft your MS within the safety of those boundaries.
But what happens when you just write a story? When you give yourselves over to the characters and let them take you places even you couldn’t have imagined, must less a marketing department at a publishing house? What happens when your YA tops 100K – by a lot? Or when you have a novel that’s not quite science fiction, but not quite isn’t?
If you don’t fit neatly into a genre or a word count, people will tell you that your work is not marketable. Does that mean it’s not good? Not necessarily. Traditional publishing is still a business, and the first goal of any business is to make money. That’s not altogether a bad thing. The prospect of profit will motivate a publisher to work hard to make your book the best it can be. It’ll make an agent fight hard to get your MS sold. On the other hand, it makes agents and publishers less willing to tread unproven ground, which means unless your MS fits neatly into the genre box, you’re less likely to get someone willing to take a chance on it.
I’m seriously considering inventing my own genre. If there can be a genre called “post-cyberpunk,” then why can’t my characters have their own?
This is just one more reason the siren song of self-publishing is getting louder and louder. I haven’t given up on the traditional route just yet, though. Hopefully it won’t give up on me.