Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Genre's New World Order

I really think we're at the beginning of a very interesting period for literature and other media. Right now, genres are slipping and blending, and coming up with wonderful new genres.

I think thing that really struck me about this was when I was watching "24" the other day. I don't watch it on broadcast any more. I usually set up my laptop in the kitchen when I'm cooking, and watch it on Hulu in a more leisurely way.

My mother came in the other day and watched a few minutes and wanted to know what was going on. So I paused the show and explained who was decieving who, and who was sleeping with who, and who was in grave peril.... and it struck me:

The TV show "24" is a soap opera with guns and bombs.

My interest in the show had been waning until I thought of that. And now I find it fun again, in spite of the worsening idiot-potting.

Whether it's paranormal romances or zombie detectives, or literary culinary fiction - genre is bending and blending these days. And this is possible partly because marketing is changing. The power is more and more in the reader's hands. Thanks to the internet, it is easier for people to find what they are looking for, no matter how strange and unique it might be.

But with every opportunity is a challenge: if it's new, it's harder to get across to the audience just what it is. The cover, the title, and the book description all have a lot to convey. With an established genre, it's easy. Publishers have long used particular styles for particular kinds of books.

When you've crossed genres, though, you have to find ways to suggest not only the big idea of what it is, but also the smaller elements of taste. If you see a horror cover, you know what you're going to get. If you see a cozy mystery cover you know what you're going to get. But what should you expect from something that seems like a cross between horror and a cozy?

My book is primarily a romance, but it isn't a category romance. Once upon a time it might be considered a pot-boiler with humor. The themes are women's literary and mainstream, but the plot and settings are fast and sketchy like pulp fiction. The humorous style and the romantic story is chicklit-ish, but the story events tend toward sprawling and adventurous.

With something like this, the cover, title and book description has to say what it is without triggering expectations of what it isn't.

(You know. Just like with any book.)


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think the art department and marketing work really closely together (in my experience, anyway). They're trying to make sure they get "their" audience for a book. And you're so right...with genre blending, it's hard. Maybe you reach out for some crossover readers, but you don't want to alienate one or the other genre, either.

Mystery Writing is Murder

The Daring Novelist said...

Elizabeth: yeah, if nothing else, that is why nobody should ever go blithely into self-publishing. Having that team of professionals on your side is critical.