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View Full Version : Does the genre you pick in your query matter much?



toneman
12-28-2016, 06:42 AM
I have a novel that I am having a difficult time pinning down a genre for. I was just wondering how much the genre you say your book is in your query matters. Do agents care that much? Do they just care about the book and will just pick the best genre to market it in if they pick it up anyway? My fear is, I will pick a genre that an agent has never heard of and will have them scratching their heads and will cause them to pass.

Roxxsmom
12-28-2016, 06:54 AM
I have a novel that I am having a difficult time pinning down a genre for. I was just wondering how much the genre you say your book is in your query matters. Do agents care that much? Do they just care about the book and will just pick the best genre to market it in if they pick it up anyway? My fear is, I will pick a genre that an agent has never heard of and will have them scratching their heads and will cause them to pass.

I am not an agent or industry pro, but I do know you should be looking at the genres the agents you are querying actually represent, because yes, an agent is unlikely to consider submissions of a genre they've never heard of (you can't just make genres up) or from genres they have heard of but don't represent. They expect queries to mention the genre (and if applicable, subgenre) the novel falls unde. Agents generally specialize or have preferences, some more narrowly than others, and they state which genres and mage or marketing demographics they consider in their profiles on their agencies' web sites. Some also talk about their current wish lists on social media. Many books do straddle genres, and there are agents who state an interest in that sort of tale also. It might be helpful to look at the books and authors agents already represent to see which ones might be in the same ballpark as what you've written. Researching and vetting a list of prospective agents to query takes quite a while.

What is your story about? Where and when does it take place? Is it basically realistic, or does it contain speculative elements? Where do you think it's likely to be shelved in a bookstore or library? Maybe some of the members here can help you pin it down. Also, the QLH section is really helpful for picking over your query letter to whip it into shape.

Sage
12-28-2016, 06:57 AM
It probably isn't a good idea to use a genre an agent has never heard of, as you probably made it up ;)

Genres tell the agent you're querying right away if you're querying a genre they handle. If it's not a genre they like or know how to market, they'll pass. So it's important.

mpack
12-28-2016, 09:40 AM
I have a novel that I am having a difficult time pinning down a genre for. I was just wondering how much the genre you say your book is in your query matters. Do agents care that much? Do they just care about the book and will just pick the best genre to market it in if they pick it up anyway? My fear is, I will pick a genre that an agent has never heard of and will have them scratching their heads and will cause them to pass.

The genre you choose should represent the book you've written. Most agents list the genres they represent on their websites, and you should be targeting agents who represent the sort of work you've written. If you're uncertain, ask your beta readers where in a bookstore they think your book would best fit. Also, if you're unsure, don't worry about splitting hairs on sub-genres, just pick the best fit. Ideally, you're already familiar with books recently published books similar to your own as well. What genre label do they carry? So long as you're using established genres and checking agents' guidelines, there should be little risk of any genre the agent hasn't heard of.

toneman
12-28-2016, 04:40 PM
What is your story about? Where and when does it take place? Is it basically realistic, or does it contain speculative elements? Where do you think it's likely to be shelved in a bookstore or library? Maybe some of the members here can help you pin it down. Also, the QLH section is really helpful for picking over your query letter to whip it into shape.

My story is about a 22 year old woman who can see and communicate with ghosts. She opens a community center in town where she helps people with other types of powers as well as people who don't have powers. Another group that only harbors people with powers in secret confront her because they don't like that she has people with powers and people without living together and also want to take some of the special people living at her center for themselves. I don't think my book is really fantasy, because it is set in the modern world and has no fantasy elements besides the people with powers. I have searched and found Magical Realism, but don't know if that would be too obscure for agents. I could just lower the main character's age to 18 and call it Young Adult, but I don't really want her to be that young; running a community center along with her boyfriend, who is the same age.

be frank
12-28-2016, 04:48 PM
I could just lower the main character's age to 18 and call it Young Adult, but I don't really want her to be that young; running a community center along with her boyfriend, who is the same age.

FWIW, YA isn't a genre, so putting aside the issues with, "I could just make her 18 and now it's YA!" (because YA doesn't work like that), YA novels still need a genre (eg: YA thriller, YA fantasy, YA historical etc).

Marlys
12-28-2016, 04:53 PM
Sounds like urban fantasy or contemporary fantasy. "People with powers" is a fantasy element--unless the powers are derived from science, which might shade it into science fiction. Or if all the other people's powers also center around ghosts/other supernatural beings, possibly paranormal.

Aggy B.
12-28-2016, 04:54 PM
Young Adult is a category, not a genre. Even if you were to lower her age and say it's Young Adult and agent would still want to know what genre it is.

Based on your description above I would suggest Paranormal (though that's typically paired with Romance, so if your book is more of a thriller or doesn't contain a strong romantic plot/subplot you want to make certain that's clear) or possibly Urban Fantasy. If you go to a bookstore (or bookstore website) and search the titles that are listed in those genres you should be able to tell if they sound like your book.

toneman
12-28-2016, 05:07 PM
Sounds like urban fantasy or contemporary fantasy. "People with powers" is a fantasy element--unless the powers are derived from science, which might shade it into science fiction. Or if all the other people's powers also center around ghosts/other supernatural beings, possibly paranormal.


Young Adult is a category, not a genre. Even if you were to lower her age and say it's Young Adult and agent would still want to know what genre it is.

Based on your description above I would suggest Paranormal (though that's typically paired with Romance, so if your book is more of a thriller or doesn't contain a strong romantic plot/subplot you want to make certain that's clear) or possibly Urban Fantasy. If you go to a bookstore (or bookstore website) and search the titles that are listed in those genres you should be able to tell if they sound like your book.

Thank you for all your input. I think that Urban Fantasy would be the best bet.

Sage
12-28-2016, 07:28 PM
FWIW, agents know what magical realism is. They also know when an author is calling a book "magical realism" to avoid calling it fantasy. They also know the difference between paranormal and paranormal romance. And if they don't, you don't want them for that type of novel anyway.

technoglobe
12-28-2016, 07:37 PM
I second the advice on getting some feedback from beta readers about what genre they think it is. My two cents is that it sounds like urban or contemporary fantasy from the description. It's a good idea to have it narrowed down to a genre. You don't want to waste your time (or the agent's) by querying something they don't represent.

Aggy B.
12-28-2016, 09:55 PM
FWIW, agents know what magical realism is. They also know when an author is calling a book "magical realism" to avoid calling it fantasy. They also know the difference between paranormal and paranormal romance. And if they don't, you don't want them for that type of novel anyway.

Yes. And I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. But I know that the local B&N has a large Paranormal Romance section, but not a separate Paranormal section. If I were querying something that was Paranormal, I would take extra pains to make certain the query didn't make it sound like Paranormal Romance so that *I* didn't sound like I didn't know the difference.