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Finding an Agent For Your Novel - The Importance of Understanding Genre

Genres can be More than a Little Confusing

There is perhaps nothing more perplexing in all of writing than trying to understand genre. While preparing this paper, I ran across the following sub-genres for Romance: Suspense, Paranormal, Fantasy, Time-Travel, Futuristic, Licensed Theme, Medical, Regency, Medieval, Highland, War, Gothic, Western, and Mail-Order Bride. And these are by no means all that fall into the Romance bailiwick. There were a couple dozen more.  

In the Mystery category we have the Cozy, Police Procedural, Forensic Hard-Boiled Crime, Serial Killer, Suspense, Thriller, Legal Thriller, Medical Thriller, Technical Thriller; and other further Mystery subdivisions that include Science Fiction, Gay, Military, Political, Paranormal, and so many more that the separation becomes quite blurred. To confuse anyone to the point of no return, read a Writer's Digest list of genres. And it, too, is not all-inclusive.   

What makes Genre even More Complex is that it is often Not Specific to a Particular Publisher  

The editor-in-chief with a major publisher indicated to me that one of my novels was rejected because it did not fit into a tight enough genre, since it had military, espionage, and medical underpinnings. What was really meant was that the book did not follow the exact template for their Thriller program, as was also indicated by another work I recently presented to this publisher. This firm's Thriller program (sic, imprint) does not model the Thriller definition, since books under that imprimatur follow the "gruesome murders by a serial killer who is being tracked down by a cop" pattern. Traditional Thrillers involve international intrigue and a life-and-death struggle to save the planet (or close to it).