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Are You Sure Your Book is in the Right Genre – or Sub Genre?


“Knowing Your Genre”, by John C. Ford Author of
The Morgue and Me

If you want to travel to a nice place, the first step is finding it on the map. And so it is with writing a novel: if you want to get a novel up on the bookstore shelves, the first step is finding the shelf that you’re aiming for.

You have got a great idea, say, for a story about a young actress in turn-of-the-century Chicago, haunted by ghosts of the characters she plays on stage. But if you start writing without a clear notion of whether your novel is a horror story, a young adult tale, or a historical romance, you are putting yourself in a hole — and probably a lot of reject piles. Why? Well, if you don’t know what shelf your book should be on, then agents, editors, and booksellers probably won’t either, and that will make them reluctant to invest in your manuscript.

If you are writing a crime story, this lesson applies to you. About thirty percent of novels purchased in the U.S. are mysteries or thrillers, and your first step as a crime writer should be knowing which of those two types of books — a mystery or a thriller — you are delivering to your readers.

And in order to take that step, you need to know what a mystery is, what a thriller is, and the differences between them. Relax… we’re here to help. Mysteries begin with a murder. The major question is whodunit, and the novel answers that question. Thrillers begin with a situation that portends a catastrophe of some sort (an assassination, a bank robbery, a nuclear explosion, etc.) The major question is whether or not our hero will be able to prevent that catastrophe from occurring. This, in a nutshell, describes the difference between a mystery and a thriller.

The two genres have a number of deeper differences — in tone, point of view, and appeal — which writers should also know in order to understand the expectations that readers bring to each type of story. Some of those differences are as follows:

  • The Identity of the Antagonist: In a mystery, readers do not know who committed the murder (until the end); they try to figure it out along the way. In a thriller, readers often knows who the bad guy is, and hope that the hero can stop him.
  • Appeal to Readers: Mysteries readers take pleasure in the intellectual exercise of puzzling out a crime. Thriller readers enjoy the emotional aspect — riding out the highs and lows of the charged story line.
  • Point of View: Mysteries tend to be written in the first person, while thrillers more often are written in the third person, and from multiple points of view.
  • Stakes: While solving a murder is by no means a “low stakes” endeavor, thrillers tend to have “higher” stakes that imperil larger numbers of people.
  • Pace: Mysteries usually have a slower pace than the fast-and-furious plotting of a thriller.
  • Action: Mysteries often have fewer action sequences than thrillers, in which the characters regularly find themselves in great danger.
  • Plot complexity: Mystery plots tend to be less complex than thrillers, which rely on a constant flow of events to provide a sense of immediacy.
  • Character depth: The slower pace of mysteries allows for greater depth of character than the thriller form.

Sub-genres:
Mysteries tend to get sub-divided based on the identity of their protagonists: “amateur sleuth” mysteries feature a main character whose main occupation is not crime-solving; “police procedures” often follow a police detective; “private investigator” novels, naturally, star private detectives. Thrillers get sub-divided based on the cultural or professional world in which the threat arises. Thus you have “medical thrillers,” “spy thrillers,” “financial/corporate thrillers,” and many others.
Based on the above, you should be able to tell whether your story, at its core, is a mystery or a thriller. Knowing the characteristics of your genre (and sub-genre) should inform the story choices you make, help you to identify authors of similar works to read for inspiration, and to know how your novel fits into the publishing picture when you address agents and editors. In short, it should help you see more clearly where your novel will end up in the bookstore — and that’s a very good thing.

To be clear, though, the qualities of mysteries and thrillers described above are by no means absolute. They should not be taken as hard-and-fast “rules” to follow, and indeed, many successful mysteries and thrillers deviate in ways large and small from the descriptions above. The thrillers of Harlan Coben, to give just one example, tend to revolve around complicated family histories — a personal type of storyline more expected in a mystery — rather than preventing a “high stakes” threat like terrorists poisoning a water system.

Writers should not fear to tread where others in the genre haven’t, either. Many of the thriller sub-genres began with authors exploring subject matter that had not been tackled yet in their genre. Scott Turow virtually invented the legal thriller with “Presumed Innocent.” Joseph Finder has set a number of thrillers in the corporate world, and with his success the sub-genre of corporate thrillers has flowered.

If you have your own story, certain aspects of it probably do not fit neatly into the generalized descriptions above. That’s okay. Better than okay — within the terrain of your genre, you want to find a fresh spot to claim as your own.

Indeed… breaking the “rules” can be great. But the first step, even in doing that, is knowing your genre well.

Read the whole post:  http://foliolit.com/resources/knowing-your-genre/

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Hyper Smash

 

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What Typ of Book Should you Write?

Just kidding! Your own enjoyment should come into your book and you will create a work, really worthy of publication and enthusiastic readers. If you like several genres, just get a pen name for each in order avoid confusion for your fan base. Don’t choose your genre, let the genre choose you.

The 2011 Verso Survey among 2.200 readers (published recently) makes for an interesting read.  Here are just three of their findings:

Type of e-Book Purchases:
General fiction 38%
Mystery 33%
History 31%
Fantasy / Science F. 28%
Biography / Memoir 27%
Non-fiction, general 25%
Cooking 23%
Self-help 22%
Children’s lit. 20%
Romance 19%
Religion 18%
Home Improvement 16%
http://www.versoadvertising.com/DBWsurvey2012/  Slide 30

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Maximum Price Willing to Pay for e-Books:
Less than $10 = 29%
$10 – 12.99 = 20%
$13 – 14.99 = 10%
$15 – 19. 99 = 9%
$20 – 24.99 = 4%
http://www.versoadvertising.com/DBWsurvey2012/  Slide 31

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Planned e-Book and Book Purchases over the next 12 months
30% will buy 10 or more e-books
18% will buy 5 to 9 e-books
16% will buy 3 to 4 e-books
25% will buy 10 or more books
17% will buy 5 to 9 books
20% will buy 3 to 4 books
http://www.versoadvertising.com/DBWsurvey2012/  Slide 34 and 35
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These are just three samples of the many findings about book reading habits and favors, e-Readers, and the shift in book business, including  recommendations for publishers, that make up Verso’s survey.

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Hyper Smash

 

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Writers Retreats USA in 2012

One of the main benefits of attending a writers retreat or conference is the opportunity to meet editors, agents, publishers and other writers.  Widening your circle of connections in the literary world can help you mark your own presence in that world, learn about the publishing industry, and how to get your book published.  Just a few of the many retreat offers:

Jackson Hole, WY, June 28 – 30, 2012

http://jacksonholewritersconference.com

Program Description
Three manuscript critiques with authors & editors. Tracks for fiction, creative nonfiction, magazine, young adult, and poetry; workshops, talks & craft sessions.
Program Length 3 days
Group Size or S:T Ratio 4:1
Program Focus:  Children’s, Fiction, Journalism, Marketing, Mystery, Nature, Non-fiction, Poetry, Publishing, Travel, Young Adult
Costs:   Early bird $365

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Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, July 26 – 28, 2012

http://www.mcwc.org

Program Description
5 morning workshops with same presenter each day; large forum readings and discussions with editors, agents, & newly published authors; afternoon lecture sessions on craft.
Program Length 3 days
Group Size or S:T Ratio workshops 15:1
Program Focus:  Autobiography/Memoir, Children’s, Fiction, Journalism, Mystery, Non-fiction, Poetry, Publishing, Screenwriting, Young Adult
Faculty 13+ presenters. Includes authors, editors & literary agents.
Costs:   Earlybird $525. $60/consultation. Lodging $55-$250 & camping; hostel-like farmhouse $18-$25/night.


Squaw Valley, California  July, August 2012

http://www.squawvalleywriters.org

Program Description
Morning workshops, afternoon panel discussions, individual conferences, craft lectures, staff readings
Program Length 7 days
Group Size or S:T Ratio 20-124
Program Focus:  Autobiography/Memoir, Fiction, Mystery, Nature, Non-fiction, Poetry and Screenwriting
Faculty 28 instructors for the Fiction Workshop, 5 for the Poetry Workshop, 8 for the Screenwriting Workshop.
Costs:   $840 includes 6 dinners. Shared (single) lodging in local houses & condos arranged for $350 ($550)/week; inexpensive bunk bed available.
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Purchase, NY   June 25 – 29, 2012

http://www.mville.edu/writersweek

Program Description
Five 3-hour morning workshops in a particular genre (Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry,Writing for Young Readers, Graphic Novel). Afternoons include special workshops, readings, session with editors & agents, and individual manuscript consultation.
Program Length 4-1/2 days
Group Size or S:T Ratio 80-100
Program Focus:  Autobiography/Memoir, Children’s, Fiction, Marketing, Non-fiction, Poetry, Publishing, Screenwriting, Young Adult
Costs:   $725 for the week. 2 graduate credits are also available for graduate tuition (extra fee).
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Edmonds, WA, September 30 – October 2, 2011

http://www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/ArtsCommission/wots.stm

Program Description
Focus is on the craft of writing. 4 sessions/day & a choice of 4 workshops/session; Saturday keynote, pre-conference workshops on Friday.
Program Length 2-1/2 days
Group Size or S:T Ratio Max 200
Program Focus:  Autobiography/Memoir, Business/Technical, Children’s, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Journalism, Marketing, Mystery, Non-fiction, Poetry, Publishing, Travel, Young Adult
Faculty:  30 additional presenters speaking on a variety of topics.
Costs:   $139/2 days ($116 early bird), $72/1 day. Pre-conference workshops $68, writing contest entry $10, manuscript critique $25, Keynote (open to the public) $16 adult/$10 student.

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Santa Barbara, CA, June 9 – 14, 2012

http://www.sbwritersconference.com

Program Description
Daily AM & PM concurrent workshops & plenary sessions, evening speakers, panels, Advance
Submission with agents & editors, late-night pirate workshops.
Program Length 6 days
Group Size or S:T Ratio 200
Program Focus:  Autobiography/Memoir, Fiction, Humor, Journalism, Marketing, Mystery, Nature, Non-fiction, Playwriting, Poetry, Publishing, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Screen-writing, Travel,
Faculty: 30 daily faculty plus evening speakers
Costs   $625 includes barbecue, cocktail reception, awards banquet.

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Corte Madera, CA, August 9 – 12, 2012

http://bookpassage.com/travel-food-photography-conference

(Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco)
Conference Coordinator: Kathryn Petrocelli
Phone: (800) 999-7909 ext 239
bpconferences@bookpassage.com

Geared to Food & Travel writers and photographers this Conference has an extraordinary, international reputation among publishers, editors, and writers. This four-day Conference offers an array of writing and photography workshops in the morning, a full afternoon of panels and discussions, and evening faculty presentations.
The faculty includes publishers, magazine editors, photographers, travel essayists, food writers, guidebook writers and more.

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Key West, FL, every January

http://www.kwls.org

Program Description
4-day seminar includes readings, conversations, lectures, panel discussions. 4-day writers’ workshops feature AM writing sessions (limit 8-12/instructor) and PM individual consultations, talks, open readings.
Program Length Seminar: 4 days / Workshops: 4 days each
Group Size or S:T Ratio Seminar: 350-400 / Workshops: 12:1
Program Focus
Autobiography/Memoir, Children’s, Fiction, Humor, Journalism, Mystery, Nature, Non-fiction, Playwriting, Poetry, Publishing, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Screenwriting, Travel, Young Adult
Costs   Seminar $495; Workshops $450.
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For a full list of writers retreats in the USA go to:  http://writing.shawguides.com



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