Friday, June 07, 2013

Genre-Straddling

Sorry I'm late today. I went off to a library this morning to lead a book discussion. Last night, I was busy re-reading the book and taking notes for the discussion. I'm finally getting back to my computer.

I'm in the midst of the juggling act that my colleagues here on Type M have commented about in the past. I have the first book in my new series coming out in September. I'm trying to make decisions about that launch while writing the second book that will be due to my editor at end of summer. 

But on Wednesday I took some time off to attend the MWA-New York Chapter's dinner meeting. It was held at the Salmagundi Club, an art club founded in 1871, located in a wonderful brownstone. I don't usually make it down from Albany to the Wednesday evening chapter events in the City. In this case, I made the overnight trip because my agent, Josh Getzler, was on the panel, and the topic was "genre-straddling." If you've never heard this term, it refers to writing a book that is not neatly pigeon-holed, but that includes elements of two (or more) genres. For example, a historical paranormal thriller. I was interested because my new book is a near-future police procedural.

The moderator, Jason Pinter, Senior Marketing Manager at Grove/Atlantic and Mysterious Press, and the panelists, Josh Getzler, literary agent and co-founder HSG Agency, and authors Katia Lief and F. Paul Wilson, provided a thought-provoking overview of the risks of genre-straddling. They all agreed that an author should not decide to write a genre-straddling book simply to follow a trend. However, sometimes a writer will be drawn to certain topics, have a background or interests that result in a book that isn't easily categorized.

Some authors who have taken the risks of genre-straddling have been successful. However, as the panelists noted there are pitfalls. These pitfalls include:

1. The possibility of alienating readers who have come to expect a certain type of book from the author. Of course, as the panelists noticed, the author could face this same kind of reaction if he or she has been writing a series and takes a break to write a stand-alone or to start a new series. And, of course, some authors have solved the problem by adopting a pseudonym.

2. Although genre-straddling may attract new readers to the author's books -- for example, sci-fi fans who buy a crime novel set in a parallel universe -- non-crime fiction readers will often bring their own genre-specific expectations. The author may fail to meet those expectations. Or, the author may be bashed for intrusion into a genre that is not his or her own.

3. But even before the book reaches readers, the author's agent must make some decisions about the publishers that might be interested in and good fit for a genre-straddling crime novel. The publisher who buys the book will have to decide how to market it.

Lots to think about. But I'm already committed and moving forward. However, I have been thinking a lot about how to reach readers who will love a near-future police procedural with an Alice in Wonderland theme and a strong historical thread involving Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth.

Any other genre-straddlers out there? 


2 comments:

Toe Hallock said...

Ms. Bailey: I love your inclination toward this type of story. I'm both a sci-fi and mystery fan. I think I recall responding in one of your earlier posts the possibility of a this-life investigator tracking down this-life felons in a computerized virtual world where they reveal what is going to happen in real life. Go for it! Yours truly, Toe.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Hi Toe,

Good to hear from you. No virtual reality in the first book, but definitely in the second. My detectives stay in this-life, but avatars and virtual gathering places play an important role. I keep reading that in a few years, we'll all have avatars.