Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Category vs. Genre (On the Path to Publication)

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Hello All!

I thought I'd write a bit about Category and Genre when it comes to querying as an author. While these two words have been used interchangeably, they are indeed different. While researching this topic, I've also found that these words have been used to mean the opposite of one another. Going from the writer's workshops I've attended, Twitter pitch events, and general background knowledge as a teacher and instructor, I thought I'd give my two cents as to what the relative distinction is between the two. I am distinguishing them in the publishing sense and not in a strictly academic sense. 

Category refers to an age range 

While some think that categories refer to the ages of the target audience, it also refers to the ages of the main characters. Some of the typical categories include:
  • Picture Book (PB)
  • Middle Grade (MG): typically focuses on middle-school age children 
  • Young Adult (YA): typically focuses on high school age protagonists
  • New Adult (NA) *: college age protagonists/entering into adulthood
  • Adult (A): anything above NA
Category is to "Dog" as Genre is to "Great Dane" and "Shiba Inu." Category= bigger classification; Genre= classifications within categories. When marketing a book to the public, however, Category can encompass both the above as well as genre as seen here.

*Disclaimer: there's a lot of grey area in terms of category, and the protags in the book don't necessarily have to correspond to the ages of the intended audience. This is just a rough guide. The categories often are a reflection of the types of issues dealt with in the story as well as the overall "voice."

I have seen that some agents/editors/publishers define New Adult in different ways, if they even recognize its existence at all. I have tried to come up with a definitive answer as the age range, but some have the upper limits NA being 30 while others cap it off at 22-23. 

I may go into more detail about the NA confusion in a later post, but my suggestion to those who are struggling with this when querying is to look at the submission guidelines and previously published books. If your dream agent has published clients in the Adult category that fit your book's premise and tone, go with that as a baseline. *

Genre refers to the general subject matter of the book. 

Some genres include:
  • Historical
  • Romance
  • Fantasy/Science Fiction (also under the umbrella term Speculative Fiction and also includes Alternative History, Magic Realism, Horror etc.)
  • Mystery
If an agent/editor/other writers ask for you to describe your WIP, use phrases like Young Adult Fantasy or New Adult Contemporary. Typically it's described as (Category)+(Genre). I've also heard it (Category)+(Genre 1)+(Genre 2) as in Young Adult Science Fiction/Thriller 

If you do decide to use 2 descriptors, I suggest putting your most important descriptor first. So if your novel is mainly about a couple's relationship with a hint of adventure, put romance first. Be as specific as possible when describing your book, or agents/editors/publishers etc. may feel that the book itself is as scattered as the genres you've listed. 

"But, my story really is a Fantasy-Romance-Thriller-Mystery-Adventure that will appeal to *all* ages!"

If you'd like to take the traditional route to publishing your book, I'd advise honing in on your genre and category before you query. You can do this by asking your betas or critique partners how they would classify your book, or you can look at comparable titles to your book and see how they are categorized. Additionally, if you've hired an editor/publicist, ask their advice. These are just some of the ways you can nail down this all-important question.

Of course, there are exceptions and leeways to all of this, and if you intend on taking the self-publishing route, you as the author have more control over how you market your novel.

How would you categorize your work in progress? Comment below or send me your reply through Twitter 

☆Until next time, epic writers! May your words be great and your pages many.☆

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