Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Sunday, December 12, 2010

Over at Pimp My Novel, Eric recently did a multi-part analysis of book sales, broken down by genre.

He says science fiction is likely to be sold under another label, like fantasy or thriller. I think this is a good thing, because it shows that people still like it. The numbers on hard-core science fiction books are down, but I think that’s because it’s acceptable to have a little sci-fi in your mainstream now, or a science element in fantasy. We might stop classifying our sub-genres by subject matter, and start classifying them by writing style. This is probably already happening informally (like when they put in a blurb, “In the tradition of Stephen King” or whatever) but what if you walked into a bookstore and the signs over the shelves said, “Thoughtful,” or “Flowery” or “Hip” or “Wry”?

Or what if they started naming the sections after the big-name authors? I could read a book about knitting if I enjoyed the author’s voice, so I would go directly to the Stephen King section without worrying about a traditional genre. Realistically I know that wouldn’t work, because there are too many influential, distinct voices to have a section for every one, but you see where I’m going. The way we’ve classified our genres isn’t as cut and dried anymore. Look at Young Adult. It’s supposedly a genre unto itself, but YA can encompass anything at all, from vampires to drugs to cancer. Crossover is becoming the new norm.

Speaking of crossover, I have a book idea that melds fantasy and hard core science fiction, with a romantic element thrown in. Where would that go?

{ 12 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. It would go straight to the top!

  2. Haha, yeah Sarah, I'll buy that!

  3. Short, flippant answer: the trunk, because nobody's buying stuff like that.

    Longer, thoughtful answer: if it's primarily a romance with SF/F elements, it would go as a romance. If the romance isn't the primary theme, it would go in the SF/F section. You'd be more likely to sell it as a romance, so I'd suggest making that the main story.

  4. I forgot to mention that it might work as a YA. If I decide to include that romantic element, it will definitely be dessert to the SF/F main course, because that's what the story demands.

    Having said that, the point of this post is that there is a lot of crossover these days. For instance, Margaret Atwood wrote a definitively futuristic sf novel which is considered mainstream fiction.

  5. It would go under Romance. Anything with a romantic element goes there. Which might not be such a bad thing you know, romance sales are huge.

    I still say "literary" is a genre, not a "type." :P

  6. As far as the romance thing goes, the inclusion of a romantic element doesn't automatically make it Romance with a capital R. It can be sexual tension, unrequited love, etc. If it's not the main storyline, I don't think they would sell it as such.

  7. I don't know where a mix like that would go, so here's hoping your agent and at least ONE editor DOES, so it's salable. :D

    Good luck writing it!

    I think our current classifications suck and I should be put in charge. There. I said it. Everyone should listen to me.

    After all, I am a WORKING PRO. ;)

  8. Wow, do you see how ARROGANT my wife is?! My goodness. What an ass she is, y'know?

  9. Methinks someone did forget to sign out of his wench's account... lol

  10. Yeah, Sherri, SF with a romantic element goes right in the trunk. Just look at The Time Traveler's Wife! That didn't go anywhere!

    Okay, but mixing SF and fantasy with a little romance thrown in, no one is buying that. I mean, be serious. Think about that Dark Tower series, no one read that!

    As for the genres, I love the image you gave me of the little signs in the bookstore reading "Thoughtful" and "Hip" etc. Too bad we can't have two genre's: "Read This!" and "Don't!"

    Good post!

  11. Hahaha! Love your idea for the two genres, Tony. Great comment.


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