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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's in a Category?

In an earlier post I wrote about how the need to know my genre led to my discovery that I am a romance author. However, knowing my genre was just the tip of the iceberg.  As authors, we must also categorize our stories within our chosen genres. Why are categories important? Well, if we plan to submit our stories to publishers, we need to know what categories they are looking for and their requirements for each. Submitting an erotic romance to a publisher of inspirational romances is not going to have good outcome.
I don’t know about other genres, but romance has a mind-boggling number of sub-genres.  Not only are the number of categories seemingly never ending (dino erotica anyone?) the lines between them are constantly blurring. In years past, paranormal romances involved vampires, werewolves, ghosts and various other paranormal creatures and was not to be confused with fantasy romance. Fantasy romances generally had a medieval setting and featured magic-wielding characters, dragons, etc.  The lines between the two categories are now completely blurred with many authors using them interchangeably, resulting in much frustration on the part of readers looking for a magical, medieval romance and not one populated with various alpha shape-shifters.
I, for one, have always considered sweet romances and clean romances to be the same thing. My experiences over the last few months have taught me that they are not. It seems that the most widely accepted definition of a sweet romance is one that contains no explicit sex; any sex between the characters takes place behind closed doors. Clean romances, it seems, are those that contain no foul language. This category is made even more difficult by the fact that the definition of foul language is going to vary greatly from person to person.

My short story, Saved by the Belle, was recently published in a collection advertised as “sweet, clean” romances. The collection has received a couple of lower-starred reviews due to the language used. This surprised me. One of the harshest words used in the collection is probably “asshole,” which is used in my story when the hero and heroine are trying to decide how to describe a male diva. While there are swear words that I find vulgar and would never use myself, “asshole” is not one of them. After raising two sons and spending much of my adult life swimming in a sea of testosterone, my profanity tolerance may be a little higher than that of others. Regardless, the “clean romance” label has been removed from the collection; hopefully, this will be less confusing to our target audience.
My novel, Dial V for Vampire, is scheduled for publication by Fire Star Press later this year. I categorize it as a sweet, humorous, paranormal romance. Why did I choose those categories? Well, the story contains no sex (although it is not-so-subtly implied at the end), it is humorous and it contains both vampires and werewolves (although they prefer the term ‘shifter’).
In short, or maybe not so short (my posts tend to be on the longer side) in writing, as in life, it is not possible to please everyone. So we must write the stories that are on our hearts and categorize them as best we can based on our knowledge of the publishing world at that time. If our publisher – or our reviews – reflect that we chose poorly, all we can do is step back, take a deep breath, and try again.
How important are categories to you when choosing your next read? Have you noticed any blurring between categories when searching for new books to try?

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1 comment:

  1. Categories are minimally important to me when choosing a story to read. In fact, I rarely notice the category on a story. I find that the synopsis of the story is much more important.