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Submitting to agents - Part IV

Actually, this post should have come in Part I. It's about knowing the genre so you can target your agents.

I'll start off by saying I have trouble with this sometimes. I write a story about characters and things happening to them and I'm told as a writer that I have to make the story unique - but maybe the Hollywood rule of "Write something different but the same" applies to novels. To be honest, I'm not sure I want to live in that world. Anyway, I've written a book and now I have to find a box to put it in. And I'm also not supposed to have too many boxes. This apparently confuses readers though I think readers are smart enough to read more than one genre.

When I (unsuccessfully) pitched Little Red Gem I pitched it as Paranormal Romance. But here's the thing about paranormal romance:

It's boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.

In Little Red Gem, at the end the main character had her revelation but she didn't run straight into the arms of the boy. She took that moment and decided that she was more important and she needed to figure things out first. Ergo it was not romance. I failed at the pitch because I got the genre totally wrong. To be honest it started out as a paranormal romance, and the first draft it was boy gets girls, but then in the final edits I got o the end and said "would I do that?"  and the answer is that I would not. So I had to be true to ME and I let the main character give the flick to the guy. I did this is real life as a teen so it's a plausible ending. The problem is I still had it in my mind that it was romance. It was more like young adult fantasy chick-lit. But try putting that in a pitch.

Despite the thousand categories on Amazon that writers like to use to slot their books into the obscure ones to get higher rakings, according to Wikipedia there really are only 8 or so genres. Beneath these we have multiple sub-genres

Mystery and Detective
Science Fiction

Science fiction is typically space opera, plausible futuristic plots, hard sci-fi, social science fiction, time travel, alternate universes, science fantasy, soft science fiction. Dystopian and apocalyptic fiction tend to find themselves under the sub genre of science fiction.

Fantasy uses magic or supernatural as a primary plot element, completely fictitious worlds.

So what do I do when I've written a book about a virtual game, supernatural characters, a futuristic world but not dystopian, and an apocalypse.

I have read on a few blogs that Dystopian and Apocalyptic Fiction are becoming their own sub-genre. But agents don't list the million genres they're looking for, just one or two, such as Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the list I provided in Part III showed the agents who are currently looking for Science Fiction and/or Fantasy.

In short, just like there is a billion trillion dollars in the world there is still only a large handful of actual currencies. i.e $1 coin, $2 coin, $5 note, $10 note etc. In order to hand over $17 we need to know what that is comprised of. Sorry if that's confusing, it's the analogy I'm using to try to perfect the genre in the pitch.

Here's another reason why knowing the genre is important.

Stephanie Palmer runs a blog Good In A Room. She teaches screen writers and this was a really interesting post I read a little while back.


In the epic action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, Snow White is the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman dispatched to kill her.

Compare this with how the concept of Mirror Mirror is pitched:

A fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend, Mirror Mirror features Snow White as she fights the evil Queen to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince in this magical adventure comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Genre: Epic action-adventure

Story Elements: Snow White gets trained in the art of war by the Huntsman, an assassin dispatched to kill her; Snow White threatens the reign of the evil Queen.

The story elements of being trained in the art of war by an assassin and fighting an evil Queen match the genre. This pitch has genre-story congruency.

Mirror Mirror

Genre: Magical Adventure Comedy

Story Elements: An evil, ruthless Queen; Snow White fighting to reclaim her birthright; jealousy and betrayal.

There’s nothing funny about the story elements. This conflicts with the description of the movie as a comedy.

The difference between the two  is Genre-Story Congruency
Will the story live up to the genre expectations of the audience?

I won't go further into this because of copyright reasons you need to read the post.

So I have pitched my novel as Science Fantasy because nobody listed Apocalyptic fiction. Here's hoping I have met the genre expectations of my audience.

Until next post.

D L Richardson


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