Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Genre Is Your Work in Progress?

For this week's You Tell Me there is a poll included! Yes, we're getting fancy. It also means that all of you reading the blog via e-mail or through an RSS reader may need to click through to cast your vote and see the results.

I thought it might be fun to get a snapshot of what people are working on out there. So, for all you writers out there: what's your genre?

I know genre distinctions are blurry, so just pick one in case there's overlap. And remember, when in doubt: go with the section of the bookstore your book would be stocked in. I added "paranormal" to the categories even though it's not typically a bookstore section simply because there seems to be so many people writing about vampires, werewolves, etc.

And, of course, feel free to discuss the results (or your WIP) in the comment section.







298 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   1 – 200 of 298   Newer›   Newest»
adamchristopher said...

My WIP is science fiction, I guess, although strictly speaking it's a superhero novel. That's close enough ;)

Kiersten said...

There's a lot of paranormal YA going on here. Whoohoo! Go us.

Toni McGee Causey said...

You totally forgot the, "Help help mine is cross-genre, URGH, what do I call it?" category. "Other" just doesn't quite convey that. ;)

RW said...

I always hesitate to describe mine as literary fiction (though I'm confident that it is), because I'm afraid people who write or enjoy reading genre fiction will take offense -- the terms literary and genre seem to imply a value judgment that isn't necessarily intended.

worldofhiglet said...

What an interesting poll - I'm looking forward to seeing the result.

It's also interesting that humour/satire is not one of the genres you have listed. That might explain a lot.

Natalie said...

Right now, the WIP is YA fantasy, but I've also written YA paranormal and sci-fi.

Amos Keppler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Jung said...

I'm another MG science fiction person who's more accurately writing a superhero book...

Amos Keppler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amos Keppler said...

You totally forget the most important: NO GENRE. Genre sucks!!!

William said...

Mine is a zombie murder-mystery. Oh dear.

lara wells said...

I'm working on 2: edits on memoir (I'm on draft 3ish) and just started plotting a new novel I'd call women's fiction.

Nathan Bransford said...

amos-

You must own a bookstore where everything is just stocked alphabetically without any categories?

nkrell said...

I'm writing middle grade. Upper middle grade, as opposed to lower or middle middle grade. I couldn't resist. :)

Sean Craven said...

I think my novel holds together as one solid entity but when I analyze it in terms of genre?

Total schizophrenia.

My main interest is in character and prose style, so maybe it's literary.

But it's based on my life experiences, so there's a strong element of confessional memoir to it.

It does feature adventures in which an alternate fantasy world is saved, so it's obviously quest fantasy.

But the fantastic elements are rationalized in a speculative fashion, so it might be science fiction.

It deals intimately with the nitty-gritty details of life at the bottom of the blue-collar ladder, so it's social realism.

Much of the material is disturbing on levels ranging from the spiritual to the physical, so it's horror.

It's intended to be funny and there's rarely a lot of space between jokes, so it's humor.

One of the central themes is redemption through love, so it's romance.

The plotting and a storyline involving a drug deal are clearly noir.

I was once asked to describe the damned thing in five words. What I came up with was, "Autobiographical horror with sick laughs."

Sharon Gerlach said...

Currently revising first novel, which I put away for two years after completion. Black magic and Lucifer.

Leanne said...

cyberpunk = science fiction, right? i suppose it's close enough :)

Anonymous said...

In a certain sense, you're rubbing salt in the wound here Nathan. I'm currently working on a Steampunk novel and even though the term is acknowledged (and even -dare I say it?- trendy) it seems that half the people in publishing consider it historical fiction while half would classify it under sci-fi/fantasy. The old "where do you find it in a bookstore?" test pretty much confirms the split. I've decided to just go with "Steampunk" in the query letter and hope for the best. For the purposes of your poll it went under "Historical Fiction". As in, there's History, and boy is there Fiction.

Anne Lyle said...

Mine is alternate history with some paranormal and soft SF elements - but since we're talking bookshop categories, I plumped for "fantasy". If it's good enough for Tim Powers, it's good enough for me... :)

Teresa said...

My WIP is fantasy, although it has horror elements hence the "adult" qualification. It's actually more steampunk in the spirit of the Golden Compass without all the Gnostic overtones.

Nice survey, Nathan, thanks!

Teresa

Valerie said...

My WIP is YA contemporary Sci-Fi. As in present day, non-outer space.

Rissa Watkins said...

My first instinct was to pick paranormal but the book is shaping up to be more of a YA paranormal.

I am worried that the market for this type of book might be too saturated but I have high hopes.

Anonymous said...

Literary, of which there is a healthy count! But qualified, in that it's on the cusp of what might be young adult; MC's are all twenty, and won't age much beyond twenty-three.

Anonymous said...

I'm scrubbing the chapters of my first novel before arranging them in order and printing the whole work. This draft will then go back to my prime reviewers, my Aunt Audrey and her friends in a small town in Nebraska.

I figure by spring, I'll have the drafts back and begin work on finalizing the novel.

It's a humorous fantasy about the investigation into the death of Humpty Dumpty. My critique group likes it and goodness knows, it was a hoot to write.

Mary Jo

Leis said...

literary with a historical background and thriller flavor. or so me thinks.

Serenity said...

I love how spread out the results are! And I've heard that whole bookstore thing several times and yet I refused to decide exactly what genre I was writing. Today when I just had to choose, it was perfectly clear. It's definitely young adult. My character is just out of high school, but her emotional age and decisions are completely YA, and her story will mostly appeal to that readership.

MeganRebekah said...

Interesting results...some I expected, some are surprising. And the post is still young... so I'm sure more surprises are in stock.

Now I voted YA SciFi because I've got engineered superheros. But other authors/agents have mentioned that superheros are speculative fiction. Oh well, it's as close as I could get.

britmandelo said...

I went ahead and chose fantasy. Technically it's a modern fantasy with some supernatural creatures running around, but it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the books I'd consider "paranormal" as they tend to lean toward romance and this is anything but.

Bane of Anubis said...

MG Paranormal (or, 10 years ago, MG fantasy) - though it sure as hell ain't no frickin' romance ;) --

Rogue Novelist said...

Renaissance reanimated; at least an astisan's discovery and use of a red-hot billet, fabricating a secret that is discovered 500 years later in this Historical Fiction.

Tracy said...

What? No category for YA fictional non-fiction? A paradox, to be sure, but that would've been the perfect category for my super top-sekrit zombie WIP...oops. You didn't hear it from me.

Anonymous said...

YA mystery being edited and edited and.... sigh. Truly a work in progress.

Ink said...

MeganRebekah,

"Speculative Fiction" is usually used as an umbrella term for Sci-fi, Fantasy, alternate history, steampunk, slipstream, etc., so yours can be both spec-fic and sci-fi. Not that this makes things any easier...

Melissa said...

Great question. I say my WIP is mainstream. Maybe upmarket? It would be shelved in the general fiction section of a bookstore. I suppose it *might* be considered literary, but I think it's more commercial than that.

Is mainstream a viable answer? Is upmarket?

Ulysses said...

I'm currently getting someone else to write my autobiography. It is, of course, a work of fiction in which the main character (somewhat like myself, but with a larger proboscis) is born, lives an exciting life, and then dies mourned by a massive group of fans who have mistaken him for Isaac Asimov.

I'm having a little trouble with the middle bits, though.

Kristi said...

I recently finished a MG fantasy and several picture books that I'm revising, and I'm working on two YA mss right now: one paranormal/sci-fi and one fantasy. For some reason - although I love reading literary fiction - I'm just not drawn to writing it.

Laura Martone said...

I went with "Women's Fiction" even though I had been pitching my novel as "literary/mainstream"... but since the economy is awful and "literary fiction" is not a big seller for agents, I've begun to think that calling it "women's fiction" might help my chances. Any thoughts on this?

Laura said...

Mine's a YA ghost story with lots of mother/daughter elements. It's set in a mental hospital. Pure fun. :)

YA Paranormal

redqueen1 said...

Working on something that is YA and has zombies ... but I think it may be more in the line of horror than paranormal. Great poll, BTW!

Mira said...

Ahem.

Yes, Toni I noticed that too. Where's the humor category?

I know it's exists, because I've touched books that are in that genre and, not incidentally, I write it.

But it's true, who wants a humor book during economic hard times?

Anyway, if you could add it in by hand, Nathan, I would appreciate it, since it's not on the list. And since it's me, and my vote counts for like a gazillion, that would be an automatic 1000%.

And no, that's not an example of my humor, that would be embarrassing.

Fortunately, I write other genres, so I still voted. (Well, I don't actually WRITE, but if I did). Can we vote more than once? Because I write picture books, non-fiction self-help, early reader/middle grade/YA and non-fiction memoir and maybe other things too.

I have a play in there somewhere too. I also write (if I wrote) essays. And fairy tales.

Oh, and I wrote a 5 page Biology paper.

So, there you are.

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

Drat. Well, I figured YA paranormal was popular thanks to Meyer & Rowling but I can't help but continue on my path.

Mine could be classed as MG paranormal, too. The vampire protagonists in my WIP sequil and the first age, so they cover both age groups.

Lilith said...

I'm working on two, both literary fiction: one set in Kyoto that involves architects; the other set in the Philippines, native myths and superstitions included.

Camille said...

YA Romance, but perhaps that's a bit presumptious of me as what readers may feel qualifies as a "romance" is rather subjective these days.

Nathan Bransford said...

Yeah, humor should have been in there, but unfortunately I'm not able to change the poll midstream. Sorry humor people!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

My prescriptive nonfiction WIP is Invisible No More! An Aging Nymph's Guide to Getting Noticed at Any Age.

Targeted to women over 40, the title says it all. Strut your stuff, gals!

iamfrightenedtoo said...

cross genre, but i went with horror, i set out to write a different zombie horror book, do to a bet, and ended up with a different zombie book....that isnt really a horror

Laura Martone said...

Awesome, Sean Craven! I love stories with mixed genres... but what will an agent say? Or will he/she be too busy screaming and running away? The modern publishing business sure does love a category for everything!

Mira said...

That's okay, Nathan.

We can just make jokes about it, which is surprisingly appropriate.

Sarah Erber said...

Mine is YA Urban Fantasy, but I guess I'll fall under Paranormal too.

It's post-apocalyptic.

Just editing the last couple chapters, then it's query time!

Awe, the joyfulness of rejections, I can see them now. LOL

Clarity said...

Nathan, I truly did not think of the genre of my work prior to writing it - I let the prolific thoughts flow and now... time to pick one, merci!

Mira said...

Oh - and there's some possiblity that at some point in time, I might write women's fiction and/or romance.

And erotica. Something I noticed was also not on the list, but perhaps for obvious reasons.

Matilda McCloud said...

I learned my lesson with Novel # 2, a genre bender. It's very hard pitching a book that doesn't fit into a specific category.

My WIP, Novel #3, is women's fiction.

CapitolClio said...

I picked historical, but mine is one part historical, one part suspense.

Nathan, would it be possible for you to tell us how the poll results stack up against books published?

Mira said...

Oh whoops.

I misunderstood the instructions. You meant the WIP, not all genres we write.

Well I have about 6 WIPs so......

Guess my main WIP is humor right now.

Okay, I'll stop posting. :)

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks for such a wonderful "You Tell Me". It will be fascinating to see the poll results and to read about other WIPs.

My current WIP, almost finished, is Science Fiction. Bare-bones summary: In the year 2032, the first of twelve space hotels is set in geosynchronous orbit with Earth. All building contracts are held by the same U.S.-based global company, Space Construction, Inc., a proprietary privilege generously allowed by the United States government in cooperation with the United Nations. As the government launches experiments into the psychological power of holograms, green alien-like creatures arrive in the Galaxy Garden Space Hotel. On an important mission, they are not the creatures the government thinks they are.

Dara said...

Not sure where mine falls...historical fiction or paranormal. I just voted as historical since that's what it is for the most part with some paranormal elements. It's set in feudal Japan about the mythical snow woman, but I'm examining what turned her into that from a normal human.

The research aspect is driving me crazy though! LOL, I have a knack for choosing obscure times and cultures :P

JES said...

I've got those old "mainstream is not literary if I know what's good for me" blues, like a couple other commenters.

Remus said...

Science Fiction.

My previous work was YA science fiction / space opera. The current WIP is a bit harder science and a lot more adult. Before that, my few publishing credits are all sci-fi.

Kaa said...

Mine's a combination of genres. I picked "paranormal," but it's also a mystery.

I would have picked "urban fantasy" if that were an option. :)

Josin L. McQuein said...

Trying out a few new YA muscles with a WIP. It's not my fault - the characters refused to be any older than 17.

Right now it looks like it's going to fit nicely in the paranormal genre, but it might stray over the line to sci-fi before I'm done.

T. Anne said...

Love the poll. I'm doing YA general/other/ series. My 'other' is the Christian market with a cross over appeal to secular markets.

b.mousli said...

I am a bit surprised that the result for my "genre" history/biography" had a 0%... I voted for it, but I guess my vote was not enough to make the needle bulge..
Is it really a declining genre? or are most readers of Nathan's blog fiction writers (a general category for many genres, I understand).
Also, to give a better picture of what I do I write literary biographies.
Thanks for the window in the world (and the work)

Rick Daley said...

I had to clear my cache a couple times so I could vote for all three works in progress.

1- Suspense / Thriller. Currently involved in a complete re-write, 40,000 words out of target 80,000. This is my early morning project.

2- Early Reader. Just submitted a 4,000 word chapter book manuscript to an agent who expressed interest earlier this summer (when it was a 500-word picture book) but suggested some changes.

3- Humor. 12,000 words in, I really think I can keep it going for at least 60,000. This is my evening project. I'm not sure if it would be a humor novel or a humorous work of literary fiction.

Any advice regarding teh funny?

WORD VERIFICATION: wardshi. Mr. Cleaver in drag.

jbchicoine said...

I thought there was such a thing as General Fiction/Comercial Fiction. Is that considered 'Other'?

Malia said...

What about the 'tween years? The 11-14 category? I'm working on a fantasy series for late middle grade to early young adult. Can't forget about those in-betweens, can we?

Helena Halme said...

My WIP is a literary spy novel set in London at the BBC Monitoring service at the end of the cold war, but I ticked suspense...a bit William Boyd, a bit Charlie Wilson's War.

Dan Holloway said...

Well, this is the first time I've ever been "on trend", with my new women's fiction WIP. Which is a bad thing, of course, because by the time it's ready it'll be a long way OFF trend.

What we'd REALLY like to know, Nathan, is what your clients are writing now - beacsue that, presumably, is what'll be on trend in 2-3 years' time

kathrynjankowski said...

My WIP is YA fantasy.

Interesting that Fantasy and Literary Fiction percentages are so close, in light of Pimp My Novel's recent posts on genre-specific sales (good for Fantasy, not so good for Literary Fiction).

I say, follow your passion, write the best book you can, and hope it finds an audience.

Or, as the mantra goes, "Leap and the net will appear!"

Kristin Miller said...

Hard to narrow my vote down to just one WIP. I'm working on a YA dystopian, a MG magical realism, a MG/YA sibing saga and a YA literary.

I can't work on just one WIP at a time. :D

Keith Schroeder said...

My WIP is SF and will be ready to query agents in early September.

I see a lot of YA in the poll. My gut feel is that YA is at a peak, especially the paranormal/fantasy.

Fingers crossed SF is strong for my novel.

Reesha said...

This is fun. Though I found it hard to resist the temptation of clicking on the section of bookstore I would LIKE my book to be in as opposed to the what it will most likely get categorized as. I'm already seeing it as misunderstood. It's Sci-fi Fantasy but written in a literary way for young adults with religious undertones and didactic conclusions.

Ok, ew. Now that I've classified it that way, it sounds like the worst book ever. But it really is quite clever, you know.

Word verification: hargend = a hard bargain

Kristin Tubb said...

0% for middle grade historical fiction? Guess I'm really filling a niche, then! :-)

Mark Brockman said...

It causes me pain to classify my post-apocalyptic YA romance as science fiction.

Karla Doyle said...

Again I waffle - is it Women's Fiction or is it Romance? The MC is introspective and deals with internal and extenal conflict, so it's women's fiction. Since I gave her a happily ever after, for now - it's romance. Damn categories, anyway!

Rick Chesler said...

Currently rewriting /revising action-thriller #2.

My first was Wired Kingdom, coming May 2010 from Variance.

Facebookers, please join my brand new fan page:
http://www.facebook.com/WiredKingdom

Mahalo!

Rose said...

I'm shopping around a completed YA supernatural novel with undertones of romance, betrayal and mystery.

I'm also working on a middle grade book focusing on 3 boys and their neighborhood shenanigans. It's loosely based on my son and his cul-de-sac friends. I'm laughing out loud as I write it, especially since it's all mostly true.

Anonymous said...

No just plain old fiction-fiction? No "mainstream commercial"?

Yikes. That leaves me out.

Sharon aka Sapphire said...

My WIP is a MG Historical Fiction based on the extraordinary things that regular people did and went though in the English countryside during WWII. The more I research, interview and write the more I am falling in love with my story.

Linda Godfrey said...

Although I clicked plain old nonfiction, I actually have four WIPs: two paranormal nonfiction with contracts and looming deadlines, a completed-but-can't-stop-revising-it YA fantasy, and an adult fantasy too early to know if it is a full novel. Also another nonfiction, an offbeat and slightly gruesome -- ok, horribly gruesome -- history that is sold but barely started. Some day I do need to find an agent.

Nathan Bransford said...

I tend to think that "general" or "mainstream" fiction doesn't really exist. What are some currently published books that you'd place in that category?

Scribblar said...

I voted fantasy.

I'm writing steampunk and I'll probably be murdered for this but... I added magic.

And monsters, semi-divine beings, angels, demons, curses, sorcerers, clockwork robots, astral travel... and it's not Victorian, it's Edwardian... with several scenes set in the 1980s. And a climactic battle onboard the Titanic.

Actually, it's probably better than it sounds. I just really wanted to mix my two favourite genres and see where I went... so I merged steampunk with sword and sorcery.

I call it steam and sorcery, because it sounds better than swordpunk.

mardott said...

The "where does steampunk go?" question resonates with me. I'd put it in science fiction - unless it's something like Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. THAT's fantasy.

My first novel was time travel to the past. So it fits quite well as historical fiction. Except for all the SF elements...

I'm still not sure what to do with it.

Drgnwrtr said...

I have 2 wip's both paranormal but only one a romance, it didn't start out the way but um yeah it sure got that way fast. It's in it's final editing stage hence the second wip.

Of course that doesn't account for the third, fourth and fifth wip's...

word ver:moatina (a baby moat?)

Douglas L. Perry said...

Mine is a thrilling mystery, or a mystery thriller. I haven't decided yet.

Robena Grant said...

I'm writing a murder mystery with a strong romance so don't know if I should call it contemporary romance with mystery elements, or mystery with romantic elements.

I get around it by saying I'm writing a book. Ha ha.

Weronika said...

General YA with potential literary overlap. :)

Good poll.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, mainstream fiction is work not specifically targeting one gender or the other. Men won't read (or at least shy away from) anything labeled or seeming to be women's fiction. Women stay away from the action-adventure stuff. If it's not a mystery, not SF, not literary, and neither historical nor romance, then what's left but mainstream commercial?

Calliopenjo said...

My genre is typically fantasy with female leads and relationships. Urban fantasy, high fantasy. . . I'm not sure.

On occasion I'll tackle sci-fi. Not the hard core sci-fi though. I wouldn't be able to write the detailed technical aspect of that.

Some say my stories are YA because they don't involve sex scenes. Personally, I don't always find it necessary to include it.

That's about as close as I can break down the categories where my stories belong.

JuLo said...

Am I crazy? I mean crazier than normal. I'm not seeing any poll. Was it taken down? Hope I'm not being a complete idiot here, but chances are good...

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

But specifically which recently published books fall in that category?

Julia said...

I always though of my WIP as YA fantasy, but lately, having read most of the popular YA books, I think no agent will take mine as YA. Simply put, my novel is not dumb enough. It actually has a plot and my protagonist female is not beautiful and does not have any super power to compensate for it, plus I am not avoiding using 3 and 4 syllable words just out of fear that kids don't get it... I might, when the time comes, send it out as simply "fantasy" even though I always imagined my target audience to be my son's age - from 12 to 18 or so.

L. T. Host said...

JuLo-- I was just wondering the same thing.

Where's the poll??? (said in old Wendy's ad lady voice, nudging the blog with a gloved hand).

At any rate, my WIP is fantasy. Plain ol' gods and world-changing- fates-at-stake fantasy.

Susan at Stony River said...

I hit "YA Historical Fiction" and it STILL reads 0% -- oh, poor not-loved genre!
LOL

Jenna said...

Nathan, I agree with you on the whole mainstream/general category.

But that said, there are a few books I'm curious about. How would you classify Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain? How about The Time Traveler's Wife--women's fiction?

I know these aren't super recent but what about The Kite Runner and Water for Elephants?

MeganRebekah said...

Thanks for the clarification Ink! That actually does make sense.

Come time to query, I will probably just stick to "Young Adult novel" to keep it more straightforward.

Mercy Loomis said...

Had to go with paranormal, because most of my stuff involves paranormal. But it's really paranormal historical, and no, NOT romance, thank you very much. (I save the romance for the short fiction.)

Of course, that leaves out the cyberpunk piece, which would be sci-fi, and the YA paranormal I haven't actually started yet, and the historical women's fiction I may get around to one of these days...

Nathan Bransford said...

jenna-

Literary fiction, science fiction/literary fiction, literary fiction and literary fiction.

Although I'd characterize all of those as more along the lines of my invented category of "book club fiction," which is literary fiction that is more accessible and commercial.

And btw, that opinion is my own, no one quite agrees on genre distinctions.

terryd said...

I think it's very cool to see this empirical, genre, shotgun pattern, Nathan. Inspiring, it is.

Mine is a post-apocalyptic, family saga thriller with SF elements (artificial intelligence) and speculation regarding future machine/gov't repression (it's for our own good?), set in the mid-future Sierra Nevada.

Whatever it is, it's due to my editor at Orbit Books on 1 May.

Best success, people!

Hayden Thorne said...

Mine's a GLBT YA superhero novel. Really a sequel to a previous trilogy that was published by a small press. :) Hope to get it done soon.

Laura Martone said...

Wow, Nathan, I step away from your blog for a little while, and my whole world falls apart.

Right now, I'm struggling with what to categorize my novel - "literary" seems like a dirty word nowadays and "women's fiction" is too limiting, which is why "mainstream" is so apt.

Hence, I vehemently disagree with your opinion that mainstream fiction does not exist. Where would Michael Chabon or John Irving or Anita Shreve be placed then? They're certainly not literary in the way that Woolf and Faulkner would be.

Michelle said...

Middle grade, with a small supernatural element. Kind of A Year Down Yonder meets James and the Giant Peach.

M. K. Clarke said...

A YA, mystery/other.
An MG, other/spec fic.
An outline for an MG narr. NF, also classed as other.

Wow, talk about not pigeon-holing myself :).

Sweet poll, Nathan, thank you.

Damn, can't break this top 50. Y'all don't have lives, do ya? :p

~M

Nathan Bransford said...

laura-

Aren't they?

Mira said...

Rick Daley - if you're still browsing....I'm curious about what you said re. word count for humor. Do you know what the standard word count for humor is? I'm having trouble getting an answer for that.

Nathan, if you know, that would be cool, too.

also, Bryan/Ink, you didn't say what your WIP is.

Laura Martone said...

Nathan -

Yes, to a certain extent, Chabon, Irving, Shreve, etc., are literary authors, but wordsmithing doesn't seem QUITE as important to them as it was for Faulkner. I guess that's why I would've said that they're somewhere in between "literary" and "mainstream."

In your humble opinion, do you think that I would be better off (in this current economic/publishing climate) to call my novel "women's fiction" and not "literary" or "mainstream"?

I'm eager to understand my genre dilemma. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Word verification: aediat

Rhymes with "idiot"? Quite possibly, as I guess what I call "mainstream" you probably call "literary."

The Weight of Silence (Heather Gudenkauf) probably comes the closest to my WIP in terms of some of its plot elements. You probably call Richard Russo's work literary, but his plot lines aren't exactly experimental and weird (cf. That Old Cape Magic, which is downright accessible). Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You likewise.

Going back a ways, a lot of things weren't exactly literary when they first came out. I mean, what was David Copperfield when it hit the scene? For that matter, I still don't buy John Irving as literary, probably because he wrote the same book over and over again.

To me, truly literary fiction includes stuff like Finnegan's Wake and Alphabetical Africa.

Can you tell I spent too many years in grad school? ;-)

Nathan Bransford said...

laura-

But literary fiction can encompass everything from very accessible to the most esoteric.

I'd be true to your book. I do think there's a bit of a stigma against literary fiction at the moment, but it won't do you much good if it's really literary fiction and you call it something else.

Most importantly: don't overthink genre labels. You don't even HAVE to tell the agent what you think it is. If you wrote the query well the agent will already know.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Important to remember that in publishing terms, "Literary fiction" is a category, not a value judgment.

CKHB said...

I picked "women's fiction" but I've been told that my novel is in fact "chick lit", an ever-so-similar yet way-less-marketable category right now. Any particular reason you didn't give chick lit its own category? Is it simply a much-maligned subset of women's fiction, or is it such a dead category that it doesn't even go on the list anymore?

dylan said...

How about you, Nathan?

What category is the pseudonymous manuscript you've been secretly working on during stolen moments?

dylan

Nathan Bransford said...

ckhb-

I consider it a subset.

Anonymous said...

Word: grodi

Blogger is laughing at me.

Nathan, care to quantify what makes literary "literary"? And where would you put Gudenkauf's book?

Nathan Bransford said...

dylan-

It's kind of a cyberpunk PLUS steampunk women's fiction slasher romantic comedy.

novashedragon said...

As Mira pointed out, there was no option for "erotica." Could that possibly fall under "Romance?"

At any rate, my other WIP is a romantic comedy, so I chose "Romance." Good poll, Nathan!

jbchicoine said...

Nathan,
re: your reply to Laura: Does that mean if I were to query you, I would not have to provide genre?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

To the FAQs!

Karen Schwabach said...

Nice to get YA and middle grades broken into separate genres-- people always seem to assume that "YA" and "middle grades" *are* genres.

My next book coming out will be middle grades historical, but I'm working on two YA fantasies. Great to see so many others doing the same-- I love that stuff!

Sara J. Henry said...

Someone recently asked me what genre my upcoming novel (fall 2010) is and when I told her literary suspense, she asked if that was what Dan Brown wrote.

Ah ...

Vacuum Queen said...

I am in the 1% category with MG-general. I also have a YA general and picture book going. Does anyone else work on more than one project at a time?? Just curious.

Nathan Bransford said...

Whoops, forgot about erotica too. Sorry erotica people.

R. said...

Nathan-- thanks for the amazing blog! I am wondering how you would classify "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire or "Watership Down" by Richard Adams. Are these fantasy? Literary fiction? Something else?

Nathan Bransford said...

jb-

I really need to know if you consider it YA, but short of that it's not something I'm worried to much about.

M. K. Clarke said...

Okay, I'm a dope: I posted my comment before reading the durned poll! **sigh**

I had to post OTHER because--yes, VQ!!--I'm working on more than one project at a time, but can only REVISE one at a time. Bummer, eh?

Got a spec fic upper MG totally in the other catt (MC can breathe underwater and doesn't yet know why); an upper YA also in the other catt, but mystery/thriller, too; and a third other either an EC or MG narr. NF read that was originally going to be a picture book, but expanded to something much more.

~Missye

Don said...

When I started it was MG SciFi, but the situations just weren't working with pre-teen characters, so they had to grow up a few years.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've read (and just stopped to re-read) your FAQ on the literary vs. commercial issue.

Problem is, no one's buying literary fiction. Is anyone buying book club fiction?

Ink said...

Laura,

Those are all literary writers (from a bookseller's perspective). There's a fair bit of stretch in any given category, and that one more than most. So you can say you write literary! With pride! See, that way I'll know where to find your book when you get published. :)

scott g.f. bailey said...

Like Nathan says, "You don't even HAVE to tell the agent what you think it is. If you wrote the query well the agent will already know."

My agent and I have never had a "what genre is this book" discussion, and I didn't claim anything in my query letter. Though, just between you and me, it's literary fiction (a fast-and-loose retelling of "Hamlet" set during the Reformation).

Bane of Anubis said...

Perhaps we should define literary as a genre that would bore your average teenager*... j/j - kind of ;)

* average teenager = someone who thinks Michael Bay makes excellent movies.

Steena Holmes said...

I'm writing a supernatural thriller - from a totally Christian point of view - pastor who lost his faith type of theme - dribble in a few demons and voila!

Cheryl said...

I thought for certain I knew the category, but it wasn't an option. So I read up on the category definitions and chose another. Now I'm reading your feedback and I find myself feeling....

*bangs head on desk*

Great blog, btw.

Ink said...

Mira,

My WIP are:

A fantasy duology. First is called The Dreams of Crows and the second is called The Dead Road.

Also in progress a literary novel (which could also be "literary crime novel" perhaps) called The Terrible Weight of Gravity.

And I want to revise another literary novel (literary + military surrealism... Ha! I totally got that niche covered) called A Love More Desperate.

So, yes, this poll was very difficult for me. Almost as difficult as warding the Colombians away from my catapult...

Alexis Grant said...

It's interesting to see what audience you've got, Nathan! Is this the audience you thought you catered to?

I'm writing a travel memoir!

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Nathan. I appreciate your perspective re: my genre dilemma.

(And here, all this time, I was living under the misconception that I HAD to include the genre in my query.)

Oh, and thanks, Ink. Your viewpoint (as a bookseller) is also appreciated!

Laura Martone said...

Hey, Bane, watch it. The Island was freakin' awesome!

Mira said...

Ink -

Well okay then.

Military surrealism. Wow. Quentin Tarantino may be calling you.

You mean the Columbians are back? Even though you read them Strawberry Shortcake? Wow, they're tough. Maybe it's time to pull out the big guns. Do you have Barney in Canada?

L. T. Host said...

Ach; I figured it out. NoScript, while a life-saver at times, at other times just boggles me. I miss a lot.

At any rate, voted!

Word veri: sessest... I wish that was a real word. Sounds like it would be fun to use!

David Burton said...

MG steampunk fantasy.

Ink said...

Well, Barney tried to come to Canada. But I had him whacked.

JM Reinbold said...

My wip is an English village mystery/crime for modern times with lots of twists and most definitely not cozy!

Cary Kearns said...

Nathan, what would you like to see outside of the recently most popular genres? Does sports fiction (golf) with a legitimate and behind the scenes view work at this time? I know that it is a tough niche, but on a 1-10 scale, how do you feel about this? Assuming it is compelling and well written?

Nathan Bransford said...

cary-

Re: Sports Novels

DebraLSchubert said...

This was fun, Nathan! Great idea.;-)

Leigh Lyons said...

My WiP is actually cross genre Mystery and Paranormal.

Patti Milheron said...

It's actually finished. It's a creative non-fiction memoir called INSIDE OF STONE WALLS. Chapters 1-11 are posted on Authonomy.com if anyone's interested in reading some of it.

Thomas Burchfield said...

Hmm, interesting--no comic fiction or satire in the list (Like Wodehouse or "Catch-22."), though, those kind of books would be under "Literary" at the bookstore.

My latest Red Room essay (a look at fame, featuring George Clooney)would definitely be filed under humor.

MersonPerson100 said...

Hi. I feel privileged as no respondents for Early Reader. I'm working on a series of books that will turn in to short animated children's tv shows. Bit like Bob the Builder if you know that.

Somewhere In Between said...

I actually just started my WIP today! It's been a long time coming, but I've finally started (after I got the big idea last night). Interesting poll! I'm looking forward to seeing all of the results.

Scott said...

I chose 'literary fiction' based on the definitions found on your site. It's more character driven than anything. Some might consider it commercial. That's the whole problem with genres. ; )

Lydia Sharp said...

I voted science fiction because that is the majority, but I have more than one WIP, so here's the breakdown:

Novels:
Science Fiction: 2

Short Fiction:
Science Fiction: 3
Fantasy: 1

Jen said...

I'm in the romance crowd...historical romance if you want to get specific. The current WIP is set in Regency England.

Kimber An said...

What? No option for

'No Freakin' Idea' ?

Oh, wait, 'other' will work for that.

Bane of Anubis said...

Laura, that's only b/c you like Obi-wan running around in a skin-tight outfit :p

Kristin Laughtin said...

Science fiction, although this one has some verrrry minor fantasy/paranormal elements. Usually I'm pretty straight SF, though (at least for novels).

superwench83 said...

Scribblar: Steam and sorcery? That sounds awesome!

Shari Anton said...

What? No Victorian romantic mystery? ;)I put it in romance.

Author Guy said...

I voted for my novel WIP, which is a sequel in my fantasy series. I also have some short stories going, one which is fantasy the other SF.

Meg Spencer said...

Fantasy for me. I must say I don't really understand the trend of not wanting to name a genre. Sure, sometimes you start writing one thing and it turns into another, and sure there's lots of overlap between genres, but assuming the point is to sell the book, it's got to go on a shelf somewhere!

Stef said...

I was wondering about the genre-less books as well. hah I'm not entirely sure I would be interested in reading a book devoid of genre.

I'm working on a scifi / fantasy piece (I chose scifi for the poll.) at the current moment but am thinking of putting it on the back-burner for a bit to work on some other ideas just to give it a rest and time to breathe. :)

Carolin said...

My WIP is historical fiction, set in 6th century AD Ostrogothic Italy. From what Eric on his blog Pimp My Novel says, historical fiction is doing decently enough :-)

Jen P said...

.."Important to remember that in publishing terms, "Literary fiction" is a category, not a value judgment."

What a great statement. Whenever I say 'literary' I feel as if people are skeptical, as if to say, 'what? you want to compete with 'real', 'quality' authors?

So, now I say "Book Club Fiction". Non-writing folks seem to perceive that as for the masses, mainly female, readable, but with substance.

Shame that 'literary' seems to be low down on the potential sales for debut author list. (Especially if you read the genre pieces on the Pimp my Novel blog.)

onefinemess said...

Fantasy epic disguised as a modern paranormal mystery here.

There does seem to be a bit of a "paranormal" zeitgeist these days. I'd like to think I'm a little bit ahead of the curve since I started 2 years ago, but that probably just means everyone else started before me ;).

I have to agree with britmandelo that a lot of "paranormal" books tend towards romance and those trappings - here's to hoping the next generation is... different. The severe dearth of non-romance oriented "paranormal" whatnot is what inspired me to write in the first place - I just couldn't find what I wanted to read.

jimnduncan said...

wonder what percentage of the bookstore would be in the 'paranormal' area if they put all such books there?

Phyl said...

This is such a toughie for me! I imagine an agent/publisher would have to slot it as science fiction, but it has almost no SF trappings, even if it's set 200 years in the future. And "speculative fiction," though accurate, would give no real idea. Maybe that's my problem, and the book can't be altered. banging head on desk

Scott said...

Actually, I'm sci-fi with horror elements. Which certainly means it should be a movie or a graphic novel. Sigh.

Not surprised at all the fantasy. Seems pretty rampant. That and YA. Sign o' the times, innit?

Nicole Zoltack said...

My WIP is a medieval fantasy romance, Book II in my Kingdom of Arnhem series.

I also have another WIP that I'm polishing to send to agents. That one's fantasy YA.

Sharla said...

Paranormal is what I picked, although it's actually paranormal romance with humor. And it's about ghosts, not werewolves or vampires.

But I suppose a funny women's fiction about a single mom and her teenage daughter mixed in with a little "Ghost Whisperer" and a hot ghost... would be paranormal romance in a bookstore. You think?

Wendy Withers said...

You get so many comments I never add my own, but I'm so excited by my WiP I couldn't help myself. I'm writing Jewish chick lit! It's so awesome.

JohnO said...

I know we're all word folk here, but aren't visuals fun and informative? And I guess my WIP falls into "other" ... how odd.

Maree Anderson said...

The one I've just submitted to my editor is another paranormal erotic romance. And the last ms I subbed elsewhere was a Space Opera with a rather er... sexy premise.

But don't pigeon-hole me quite yet, I've also written a YA!

My stories are generally cross-genre, e.g. paranormal chick-lit, paranormal with a sci-fi twist, paranormal YA, alternate world fantasy where I played with a Regency/Quaker style world. I've got that whole "why be normal, when you can be para-normal?" thing happening.

I usually just say I write fantasy and paranormal - it's easier!

J.J. Bennett said...

My WIP is YA paranormal/science fiction genre with a touch of religion.(That sounds like one hell of a mix ...huh?) I voted as YA paranormal because that seemed the closest genre. Mine is not vampires, not ghosts, not zombies, and not been done yet. I like it...I hope you will too.

Tia Nevitt said...

Mine's a time travel historical, so it's got some fantasy in it, but I think it would be stocked on the shelves as a historical.

SM Schmidt said...

Science Fiction. But the WIP sometimes likes to pretend its fantasy.

Just walked through the book store today...oh dear I worry for my cover after the state of half naked girls starring at me from shelf after shelf. What happened to tasteful Scifi covers?

christicorbett said...

My WIP is a historical fiction about the Oregon Trail, with a little bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

On a related note...wow did our ancestors do some amazing things with so little! No cell phones, no cars, no GPS, no rain gear, little sanitation, AND it took months to arrive, if you did at all.
Christi

J.J. Bennett said...

Oh...and not witches...or wizards!

Tiffany Clare said...

I'm pub'd (pre) in historical romance (gothic) so my wips are all in that sub-genre.

Interesting mix of writers visiting the blog. Not surprising, but I like how the genre fiction writers move around the web together. :)

garridon said...

Mine wasn't on the list--urban fantasy. I took a more thriller-based aspect to it rather than private eye. No vamps, werewolves, witches, demons, or zombies. Just magic and paparrazzi.

Steph Damore said...

Mystery in the house - wuz sup, wuz sup?

Bane - who doesn't like Obi-wan in skin tight outfits? =)

ClothDragon said...

Zombies. And magic. Present day, alternate history. I clicked paranormal on the poll and called it urban fantasy on queries, though I'm currently on a rewrite based on some agent suggestions. (Not from Nathan, he turned me down flat, as he should since he was my first query ever before I started researching more of how it was done than was listed in the Writer's Market or realizing how much help there was online.)

Jeffrey said...

I was surprised by these results. I would have expected ‘Literary Fiction’ to be in the top 5 or 6, maybe, but not tied for 1st.

I’ve completed the first draft of my novel (Yay!), a literary bildungsroman, and am busy with revisions and re-writes. Some sections have already been professionally edited (Victoria Mixon, she’s terrific!). After seeing the poll results I wonder if I should be encouraged by how many others are writing in the genre, or discouraged by all the competition. Hmmm. Well, I guess I’ll find out once I start submitting, huh?

J.J. Bennett said...

No ...werewolves either!

Anonymous said...

Great poll! Very interesting. Hard to choose though. My WIP is:

a)science fictional in plot
b)suspense thriller between characters and
c)literary in style and voice.

I just scored my uni degree and a commercial publishing contract in the same week - go figure. LOL.

Glad u only let us choose one tho, coz that's how the bookshops and e-catalogues work.... and it makes u think.

Susanne said...

I voted romance but it's cross genre. Where do time travel and immortals fit in? Fantasy or paranormal?

D. G. Hudson said...

My WIP is in the science fiction category, written in the tradition of 'hard' science fiction. I've been told by another author that my work-in-progess novel has epic scale & contains elements of suspense and mystery.

Other WIPs include womens fiction, and a mystery/suspense novel.

It will be interesting to see the division of genres on the voting, since you usually get lots of voters who don't seem to be regular readers.

Hope you will summarize the results in a follow-up post, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

i picked lit fic but am not sure if this is correct.
There's a murder, but it's not gory and it's not a mystery.
There's a person on the run, but not much focus on if someone is chassing them or not.
The novel is supposed to reflect the arc of a character, first falling then coming back. So far, I've only called it contemporary fiction.

Lucinda said...

I selected “fantasy,” yet nothing quite covers my WIP, a four-book series with first two novels completed. It is fantasy, adventure, entertaining for YA, complex enough for adult, and has reality stranger than fantasy. It has conflict (including war), love, betrayal, evil, good, and a few dragons and dwarfs to round it out a bit.

Of all the studying in the past few years about the publishing industry, writing, developing, copy-editing, rewrites, queries, agents, editors, all the ins and outs, ups and downs, hoop-jumping and mountain climbing, I have yet to find the right pigeon hole to stuff my WIPs into.

How can I pigeon hole an Empire?

Comparing your list to the files in my computer, most of my WIPs can be labeled. But, is it acceptable for a writer write passionately about so many different genres?

Anonymous said...

I had to agonize between YA fantasy and YA SF, since I write both and they are often intermixed. =) Is science-fantasy an actual genre?

---
SF Writer
To God be the glory

Jodi said...

I suppose genre is in the eye of the beholder. My novel takes place during WWII but one agent said people don't consider that "historical". People? What people? She calls it women's fiction. So who knows.

Richard Lewis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Genevieve said...

... and my historical fiction, amazingly enough, would be absolutely PERFECT for Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire ...

Chuck H. said...

I'm about half way through a mystery/suspense/thriller. My first multiply rejected novel was the same and sandwiched in between was a YA sci-fi novella, also suffering from rejection. At my age, maybe I should just write my autobiography and quit.

Robin said...

My WIP is YA bordering on literary fiction or book club fiction or contemporary fiction or whatever... The sensibility is along the lines of "The Secret Life of Bees".

Although, I'm sure I'm not writing in this genre, but what is steampunk? Are there any recent titles that can be used as examples?

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan,

I think of mainstream fiction as popular or commercial fiction, and it delights me no end that literary novels become mainstream novels on a regular basis. Literary fiction is a slippery thing to define - maybe a powerful story told in beautiful, excellently crafted language. I think of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd and THE POISONWOOD BIBLE and THE BEAN TREES by Barbara Kingsolver as three examples of novels that became both literary and mainstream fiction.

Liana Brooks said...

I went with science fiction although it's pushing the boundaries on SFR. It has space ships, that has to be sci-fi enough.

Alan said...

You need a dark fantasy section. It's horror and fantasy rolled together (at least, that's about the most succinct description!)

Marilyn Peake said...

Robin,

Here’s a great definition of steampunk.

Laurie said...

I'm frankly surprised at the low %'s of romance, suspense, mystery, thrillers. What's going on with the statistics we keep hearing about - that romance is 50% of the market, etc?

Della Luna said...

Interesting poll; Mine is an alternative history - or fantasy. Kind of a "Lost Horizons meets Indiana Jones"

Robert A Meacham said...

Actually, I am working on a query for a crime genre I finished. For a break, I am writing a short story about a guy who dreams the same dream every night. One night this guy does not wake, instead, the person that is in the dream with this guy wakes and takes on the guy's life!

I know, it hurts for me to think sometimes!

Anonymous said...

I once read on an agent web site that they were looking for "commercial mainstream that rides the thin line of literary."

I guess that would fall into the category or "other."

It's not the genre I'm working on right now, and my published books have all been romance. But my ultimate goal is commercial mainstream.

I'm posting anon because my agent would kill me if I used my name.

Anonymous said...

Paranormal only includes books about werewolves, vampires, witches, etc? Wow. I didn't know that.

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