I know. Categorizing a book is hard.
Where you put your novel, and what you call it matters. Yes, I know. It’s your first book. You think the world is just waiting for this story, the whole world. It’s really not. This is sales.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my books. I believe in the stories, and I pitch them hard. But, it matters who gets the book in their hot, little hands. For instance, my Lancers, without proper labeling, can fall into the hands of die hard scifi dudes who do not like kissing books. Recently, I reviewed a great work of Romantic Historical Fiction, but the author thinks it’s a romance. Will not consider that it’s mislabeled. Okay.
Here’s what happens then. Some romance chick like me finds your book and yells, “Squee, pirates!” They download that baby instantly. They invest themselves. They fall in love as your characters do, and then you drop the boom and kill that guy.
You just sold them fiction as romance, and they’re feeling heartbroken, misled, unhappy. Let’s face it. I know where Game of Thrones is if I want to cry over dead leads. I don’t read romance for realism. Nobody does. We read it to escape. Everything, including the harsh realities of life and death. We know we’re all slowly wasting away, and time is of the essence. We don’t want to be bothered with that right now. We wanted pirates, and love, and happy ever after, and you went and spilled reality all over it!
Romance requires Happy ever after or Happy for now. It’s a must. Anything else is fiction, and that has it’s own audience, an audience who will applaud your ability to heartlessly crucify lovers.
It’s imperative to understand genre and sub-genre. It’s going to affect your sales and your reviews when readers open a book expecting one thing and get another. Especially in romance or science fiction. Scifi writers have to tow the hard v. soft line very carefully these days as well.
The bottom line is it’s sales, and as much as we want to see ourselves as purely artistic, peopling Starbucks with our laptops and pounding out the Great American Experience. We’re still selling stuff, and it’s about the product and the target audience. Does that mean there’s no soul in our work? No, of course not, that means that our goals matter, and, if your goal is to move books, the audience matters more than your ego.