Genre-Confusion and Ceiling Dusters


I’m confused about my genre; you know, that categorical box your novels are supposed to fit neatly inside? Genres let the reader know whether they’re going to get grimace-inducing blood and guts, heart-pounding suspense, or Kleenex rash. They help your audience find you. Or is that help you find your audience? Either way, it’s important. But I’m finding specifying a genre much harder than I thought it would be.

I assumed the primary category for “Dunster’s Calling” would be a no-brainer: women’s fiction, right? Because I was writing for people like myself and I’m a woman and the story is made up, so it’s fiction. “Not so fast, Rookie Author Lady!” Apparently, there are many who feel there shouldn’t be a gender delineation here. Jane Austin didn’t say she wrote “women’s fiction.” She wrote fiction. And maybe in her day, lots of males in tail coats and cravats sat in drawing rooms and read her books out loud to other males in tail coats. I don’t know many males reading Jane Austin today, do you? But I thought it was appropriate to label my novel “women’s fiction,” given that it is a major category in today’s literary market.  But then, awkwardly, several men have said they enjoyed reading “Dunster’s Calling.” Well, that puts a real spanner, or fountain pen, in the literary works, doesn’t it? Darn my all-encompassing appeal to the masses! So with the jury out on the whole “women’s fiction” thing, let’s skip over primary genre and try checking a few sub-category boxes.

I can’t really say I’m a romance writer. The focus of my stories isn’t on smoldering looks or breaking out in sweats; a throwback to my upbringing in the Victorian eraor was it the 1960s? I get those two confused. I’m not historical fiction, not thriller, or mystery, or LBGT, or … oh, drat it. I’m not really categorically anything that Amazon would consider outside the general fiction box. If you plug “general fiction” into any search engine, you’ve just narrowed down your search to about two million books. So this Rookie Author Lady is swimming upstream with two million other literary trout. How could anyone not find my drop of literary genius in that general fiction ocean? Don’t answer that.

So I need to think again. “Forge your own path, Trout Lady!” Wait, I liked Rookie Author Lady better. “Forge your own path, Rookie Author Lady! Write about searching for home, about longing for home, about hating home, about running away from home, about the grass being greener on the other side, either really greener or just perceived to be greener. Write Home!” (Pause for standing ovation.)

But what should I call that? There are no dropdown boxes on my publishing dashboards for “Home” or “Greener Grass.” Then it hit me: Geographical Romance. That’s my genre! I write about searching for the place that makes you hot and sweaty, or cool and calm, or whatever it is you feel when you meet your soul place. So now, armed with my genre, lots of readers will find me, right? Except “Geographical Romance” doesn’t have a dropdown box, so that means a search through general fiction, which means I’m back to being Trout Lady.  But here’s one thing that makes me stand out: when you type “Dunster’s Calling” into Amazon in “all departments” it wants to know if you mean “duster, ceiling.” You’ll be shown a lovely picture of a long handled fluffy mop cleaning a ceiling fan. Did I mean that? Some Freudian slip maybe? I don’t know. I just want you to know I’m out there, looking for you, whatever your genre.

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