A question of genre

UPDATE: Being new to the whole blogging thing, I forgot the reality of automatic pingbacks. This post wasn’t intended as a response to the review, but a personal rumination on what I should take from it.

I received a major review, my first of any kind outside my beloved beta readers and critique partners, and it was a crappy one. I didn’t have even the usual ream of five-star Amazon reviews from totally disinterested reviewers to buffer it. Unfortunately, I read it before my morning’s writing session, and now Writer is hiding under her pile of leaves, sniffling.

Talk about jumping into the deep end without a life vest and only the vaguest notion of how to swim.

Editor has had to take over and firmly remind Writer of a number of realities.

Reviews are for readers. If you behave yourself, success.
Obscurity is the indie’s biggest enemy. Success.
The reviewer treated it as a professional product. Success.
It *wasn’t* a failing grade. Success.
Reviews are a fact of life for writers. Let it stop you writing …. well, failure, for today at least. Tomorrow I’ll be back in form.

I know you’re not supposed to take things from reviews other than, I probably don’t want to pitch to this blog again, but it did leave me wondering if I’ve tagged my whole genre wrong. I thought the story was a romantic one, but a dedicated romance reader found little to like in it, and much to confuse. Genres aren’t hard and fast rules about the nature of the fiction, but the nature of the audience. They are markers for a reader’s expectations–breach those, and they get really annoyed. Her take that it wasn’t romance, but fantasy, is a big, clear signal that I don’t want to target romance readers as a market.

Mind you, I won’t be doing any more marketing–I pitched to the blog before reading Dean Wesley Smith’s advice to ignore marketing and work on producing–but I will change genre tags.

5 thoughts on “A question of genre

  1. Hi Callan,

    I came over from DA, and I’m not sure how often you follow romance review blogs, but I wanted to give you a couple points to ponder. :)

    1) A ‘C’ grade from Dear Author means ‘average.’ It’s very rare for an author to receive an ‘A’ grade there, and their B+ graded books are often their recommended reads. So don’t take the C to heart as ‘bad’. Also, ANY review is better than obscurity! There are readers of that blog who will buy your book because now they know about it, and their reading hot-button issues aren’t Jane’s.

    2) Romance readers expect a clear HEA (happily ever after) at the end of the books labeled as romance. A romantic story isn’t necessarily a romance.

    Your cover is beautiful and your story sounds interesting. Good on you for putting it out there, and good luck to you!

    1. Hi, Anthea,

      I admit to feeling all sorts of a noob for posting a pingback. My only defense is that I am a noob, and with the next book, I’ll be all sorts of blase instead 😉

      Thank you for the comments about DA’s reviews. I know I’m lucky to have been reviewed there, and when I’m not feeling embarrassed, I’m grateful to Jane for the chance.

      I’m still mulling over genre. The book does have an HEA, but the courtship/relationship isn’t central to the story, so I think it’s still not a romance.

  2. Hi, Callan,

    I finished your novel today and it was quite enjoyable. I think it is your first published work, right? There were some rough spots in the world-building which could have used more polishing (for example, I’m assuming that this world is one which has very little axial tilt, so that we have permanent night/day lands, but I’m not sure why the night areas would be so warm — they’d likely be more chill than the permanently daylight areas). I also wasn’t thrilled by the new names for what I assumed were hours (spans) and polar bears (menkers), since that didn’t add a huge amount to the suspension of disbelief (what is called the “call a rabbit a smeep” problem), but I would read more about this world and what happens there. I definitely got the sense of a fascinating society and history that I’d like to know more about. I felt that Alice and Louis’s romance was decent enough, though not the focus of the book, so … yeah. Count me in the “it’s more of a fantasy” camp, reader-wise.

  3. A friend of mine, when appealed to, said very firmly, “steampunk fantasy”, so with three votes for fantasy, fantasy it shall be.

    You’re right, this is my first published work. I have 3 novellas and at least one more novel planned for this world, and maybe beyond, so perhaps I can develop the setting a bit more without overwhelming my readers.

  4. That’s good to hear. I was reminded of the Sharon Shinn Twelve Houses series (in tone/amount of romance to fantasy/feel) and I think you might have real luck with fantasy readers. I mentioned at DA that I’d give this a solid B, since there were a few issues, but the characters were interesting and you definitely kept my interest. (FYI, I’m a long-time fantasy/sf fan, going on for 50+ years now, so I appreciate decent world-building and non-cliche plots a LOT when I find them.)

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