Saturday 25 April 2009

Is Genre Important?

This is a question that's been plaguing me recently.

And I think the short answer to the question has to be:-


Genre acts as a signpost, especially when the publisher chooses to put it either on the front cover or the spine of the book you're looking for. So why do publishers keep cocking it up? Or is it really not as simple as a yes or no answer?

There's nothing more annoying for a romance reader than to find out that their story doesn't come complete with a happy ending, a m/m fan to find the story going m/m/f or worse going m/f/m, or for a contemporary fan suddenly to have their favourite series go all time travel.

Is it because certain genres are now considered passe? Is it because certain genres are perceived as selling better than others? Is it because the person(s) at the publisher who decide such things haven't always got a clue?

I'm going to look at this over the next couple of weeks concentrating on Urban Fantasy.


Sonia said...

Yes, I think genre is important. It lets you know what kind of book you are getting. Or at least it does when the publisher don't mess it up. I think they do that in order to sell books and bring books to the attantion of readers who might not otherwise notice them in a different place in the store.

LesleyW said...

Sonia - I think to open readers to new genres is a good thing. I think every one should read out of their comfort zone once in a while. But I think this tactic of mislabelling is more liable to backfire.

DBReynolds said...

Someone told me recently that the difference between Urban Fantasy and Romance was the presence of a Happy Ending.

But I know a lot of romances -- Katie MacAlister's Dragon series comes to mind -- that don't have a happy ending for several books. In fact, one of my pet peeves and why I stopped reading said Dragon series was the contrived conflicts that kept the romantic pair from their Happy Ending.

I think genre IS important, but I'm not sure the lines are well defined.

LesleyW said...

DB - I think that's true - urban fantasy has a resolution I think, rather than necessarily a happy ending. Because of this it's more flexible and in some ways more realistic - lol, kind of ironic.

Anonymous said...

Romantic stories don't always have to have a happy ending. I agree, reading out of your comfort zone is better. It also allows Authors to be more inventive, rather than sticking with the same ending EVERY SINGLE TIME!
A Romantic story : Romeo & Juliet. Does that End happy? Nope. It has two Genres. A romantic Tragedy. Why can't we mix and match?

LesleyW said...

Anon - I'm not talking about the romantic tradition, I'm talking about the modern romance genre - which has the expectation of a happy ending.

Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's tragedies - along with Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear. A tragedy whereby the issues are resolved through death.

Modern romances would be equated more with Shakespeares comedies - which are resolved at the end through marriage.

Romeo and Juliet are often used as examples in the romantic/romance argument. But like Tristan & Isolde, their story is a tragedy not a romance.