Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Genres for Readers - or how I learnt to love Frozen Algae!

WARNING: Do not read unless you have already eaten!

Forget what you ever thought you knew about books.

Why?

Because YOU don’t decide what you read… Empirical Science does!

A sweeping statement, perhaps… or is it?

Let’s examine one of the most frustrating problems an author can face in today’s writing paradigm. And before I continue, I should make clear I’m not talking just about Traditional Publishing.

Now IMAGINE for a moment you find yourself in a supermarket; we’ve all been there, right. You entered without any clear idea of what you were going to buy; no shopping list clutched in your hand to direct your paces. All you want is something for Dinner; something, a capricious whim, to tantalize your taste buds at the end of a long day. You’ve worked hard, so you deserve a prize. It’s all about seeing something that creates that ‘Oh Yeah!’ reaction. Are you there in the supermarket? Good.

Chicken - FriedNow see your feet taking you down aisle after aisle, seeking that elusive culinary delight. Got it?

Suddenly you find yourself in unknown territory.

Before you is a freezer; shelves laden with tempting promise. You spy an unmarked box, covered with a thin white frost hinting that’s it’s been waiting just for you; the answer to your gastronomic goal. The image on the box looks attractive; lots of calid colours: fiery red, toasty orange. Exactly what you’ve been looking for, right?

You tip the trophy into your trolley and head for checkout – it’s going to be a great evening!

This is where things then go sideways!

Upon reaching home you race into the kitchen, extracting the bounty from the box, preparing to lavish a little TLC on yourself.

WHAT! What’s this?

Chicken - DrumstickInstead of the promised Chicken Wings in Spicy Tex-Mex Salsa the shelf label promoted, you have a chunk of frozen algae. Could this be some new-fangled fashion from Asian shores?

Or is it something far more sinister?

Yes, you have become another victim of  Empirical Science!

At this point, either you have stopped reading to visit your own kitchen, or you are wondering what the Hell I’m rabbiting on about.

So perhaps a little more explanation is called for…

Empirical Science is all about testing stuff independently and using reproducible methods to define exactly what it is. Useful right? Its essence is really quite simple: nothing officially exists until it’s been labelled!

So, am I talking about a mislabelling of your Chicken Wing delight here?

No. The sad truth is that the supermarket has been taken over by the publishing industry.

Now you are really puzzled, right?

When we scribblers finish a tome, still infused with that cuddly sensation of achievement that magically manifests, we head over to the Internet to tell the World about our latest creation. We need to upload our creative content to Amazon etc., and, of course list it everywhere we can think of, especially Goodreads, Shelfari etc. so our potential reader audience can find it. But what is this? We, the people with the most intimate contact with our creation, don’t get to accurately describe it, to place it on the shelf where it belongs. No. We are made to force it into a pre-labelled existence defined by… who knows?

Again, a picture is worth a thousand words, so they say, so let me draw one for you.

I will use Amazon purely as an example; the problem persists EVERYWHERE!

First step: log on to KDP and enter the details of my new title. Now near the bottom of the page, the trap awaits. It’s a two-pronged beastie, cleverly designed to play with your mind, and that of your readers too.

I wrote the book; spent months researching, planning, plotting, typing, rewriting, editing, more rewriting… you get the picture. So you would think, at this juncture, filling in a few boxes on a form would be child’s play, right?

Someone find me a child. I’ve apparently committed a cardinal sin! I’ve written a novel, nay, a lot of novels, that DON’T fit in to the pre-labelled slots available!

A practical example to illustrate my dilemma: A few months ago I completed book 3 of my series ‘the CULL’. At that moment I was feeling great. It had been a challenge: three full-length, fast-paced tales filled with the feats of fantastic characters. Lots of F’s, you’ll note – I added one more when I tried to fit my novel into the available categories.

You see, dear fellow scribe or attentive reader, my sin was to do something different! In short, I created.

I wrote a series of books which introduce you to events in the lives of two female Federal Agents. (That must be the CRIME category, right?) They work for a covert unit of Homeland Security. (Oh, hang on a minute, that could be ESPIONAGE. No problem, I get to list the books in two categories, so CRIME and ESPIONAGE). They find themselves initially chasing a Serial Killer, (SUSPENSE?) but the tale quickly takes an unexpected twist as a far-ranging conspiracy is revealed. (THRILLER territory?) Then it goes international in a big way, with protagonists and antagonists battling it out over several continents. (EPIC, anyone? Or is this a TRAVELOGUE รก la Dan Brown? If you’ve read his latest, you’ll know what I mean.)

Oh! Did I mention there are vampires?

Whoops! That’s torn it! PARANORMAL, you cry, for all you’re worth.

Yeah, I know they’re not your run-of-the-mill vampires; not shiny or romantic at all. Nor are they angst-filled teenagers.

Up until I introduced THAT word, I was clearly heading in the SUSPENSE THRILLER direction. So what else is in the books? Well, the protagonists use computers, the latest in surveillance techniques and there are guns, explosions, and gadgets galore. Wait, it’s a TECHNO-THRILLER!

…and the story of the antagonists has its origins centuries ago. HISTORICAL! …must be HISTORICAL, you say.

…and there’s quite a bit about genetics…  MEDICAL!

So what do we have so far?

How about a fast-paced SUSPENSE TECHNO-MEDICAL HISTORIC EPIC TRAVELOGUE CRIME ESPIONAGE PARANORMAL THRILLER?

Bending over backwards
But they don’t have a box for that!


I’ll have to settle for Thriller – Suspense.

I can’t even mention PARANORMAL because that defines something else. If you want to cite your work as PARANORMAL (for the vampires, even if they are nothing like the aforementioned shiny teenagers, just in case someone has lost the track of my ramblings) then your book can only be listed as FANTASY – PARANORMAL, or worse, JUVENILE FICTION – PARANORMAL. No dragons, sword-wielding knights, fairies, elves, gnomes… or teenagers in sight I’m afraid, so if I use either of those categories I will be MISLEADING the potential reader.

So, it all boils down to a choice:

I can choose to either MISLEAD the reader or MISREPRESENT my novels!

Empirical Science, you see. If I don’t choose one of those, by definition, my book doesn’t exist!

Dammit! We’re CREATIVES! We create; we are original; we generate new ideas.

(Now I’m apologizing for being a fiction writer! Wonder if Bram Stoker had this problem?)

So what’s my conclusion?

Simple, really: Forget science!

What’s the solution?

How about a series of boxes that writers can tick (say up to ten to avoid abuse) where we can more accurately describe our work. Easy, right?

Now, frozen algae, anyone?


So, I throw out a CHALLENGE to my fellow authors:

Why don't you help readers find your books by tweeting about them using the classification system I suggested (Not more than 10 categories, remember).

These are mine: 
(Amazon Links & Extracts on my website: www.ericjgates.com )


















































































That's a lot clearer, isn't it?

Now, about that Frozen Algae...


Oh, in case you are wondering...
NORMAL (blog) SERVICE will be resumed next week with a NEW INTERNATIONAL GUEST! Who could it be?


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