I’ve noticed there are a lot of things that unpublished writers get distracted by that really don’t matter. Lately, the notion of labelling or branding yourself as a ‘type’ of writer keeps popping up.
At the Somerset Celebration of Literature I attended a session called Grown Ups or Growing Up? which discussed YA fiction in comparison to Adult and Children’s literature and how the authors perceived their work.
From the audience, I found that people had very passionate views about how books should be categorised. Marcus Zusak was part of this panel and many people were upset that his novel, The Book Thief, was shelved in Australia as a YA book. What I got from the authors was that the labelling and shelving was for their agent, publisher and the bookseller to decide. That wasn’t their job. Their job was to write a good story, rather than worry about how to market it.
Yesterday, I attended a QWC workshop on publishing proposals with Sally Collings, and the same notion of labelling and marketing came up in a discussion on query letters. While there is no right or wrong, the agent or publisher should discover what ‘type’ of book you’ve written from your snappy pitch. (Think along the lines of a show, don’t tell for your query.)
Basically, you could begin your letter stating that you have completed a 40,000 word children’s urban fantasy or that you’ve written about a twelve-year-old girl who discovers an enchanted lake behind her grandmother’s house and becomes too attached to the dangerous creatures that live there.
Perhaps we can’t always do away with ‘labels’, but they’re not as important as some people believe and are such a grey area. What one person believes is Literary fiction, another might shelve under Young Adult. If you’re thinking too much about the ‘type’ of writer you are, chances are you’re dreaming of a marketing campaign for a book that hasn’t been sold when you could be doing something else. Like writing.