Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Another Sir John Tenniel illustration from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Seems I'm not only craven and cheap, I'm stoopid. A familiar and shared condition of the unpubbed-in-book-length writer.

"Who are you?" said the Caterpillar.
Alice replied, rather shyly, "I hardly know, Sir, just at present - at least I know what I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then."

The definitions and classifications of what you write seem as varied as agent tastes. Nathan Bransford divides books into two categories: literary and commercial. Others separate commercial from genre. An agent for Wylie-Merrick was castigated for trying to differentiate between a love story and a romance. The terms urban fantasy and magic realism seem interchangeable. Arguments have ensued over what constitutes thriller or suspense.
I have grumped before that the term paranormal sets up an automatic vamp or were expectation.
Genres, sub-genres, and sub-sub genres.

And writers are chastised for not understanding and labelling their work correctly - which, you must admit, is rather difficult when the industry cannot agree.

"One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter."
"One side of what? The other side of what?" thought Alice to herself...
Alice remained looking thoughtfully at the mushroom for a minute, trying to make out which were the two sides of it; and as it was perfectly round, she found this a very difficult question.

The whole question reminds me very much of childbirth - the only person considered dumber than the mother on that occasion is the father.

Blessings on agents like Lori Perkins, and Jenny Rappaport who go to some trouble to be more specific, so you know whether to flog them a query - or not.


MissWrite said...

LOL well it wouldn't be any fun if it were easy, would it?

Loved the post.

anna said...

another of my favourite illustrations.
Flogging anything ain't for sissies, said Alice.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Tami.
I suppose one gets used to this constant state of bewilderment.

I wonder if mushrooms would help, Anna.

bunnygirl said...

I have no idea what genre I write, which accounts for about 80% of my frustration with querying!

Ric said...

At one point, my query had - Mainstream/Commercial/Romance/Womens/Boomer

Until Miss SNark said WTF

Bernita and magic mushrooms....the lady never fails to surprise.

Ric said...

can I try that again?

Bernita said...

It's hard, Bunny, because the terms seem to change, from agent to agent and from month to month.

Commercial/mainstream seems like a good choice, Ric - unless you're targeting agents who prefer romance.
Just to keep the record straight,I have never touched any of that stuff, being constitutionally unconventional.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Now that is one part that I HAVE figured out! If the agent is famous for literary fiction, you definitely don't send them commercial ficiton, like action adventure, 'cause they just won't get it! *snort* *blush*

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Yea...and be sure you can spell too...sheesh!

Bernita said...

Eh, Bonnie, at least it's not a "fiction novel."
I avoid the litfic people too.

Robyn said...

Why am I hearing Jefferson Airplane right now? Sometimes I think I'd rather be high when I try classifying my story. Think an agent/editor would believe, "Oh, I'm so sorry. Of course it's commercial, not literary. I was jacked up on prescription meds when I sent this."

Jennifer said...

According to Miss Snark, it's best not to try to catagorize your book too much. I know I had a heck of a time trying to put my time travel historical novel into a slot. Was is historical? Romance? Science fiction? Argh!
Here is a very helpful link for anyone searching for an agent:
And Good Luck!!!

Bernita said...

I swear, Robyn, I've changed the description every time I've sent out a query.

Jennifer, I know exactly what you mean.
And thank you, that is an excellent site.

December Quinn said...

Ugh, don't get me started! Urban fantasy? Paranorml romance? Supernatural thriller? Paranormal suspense?


Bernita said...

But it's fun to get you started, December - you always have something interesting to say.

writtenwyrdd said...

I also suspect that their clarity has limited value...other agents/agencies/publishers will likely have their own versions.

When confused, I just use the wikipedia version and hope for the best.

Know what term has me confused these days? Meta. If it is self-referencing, it's metafictional, but yet it is used for so much more...

Bernita said...

More and more, Written, I find metafiction annoying.