What’s your genre? Don’t put your “baby” in the wrong box.


Romance authors have covers that clearly establish the nature of their prose. For the rest of us it’s not quite so easy.

I have a new novel coming out in March. The moment I mention the impending arrival of my “baby,” prospective readers ask, “What’s the genre?”

“Well, um…it’s hard to say,” I respond, staring at my shoes, wondering why such a simple question has no equally simple answer.

I have a tendency to write stories without giving thought to where they might fit in literary culture.  So far, my titles have been variously listed as soft-thriller/contemporary fiction/mystery, historical fiction/mystery/women’s fiction, and young adult fiction/contemporary fiction. There are also romantic elements sprinkled in all three books, so you can see why labeling my work tends to make my head spin.

Still, identifying a genre for your novel is important.

“We use genre as a way to identify the category of a book. Where it should be sold in a store. Or who its competition will be,” long-time literary agent Steve Laub wrote in his blog article Does Genre Matter? “The best way to describe it is to say that publishers and booksellers sell books out of boxes. The boxes are labeled “Romance” “Thriller” “Mystery” etc. Before we resist that exercise I would claim that we consumers buy books out of those boxes. It is quite possible that the boxes were created by us (the consumers).”

Early novelists had no problem with genre

There is some dispute about which English book should be called the first novel. Some believe Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote of La Mancha, published in 1605, deserves the honor. Others opine that Daniel Defoe’s 1719 Robinson Crusoe should get the nod. Either way, neither author had to think too hard about genre.

“In 1719, when Robinson Crusoe appeared, many people considered “the novel,” in itself, to be a genre,” said Joshua Rothman in his The New Yorker article titled A Better Way to Think About The Genre Debate. “The novel was a new thing—a long, fictitious, drama-filled work of prose—and its competitors were other prose genres: histories, biographies, political tracts, sermons, testimonies about travel to far-off lands. What set the novel apart from those other prose genres was its ostentatious fictitiousness.”

Clearly, modern-day authors can find labeling their work infinitely more complicated than those early novelists.  Look at today’s overwhelming number of possible fiction genres. The Book Industry Study Group’s list of fiction topics –  http://ftp.bisg.org/what-we-do-0-100-bisac-subject-headings-list-fiction.php – includes approximately 140 genres, all of which can be combined in what seems like a never-ending number of possibilities.

I’ll admit, sometimes I’m jealous of my Romance-writer friends, their covers bursting with muscled torsos and over-flowing bodices that leave not a hint of confusion about what type of story resides inside. Still, as difficult as pinning down that perfect genre might be, there’s no way around it, especially if you want to contact agents, or publishers, or editors, or reviewers, because those folks are pretty specific about the types of book they’re interested in. If you want to be considered an amateur in the publishing world, go ahead and send a query about your sci-fi, apocalyptic, young adult romance to someone who has made clear their genre of choice is 19th century English crime fiction. (And you were wondering why you hadn’t heard back.)

Ultimately, authors need to decide

While some authors may be tempted to leave the genre decision to others, remember, you wrote the book. You know the story and the characters better than anyone. Ultimately, you should choose. An article on the blog Rock Your Writing called How To Figure Out Your Book’s Genre – http://www.rockyourwriting.com/2013/06/how-to-figure-out-your-books-genre/ – suggests you consider, “who is the mostly likely to seek out this particular type of book, buy this type of book, and enjoy this type of book.”

While the decision on genre is yours, it’s the reader who we authors need to consider, because, as Laub pointed out, if our “baby” is in the wrong box, maybe those readers won’t find it.

My thanks to romance author Sloane Taylor for allowing me to use her book cover in this blog.

I’ve worn lots of hats

Welcome to my Website and Blog…

Once upon a time, I started a blog. I quickly realized the wee thing required a lot of care and feeding, much like my desert vegetable garden, with which I constantly wage battle and which I often refer to as Moriarty. Like my tomatoes facing the scorching summer sun, my little blog crumbled to dust.

Still, since I am an author, I am expected to blog. Following some research into the art – I am a former reporter, after all, so researching brings me comfort – I am ready to try again.

The first step, I read, is to introduce yourself. And now, I will.

My name is Anne, though most people call me Annie, which seems to suit me better. Red hair. Freckles. Hard to argue with that.

While this site is dedicated to my writing, primarily my role as an author, I have worn many other hats. Over the course of my life, I’ve worked as a maid – nothing like cleaning other people’s toilets to keep one humble – a waitress, a bartender, and an amateur sports official in football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball, the last two in which I was especially awful. I’ve also worked as a TV sports reporter and anchor at five stations, at both the local and national levels. Then, one day, when I was approaching forty, I became too old to do my job. Yes, those of us who ply our trade in front of a camera, especially those of us who are women, have a definite shelf life stamped on our foreheads. Mine had expired.

The next few years I spent a great deal of time feeling sorry for me, not wanting to run into anyone I knew from my television days, lest they ask me what I was doing. Unfortunately, no one seemed the least bit interested in hiring an out-of-work female sportscaster – though, for a brief moment, I considered an offer to become a temp on the Revlon assembly line, à la Lucy with her bonbons. Instead, I brushed off my old baseball gear and pulled out my football stripes and whistle, and spent my days and nights officiating youth and adult sports leagues.

My big break came when I begged a dubious editor at a small local newspaper to hire me on as a part-time sportswriter for seven bucks an hour. And a funny thing happened. My stories kept appearing on the front page. Turns out I wasn’t a bad writer. While I’d spent years writing for television, the concept that I could pen print stories seemed rather farfetched, especially since I rarely read books growing up and have always suffered from low-end dyslexia. As my best friend from high school so succinctly said when she discovered I’d written a book, “How the hell did you become an author?”

Today, like many authors, I still wear a number of hats. I am a high school journalism teacher in a Title I school in Phoenix, and am one of those lucky folks who loves to go to work. My students produce the school newspaper and a biannual magazine. I continue to officiate high school football, where I serve as a referee and crew chief for the Arizona Interscholastic Association, and I’m a foster mom to three sons. (Do moms get hats? I think they should.)

This March, my third novel, The Scent of Rain, will be published by the Amphorae Publishing Group. The book tells the story of 16-year old Rose who has been raised in the polygamous community of Colorado, City, Arizona and who dreams of becoming a science teacher. But the cult in which she lives has shut down the school and is only interested in her marrying and producing children. Rose meets a strange boy, Adan, who is also on the run, and together they escape into the mountains. Searchers are quickly on their trail. There are outsiders who want to help, but can Rose and Adan trust these adults, or will they be forced to return to the abuse and cruelty they’ve fled?

Like my other two novels, A Light in the Desert and Nothing But Echoes, The Scent of Rain is inspired by facts and true events, proving that it’s hard for me to take that reporter’s hat off.

Anne Montgomery Referee.jpg

The white hat is one of many I’ve worn over the years.