Happy Friday, friends! This week the YA Indie Carnival is discussing the complicated topic of book categories. If you’re an author, I’m sure you know how hard it is to fit your book into just one (or even two!) categories. For the rest of you, please let me explain…
When I finished writing my first book, A Light In The Darkness, I called a fantasy. And it is a fantasy novel. Characters with magical powers, fighting an evil sorcerer, set out on an impossible quest across the kingdom only to battle the very essence of darkness. Add a few dragons and we’d call this thing an epic fantasy.
Well, the problem is…it’s not an epic fantasy. As a matter of fact, die-hard fantasy fans would say it’s hardly a fantasy at all since I didn’t use a lot of the traditional and expected elements of a fantasy. No wizards, no elves or dwarves, no dragons. Even the magic is very different. So, is it really a fantasy?
And another problem – I call this series “young adult” (YA) because the main characters are older teens. When I started shopping it around to agents the year after I finished it, I labeled it MG (middle grade) because it isn’t very “mature”, meaning there isn’t any bad language or sex or even much violence despite several battle scenes. It’s safe to hand to a 5th grader who loves to read adventure stories and you won’t be corrupting their brain or giving them anything too heavy to handle. Still, this creates a problem. Which category is it? MG or YA?
Then, the problem gets messier. Several people reading it started to comment about how “religious” the story was in their opinion. I knew when I finished it that the theme of the story was faith and how it affects our relationships and our choices. Although I had set out to write a fantasy adventure, I somehow ended up with something a lot deeper. It wasn’t really intentional. I wish I could credit for it, but I can’t. It just sort of happened along the way and then as I’m reading through the book, I kept thinking, “Wow. Is that symbolism there? Huh.” Apparently other readers felt pretty strongly about it. Some were even offended, as though I were using the book to trick them into believing my own beliefs. I wish I were that clever! Instead, it looks to me like the book could be speaking about any sort of religion or belief system that someone really held on to. For that matter, the way the main character, Merrilyn believes in Loian doesn’t seem that far off from how some people might believe in aliens or big foot or fairies if they claim to have seen them. The difference is, Loian is telling her to do something and she does it. You can imagine the problems this creates around her when other people don’t understand her actions. THAT is what I believe the story is really about – how a person’s faith in something affects their relationships and the choices they make for their own lives. That seems interesting to me. Anyway, you can see how some began to categorize the book as “religious” or “inspirational”.
So what is it? An action adventure set in a fantasy setting with some magic and still some possible inspirational meaning that chronicles a “coming of age” between middle grade and young adult. Wait. That seems too long. Amazon only allows me to choose one main category. I can tag it in a few more categories. What should I choose? Ugh! This is tough! And for every single book I write, I find myself in the same predicament. How do I narrow this story down into one category?
For many of us indie authors, that difficulty may be one of the reason we’re indie authors in the first place – our books just don’t fit in with the mainstream books you’ll find on bookstore shelves. They won’t be chosen by agents or publishers because they cross enough genres to make marketing a little tricky. Does that mean the story isn’t good or that the writing isn’t excellent? No! It just means that we don’t fit in their nice little boxes that they’ve created to label stories that earn them the big bucks. For a publisher, it all comes down to the money. They must choose books that they can sell quickly and with the least amount of effort or investment.That’s business.But as a reader, that isn’t what I’m looking for exactly. I want a story that intrigues me, that pushes the boundaries of the expected. If you only publish books that fit into 4 or 5 categories, eventually all the books look the same.
Do you ever feel that way? Like all the books and tv shows and movies are all the same? Well, there’s a reason for that! But the indie writers are shouting, “It doesn’t have to be that way!” Give us a chance and we’ll knock your socks off! Grab an indie book and see the diversity you’ll find in our stories. We’re not offering you the same old boring product. We’ve got new things to share and we’re just looking for a few good readers. If that’s you, then check out my books and the books of these other fabulous indie authors listed below. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite and give up the same old boring for something new. Then, be a good friend and share it with others. An indie author will be forever grateful.