Genre Fiction... • 11 October 2007 • The SnowBlog
...we're doing more of it. After the fact, it's easy to come up with reasons for that - reasons that sound a bit like strategy. For instance, we're planning to do more non-fiction because it's easier to assess the demand for a title like City Cycling than it is for a general fiction title. And you could say the same about genre fiction. If your target readership already know what they want, then it's a lot easier to give it to them. Whereas trying to titillate the jaded palates of the general fiction reader can - in the nicest possible way - be a little like trying to tempt a grumpy child (or cat*) to eat something. Moreover, 'general fiction' can be a dumping ground for everything that doesn't fit into an established niche, and that makes for a pretty big and disorganised category. The size of the general fiction section makes for tons of direct competition and its use as a catch-all makes it a challenge for the reader to navigate. Arranging authors alphabetically offers no help whatsoever if you don't already have an author in mind - it's just that no obviously superior arrangement suggests itself. So there you go, that's the post-rationalisation. Snowbooks is finding genre fiction titles more and more to its liking and the reasons just mentioned explain why. Except that they don't. Those are the reasons for being happy with our genre selections; the reason we made them in the first place is this: great storytelling transcends genre.
I would never have expected Anna to get excited about horror titles. She's Snowbooks' only proper English graduate (past or present) and you know how picky they can be about the books they read. Chances are you're one too, so you know what I mean. Studying English at university (I will hereby claim) is more likely to make a person snobby towards horror than disposed to it. And I've never noticed a horror title on Anna's bookshelves. (Well, perhaps there's a Stephen King novel somewhere, but they sprout up all by themselves.) But the fact is, when you get a really good submission, one that you can't believe you're getting paid to read, genre doesn't matter.
For instance when I think about TV I like, I remember finding the fact that The West Wing was about politicians and civil servants a giant turn-off. When the series began, I had no interest in that stuff; it utterly bored me. But the quality of the show won me over as soon as I tried watching it. Likewise I thought the fact that the X-Files established the dramatic truth behind half-baked myths and conspiracy theories as being much more a drawback than a draw. Shows about vampires are always awful (except for the excellent Buffy). And the idea of space cowboys is appalling (but Firefly was wonderful).
So I'm going to continue to work on our strategy by coming up with good reasons to do what we wanted to do anyway. Currently, we're entering a period of apocalypse and the undead. Who knows what unexpected places it will take us next. Heavy Metal Rock Biographies? True Crime? Teen novels? Only the submissions pile knows what genre-transcending gems it contains.
*While Em was explaining to me how to look after her cats (while she's in Frankfurt) she informed me that they often won't want the first thing you put out for them, even if it's ordinarily one of their favourite foods. Now I normally consider the use of multiple exclamation marks to be a crime, but really!!!