Guest Post: Combining Genres by AmyBeth Iverness #ANA2012

Today we have a guest post from AmyBeth Iverness, an author I met through Tiffany Reisz and the Felt Tips anthology due out in December. A big thank you to Amy for stopping in to spend a little time with us today.

AmyBeth’s short story The Peanut Gallery Rebellion is entered in the America’s Next Author competition!

Please read it, and if you like it, click VOTE. It does not require a log in to do either. If you are feeling especially generous, leaving a review is also greatly appreciated. (as all you authors out there can attest)

Combining Genres by AmyBeth Inverness

Fledgling writers are inundated with advice of what not to do. One of the biggies is “Thou Shalt Not Combine Genres.” This advice makes sense from the perspective of an agent looking at a query that describes the story as “an action-adventure with a western theme in space with strong romantic elements and a bisexual cast of characters.” Agents, and publishers, want to be able to categorize the story. When there are elements of many genres, that is almost impossible to do.

The first author I ever interviewed was Sara Creasy, author of Song of Scarabaeus and Children of Scarabaeus. The books were listed as Sci-Fi/Romance. Since those are my two favorite genres, and I most frequently write them combined, I was eager to read them. They were great SciFi stories with lots of action, and there was a strong romantic element. I enjoyed them both, but Sara herself agreed she wasn’t sure why they had received the Romance label. Fortunately, the book stores seemed to understand, and shelved the book in the Sci-Fi section.

It is the bookstore that is the driving force behind the mantra “Do not combine genres.” Shelf space is valuable. Writers should consider themselves fortunate (or highly successful) if they have physical books on real shelves at all. Putting a book on two different shelves only happens for the best sellers.

But what about the emerging dominance of electronic retail? Even if the reader is purchasing a hard cover or paperback, more and more people are doing their book-buying online instead of in brick-and-mortar stores. It is easy for an on-line store to list a book in as many different virtual bookshelves as desired.

The reality is still that agents and publishers still want to know how to categorize your book. If a writer self-publishes, they may choose to ignore that rule. But they might not want to… marketing requires some kind of focus. If the story crosses too many genres, a potential reader might just gloss over that choice in favor of others.

After NaNoWriMo 2010, I researched agents who might accept my story. In that case, it was a Romance novel with homosexual and polyandrous relationships in a Sci-Fi setting. I didn’t find many agents who were willing to represent all of those. If I tried to consider that I also had some faith-based stories, my choices of agents quickly fell to zilch.

Like Song of Scarabaeus, though, just because a story has a “strong romantic element” doesn’t mean it is a romance novel. Likewise, there are many advocates for categorizing GLBT Romances right in with heterosexual Romances. If a story has a secondary character who is gay, that shouldn’t automatically change the way the story is categorized.

The best advice, and the most often repeated, is “Write the Best Story You Can.” That remains true. However there are some very basic guidelines that writers should follow. A typical novel is between 50 and 100 thousand words. Shorter than 50,000 means it is a novella or short story. Longer than 100,000 means the author needs a very good reason as to why their story is so long. It should have a beginning, middle, and an ending. You should know what age group you’re writing for. Trying to claim that your series will appeal to kids from ages 8 to 18 is too broad a range (although the Harry Potter novels proved that this really can work.)

There is both hopelessness and hopefulness in combining genres. Hopeless, because multiple genres set off huge warning flags, and an agent or publisher might reject the story on that fact alone. Hopeful, because in writing the best story you can, it is very possible that you will include elements of romance, adventure, mystery, fantasy or dozens of other possibilities. Hopefully, even though many of these elements show up, your story can still be identified with just one or two.

About Amy Beth Iverness: 

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice, and an outcast of Colorado by temporary necessity, AmyBeth Inverness is a prolific creator of Science Fiction and Romance.  With short stories coming out in two different anthologies in 2012, she can usually be found tapping away at her laptop, writing the next novel or procrastinating by posting a SciFi Question of the Day on Facebook. When she’s not writing, she’s kept very busy making aluminum foil hats and raising two energetic kids and many pets with her husband in their New England home.

Amy’s website:


About Bex Brennan

I never know what to put here. I assume something witty to make you think I'm interesting. But, Im just me -- a published erotica writer, single parent with a day job. I love my kids, writing, my boyfriend (life partner sounds ridiculous), my dog and going to camp on the weekends. *shrugs* That's all I got for ya.

Posted on November 18, 2012, in Blog Events, Contests, Guest Post and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me today, and helping me plug my contest entry. It’s a polyamorous story, which has apparently kinda freaked out at least one reviewer lol!
    I can’t wait until Felt Tips comes out in a few weeks!


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