Talking multiple genres

How many multiple genres are allowed in a story? Are genres to be paired specifically, i.e. paranormal romance, paranormal suspense, dark fantasy? Or are there other multiples that are acceptable? And how many genres are too many?—Barbara Martin

First, Barbara, thank you for being so very patient. I know you asked me this in the comments on 13 Ways to Add Depth to Your Genre Novel way back in June, and somehow I missed it. I’ve talked about this topic a bit under Wordcount, genre, dumbing down—Indie Editor FAQ

The secret truth is there is no limit. You can use as many genres in whatever combination you can make work, which is how new genres are born and agents and publishers get those ‘fresh and new’ stories they’re always saying they’re looking for.

However, officially they want you to stick to the genres that already exist (although pretty much everyone will go for any genre with a romance angle added).

Before Anne Rice ventured into freaky waters with Interview with the Vampire, nobody took literary vampires seriously. Sure, there were random horror novels that used the vampire motif, but mixing vampirism with literary fiction in a novel of human heartbreak? No, no, no, no, no. No reader would believe vampires had real feelings like human beings!

But she mixed genres. And she started a movement.

I recently saw children’s writers discussing in all seriousness on Twitter whether Judy Blume should be categorized as MG or YA. The thing these children’s writers didn’t know is that Blume is the one who created the distinction. When Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret came out it was children’s fiction. But because it dealt with subject matter that current children’s fiction professionals didn’t know what to do with, they responded by trying to categorize the difference between what you can market to young kids and what you can market to teens. Ergo! Two new ‘genres’ are born.

Genre is not fiction. Genre is marketing.

And that’s only taken over the publishing industry in recent decades.

So write what you want to write the way you want to write it. And make it brilliant.

The marketers will probably have a whole other batch of genres cooked up for you by the time you’re ready.

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