Sunday, January 20, 2008

Genre Thoughts - Part III: The Pragmatic, or "Should YOU do it?"

Publishing houses are by nature conservative. They're businesses, which means they need to make money to stay in existence. Which in turn means they have to guess which books (of the hundreds of thousands written every year) are likely to sell—and they have to be right a good proportion of the time.

Now, one of the Horrible Truths about publishing is that no one in a publishing house actually reads the books they publish, except the editors who acquire them. Everything else—ad budgets, cover and book design, decisions regarding print runs, etc.—is based on what an editor can tell the other departments about the book. This means that responsibility for whether a book is successful or not will ultimately land at the editor's feet—because he or she chose it.

By and large, any editor would sell his or her soul to acquire a truly wonderful book. However, editors also work for the publishing company—the latter being by definition a soulless entity whose only concern is the bottom line. That being so, any editor is constantly walking the narrow line between wanting to acquire a marvelous, unique book—and the nagging, ever-present question: Can we sell this?

This is a lot of pressure for the poor editor. On the one hand, they really, really want fresh, new, exciting, wonderful books. On the other hand, if the books they choose don't sell well, they'll get fired. The fresher, newer, and more exciting a manuscript is, the longer the odds against its success. Why is this?

Well, if I may lapse into analogy for a moment, consider restaurants. Lutece vs. McDonald's, to be specific. Lutece is a four-star, world-renowned restaurant, whose menu is the absolute definition of "gourmet." People eat there and swoon. McDonald's…well, the food is tasty, cheap, and more than anything else, predictable. Which restaurant would you rather own stock in?

Yeah, me too.

You notice I mentioned the three things that make McDonald's successful: tasty (as in, stimulating the taste buds with salt and fat, if not providing a particularly memorable dining experience), cheap, and…predictable.

Human beings are an odd mix of caution and curiosity. This is because we're primates, and we evolved in environments where this blend of traits was highly adaptive.

(Evolution? Oh, don't even get me started. Go to any museum and look at the dinosaur skeletons. Go outside and look down the street. See a crowd fleeing from an oncoming tyrannosaur? 65 million years ago, there were all these gigantic lizards running around, and no people. Now you would be hard-pressed to find even an ankylosaurus on the New York subway. QED. Apparently, Things Changed Over the Course of Time (i.e., they evolved), and I don't believe for an instant that God got bored with dinosaurs and one day pointed his finger and went "Bing! You're dead. I'm going to have people instead." In my (admittedly limited) experience, God is seldom that direct in His methods. (I do believe in God, and that He created everything. Why the heck people think He would do that in such a ham-handed way, when everything you see in the natural world argues subtlety and sophistication… In other words, I think the supposed dichotomy between evolution and creationism is spurious, and the Pope's with me on this. But I digress)).

The point being that by and large, you (as a primate) learn that this grass here, and grubs under logs and those roots over there are edible and tasty, and so glom them on sight. But every now and then, you come across something like a tree with red fruit. And you go, "Whoa, man, what's that?" Well, it looks really iinteresting. Sniff, sniff, sniff. Lick. But it might be poisonous. Hm. And you're not all that hungry, and Bob's just dug up an anthill…hm. Auntie Maxine's looking interested; let's wait and see if she eats it and drops dead, and meanwhile, here's a new rotted log. Hey, man, ever seen so many grubs in your life?!?

Returning to the modern day, this means that people early on form preferences regarding what they like to read—and they tend to stick to them, only rarely venturing into the dangerous realm of the new when Auntie Maxine hands them a nice, juicy red book and assures them they'll love it.

The result of this, in terms of publishing companies' operations, is that when an editor is faced with the question, "Can we sell it?", the logical corollary is usually—"How much is it like what we already know will sell?"

The answer to that one lies along a spectrum, one end of which is, "Lots. It's like a Grisham, only with a good ending. Or just like Patricia Cornwell, but the people are likable. Or like Danielle Steel, only…" (OK, not going there. [g])—and the other end is, "Well…it really doesn't look like anything I've seen before, let alone anything I've seen on a bestseller list." The closer your book lies to the left-hand end of that spectrum, the higher its chances of being published—because the chances (so far as the publisher is concerned) of its making money are higher. Ergo, the better the chance of the book being bought by an editor.

Bestsellers are not actually bestsellers because they are invariably good books; they're bestsellers because people are in the habit of buying them.

Returning for a moment to my own experience—OUTLANDER was bought by a general fiction editor who loved it (actually, three editors bid on it; she won). She then took it to the first editorial meeting, where she enthused about the book, about how wonderful it was, how they must do something Really Special in terms of cover art, marketing…"Great!" said the marketing people. "What kind of book is it?"

[dead silence for a moment]

"Err…" she said. "I don't really… know…" [long discussion of what it was—no, it's not that—maybe it's…?, no it's really not that, etc., etc.]

Anyway, the upshot was that the publishing company wanted to cancel the three-book contract they'd given me—because they couldn't see any effective way to sell a book that couldn't be described in terms of its genre. My editor, bless her, insisted that they would publish it, and it would (as she's often said) "have to be a word-of-mouth book, because it's too weird to describe to anybody."

(Beyond the weirdness, it was also a Really Long book. Really Long books give publishers Irritable Bowel Syndrome.)

The bottom line here is, yes, you can write (and sell, which is the salient point here) a book that crosses (or obliterates) genres. You can also sell an immensely long book. BUT, if you're going to sell a really unusual book, it also has to be Really Good.

If you have a book that fits well into a tried-and-tested genre, it doesn't have to be the best book ever written in that genre. (Mind, as I said in my first post on this subject, there's certainly not a necessity to write poorly in genre fiction, and it's certainly desirable to write well. It's just that a decently-executed book will still sell.)

Still, on the bright side, the publishing industry has gotten a good deal more flexible in accepting genre-crossing books—because there have been enough of them over the last ten or twenty years that have succeeded. "Paranormal romance," for instance, used to make people's jaws drop, while nowadays, romances featuring vampires (and the occasional werewolf. Oh, I do wish I could remember the title of the romance with the werewolf hero with the retractable penis…) are positively commonplace. Ditto "romantic suspense," which blends mystery and romance. But these genre blends have now become recognizable genres in themselves.

So it all comes down to marketing. A publisher's concern is selling the book. Which means that it first has to be sold to bookstores, and then to the readers. If you go into a bookstore, what's the first thing you do? (beyond glancing at the remainder table or checking to see if they have Godiva milk-chocolate with caramel) You look at the labels on the bookshelves, to guide you to the type of book you're looking for. A book that cannot be easily shelved can't be easily sold to a bookstore—or to a reader.

Which means that a book that crosses or blends multiple genres—if it's special enough to be bought by an editor anyway—is going to be shoved willy-nilly into some genre, just because it has to be shelved. (The default, if the publisher simply can't think what else to do, is to put it in "Fiction." However, conventional bookselling wisdom holds that individual books normally sell better if they can be put into one of the "niche" genres, like romance or mystery, because they show up better.) That being so, the publisher will then orient the cover art and marketing to whatever genre they think will give the book the best chance of selling, whether the book really belongs in that genre (in terms of content) or not.

So the bottom line is, what do you want most? Do you want to write the book of your heart? Or do you want most to be published? (Not rich and famous; nobody can guarantee that—but published.)

If this is a book that just has to be written the way you see it—by all means, write it that way. But if you're crossing genres with abandon just because you feel like it….well, be aware that this likely will make the sale a little harder.

48 comments:

  1. Hit the nail on the head!

    Well Diana, it seems you've just described my book, Eyes of Garnet to a tee. When I pitched it as a paranormal historical fiction agents quaked. I did get a small publisher to print it (finally), but only because the STORY hit home with him (he is Scottish and his ancestors left Scotland after Culloden). How fortuitous for me!

    As for my second book, Sightless, as yet to be picked up by anyone, is even more of a cross genre being a paranormal historical romance adventure! I truly don't mean to do it on purpose, my characters lead the way.

    But I knew form previous experience that I would have trouble pitching it as a genre story, so I went with the strength of my characters. My fingers are crossed!

    Thanks for the blog! I'm enjoying it!

    Mary Duncan

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  2. I am forever grateful to your editor for sticking to her guns, and to the word of mouth that brought your books to me and made me look in the "UGH" Romance section of Borders to find them. Rather late in the game, I first picked up Drums off Autumn because it was brand new at the time, and sadly read it first. I figured I could eventually borrow the paperbacks of Outlander, DIA, and Voyager from the friend who'd recommended them. Naturally once I'd read it I wished I could have backed up and erased my brain and started fresh with Outlander. That is my ONLY regret about finding your books. I make sure MY word of mouth always includes the warning to PLEASE..read the books in order.

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  3. Jane--

    Well, we have luckily prevailed upon Borders (after several years of trying--their protest always being, "But the books _sell_ out of Romance!" "Yeah," I said, "they sell out of any section you put them in--but they'll sell _better_ in Fiction!"), and the books have all moved (or in some stores, are still in process of moving, as they had stock already labeled as "romance" and figured they'd just sell it, rather than relabeling) to the Fiction section.

    As I said, a cross-genre book is going to get shoved _somewhere_, and when Delacorte was trying to figure out _what_ the heck to do with OUTLANDER, they ultimately (and with vast trepidation) decided to try to sell the first book as romance--on the simple grounds that of all the genres where the book _could_ fit, romance was by far the biggest market. [shrug]

    But as you indicate, there are people who just never go to the romance section (or the sf/f section, for that matter), who _would_ enjoy these books very much. So--why shut them out? That's why I prefer the books to be shelved as Fiction--the romance, sf/f, mystery readers etc. will all go to the Fiction stacks, no problem--whereas the reverse is not the case.

    For most books, a genre classification helps their visibility; for mine, it hinders.

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  4. Dear Diana, you are a gem! No other author leaves me smiling at their analogies, pondering the wisdom of their words, or leaves me quirking my head to let a subject matter seep into my brain as you do. All this just from reading your "Genre Thoughts - Part III" NOthing to comment on publishing as I fall into the catagory of "got the whole book written in my head, but can't express it on paper" group. But, luckily, I have your wonderful writing to inspire me and remind me that my story exists within me still. And just maybe...someday... *g*

    Hugs,
    Kate

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  5. wow! this is what happens when a writer blogs! enjoying your blogs.

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  7. I remember finding OUTLANDER at my local B&N as a paperback in the "books our staff recommends" section. It didn't occur to me to look in Romance for the next book-I felt OUTLANDER was more than that, and more than sci-fi as well-I suppose I'd have labeled it "historical fiction with a paranormal twist". Whatever it is, I'm glad I found it in Fiction! I DO have difficulty pitching it to newbies, though, it being such a tome [g]. I LIKE tomes, and not all do-the thicker, the better, if the writing is good.

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  8. If books are arranged alphabetically, how does sorting them by genre help anyone? I can see that it might help as a search filter online (Amazon's search facility is rubbish!) but if you know someone's name is it not easier to look in one A-Z of books than four or five different ones? This policy of having gettos for different types of book can lead only to people not finding books that the might enjoy because they are filed in a section they assume might not be of interest. Sometimes I have known the title and the author and have had to buy online because I have been unable to find it in a bookshop. I know they have computers and if you wait in line they will tell you but I'm a guy and I a) don't ask directions or b) wait in line.

    I say have fiction and non-fiction sections - and perhaps a religious section to avoid problems of classification...

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  9. Diana,
    Wonderful analogy. You had me giggling and nodding. Of course, you're right and I'm thrilled to have found this blog, (am absorbing everything like a sponge).

    Of course, I hate like hell that genres are a 'necessity' if only for marketing purposes and convenience for bookstores and libraries. I understand that it makes things easier for the sellers and, of course, for readers who need to know what 'sort' of book it is that they're picking up. Some people are just resistant to change and some people (like me) only 'commit' to a book that they just can't stop reading. In all honesty, I resisted reading Outlander because I'd assumed that it was romance, something I'd never read before. My friends were insistent and I picked up Outlander, loving every second of it and clearing the first four in about a week. I'm so very glad I listened to them, so glad that I got over any preconceived notions of genre and just read for the pleasure of it. It has been such an amazing ride so far.

    *bows at your little tootsies*

    Writing, however, is a different animal (for me) altogether. I'm not so naive to assume that I can write what I love without any concern over marketability and any agent or publisher I query will instantly love it as well. I know it takes a certain level of criteria, a certain level of ability, especially while writing in particular genres. I'm not afraid of any of that. My 'writing mentor,' Bev Marshall, has given me quite a lot of advice on 'the business of writing,' so I'm aware of the difficulties and the steps one must take heading toward publication.

    My question to you, however, is what your first reaction was to having Outlander marketed, initially, as romance. Were you resistant? Were you happy? I ask because, to be honest, for me, its about the story, yes, certainly, but its also about fulfilling a dream. I want to be published, full stop. That doesn't mean I'll be out selling my blood or first born to do it,(they'd likely send her back asking 'does she ever stop talking?') but I'm not so stubborn that I won't be amendable with the work I've done. I'm just curious what your preferences were about YOUR work prior to marketing.

    Once again, I'm so incredibly grateful that you've decided to discuss this because it is such an amazing insight into the 'business' end of our craft.

    Smooches,
    Tee

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  10. What a delight to, not only discover your blog, but to find my struggles regarding the "correct" genre classification of your novels being so clearly defined! The fact that it is the author of said novels putting my oft ignored argument into an almost verbatim, (missing only the myriad of expletives I utter under my breath when forced to traipse into the Romance section) and informative blog, just reinforces my belief that I am correct in harboring feelings of superiority and intellectual snobbery toward all who fail to see the gross injusti--SCRATCH THAT. Let's just stick with GROSS and say, ...toward all who fail to see the grossness of having your books under the same heading as Danielle Steele.
    WHEW!! That felt good.
    Anyway...in all seriousness, I have always viewed your books as literature and feel a disservice is done when they are judged solely on one component. The emphasis placed on sex is no more detailed and graphic than the scenes in which you detail the day to day minutae of running an 18th century household. We have come to expect a well crafted level of intimacy with the characters and this can only be achieved by the abililty to "see" everything; to essentially be written into thier world ourselves. However, rather than see sex as another tool in the development of your characters into living, self-sustaining, "real" people with the ability to take over your pages and make us vouyeurs to ALL of their experiences, it is seen as the deliniator of genres and benchmark for book store classification.
    While I have no doubt you're picking up what I'm laying down here, let me just say that I find your storytelling to be on par with any author touted as a literary marvel or the "second coming of [insert old, white guy writer here]". The romance crafted in the Outlander series is not romance for the sake of facilitating Jaime and Clare's trysts. Rather, it exists as a natural and logical product of a well researched, beautifully written and painstakingly crafted story in which respect and trust are the foundation; a respect and trust you afford your readers, as well. Your deliberate effort to make your characters authentic and true is seen in everything from the construct of your sentences to the choice of title and cover. I appreciate that...so much so that I will continue to risk being seen in the mind-numbing, Fabio loving, womens lib vaccuum that is the Romance section

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  11. Dear Shannon--

    Well, without getting into the whole history of book placement [g], let alone the general perception of romance novels, etc. (all of which would make a _long_ blog entry--or several), let me just assure you that no one needs to go to the Romance section of a bookstore unless they want to.

    I pointed out to the CEO of Barnes and Noble a couple of years ago that the Hastings bookstore chain, which has _never_ shelved my books as Romance, sold 40% more of all my titles than did B&N. He checked it out, and promply moved all my titles to Fiction. It took a little longer to get similar results from Borders, because they kept throwing their CEO's overboard [g], but we did prevail there, as well.

    Some independent bookstores will shelve the books in Romance, but they tend to cross-shelve--i.e., to put them in _all_ the categories where readers might enjoy them, so you'd find them in Romance, SF/F, _and_ Fiction/Literature (which is totally fine by me. I don't by any means think romance readers shouldn't read them--I just don't want all the people who don't read romances to _not_ read them, under the impression that that's what they are.).

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  12. What insightful observations! Your description of early man discovering a new food reminded me of Jamie telling Jenny in a letter that Tomatoes were, in fact, not poisonous. I often imagine what that conversation would have been like when Claire first served them for dinner.

    I first discovered the Outlander books after seeing an ad for A Breath of Snow and Ashes on Amazon. After some digging I found the first book and bought it online. I had never really thought about its genre until someone asked me what the book was about. Instead of categorizing it, I, as I'm sure many before me have done, began to tell them about the story (which, after reading 5 books, is becoming increasingly more difficult to do!). Most people have been very receptive to the description, fortunately and then I'll point them to the fiction aisle, because I do believe that it becomes a catch-all genre.

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  13. Diana, I no longer try to assign your books a genre. I just tell people they are great stories, well told.

    Can't do any better than that, I'm afraid.

    Great blog, btw! I just don't know how you find the time to add yet another thing to your busy schedule...

    Pam

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  14. Diana,

    While on the topic of books and genres, I was recently thinking about your books. More specifically, their covers. I absolutely adored the original covers to the Outlander series. My mother found the books early and has all the original prints, which I then borrowed for many years. When I finally decided to buy my own I was rather annoyed to find the beautiful covers replaced by single color covers, with no broken mirrors or dragonflies on them.

    I was just curious why they changed the covers and what your take on the new (well, not that new i suppose) ones are.

    Thanks,

    Jennifer

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  15. Jennifer--

    I liked the original covers, too--but was in favor of the change, as well. It was part of our (the publisher and my) effort to get the large chains to admit that the books in fact are _not_ romance novels (anybody who's read them can tell that, but corportate executives don't necessarily read all the books they sell) and shelve them in Fiction (for reasons previously noted).

    I have a new editor at Random House, btw, who's eager to re-do the look of the series, and is contemplating recovering the books with the publication of AN ECHO IN THE BONE next year. Maybe you'll like those covers better. [g]

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  16. Diana,

    Thanks for the response. I have in fact noticed that your books have been moved to the fiction section at the Barnes and Nobles I frequent (its actually not a *real* B&N, its actually the Boston University Bookstore; I say its not *real* b/c they refuse to let me use B&N gift cards at the cafe inside b/c they tell me they arent *really* a B&N). As a law student I don't get out much, so I put up with the the fake B&N for now.

    I'm definitely looking forward to the next book and to new covers as well.

    - Jennifer

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  17. ...The bottom line here is, yes, you can write (and sell, which is the salient point here) a book that crosses (or obliterates) genres....

    Coming late to the game here (been busy) is that I just finished reading a book that, IMO, crossed many genres. It reads like fiction, s/f, with a little bit of Romance, but is an auto-biography.

    MOZART AND THE WHALE (I hope this is okay to say here, Diana. Please delete this post if you find it inappropriate) is the story of an autistic-savant and his Asperger's Syndrome partner. Those of you familiar with either developmental disorder can only begin to imagine the story and why it would cross genre boundaries.

    Thank you, Diana, for your insights and letting us get a peek into the workings of your life/mind.

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  18. The friend who gave me Outlander to read the first time described it as a "love story" but didn't tell me anything else except that the main character was a nurse. I was glad because if she told me there was time travel involved, I probably wouldn't have read it because sci-fi is not my bag and I probably would have written it off as such. After reading all the books and getting ready to pass them on to a friend, I was thinking of how to describe them. I decided that love story was a good description. It isn't just love between two people but a father and daughter, husband and wife, sister and brother. The common thread seems to be love (although the romance is fantastic). I consider the history, action/adventure, and mystery to be a bonus. That being said, there is no section I have seen at B&N with such a heading so I suppose fiction is the safest way to go and I can see how so many more books sell from that area since there are probably many more people like me who wouldn't venture into the sci-fi section in a bazillion years.

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  19. as to the covers... i like the theme of them because they follow the idea of gem lore - sapphire, topaz, emerald, aquamarine, and ruby - and then the featured metals - silver and (i assume) gold (though what the eighth will be is a mystery). i also like the simple, minimalistic design. but they could certainly stand a bit more design to them and still be simplistic.

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  21. My husband (who thinks I have odd tastes in reading in the first place) discovered that Outlander won an award and was labeled in the article as a "time travel/romance." I laughed and laughed. Now, when people ask me what type of book it is, that's what I tell them. They either think I'm nuts, you're nuts, or that the book might actually be interesting. It certainly was the best time travel/romance novel I've ever read.

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  22. I just missed meeting you in Virginia Beach at the Central Library meet-and-greet in April of 2007--
    I had just started working there, and overheard a fellow employee notifying lucky recipients of the tickets for the event, too late to get one, mind you, for myself--next time, I tell myself--

    Borders did take their own sweet time moving your books to fiction--for the longest time I kept seeing them on the same shelving area as the Ellora's Cave and other such authors--it's been roughly a month since I noticed the move--

    And I did discover Outlander with the original paperback cover back in 1994 in K-Mart--intrigued, I bought it, read it, and wondered why someone had put such a Rich Lush Novel (notice I use capitals, putting it in that category of above and beyond the cut of the rest of whatever else I bought at the time . . .)

    I just want to say thank you for your talent and hard work--
    some of the best times of my life (after children, dogs, and the return of said children to my house)
    have been spent reading these stories, both the Outlander series, and those concerning Lord John . . .
    (I listen to your podcasts while I process books in the Cataloging Dept--)-love the blog . . .

    Yours,
    Penny

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  23. Dear Mstoldt--

    Geez, don't tell them that. [g] A lot of people either have preconceptions that all romance novels are illiterate bodice-rippers--or just don't think they'd care for "that kind of book," and thus won't ever look at book if it's described as any kind of romance.

    That's one reason why I've struggled to make B&N and Borders re-shelve the books--though it works the other way round, too; I've had a _lot_ of hardcore romance readers tell me huffily that "_That's_ not a romance novel!" To which I reply that they are dead right [g], but I hope they'll enjoy it anyway.

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  24. Diana,
    I don't really tell them that mostly because I do want them to read your books, not run away in terror. I happen to be a fan of romance novels, and have called the genre for years the McDonald's of literature (I think you mentioned something like this in your blog, which makes me feel less silly for saying it). They are an easy quick read that is tasty and maybe not THAT good for you, but still fills some basic needs. That being said, they are also not something I read all the time for the same reason I don't eat McDonald's all the time, it's just not a good idea. Your books are NOT light fun reading. *g*

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  25. Mstoldt--

    I like romance novels, too. Have several authors on my Methadone List, as an antidote to the violent stuff. [g]

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  26. Hey! I remember Jamie doing a little "bodice ripping" himself. I think it was when you first introduced Lord John Grey into the story. Jamie needed away to get Lord John to talk and I guess seeing Claire's breast did the trick.

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  27. Dear Sharaf--

    Oh, I deliberately ripped at least one bodice in each of the first three books--as an ironic comment on genre and its assumptions. Not that I think anyone ever _took_ it that way...

    Much as I like well-written romance, it's not a genre given to irony, authorial intrusion, or self-referential commentary, no.

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  28. hmmm. interesting entry...and revealing.

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  29. Dear Daveh--

    Of what? My peculiar relationship with the romance genre is well-documented, believe me. [wry g] I've never made the slightest secret of the fact that a) I do like romances, but b) I don't write them, nor c) did I ever intend to. If anyone's interested, I'll share the Whole Story, one of these days.

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  30. Diana:

    Re "the Whole Story": As one of those who were around when the trolls visited your forum on Compuserve in November, just the thought of this topic makes me shudder with an involuntary, "Oh, no, not *again*!" [g] Until that episode, I had absolutely no idea how seriously some people take this whole issue of how your books are or "should be" classified.

    It reminds me of the sort of thing that people of mixed-race background sometimes go through, when forced to choose one option on a census form. If a person can be considered "multi-racial", what's wrong with your books being considered "multi-genre"?

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  31. Dear Diana,
    Oh no, my comment was to your original blog entry, not your continued discussion as to genre, particulary romance. I am sorry that was not clear.

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  32. The friend who gave me Outlander did so because I love history and he felt that it was a great historical novel with fantasy thrown in. When I told him that I thought it was that plus a great love/romance story he said "it's not a romance novel - I don't read romance novels." To which I replied, "it may not be a 'romance novel' but have you read Outlander???" Whatever it is and however you wish to classify it, it's a great read!

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  33. Oh, thanks, Daveh, for clarifying.

    So far as revealing goes...it's not possible to write _anything_ without revealing something of yourself, I think. And I think fiction probably reveals more of an author's mind and heart than even a straightforward memoir would. I think people realize this intuitively, and it's why it's difficult to write fiction in the beginning--you feel terribly self-conscious. Still, you get used to it. [g]

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  34. By the way, do you know when Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade will be published in Germany?

    Julia

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  35. Hi Diana,
    I have always loved your analogy of hot dogs and beans versus the lovely chicken curry and shrimp salad. As much as I wish you could write just a little faster, I am thrilled that you don't rush, use research assistants, and formulas that would allow you to crank out better than average, but not quite up to your own standards books. Doubtless the books would be wonderful without such bits as the hangman's grease and such a vivid description of drawing and quartering but Monsieur Forez was such a wonderful character. How sad it would have been if the inclusion of these tidbits you'd stumbled across during research hadn't forced his creation and we'd never met him! So, keep doing what you are doing, exactly as your doing it, but take good care of yourself, get a little more rest, please don't push yourself too hard. NOTHING can happen to you till all the stories are told and you are too ancient to care about writing anymore. I pray you have a good 50 more years of story telling in you!

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  36. I ran across an interesting story of an author that self published and did her own distribution and promotion. Within a few months bookstores, owners and editors were raving about the book about a woman who reads the future in the patterns of Ipswich lace. Evidently Willian Morrow bought the book for over $2 million. I haven't read the book, but am delighted to see that word of mouth for an authors work helped so much in her success. I can't imagine doing distribution myself though. Writing in itself is hard enough to do. I wonder where they will shelve this book Sci fi-fantasy, mystery?

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  37. Diana,
    Now, especially since you are blogging, does it concern you just what, and how much you may reveal? It seems to me that blogging would be very difficult to "hide" since its purpose seems to be self-expression.
    I know, myself, that as I read someone's work, and then maybe investigate a bit about them, I build up a mental picture of the author. Sometimes, the reality is a bit more disconcerting than the fiction. Now, I realize that an author should not be anything other than they really are; however, I could see the temptation of "playing a part" and being as inoffensive as possible to the largest amount of audience.

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  38. Dear Jane--

    Oddly enough, M. Forez was a real person. [g] A real 18th century hangman, too; I found him in the same place as the hanged-man's grease--though I did of course animate him.

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  39. Daveh--

    No. I've been hanging around more or less "in public" online for more than twenty years. Basically, you try to not say things that you wouldn't want popping up in the inboxes of several million people [g], but beyond that...I would be hard put to reveal more about my character than is evident in my novels. As for the details of my daily life--I _am_ a good deal more circumspect about those than I used to be, but that's just out of consideration for the privacy of those of my family who don't really _want_ to be famous. [g]

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  40. Julia--

    It's already out in Germany--came out last year, in fact. The German title is DIE SUENDE DER BRUEDER (I can't do umlauts here, so I hope I'm getting the spelling more or less right)--"THE SINS OF THE BROTHERS." Evidently, BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE didn't sound good in German. [g]

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  41. Patti--

    I reckon it'll be "Fiction." [g] I read that story, too--fascinating. It's not just that she self-published and somehow got "discovered"--she and her husband started their own publishing _company_, in order to manage the distribution into mainstream bookstores (the big drawback to self-publishing; nobody's going to buy a book they don't see unless they go looking for it online)--and it took them two years to get the book to the point of sufficient visibility that they could attract the attention of mainstream publishers. Quite a gamble--I'm glad it paid off for them!

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  42. Thanks for the info. The book somehow slipped through my hands.

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  43. Diana,

    Speaking of genre categories, what are your thoughts on Chick Lit and Women's Fiction? Are these also attempts to create distance from the Romance Genre and move toward the literary?

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  44. anent evolution and dinosaurs, I got
    this shirt for Christmas.

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  45. Since publishers don't accept unsolicited manuscripts, and agents don't represent unpublished authors, how/where in heaven's name can I sell my novel? It's finished. It's good. The Albuquerque TV has already offered me a promotional spot if/when it's published. Yes, the net lists 128,000 agents!
    G. Hoyt, Aztec, NM

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  46. Diana,

    My introduction to your work was similar to Jane's. I first came across your books while on vacation in Orlando, New Year's 1997. Stuck at the hotel for awhile, I went down to the gift shop and found "Drums of Autumn" in paperback. Beautiful cover, cool title, let's give it a shot. Three pages in...what the hell is going on here? Of course, then I find the small print on the back..."The Saga Continues." Crap. Well, you had my attention and since I already bought what turned out to be book four.... I went to the bookstore at the next opportunity and finally found "Outlander" in the Romance section. As a 19 year old, cruising the Romance section with colorful paperbacks of breasts and pirates was a little embarrassing. I'm glad to find your novels in the Fiction section now. :-)

    I've read that paperback of "Outlander" at least five times and it's been passed to many of my friends as their first introduction to Jamie, Claire and gang. The fact that it's breaking apart at the binding is only proof of how much it has been read and loved by so many people. My other DG books are in better shape, but it was this copy I took with me to Bailey's Crossroads in Virginia last year to get signed. Many thanks for letting us tag along.

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  47. Apparently I am late in all things, including a comment for this blog entry. But I just found this blog, because I just finished all of the published books in the Outlander series. I started searching online for answers or comments to a few questions I had and wound up here.

    In regards to the genre and section at the bookstore issue though, too true. The books were recommended to me by a friend overseas. So I went down to my local used bookstore (where I always tell them I don't need any help because I like to wander around and look at every type of book) and proceed to wander about, lost for a good 10 to 15 minutes, before finding the right section. I am happy to say that first I did check Fiction. Not there. Next was Romance, not there either. I checked Paranormal since I knew there was time travel. Nope, not there. Then New Releases because I was running out of options! Alas, the entire series was located in ... Historical Fiction! That was fine by me, so I bought the first two novels with the hopeful assumption that my friend wouldn't lead me astray. Four months later I've read them all AND I know just where to find them at my local bookstore.

    To say I loved each book seems to fall short, so I will say this: I am sad that I've finished them. I miss the characters and feel a lot like some neighbors have moved away and now I have to wait to find out what is going in their world. Every night for weeks now I've read about what is going on in the land of Outlander and now I have all these niggling little questions and I miss their activity. I also think I read them too fast so I need to re-read at some point. Like a really fine whisky, I want to go back and savor my second glass because the first I threw back too fast, greedy for the effect. So, since I can't read book 7 just yet, I'll take a break, then go back and read each at leisure. Oh and I shelved them in my "for keeps" fiction section.

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