The Scary World of Genre Confusion

While attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference last weekend, I came to a startling discovery. My manuscript, the one I have loved and nurtured since the very first words were typed out, was suffering from a serious case of genre confusion. At first, I was in denial. There was no way it was genre confused. I knew what it was. And so did it. But I was wrong. I finally had to admit that we both were a bit lost.

Genre confusion can be a scary and unsettling time. No one wants to face the reality that the manuscript that they thought they knew is not the one sitting on the computer in front of them. Was it Women’s Fiction? Or Young Adult? Or I had I unknowingly wandered into the nebulous new world known as New Adult? *Gasp*

When I started querying my manuscript, I sent it out as Women’s Fiction. I suspected that it had some identity issues that hadn’t really been clarified, but I thought if I just pushed it in the direction I wanted it to go, it would eventually find its way down that path. How wrong I was.

Here’s the dilemma: My protagonist is 18, which is borderline Young Adult. The bulk of the story takes place during her freshman year of college (still a little old for YA). And it deals with a variety of women’s issues. My manuscript seemed to be identifying as Women’s Fiction, so that’s how I labeled it. However, during the conference, several industry professionals informed me that it wasn’t Women’s Fiction. It was Young Adult. Okay. That made sense. I could see that my story was tending to lean that way, so when I met with an agent to pitch my novel on Saturday, I pitched it as Young Adult. But that agent told me that she thought it fit more into the New Adult category.

I was lost and scared. How was I supposed to find the right path for my manuscript when I couldn’t even identify its genre? So which is it? And does it matter? I know my manuscript, and at its heart, it is a good manuscript. But, alas, some people do care how my manuscript identifies. So here is a quick list of definitions according to Wikipedia (because we all know they’re the most accurate source of information.)

Young Adult: Literature written about or marketed toward ages 12-18 (though some publishers will expand that to include up to age 25.)

Women’s Fiction: Books that are marketed toward women.

New Adult: I describe new adult as bridging the gap between YA and Mainstream Fiction. It covers the time between high school graduation and true adulthood. So early 20’s, etc. Unfortunately, though this seems like the most likely fit for my manuscript, it is not recognized by many agents and publishers. Some think it’s just a flash in the pan or a marketing technique. But it is a real thing, my friends. My manuscript is living (or not so living) proof that New Adult does exist.

So now you’ve had your high school English lesson for the day (and don’t tell me you didn’t like it). Now it’s time to join me in the fight. New Adult is gaining traction as a recognized sub-genre, but it needs your help. It needs awareness! Someone needs to design a ribbon that everyone can post on their Facebook profile to raise awareness for this struggling sub-genre. Feel free to donate money. Or at the very least, share my blog.

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2 thoughts on “The Scary World of Genre Confusion

    • I’m sure not everyone runs into the same issues. In most cases it’s pretty cut and dry. My problem was that I didn’t have a specific genre in mind when I set out to write. I just had a story I wanted to tell.

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