Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Publishing Terms and Explicit Genres

As an up and coming writer do you struggle to keep up with the more explicit genres? Maybe you're like me, you've been writing for years and can't seem to keep them straight.

But, before I list the genres, I'd like to give my readers a small list of the publishing lingo. We must learn this language if we're going to understand the terms within what we're reading in some of the how-to articles or, more specifically, the industries submission guidelines.

Here are the basics:

BIO: a brief author biography that highlights our credentials.

E-QUERY: a query sent by way of e-mail. Most publishers/agents prefer this rather than the postal mail of a few years ago.

MS: manuscript

MSS: manuscripts

QUERY: letter to a publisher/agent that pitches a nonfiction book you're writing or fiction book you have written

SASE: self-addressed, stamped envelope

YA: young adult

The new term you're probably already seeing is NA: new adult. Over a year ago, St. Martin's Press announced they would start this new genre and begin requesting mss. And wouldn't you know it, I had wondered when a well-known publisher would create this category and fill the empty hole for the 18-26 year-old age group. More publishers/agents will follow St. Martin's lead and request work for NA, and as they do, I work daily on my first draft for the NA audience.

Now, for the Explicit Genres:

High Fantasy: Fantasy set in other worlds involving some, or all, non humans, such as dwarves and elves.

Literary Fiction: Fiction that doesn't fit any of the popular, or commercial, fiction genres (such as romance, thriller,horror, and such). Literary fiction is often driven by character and voice rather than plot. I'm seeing successful books that straddle the literary/commercial genres. (This is the genre I aspire to hopefully publish one day).

Middle-Grade: Fiction for readers 8-11 years old, with themes that tend to avoid controversial topics such as drugs, sex, and extreme violence. The themes most usually are about what's happening within the character that springs from a moment in time when their more safe world comes apart.

Narrative Nonfiction: A factual story told while using the tools of fiction, including character arcs, three-act structures and cliffhangers.

Steampunk: A type of alternate-history storytelling in which an historical setting, usually Victorian England, includes skilled technology power-driven by steam.

Upmarket Fiction: A term given to describe women's or literary fiction that has the ability to cross over to book clubs with mainstream demand.

Women's Fiction: In this genre you'll find stories with women protagonists who have a life experience which may help the reader. I like to think of these stories as a way for women to understand better who they are as they walk this life as women.

Young Adult: Fiction for readers 12-15 years old, usually with high-school-aged main characters (MCs). This one is a bit confusing to me and for other writers, because children younger than 12 are reading these stories. And what about the more controversial topics that are written about for younger readers in MG? Sometimes those books get bumped up to upper middle-grade or YA and sometimes not. I guess it's a definition to aim for, because our book stores have to know where to place them on the shelves.

And there you have it. I've written this post for myself as well as for others.

Until next time . . . read and write.

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