The Indomitable Genre-Masking Cover Copy!

So, my husband, the super hero always knows how to give me perspective. (Or just irrational compliments, as showcased here. Sidenote: I always randomly consider what she would think if she saw things like that. O_O) While I stared at my Amazing Genre-Morphing query yesterday, he calmly made his way to the bookshelf and grabbed a Toni Morrison book. (The super hero part is made more evident by the fact that he knowingly grabbed my favorite: Sula.) He brought said holy grail into the bedroom and read the back cover. (More on that in a minute.)

You may recall my quandary yesterday. And, understandably, some thought the specificity of one’s genre (particularly literary vs. women’s fiction) wasn’t all that important and that one could just claim them both. So I thought we should take into account the opinion of the professionals. First to define the genres. Now, granted, I’m not too sold on the descriptions (one of which is “playfully” biased?), but it was linked from the Dystel & Goderich blog which I’m going to quote in a minute, so sure – let’s start there (link here). Admittedly tongue in cheek but it gets the job done. Now, you still may be wondering why I don’t just query TMLA as literary women’s fiction…and honestly, while we’re reaching, I think it could be a psychological mystery, too!

The problem, as it is succinctly explained in the D&G blog (link here). Favorite quote:

I usually find [crossing genres] problematic for the simple reason that a book that is described this way often suffers from an identity crisis, and publishers want to be able to clearly identify how a book will be positioned, marketed, promoted, and at its most basic level, where it will “live” in the bookstores…

Obviously, Rachel made a good point yesterday about the demographic who ended up reading Twilight. But that all happened after the pitch, after the sale, after the success and, well… we’re nowhere near there. 😀

SO! What the devil does this have to do with ToMo. Well, it gave me a bit of perspective as far as that magical trick of genre-morphing that is going on in my query. Being the queen of literary fiction – and no, we don’t need to take a vote; she’s the queen – it’s clearly not a democracy! – one would expect her cover copy to reflect all the tumultuous, gorgeously crafted literacity (ahem) between the pages, no?

This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines–from their growing up together in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation. The one, Nel Wright, chooses to stay in the place of her birth, to marry, to raise a family, to become a pillar of the tightly knit black community. The other, Sula Peace, rejects all that Nel has accepted. She escapes to college, submerges herself in city life, and when she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel, a mocker, a wanton sexual seductress. Both women must suffer the consequences of their choices; both must decide if they can afford to harbor the love they have for each other; and both combine to create an unforgettable rendering of what it means and costs to exist and survive as a black woman in America. (Back Cover, Sula.)

…What it means and costs to exist and survive… Right. For me, despite the plot points referencing friendship between women and the like, the final sentence captures the essence of the novel. The piercing interrogation that plays out page by page, that – in my humble opinion – is so far from the motivation for women’s fiction. It’s. Not the same thing, guys. If I’m in the mood for Sex & The City, I’m not gonna be down for Paradise…right. It involves women. Got it. Doesn’t make it women’s fiction and I think the authors and readers want things properly defined. Expectations and whathaveyou.

What think you, sailor?

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