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« House of Silence by Linda Gillard | Main | Genres Busting Out All Over, Part 2 »


Margaret Powling

Oh, thank you Danielle for inviting Linda along, and thank you my dear pal, Linda, for writing so well about the world of writing and reading v. the world of publishing and retailing. I've not yet bought a Kindle, but I dare say, one of these days it will happen ... but in the meantime, I'm so, so delighted that House of Silence has done so well! I would hate, as I've no doubt all reading this blog would - to see the end of paper books, but the Kindle and devices like it can live alongside 'real' books, and if what is being published as e-books demonstrate to publishers and retailers what readers really want, that is surely a very good thing.


I used to work for an editor for over seven years as a so-called consultant reader. To a certain extent you could call that "market -research" although I was hired as an expert writing on a PhD in French literature they wanted that I include how I liked the book and for whom it would be interesting.
One however was key - the genre. If I couldn't nail it down properly the chance for translation was minimal.
It's due to the fact that many editors have "programs", some even style their different programs, so that the reader knows what genre to exptect.
I totally agree with you that this is the editor's perception and readers will be far more likely to enjoy genre blend. Some genres live from this blending like a lot of the YA adult fiction or think of "Steampunk". Maybe it just needs a new label that packs, like Steampunk, all the diffferent genres under one umbrella. But self-publishing is a great solution too.
I certainly wish you a lot of success and will be reading one of your novels very soon, I hope.

Linda Gillard

Thank you, Caroline, for your good wishes and your very interesting comment. I've never been convinced by the "readers like to know what they're getting" argument for the simple reason that this isn't how cinema or tv work. I don't see why readers would engage a different part of their brain when reading! Movies like JURASSIC PARK, LOVE ACTUALLY, MEN IN BLACK, COWBOYS & ALIENS mixed various different genres (comedy, tragedy, action, sci-fi) and no-one seemed to find those hard to market.


Linda... Your link isn't working, there is one "l" missing in Gillard. I wanted to visit your page and that's how I found out. I'm sure I'm not the only curious person around....


Publishers need to understand that while genre labeling might help certain readers, it also pushes others away. For instance, how many readers will not read scifi but read and liked The Road or Oryx and Crake? I stay away from the romance section at the bookstore but I read and very much enjoyed Diana Gabaldon's Outlander before it became popular. Now that it is pushed mostly as romance I would never pick it up if I came across it for the first time today. As a reader I do indeed like a good, well written story no matter the genre. But when publishers only publish books that fit perfectly in a clearly defined genre they tend to become formulaic and boring. I much prefer variety and surprise.

Linda Gillard

Thanks, Caroline. I hope I've fixed the link now.

Stefanie, I so agree with your point about genre putting readers off. My books have had a large number of positive reviews which say (in effect), "I don't read romance, but I read this because my friend/my favourite blog recommended it." I don't actually write romance and when STAR GAZING was short-listed for "Romantic Novel of the Year" in the UK I saw it as a poisoned chalice. One is grateful for any award short-listing (hmm, maybe not the Bad Sex Award...) but I knew it was unlikely I'd ever be taken seriously as a non-genre fiction writer ever again.

Margaret Powling

Linda, I'd not worry too much about Star Gazing being heralded as a romance. Margaret Forster's 1980 novel The Bride of Lowther Fell: A Romance was described thus and I don't think it's done this prolific writer any harm. Well, I hope not!
Margaret P

Linda Gillard

Oh, I loved BRIDE OF LOWTHER FELL! My favourite Forster, I think. Her subtitle was of course ironical and she was playing with genre. (In 1980, you could.)

But I think it has done me some harm, Margaret, because there are a lot of people - men for example - who will not look at STAR GAZING because of its sentimental cover and the "Romantic Novel of the Year" slogan, yet some of the warmest reviews of that book have come from male readers.

A part of me longs for the uniformity and spartan design of the old orange Penguins. In a way, I think that's what e-books have done: returned us to a time when all that mattered was the *story* - not the cover or the marketing campaign or how much author X was paid for their 3-book deal.

Margaret Powling

Bride of Lowther Fell was my all-time favourite Forster, Linda! What a coincidence! But yes, on considering it more, perhaps some harm has been done by the "romantic" handle attached to Star Gazing. Plain covers, as you suggest, might be the answer. They've served Penguin well, and now Persephone (although the books are re-issues, few readers will've heard of the writers before Persephone brought them to their attention.)
Best of luck with Untying the Knot for lots of e-book sales.
Margaret P


Thanks for the comments everyone and for your replies Linda! I suppose for publishers books are maybe just a product and they distance themselves from the contents except how to sell the item. I can understand they need to make a profit, but pigeon-holing books means some readers are not going to find some books they might otherwise really have enjoyed. I must admit that a good cover will make me pick up a book, but the wrong cover, too, will make me pass it by. I've never heard of that Margaret Forster book before-I will have to look it up! I didn't realize that though Star Gazer won awards that it actually worked against you in the long run!


In Portugal, where I live, genre doesn't exactly matter. n bookstores books are divided in some categories like Portuguese Fiction, Translated Fiction, Children and Teens, and then all the other non-fiction categories. I like this division because it allows me to explore other type of books that I wouldn't normally explore, or even read the summary if they were categorized as let's say sci-fic.

Linda Gillard

Now that's interesting, Carolina. Translation rights to two of my novels have sold to Portugal where they've proved quite popular. Sounds as if Portuguese readers are deemed to be more mentally flexible than those of us in the UK & US.

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