Monday, April 9, 2012

Faking the Audience - Space Duck Pops and Your Writing



So. This week is Passover.

In this internet age, with all the viral-ness of everything, we get treated to everything amusing under the sun about observance of Jewish holidays.  This little treat that one of my sweetie students posted on my Facebook wall takes the cake (har har) of hilarity this Passover - and it also made me think about writing (fancy that!)


(The background - every year for one week, Jews who observe Passover don't eat anything containing wheat, spelt, barley, oats, or rye. Some Jews also avoid corn, rice, and beans. Pretty much all processed food in the US of A contains corn syrup, so things like kosher-for-Passover candy are tough to find. When we find candy marked "Kosher for Passover," we tend to get a little....enthusiastic.)


This young lady, while shopping in a New York candy store this Spring, was delighted to stumble across some epically cool-looking candy that was also - miracle of miracles! - marked "Kosher for Passover."

"Mild Mannered Duck by Day,
Intergalactic SuperHero by Night." 
If that's not awesome/hilarious/the best thing ever, I don't know what is.

I mean, come on! Chocolate lollipops in the form of SPACE DUCKS? for PASSOVER? It combines random enough things and makes little enough sense to be completely awesome. 

Alright! Let's crack that box open and see some SPACE DUCKS! Made out of CHOCOLATE!
Woooohooooooo!

20090407-spaceduckpops-close.jpg

Oh. Wait. That's...um...that's pretty clearly an Easter duck. I mean, the duck is wearing an Easter bonnet, right? I mean, I know I'm a Jew, but I'm American, and...yeah. A bonnet with a bow and flowers? I'm not sure what says "Intergalactic," "Space," or even, "not related to Easter" about that.

Not that there's anything wrong with Easter. It's a great holiday! Tons of fun! Theological climax of the whole Christian religion! Bunnies! Jelly beans! But...

I didn't want Easter. I didn't buy Easter. I bought an INTERGALACTIC SPACE DUCK.

So this got me thinking about the publishing industry. One of the most common exhortations we read is to "know what genre our book is in." This is important to being marketable - how will a bookstore sell our masterpieces if they don't know what bookshelf to put them on?

Problem is, some of the most popular books out there don't fit into one genre. Just off the top of my head, SHATTER ME, a huge release from this fall, was marketed as dystopian (I think?) and it was. But I would have also called it sci-fi and a romance.

I've been querying One as Science Fiction, and it is. But it's pretty light science fiction (near future, no spaceships, robots, aliens, or crazy pervasive tech) and it's pretty heavy on the romance. So....Sci-Fi Romance Lite?

Well, that's not a genre. The problem with that is that agents and publishers want to put books in a genre. The problem with THAT is that when readers pick up a book marked as one genre and feel that they've had the experience of another genre while reading it, they tend to be kind of miffed.

Which you can see if you just read some Amazon reviews. I've been coming across a lot of "This book should have gone in x direction..." or "I expected the MC to do x, and was sorely disappointed...."

Now, this is probably equally a problem with the necessity of classifying books for sales and readers feeling a little too entitled to read Exactly What They Wanted. Still, I want to know -

Have you ever picked up a book that you expected to be an intergalactic space duck, and gotten an Easter-bonneted farm animal instead? Do you worry about that happening to your book?

(Also: Stay tuned for a Classy Author Giveaway on Wednesday! Wheeeeee!)

32 comments:

  1. I totally felt this way about Shatter Me as well. I'm not sure where I first heard it was a dystopian, but I had that in my head going in, and was utterly confused when the dystopian element just never seemed to happen. I kept thinking "it must be coming, it must be ... oh nope, just more romance" ha!

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    1. Yeah. Not that I was COMPLAINING about those sexytimes scenes. They were BEAUTIFUL. *blushes.*

      Your blog is so pretty. Just subscribed, looking forward to reading. <3

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  2. This post is freaking amazing. And hilarious. If those are "space ducks," then FALLEN is my favorite book ever.

    I've had major issues with genre since I wrote LBD and found out I couldn't call it YA just because it was about college students. Everyone says they want "different," but even if we write something different, we still have to pidgeon hole it into a preconceived category, and then you wind up with chocolate Easter/Passover/Space/Farm ducks. It's why "One Size Fits All" is never true. And... argh, I'll shut up before this becomes a rant.

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    1. YOU are freaking amazing. And hilarious. But I'm confused. I thought you LOVED Fallen? :P

      I know some writers have actually changed the genre according to the agent they're querying. Something to think about. :)

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    2. Okay I read Fallen because I thought you both recommended it......Correction I read Fallen, Passion and Torment AKA giant giant giant waste of my time :(

      Also, this blog post rules and I can't wait to have lunch with you, and Gina should just show up and I will swipe for you too!

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    3. Alexa, I would never be so cruel as to recommend that book. And if I said anything to make you think otherwise, then I owe YOU lunch! <3

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    4. YES you do owe Alexa lunch. Please come to Ohio so we both can see you. <3

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  3. I'm having the same problem with my MS. It's pretty light fantasy but that's the only thing I can really call it. I don't want people to think it's some epic fantasy with crazy names and races and worlds because it's not like that at all. I want people to like it as a book before they like it as a genre.

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    1. I'm wondering if the "light" is the problem. Like, maybe the book's too quiet? (I have no idea.)

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  4. *high fives* Passover blog buddies :-P At my college they are having "Passover treats" meaning a table full of matza and Kosher for Passover cereal....uhhhhh my food for the week is not a treat! LOL! Sigh. At least I can have some of the normal food here - potatoes, veggies, etc. I think God will forgive me if I have some corn syrup .Personally I've decided to keep it but not make a huge deal of it - I want to be respectful but also recognize that I am in college and our college sucks at acknowledging the right foods to eat for certain things - i.e they give people who are gluten free special meals that have...gluten in them. *sigh*

    As for your MS - you can actually pitch it as "light science fiction". :) Just a thought!

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    1. *high fives* *passes whole wheat matzah*

      (Our family eats corn, rice, and beans, so we're actually doing okay. But om nom nom the excuse to eat more potatoes...I'm loving it!)

      I might start querying it as light...or finish, rather. I only have like 40 left on my list. But I'm worried that's actually the problem with the MS - too quiet? *shrugs*

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  5. Aw, man! Those Easter ducks are seriously disappointing. I was looking forward to seeing what a Space Duck looked like. And that is a great analogy. I agree--I've read quite a few books recently that don't really live up to what they're being called. Classification is difficult.

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    1. Seriously, now I kind of want to invent Space Duck candy. Because now that I've been promised some....

      I get why it's necessary...I just get kind of twitchy when I see a review, for example, claiming that the book doesn't fit neatly. If it fit perfectly, it'd be boring, right?

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  6. Ahh, the Intergalactic Space Ducks. YOU LIARS.

    I have a feeling I'm going to have genre problems somewhere in the future. Luckily TN and ALEX are pretty cut-and-dried in their genre. But I feel like the genre where I've had the most problems is dystopian, because half the time they're actually romance with dystopian elements. Or post-apocalyptic and not dystopian at all.

    -_- I could start ranting on this, also. I'll just go join G in the corner...

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    1. See, isn't this worth pushing that other post to next week? SPACE DUCKKKKKKKKKKS.

      ALEX is so cut-and-dried in her genre it kind of makes me die a little that agents aren't rabid over it. But, yeah. I think dystopian for teens automatically morphs into romance with dystopian elements. Because teens have to have romance? I dunno.

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  7. Bwahahahaha! That was the biggest fake-out of all time! I mean...really. I wanted to see some Intergalactic Space Ducks!

    I have a feeling my WiP will be hard to put into a specific genre, too. It's romance, kind of magical realism-ish, there's time-travel but it's not about time-travel, and there are some paranormal elements. O_O Uhhhh...I think I'll just call it paranormal romance and call it a day. Heh.

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    1. I know for a fact some authors change the genre in their query to reflect what agents want. Maybe an option for you?

      But geeeez...I kind of really want to read that now!!! :D

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  8. I agree completely (those Ducks are hilarious). I just read a book called "Dearly, Departed" that's like, Steampunk, post-apocolyptic, Victorian, Sci-Fi, Paranormal, and Romance ALL rolled into one and done AMAZINGLY well. I seriously loved it. It definitely emphasizes the fact that meshing genre's is cool, but where it would be on the shelf, I have NO idea.

    I don't think I'll have this issue with my current WiP, (it's definitely high fantasy) but some of my other ideas might be difficult to decide on. If it comes to it I probably will change the genre depending on who I'm querying, and if they think it's something different, let them decide.

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    1. I think that back in the day maybe agents helped with deciding genre? maybe? Now I feel like you have to give them the whole package and be crystal clear on it, or no dice. :/

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  9. I've been thinking a lot about this genre issue lately! The MS I'm currently querying isn't "pure" in terms of genre and I wonder if this is hurting me by excluding agents which might accept one genre but not another, or disappointing agents who are expecting a certain kind of story based on the genre I've chosen but then realize it isn't quite that cookie-cutter. Who knows. *sigh*

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    1. I've heard of writers querying things as a different genre depending on what the agents say they want. The problem is that there's no cut-and-dry way to TELL what the agents want. *double sigh*

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  10. I might've thought they were boxed wrong, except for the two bonneted duckies on the front. That's hilarious. I am impressed that they have safety sticks though, but I wonder how those differ from the unsafety sticks in my children's candy?

    I didn't know much about THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, when I read it, so I have to admit I was a little surprised. I thought it was just about a girl waking up from a coma, not remembering things, then trying to figure it out. Not quite.

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    1. I know, right? I should have paid closer attention to the box. :)

      I think advertising a book's plot as something different than it actually is is a whole other issue...though I can understadn how that could mesh closely with "genre." :)

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  11. When I came up with my current wip I didn't know what genre it was. I wanted it to be a mash up of high fantasy and science fiction but it's lacking in the science and high fantasy department. So...I just don't know what to call it.

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    1. Bahahaah um...hmmmm. So it's set in the future still?

      I love how novels can take on a life of their own. I'm sure it'll be that much better for you letting it do just that.

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  12. Except, if you look at the first picture, you'll notice there IS a picture of what the chocolate ducks look like... Still, it is a bit disappointing.

    I am thrown off by the genre thing all the time, in reading, but mostly in writing. My book is technically "high fantasy" because of the races/creatures/magics, but it's not an epic quest or the story of kings and princesses... they're nobodies, doing things that their world will probably never recognize them for (not that it's unimportant, it's just not on that epic scale).

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    1. I know, I know, there IS a picture. Still, the illustration of the SPACE DUCKS is so much more grabby, huh??? :D

      Hmmmm...your CPs will tell you, I'm sure. But I'm guessing you'd still call it High Fantasy. :D

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