A topic that has come up among my writer friends deals with the problem of categorizing our books. Book stores, on-line outlets, libraries and and publishers all want, and indeed need, a label for what we write. Labels help readers and sellers group books in ways that reduce confusion and facilitate choice.
But the reverse can also be true. Labeling books, choosing what genre or category to place them in has become increasingly difficult. The problem affects some areas more than other. Fantasy seems to be particularly plagued. For instance I chose to call my books Epic Fantasy. My story spans at least three books, has many characters, and takes place in an imaginary society. Yet, because the paranormal element is not a major feature of what I write some have suggested it ought to be called Fantasy Romance, or Historical Fantasy, even Historical Romance. My problem with those is that romance is not the major theme of my stories. Romance plays a part, it is true, but is there to support the sweep of the tale and to offer readers characters they will identify with. Since my books are not based on a real society (even though there are elements readers may relate to) they cannot rightly be called historical. Even the fantasy label can be called into question. I have no dragons, no magic spells, or fantastical creatures, so those looking for anything in the vein of Tolkien, Rowling, or even C. S. Lewis will be disappointed. Yet I do have seers with abilities we mere mortals do not possess. There is also the earth personified as a goddess.This makes Fantasy the correct designation.
I have had so many readers tell me they loved my books. These are folk who took a chance because I had an opportunity to explain my labeling problem to them. They told me they do not usually read Fantasy, and ask me “what is Epic Fantasy anyway”. But after reading Book One they couln’t wait for the next one. The oft heard comment has been “but it’s not really Fantasy”.
Even within Fantasy, Epic Fantasy seems to be a very nebulous category. I have read many descriptions and definitions, none of which much resemble each other. But no other label fits. So what’s a writer to do?
The result is that I am missing a wide audience that would enjoy what I write but will never find me because I have been lumped with, not only the wide range of books called Fantasy, but also with Science Fiction. Why these two are grouped together I will never understand. They are, in my opinion, at opposite ends of the imagination spectrum.
I would love to hear from other writers of Fantasy to hear how they are dealing with this. I know we are legion. Well, maybe not quite, but you get the picture.