I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

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SuCue
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I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by SuCue » October 15th, 2010, 4:15 pm

Hello,

I just joined the forum. I have completed a 103,000-word comic novel, and have made a few stabs at writing a query letter, but I'm a bit at loss as to how to describe the book's genre to agents. The book is set in the late 1980s in San Francisco, and is based on my own experiences of working as a neophyte journalist for a venerable but now-defunct San Francisco trade publication, peopled with some very odd characters indeed (hence the "comic" part of the novel.)

I've been telling people that it's a "workplace comedy", but I'm not sure if that is the right way to describe it. It's a humorous depiction of an unsual workplace a la "The Nanny Diaries," and the misadventures encountered therein, but the ending is sad (one of the major characters dies.)

My protagonist is a young single mother,mid-late 20s, and there are some romantic elements to the book, so it **could** be described as chick lit, but I don't think it really fits that model either. It's set in the late 80s and contains a lot of pop culture references of the time, as well as a chapter devoted to the 1989 earthquake, so it could appeal to baby boomer nostalgia types, as well.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks much!

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sbs_mjc1
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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by sbs_mjc1 » October 15th, 2010, 5:12 pm

First of all, I'd suggest paring down your word count a bit. I know, I know-- but having looked around at various agent blogs, if you're pitching a debut comedy of some stripe, a bit shorter is better.

Second, you can always say ''comedy'' for your genre...my suggestion would be to find agent who rep both comedy and chick lit, if there is a "chick lit" angle to your piece.
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SuCue
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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by SuCue » October 16th, 2010, 11:30 am

Thanks much for the reply -- I really appreciate it. I could probably lose the prologue, which one reader thought was not needed. That would cut it down by about 2K. Is that better?

I don't think it is really a chick book -- it's just told from a young woman's perspective. Most of the characters are male, as she works in a male-dominated industry. My couple of male readers did think it was funny. Although the women I showed it to thought it was funnier.

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Evelyn
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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by Evelyn » October 16th, 2010, 1:35 pm

Hi SuCue,

Your book sounds very interesting - I wish you the best of luck with it.

I am wondering if you can call it something like this:

"Commercial fiction with a humorous slant."
"Literary fiction with a thread of humor."
"Mainstream fiction with a touch of comedy."

Anyway, I have "Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents", and it has a nice section with detailed descriptions of a wide variety of genres on pages 895 to 907. I think that these descriptions could be very helpful to you.

Evelyn

SuCue
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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by SuCue » October 16th, 2010, 8:39 pm

Hey thanks much Evelyn -- I will check out that book. That is helpful advice!

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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by SuCue » October 21st, 2010, 1:39 pm

Okay, thanks for the feedback everyone. Here is what I came up with for a description of the novel (i also chopped it down about 1500 words):

WESTERN WASTE is a 102,000-word work of commercial fiction, with a humorous slant, following three eventful years in the life of a young female journalist working in a very testosterone-dominated industry (shipping). WESTERN WASTE is set in the late 1980s, in a rapidly gentrifying but still colorful part of San Francisco’s South of Market district.

After years of low-wage clerical jobs, struggling single mom Elizabeth “Liz” Foley finally lands a job with possibilities – as a junior editor at an obscure, low-budget trade publication known as “The Bible of the West Coast Maritime Industry.”

As the relatively straight-laced Liz soon finds out, nearly everyone connected with her new workplace is “at least a little off-beat, if not outright fucking insane—including their husbands, wives, significant others, and even their children and pets.” Her co-workers and colleagues know they’re strange, and they’re proud of it. In fact, they view themselves as "cast" members of a long-running T.V. sitcom called “Western Waste,” which they plan to write up and sell to Hollywood for millions—some day, very soon, whenever they finally get around to it.

While waiting for the T.V. sitcom project to get off the ground, Liz and her colleagues have plenty to keep them busy – dining with a loose professional organization of shipping industry journalists known as TITS; playing endless games of “Wino Bingo” – a fierce competition to uncover the weirdest “wino story” in their South of Market neighborhood; and plotting against Seymour Vase, the nefarious Group Publisher whose sinister machinations are intentionally driving Liz’s boss, Derek, crazy.

Everything lurches along swimmingly, more or less, until Liz gets a tempting job offer and has to decide whether or not to leave the “cast” of “Western Waste” -- the members of which she’s grown to love as much as her own family, especially Derek. The events of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake punctuate her eventual decision dramatically.

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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by JMB » October 21st, 2010, 4:48 pm

If you want feedback on this, you need to post it in the Queries Forum.

SuCue
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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by SuCue » October 21st, 2010, 4:51 pm

Thanks, yes, I noticed that I had posted it in the wrong place. So sorry! -- I'm new.

I did put it in the Query folder.

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cheekychook
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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by cheekychook » October 21st, 2010, 11:54 pm

SuCue wrote:Thanks, yes, I noticed that I had posted it in the wrong place. So sorry! -- I'm new.

I did put it in the Query folder.
No need to apologize. You just owe everyone a cookie now.

Kidding.

Oh, and yes, when in doubt query as commercial fiction and convey the nuances in the rest of the query. Show, don't tell. And target agents who represent similar books if you can find them.

Best of luck.
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SuCue
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Re: I'm New -- Need Some Advice on Genre

Post by SuCue » October 22nd, 2010, 10:22 am

Thanks much, cheekychook.

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