Interesting story on The Millions : Why Are So Many Literary Writers Shifting into Genre? by Kim Wright. “Once upon a time,” she writes,
genre was treated as almost a different industry from literary fiction, ignored by critics, sneered at by literary writers, relegated by publishers to imprint ghettos. But the dirty little and not-particularly-well-kept secret was that, thanks to the loyalty of their fans and the relatively rapid production of their authors, these genre books were the ones who kept the entire operation in business. All those snobbish literary writers had better have hoped like hell that their publishers had enough genre moneymakers in house to finance the advance for their latest beautifully rendered and experimentally structured observation of upper class angst.
Seems to me that her somewhat ironic and overstated take is accurate.
From my perspective, one of the issues In ghettoizing books into genre is the perennnial need to arm a sales force with some handle to sell books. Got a treatise on treating corns and bunnions? No problem whatsoever for the sales force. That is something that people with corns and bunnions need. Nobody, in the strictest sense, “needs” fiction. So, got a novel with a lot of baseball in it that’s not baseball? Who, in the strictest sense, needs that? Got a novel about
I don’t think it’s entirely new that “mainstream” literary writers are “shifting” into genre (and neither does Wright). I kind of think all of this is sort of coincidental. In my own case with my new novel, THE FINAL APPEARANCE OF AMERICA’S FAVORITE GIRL NEXT DOOR, I could not have told the story I wanted to tell without a bit of genre-bending. The funny (to me) think about all of this is that we’d totally accept such excursions if we saw them in the movies, but it is somehow a Problem in selling a novel.
To me, this seems just another way that mainstream (i.e., not indie) publishing has chased itself So far up a very tall tree that it’s no longer very easy to see the ground.