As I’d gone through the process of thinking about, and then writing, stories over the years, I’d asked myself the question many agents and publishers say that authors are to consider: “Where does your work fit in the market?”
Many books / websites / interviews from these professionals and many trade discussion boards assure authors that this is something all writers are supposed to think about, especially if they hope to get their work published by a publishing house. Authors are supposed to identify the single genre of their work, understand the demand (or lack thereof) for that work, and then associate their work with other works already on the shelf.
I once found myself troubled with those requirements. Yes, authors should be able to determine such basics as the genre, I told myself; yet, I hated to associate my work with those of others ( “My book falls between This and That on the shelves.” or “It’s a cross between This and That.” ), never mind that those other works obviously passed enough hurdles to actually land on the bookstore shelves.
It was vanity, I suppose, to not want to label oneself or link one’s work with that of another, even though so very many stories are revisions and offshoots of others — or greatly influenced by them. We just don’t ever want to admit it.
So I was forced to recognize that even if one didn’t want to stamp a label on her work, it is an inevitable necessity. How is the agent or publisher to know what they’re being asked to consider if the author herself fails to identify her work in a clear and concise manner? They can’t, obviously, without reading it. Therefore, the author would be asking people with very limited time to find the answer on their own without her help.
Good luck, I figured. The request wasn’t so invasive, after all.