At this month’s Writers’ Coffeehouse, Jonathan Maberry advised me that The Faith Machine is a thriller because:

  • The protagonists are spies
  • It hits on the Stargate Project in its backstory.
  • The fate of the world is at stake
  • At 98,000 it has the right word count
  • Thrillers typically command larger advances

Okay, sold.

I called it science fiction, because I figured that readers of science fiction reader would be more forgiving of the spy stuff, than the thriller reader would be of E.S.P. But Maberry’s own Joe Ledger novels fly in the face of that assumption. They’re science fiction, sometimes they’re even fantasy, but they’re marketed as thrillers, and that’s working out pretty well for Jonathan.

These labels, man, I don’t dig them. I understand that marketing needs them to communicate to the audience, but if a book is shoved in the wrong genre that’s sales death. Part of me blames Picking Up the Ghost’s poor sales on its miscategorization (long story). Many writers get pigeon holed by their genre, or they used to. Those walls are breaking down, and cross-genre is increasingly acceptable. But they’ll still slap one of the accepted one or two word labels on the spine.

It’s easy enough to search/replace “science fiction” with “thriller” in my query letter. It’s difficult to stop thinking about the ten agent queries I sent out last week.

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