Which box are you in?

Which box are you in?
Publishers have this unfortunate habit of placing authors in a specific genre box. If your first novel is romance, then you are a romance writer, and woe betide you if you step outside this genre. My first accepted novel, Dead Wood, was a contemporary crime one, although I had previously written a romantic saga. So, I was popped into the contemporary crime genre box and, if I was still with my traditional publisher, that is where you would find me languishing.

My Dundee Crime Series
Now, I am quite happy to be a crime writer, and I suppose I’m best known for my Dundee Crime series of books. However, I’m not sure that I want to be restricted in my choice of what to write. So, having successfully made the conversion to being an indie writer, I have a bit more autonomy.

If you are wondering how I have exercised that autonomy, you have to look no further than my historical saga, A Salt Splashed Cradle, set in an 1830s fishing village. In that book I was able to sail off to the the fishing grounds, go whaling, bait lines, and generally live the life of the ordinary fisher folk. No murders, although a lot of envy, jealousy, and even a bit of sex (shock, horror).

Then there is my most recent crime book, The Death Game, published in March. This one is not contemporary crime. It is historical crime, featuring one of Scotland’s first policewoman, and set in 1919, the year after the end of the First World War. This one has a bit of a gothic feel to it, and since its launch, my readers seem to be liking my change of direction.

However, I’ve made the genre jump again and have just published a nonfiction book, although I’m still focusing on crime. This one is called Crime Fiction and the Indie Contribution, and it is an examination of crime fiction from the early days of the genre, through to modern times. All my reading examples in this book have been gleaned from the pens of indie authors, and/or indie publishers.

This book started out as a series of posts for the Edinburgh e-Book Festival, and it was Bill Kirton who suggested I turn them into book form. It seemed a good idea at the time and I thought it would be an easy task. However, I hadn’t counted on my own inbuilt need for perfection. I don’t suppose I really meet my own standards, but I do have to try for them. So, that meant the posts had to be rewritten (too bloggy for a book), plus I had to include a lot more material. This resulted in the 12,000 words I wrote for the posts working out at more than 40,000 words for the finished book.

Now the book is finished I’ve lost count of how many indie books I have used as examples, but as some chapters quote 3 books, and some 4 books, then it must be somewhere in the region of between 51 to 68 books. And I read every one of them! So, if you want to know if you’ve been included, then I’m afraid you’ll have to read the book!

I’m currently writing my second historical crime novel, but I can’t help thinking about different writing genres and whether I’m ready to try something else!

Chris Longmuir


Chris Longmuir said…
Since I wrote this I have counted how many books I read and it comes to a grand total of 61. And this week I've been at Crimefest and have met some of the authors - in the flesh - whose books I included. I've also met a couple who were on the Indie Writing panel whose books I wish I had read and included.
JO said…
I'm known as being in the 'travel writer' box - but maybe one day I'll publish some of my other stuff. It will be interesting to see if I'm welcomed into the fiction fraternity or if there are those who want to push me back where I came from.
Mari Biella said…
It’s so important to be able to grow and develop as a writer, and for many people that includes writing in different genres. I think one of the best things to be said for self-publishing is that it gives authors that freedom. Having said that, I’m the kind of person who thinks that genres are often no more than convenient labels for booksellers...
Bill Kirton said…
I'd forgotten I suggested the idea to you, Chris, but I'm glad I did. You've covered an astonishing amount of ground (including your thoughts on ebooks, indies and the nuts and bolts of publishing). Paradoxically, you've added even more 'boxes' for publishers to indulge their 'unfortunate habit' of pigeon-holing us but it makes for an interesting source of comparison and illustrates very well how calling someone 'a crime writer' is only the beginning of a much more complex process.
It's a serious study of the genre and yet it's retained your personal, very readable touch. Congratulations. I hope it does very well for you.
Fascinating, Chris. I'm off to download it! I've never liked the necessity to squeeze a writer into a particular genre, never agreed with the idea that you could only write one kind of book. And you're proving the point.
Dennis Hamley said…
I'm not downloading it, Chris. I've bought the paperback and am expecting it on Wednesday. Yes, the dreaded genre box. To echo my last blog, it's proof of the left hemisphere's triumph in the publishing world.
Kathleen Jones said…
I was trapped for years in the 'literary biography' box! Escaping this strait jacket feels very good, but still a little bit naughty....
Excellent post Chris. I don't think readers realise how traditional publishers constrain writers.
Lydia Bennet said…
well said as ever Chris. it's not just publishers, but agents, trying to get people to write 'more like X' and stop mixing genres or sub-genres as readers, though apparently not film-goers or TV viewers, can't cope with that! Agents usually want a constant stream of books similar to any that did well before and you might want to do something else.
Chris Longmuir said…
Thanks for all your comments folks and a double thanks to all of you who have bought Crime Fiction & the Indie Contribution. And Dennis, I've only seen the proof copy in paperback, but it looked really good and I think it will sit well on your bookshelves. I was still in Bristol when the blog went up, and then on the train for 9 hours so wasn't able to reply to you all yesterday, but I'm really pleased at the interst it has generated.

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