Glance through the shelves of any bookstore and you’ll find that readers like their books in nice, neat rows, labeled by genre. And to some extent, it is very comforting to know that when you buy the next book by your favorite author, you will have at least some vague idea of what to expect.
Authors have long been classified by genre, but in the current era of indie publishing, those lines are blurring. Authors are reveling in the freedom to write stories they care about without waiting for the traditional publishing model to assign their works into a strictly defined genre.
Tess Hardwick, whose debut novel Riversong was published in mid-April by Booktrope, takes pause when she’s asked to classify her writing into a specific genre. The best she can come up with is crossover contemporary women’s fiction with a light romantic, spiritual bent. And it’s for foodies.
“After a friend in the publishing world got my manuscript in front of a couple of agents and published authors, I received some helpful-but-negative feedback. Fortunately, I let my manuscript sit for a while as I stewed on what they had to say about my work. By the time I was ready to revisit what they had said, I was able to make some very valuable edits.”
When an editor friend pitched her manuscript to a partner at Booktrope, Hardwick was thrilled to meet a publishing model that worked as a team with the author, assigning and editor, cover artist, and book manager for marketing the manuscript. At that time, traditional publishing professionals kept telling her the same thing: “Your work doesn’t fit into any one genre.”
“I was really lucky to stumble on Booktrope the way I did. At the time they were trying to focus more on fiction, as opposed to the non-fiction and academic texts that they had been publishing for so long. They are also really open to new authors.”
Hardwick is not the first author to be impressed with the model offered by these smaller presses. “While they still work like other larger publishing houses, a smaller press is more like the best of both worlds between traditional publishers and self-publishing. There are no advances, but there are no fees to the author like some of the self-publishers and e-publishers. Booktrope doesn’t work with agents, so I knew I was going to have to take on almost all of that responsibility myself.”
And that relationship has paid off, as Hardwick’s second ebook novel is currently out with her beta readers while she works on a third work-in-progress, each filling a different place in her life and in a somewhat different genre. But the label isn’t what’s important to Hardwick, it’s the story that has to speak for itself.
“I start with a really great, really complex character. Then I just listen to her. I let her tell me her story.”