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Posts tagged ‘paranormal romance’

Know Your Genre – Paranormal Romance

I’ll admit, this post stems from a Facebook discussion I was part of yesterday. A friend of mine mentioned a “paranormal romance” he was reading and my first instinct was to yell, “It’s not PNR!”. The problem was that book is on this year’s shortlist for a RITA as a PNR. Except it’s not. Or is it?

So, what is a paranormal romance and why does the sub-genre leave such a nasty taste in the mouths of some readers?

Let’s start with what it’s not. It is not urban fantasy. There was a time when you could safely walk into a bookstore, pick up a title filed under urban fantasy and know you would not be hit with a major romance plot. More than that, you wouldn’t be skipping — if you’re wont to do so — page after page of explicit sex. You’d get a fun mystery or suspense read, maybe humor but romance? Nope. It wasn’t in your urban fantasy, at least not as anything more than a passing plot point. Read more

The book lives. My brain, not so much

coverThe title of this post pretty much says it all. After a month plus of working on Sword of Arelion and worrying if I had lost my mind — I hadn’t. It was must my normal insecurities as I work on a new book — and a week of heavy editing and waiting to hear back from my first reader and editor, it is finally live. That’s the good news. he bad news is that my brain has decided it now gets to take a vacation. Unfortunately, it didn’t take my body with it. Sigh. Bad brain. So, here I sit this morning, trying to figure out what to blog about.

Then inspiration hit and I wandered back to Sunday’s post to see if you guys had recommended topics that might stir some sort of creative spark. You didn’t let me down. The very first comment, one from William Lehman, struck more than a cord with me, it struck a nerve. To paraphrase, William writes urban fantasy and he has had some reviewers hit him because there isn’t enough sex in his books. He was wondering how to get around this. Since I had the same sort of comments with regard to Nocturnal Origins, I knew exactly where he was coming from.

The problem, you see, is that the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance has blurred to the point that it doesn’t exist any longer in a lot of readers’ minds. The culprit in this isn’t so much the authors of the books but the way bookstores have shelved PNRs over the years. Instead of putting them in the romance section, they started shelving them in the science fiction/fantasy section. The problem now comes with how we tag our e-books. Those pesky little meta tags, those seven words we can use to help readers find our books through the Amazon search engine, can make us or break us. So we need to know what tags to use that will help prevent confusion.

The first step is to go to this page that Amazon has added to the KDP section of their site. When you scroll down, you will see that they have broken it up so you can look at meta tags by basic genres. Then it is simply becomes finding the right meta tags to fit your book. Now, word of warning here, if you want to make sure you don’t signal another genre through your tags, check out the tags for that genre as well and make sure you don’t use them. The caveat is that you may not be able to prevent cross-overs and that is where you have to look at your product description.

Something else I’ve noticed with the meta tags, they help set your book into the sub-genres that Amazon uses for its various best seller lists. This is a good thing and it has helped increase my sales over the last year or so.

One other thing about the tags before we move on is that you have to periodically revisit the tags page and see if things have changed. If they have, you may need to change the tags you initially associated with your work. Hint: you may want to do that anyway if your sales need a boost.

The next thing you have to look at is your product description — and that means knowing what the current trends are not only in your genre/sub-genre but in similar ones as well. If you are writing urban fantasy, you need to know what is going on in paranormal romance. Yes, like it or not, it means you also have to read some of the other genre. But then, you should be reading in your genre as well. (If I hear one more person say they don’t read, or don’t read in the genre they write in, because they don’t want anyone to claim they stole an idea or they don’t want their unique idea spoiled by what they read, I will scream.)

I’ll warn everyone right now that if you have a Navy Seal shapeshifter, the first thing a lot of readers will think is that it is PNR because that is one of the hot subjects. Even if nothing else about the blurb signals PNR, you will have folks who see Seal shapeshifter and automatically go there. Your blurb and even say, “this is an Urban Fantasy” or “UF police procedural” or whatever and they will still be expecting a romance with sex. That is just the nature of the beast, so to speak.

I guess what I’m saying is this: write the best blurb you can that is true not only to the plot of your book but also to the genre. Tag your book so that it falls into the right search categories and, when setting your book up for the two main categories Amazon allows, make sure you are putting it in the right ones. These are pretty generic but still important. Finally, just accept as inevitable that there will be someone who sees that you have shapeshifters or vampires or witches, etc., and will automatically assume the book is PNR.

In other words, there is no easy answer. It is all about cuing and about whether or not the reader actually pays attention to the blurb. Add the fact that the tags do change on occasion and it becomes an interesting exercise in frustration all too often.

Now, back to the new book. Sword of Arelion is available through Amazon without DRM. It is fantasy, a mix of high fantasy and heroic fantasy with a touch of sword & sorcery. In other words, a pain to tag. If you are so inclined, you can check it out here. All I ask is that you remember DK (Demon Kat) likes to eat and if I don’t sell enough books to buy his kibble, he will start nibbling on my ankle.  😉

The Results of the Homework

So, a few days back I got a parcel from Sarah which contained a bunch of bestselling (at least according to the covers) paranormal romances. The basic idea was that I read them and see if I can write something that will fit the general formula, since the stuff sells like hot… er… very popular stuff.

So I read them. Full disclosure, I skipped the sex scenes, of which there were rather too many for my preferences (let’s face it, there’s only so many ways one can describe the sexual act, and too much of it starts to read like IKEA instructions – insert tab A into slot B and wiggle until it relaxes). What I saw from my sample set of 7 apparently best selling paranormal romances does fit something of a formula. I might even be able to work with said formula without too much hassle.

The formula (to spare those who are wondering the effort and trauma of reading too many IKEA sex scenes) appears to be as follows:

  • Take one headstrong female who no matter what she’s done in her past is still fundamentally innocent in some way
  • Give her a troubled past, preferably one without actual love unless the love was either doomed or with the male and failed due to a misunderstanding
  • Add one seriously hot male with a tribe of issues of his own. He must be protective and dominant. Assholes are permitted so long as they mitigate the assholery around the female.
  • The male should preferably be something not-human and must be drop-dead-sexy.
  • Add a collection of enemies of one or both wanting their target dead for reasons that can be quite flimsy.
  • Stir up the whole mess in a way that drives the two of them to have sex somewhere around 1/3 of the way through. The sex is often at least a chapter’s worth.
  • There should be an argument after the first sex scene, preferably one that makes the two of them seem to hate each other.
  • Put one or both in danger of their life somewhere around 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through. Once the danger is past, they can have passionate make-up/”you survived” sex.
  • The climax should involve danger and sex. If both can happen at the same time, so much the better, otherwise, go with the danger. It seems to be popular to kill or nearly kill the male at this point (being supernatural, he either revives himself or a friendly goddess might do the deed for the female).
  • After the climax (yes, I know), they can avow their undying love – which since at least one of the pair, possibly both is likely to be immortal could really be undying.
  • For series, have supporting characters who can have their own love story in future books.

I was worried that my natural tendency to go dark would be too much, but judging by some of these books, there ain’t no such thing. This is scary – if I really let the dark out instead of leashing it the way I do, it would be at the “Anne Bishop at her most terrifying” level, only I wouldn’t be only torturing the males on-screen (for those who haven’t read Anne Bishop, google her and check the plot synopsis of her first three books. The running joke with her friends is that anyone else’s ‘dark’ is her ‘light and fluffy’).

So… Food for thought, and homework done. Now I need to let the information sit and fester for a while before I try to do anything with it.