In 1977, Elmore Leonard wrote Touch, a story about a stigmatic healer. Even though he’d already developed a name for himself, he received more than a dozen rejection letters. His publishers finally accepted the book in 1978, but were not very enthusiastic about it and kept postponing publication. In 1982 Leonard took back his rights, and five years later he found another publisher for the work.
In the introduction to the book, Leonard wrote: “If the author isn’t well known, or if the publisher isn’t able to label the book, place it in a recognized genre, he’s got a marketing problem, or so they tell me. It seemed easier in the past to try to sell me as some distinguished though deceased writer’s second coming rather than simply as me. But Touch refused even to be categorized.”
Many of us trying to be published have the same problem: we simply wrote our books as they demanded to be written, and they do not fit into a recognized category. As one editor wrote me when rejecting Light Bringer: “It is a very original concept and the writing is good, but I’m not sure where on the shelves this story would appear. Is it science fiction? Thriller? What?”
I thought I had answered that question when I called it a psychological thriller. It’s not really thrilling since there are no chases, no fights, no violence, but it is psychological in that the story is about a search for identity.
I suppose the alien baby and the bug man make it seem like science fiction, but no science fiction fan would recognize it as such. It takes place is today’s world, and if it weren’t for those two little oddities, the work would be considered a psychological thriller, or a mystery, or perhaps historical fiction if one accepts as true the Sumerian’s belief in a twelfth major heavenly body in our solar system.
Although I do understand that it’s important to know where on a bookstore’s shelves a book would fit, I do not see it as a reason not to publish it. Listed in blog categories is one called “uncategorized.” Why can’t there be a similar noncategory for books?