The "genre" misconception.


Lately, there has been quite a bit of talk about NA. I've heard agents and editors pipe in and give their opinions. Some of them are positive; some of them are negative. Twitter and blog posts on both sides of the spectrum have been done.
Now, I'm not going to point to specifics, but in most of the negative comments there is something like this "NA isn't a genre. NA isn't real. NA doesn't exist. It's a marketing trick." As I said, that isn't a quote, but rather just a few things I have heard all lumped together.

If you're like me, NA bashing can make me irritable. So let's take a moment to relax. 

Peaceful, right? 

Let's look at this "NA isn't a genre."
And guess what, they are right. NA ISN'T a genre. It is a CATEGORY. So, sure, whoever said that is right in that regards. But here's the thing-- if they are bashing NA and referring to NA as a genre, they don't really know what they are talking about. My point with that: Don't sweat it when someone complains about how NA isn't real etc and is referring it to a genre.
I think this is a common misconception. I hear NA advocates call it a genre. And, honestly, I can see to an extent why. But let's look at genre versus category so that we can clear up this misconception.
According to Wikipedia (I know, I know, it feels so wrong to use Wiki, but it's actually accurate in this case), screenwriter Robert Mckee defines genre conventions as the "specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their subgenres." Wiki goes on to list several genres, which include action, fantasy, mystery, romance etc. You can see the whole list here. All of these genres have specifics that make them what they are. Romance has specific "requirements", fantasy novels tend to have certain type of settings, roles and events. From there, you get into subgenres. An example would be in genre fantasy you can have the subgenres of paranormal and urban fantasy. There are specific things that separate paranormal from urban fantasy.
Now, category is defined as "1. a class or group of things, people, etc., possessing some quality or qualities in common; a division in a system of classification" (reference).
Adult books is a category. Young Adult is a category. MG is a category. I even hear publishing experts refer to these as genres, but really, they are categories.  
Sometimes category and genre is used interchangeably,  especially since there is the classification of "literary" and "genre", but "genre"  then divides into more classification (the adult, ya etc).
New Adult is a category. New adult books are all about the new adult age range and new adult themes, and adds a division to a classification system. 
Category:            Adult       New Adult        Young Adult       Middle Grade    Children books
Genre:                  Fantasy   Romance     Mystery      Action    Thriller
Subgenre:           Epic Dark Paranormal   Urban  Romance  etc.

For NA to get the attention it deserves, we are all going to have to unite and be on the same page. I do see why NA could be called a genre-- in fact, I even called it a genre at first-- but really it's for classification.
And you know what is great about it being a CATEGORY?
It's easier to market. A lot of the negativity I hear from agents is that they can't market it. I hear "where will they shelve it?" and "it's a trick for marketing adult books" and "where would it go? with the adult books or the YA books?".
Well, since it's a classification, it can get its own shelf.  The question about to put it with adult books (would we put NA fantasy in adult fantasy or YA fantasy?) becomes obsolete. If it was a genre, I could see why they wouldn't know where to put it. But it's not. It can get its own shelf or section, just like YA and MG has know. YA has a section that breaks down into genre in most bookstores. The one I usually goes to has the YA zone, which is broken up based on new YA, paranormal romance, fantasy, fiction etc. That is how NA could work.
So when you hear the "where would we shelve it?" and "does it go with YA or adult?", just remind them that NA is a CLASSIFICATION and so the question is pointless.
I would love to get into the other things mentioned (marketing trick?), but I don't want to overload the blog today so I'll try to touch on that on my next post.
Have a great day everyone!