How Far Will Readers Reach?
This post ponders how far readers are willing to go. I might not have touched this topic when Foretold was released last fall. But since then, with Echo Moon out one week from today, I have been scratching my head over a reader idiosyncrasy—one that came full circle with a couple of Facebook surveys.
Recently, two polls rolled through my newsfeed. Both had amassed heavy traffic. One poll asked what genre of book a reader was most likely to pick up. The other asked if readers would add a “paranormal novel” to their TBR list.
The Results Are In
(And don’t miss the giveaway at the end of the post!)
The majority of respondents were women. By far, the answer to the first question, “What genre do you read most?” was women’s fiction. Traditionally, women’s fiction centers on relationships, the protagonist’s emotional journey, and whatever that might be related to—spouse, children, career, friendships, unexplored passion or problem in life. In my experience, most WF novels use a varied combination of the above themes. I know. I’ve written four women’s fiction novels, published one.
But it was the answers to the other survey, “Would you add a paranormal novel to your TBR list?” that set off alarm bells. Again, the majority of those who replied were women. Not only was the most frequent answer “No,” respondents felt it fair to be quite snarky in their replies. “Paranormal? Ick. I’d never…” “Ghosts? Garbage. Not for me!”
My knee-jerk reaction was, “Did you see The Sixth Sense? Ever read a few novels by a fellow named Stephen King, maybe a classic by Shirley Jackson?” Although, I will state emphatically that my Ghost Gifts novels are not about the fear factor.
Ooo, That’s Going to Leave a Mark
It was humbling to read the dismissive, downright whipping post responses about the genre where my Ghost Gifts books are shelved. The most educational response came from a woman who posted, “I could never read paranormal. Ghost stories don’t interest me. I much prefer women’s fiction novels.”
Here’s the thing. The woman who made that comment is a huge Ghost Gifts fan. She won the first book via a blogger giveaway. Since then, she has reviewed each book, raved on social media, shared her positive opinions openly. A few years ago, I would have sulked away from her poll response, too stunned to pursue a clarification. I guess as we get older we do get a little bolder, and I politely asked my Ghost Gifts fan how this could be.
Here’s What I Learned
Her honest reply, with permission, “Gosh, I’ve never thought of your Ghost Gifts books as paranormal. Of course, that seems silly now that you point it out. Sure there are ghosts, but they’re not ‘Boo!’ You know, ‘Ghost stories.’ Your books are about the characters. The stories are so believable… emotional. It’s about how Aubrey Ellis lives her life.”
Uh-huh. See the above description of a women’s fiction novel.
Brings Me to My Point
With readers so passionate about the label “women’s fiction,” how can I possibly break down a barrier, the assumption that my Ghost Gifts books are not for them? Is there a stigma related to paranormal as a genre—clearly. Is it earned—probably. Ghost stories can be the punchline to a joke. Certainly there have been dozens of hackneyed psychics put to paper. But if we take the above scenario and look at it as if it were an underrepresented segment of society, those poll reactions might be deemed a stereotype.
Would it be fair to categorize Ghost Gifts, Foretold, and soon Echo Moon as anything but paranormal. If it were possible—yes, I think so. But in publishing, the box requires a check mark, and that is the one I have been assigned.
But Wait! What’s this About Magical Realism? (Plus a Giveaway!)
Echo Moon, out May 22nd, is a somewhat different read than the first two books, embracing magical realism in addition to paranormal elements. See how the label works? Magical realism comes with respect; even diehard readers of women’s fiction can be tempted to cross the line. It’s likely too late for my Ghost Gifts trilogy to catch fire with a wider audience. Even with Echo Moon’s more mainstream cover and title, I don’t know if those readers would say, “This story is a journey. This story is for me.”
Still, I’d like to know how “genre faithful are you?” Are you willing to take a chance on a story concept that doesn’t fit in a check box? What motivates readers to look beyond a label? You tell me.
Do any of the following and you’re entered to win: Comment on this post, add Echo Moon to your Goodreads shelf, share this post on social media! (Note your entry method below) I’ll give a signed copy of Echo Moon to one women’s fiction reader! Okay, any reader, but you get the idea. ????
As you know, I loved your Ghost Gifts trilogy! I initially went into reading the books with no pre-conceived notions about genre because I had heard so many great things about Ghost Gifts and Foretold from fellow readers and reviewers. I was not disappointed. Truly loved the series!! Of course, Echo Moon is on my Goodreads shelf and I will also share your post. Best wishes for your release day next week! I will miss these characters!
Thank you Carla! I will miss them too! You’ve been such a great advocate for the series, and my other novels! Thanks for commenting!
Your blog does make me think about genre and what fits a definition. I have read a lot of Ted Dekker books and they are written with spiritual connections in the characters. I haven’t really read many paranormal books. I am reading your book, Echo Moon, right now. I am only 25% into it and I am enjoyng it very much. I am willing to try different genres but I do think I would pass on horror and scary. TY for your blog and bringing up things to think about. I believe each book/novel should be considered on it’s own and not put into a generalized category. GL and congrats on the release of Echo Moon next week.
Thanks so much for your thoughts, Bambi! I am hoping it will inspire readers to, as you note, “think about genre!” Thanks so much for commenting and I’m glad you’re enjoying Echo Moon!
Although I gravitate towards some genres more than others, I don’t like to box myself in….that would take all the fun out of reading! Your books, whether described as paranormal or not, transcend genres. There is obviously a paranormal/magical realism theme, but your books are so much about the characters and their relationships, and their experiences and interactions with each other are enhanced by the paranormal elements. I see it as another layer, a way to make your stories stand out, and a way for the reader to come out of their own preconceived notions through intriguing stories. I love magical realism..I think of movies like Field of Dreams, one of my very favorite movies, and The Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter….pure fantasy and genius! One of the best twists I’ve ever read in a book was Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult…brilliantly executed..a twist that made me yell out loud and left all my preconceived notions in the dust!
Hi Susan! Ha! I know that twist in the Picoult novel! I agree! Thank you for the kind words! I love your savvy reader thoughts!
I don’t like when people ask me what kind of books I read…I’ve gotten eye rolls from people, depending on my answer. I’d never do that to someone else who says they read genres that don’t interest me.
I do not care for labels. A good book is a good book. I loved your Ghost Gifts trilogy and I loved Unstrung. I read the synopsis about the book and if it sounds like something I would enjoy, I read it. I love your books, Barbara Claypole White’s book, and Kimberly Belle’s books. All different but all amazing in their own way.
Great take on how to choose a book, Chris! I am thrilled to be mentioned with BCW and Kimberly Belle!
I know books have to be categorized for sales purposes. But so many times, I will read a book and wonder why in the heck it was categorized as it was. Due to my personal life experiences, I wouldn’t shy away from a book just because someone somewhere has categorized it as paranormal. But sadly, I do think many people see it as a hokey cliche and won’t even open the front cover. I will read the blurb and if the premise interests me, I will read it.
I read the first two books of your GG trilogy and have had Echo Moon pre-ordered for some time. And having read two of your earlier books, I can say it is your way of telling a story that interests me…no matter what category they put it in. And if you decide to try science fiction, I would have to give it a go, too. LOL
Funny you should say sci-fi, Beverly… I’m just kidding. I think! 😉 You hit the nail on the head with your explanation of how many people perceive different genres. On occasion, when the GG novels have been featured in popular books groups that cater WF, I can almost feel the eye rolls. But so it goes.. Thanks for commenting!
On my goodreads tbr
I have had Echo Moon on my TBR since the promotions started! I will give any genre a try, and I always finish a book once I’ve started it. Any book that is highly recommended by A Novel Bee, Linda’s Book Obsession, and Suzy Approved Book Reviews, for a few, is high on my wish list!
Thanks, Joan! And yes–A Novel Bee, Linda’s Book Obsession and Suzy have all been SO kind to my books over the years!
Can’t wait to read “Echo Moon”! It’s already on my Goodreafs TBR list. Shared on Facebook.
Thank you so much for writing this post! My novel, Inherent Lies, is up for a Golden Heart this year in the Paranormal category. Only recently did I start to embrace that label. I never thought I was writing a “paranormal” novel. I’m so glad to know I’m in good company.
You are indeed, Alicia! Ghost Gifts was a paranormal finalist as well. It’s amazing the types of stories that will fit under one paranormal umbrella! Best of luck to you!
Hi Laura. I haven’t read the first two books of your trilogy but I won Echo Moon and I am planning to read it soon. I read several genres but I draw the line with explicit sex, profane language and excessive violence. I don’t want my mind filled with these things that tend to pop up at unexplained times.
Thanks for writing what we women readers enjoy.
its added to my goodreads shelf want to read.
I adored your first two Ghost Gifts books and have been waiting for the (preordered) third. Just finished it and it was wonderful. You have such a gift for dealing with “paranormal” material in very real, character-driven novels. I’ve always been comfortable with “ghost” books, but yours are truly amazing stories with the paranormal wound throughout. Gosh, does that make sense? The historical detail, the well-developed characters, the surprises and emotions… thank you so much for these stories and please don’t stop writing them.
Hello Terry–What a lovely email. Thank you so much for commenting. Yes, your thoughts make a great deal of sense. 😉 One of my goals when I wrote the Ghost Gifts novels was to present a psychic gift that did not “read” as hackneyed or cliche. I very much enjoyed the historical research for Echo Moon, as this was a new avenue for me as a writer. I’m thrilled to hear these aspects of the story resonated. I’m not sure what’s next for me, but hearing from readers like you is always greatly encouraging. I appreciate your time in both reading and writing. (BTW, if you have a moment, an Amazon review is always greatly appreciated!)