10 June 2011

Waterstones and dark fantasy

I was browsing the genre shelves of my local Waterstones today to pick up a book for my flight on Monday. While I was there I thought I would do that writerly thing they all tell you to do and check out what's on the shelves in general. You know the sort of thing: what's selling, what's getting promotional coverage, etc etc.

I have tweeted before that Waterstones has a dark fantasy shelf. Yay, said I. Clearly this stuff is selling. Maybe they'd like an English one to go with all the American ones on the shelf. Maybe my book will not be the subject of agentish sniggers and coffee expelled in the direction of monitors.

Got to be honest though, after a closer look today, I have my reservations. They seem to have lumped all the paranormal romance and urban fantasy featuring female MC's onto this dark fantasy shelf. Okay, fine. Except the Jim Butcher books, which are urban fantasy, are across the way in Science Fiction. So is American Gods by Neil Gaiman (bought that one for the plane, can't wait). High fantasy and comic fantasy were also in Science Fiction.

So why is urban fantasy split across the two shelves?

There are two reasons that I can think of, and I don't like one of them very much. Have we got into the situation where the bookshops think we need a separate shelf of urban fantasy for girls? Heaven forbid that they should corrupt the proper books. Better keep them nice and clear in case it's contagious.

The second one is that the whole shelf was paranormal romance, which I was mistaking for urban fantasy. That makes me wonder where the line is. Does an urban fantasy become a paranormal romance as soon as there is a relationship in there somewhere? Would any urban fantasy with romantic elements be viewed as a paranormal romance for the purpose of shelving?

What I really need to do, I suppose, is make a note of all the authors and see where they fall on the spectrum. As for where my book would fall? I haven't a flaming clue any more.


  1. I can never figure how books get categorized by stores and websites. Does someone actually read them all? Do they read the publisher's blurb, which may or many not be a real indicator of what's in the book? Do they listen to the authors? Hah, fat chance of that...

    In the end, it comes down to some kind of judgment call, I guess, somebody's opinion.

    IMHO... :)

  2. Urban fantasy has an open arc. PR doesn't, there is an immediate happy ending. There can be other stories, but the couple remains happy. The other PR would be a continuous arc, but with different characters, such as JR Ward. That was one of the discussions on the seminar yesterday.

  3. why are they in diff. places...
    and as someone who once worked in the field of stocking those shelves, i can say on the fantasies, we would read the back or insides to see what it was about and the decide romance or SyFy because there isn't/wasn't enough of them written to give them their own slots in those all important planograms
    which i hated
    and swore that the nimrod who made them never read a book unless it was for their college course

  4. Yeah, genre is tough. Honestly for me I think I have to just write what I want to write and then find a friend or peer I trust to tell me what genre it is. Though I skew toward fantasy, sci-fi, urban fantasy and the other genres you mention being jumbled here.


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