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.