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Having trouble describing the genre of my book

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Hello! This is my first time using this forum (I probably should have been on here a long time ago!) I have written a book aimed at 4th-6th graders. It is a guide to ghosts and ghost hunting written in the guise of a nonfiction book but it written in the first person by a fictitious ghost expert who tells funny, fictional stories about his experiences throughout the book. I am having trouble knowing how to describe it to a  publisher in my initial contact with them.
Thank you and good luck to all writers out there!
Rob Taylor
#1 - July 25, 2021, 01:10 PM

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So this is middle grade fiction (fantasy) in the guise of a nonfiction book. There are comps: Fantastic Beasts in the Harry Potter universe may be one.  Something like Horse Diaries might also work. There are other fantasy books written as fact. This is time to talk to a librarian or bookseller. Once you have comps look at their blurbs on websites and see how they were marketed. (The HP universe won't be your best tool because it was so popular before those added books.)

But I think you did a fine job here, a middle grade fantasy in which a fictitious ghost hunter guides perspective hunters through anecdotes of his experiences. Just make sure you include a child somewhere.
#2 - July 25, 2021, 06:27 PM
« Last Edit: July 25, 2021, 06:32 PM by Debbie Vilardi »
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Debbie has great advice!

I just wanted to add that I think this sounds really cool. Good luck!
#3 - July 26, 2021, 03:54 AM

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Debbie and Mrs. Jones- thank you both very much!
#4 - July 27, 2021, 11:14 AM

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Hey-- Let me be the first to say that I do not know what I'm talking about, and will be happy to be corrected! :-)

I had a devil of a time figuring out how to describe/explain my first book which most definitely did not follow along with all that I read about "how to write a blurb" etc. I had the good fortune to come across the term "high concept" at one of the boards here. If there's a high, there must be a low, no? The first characteristic of a low concept story is that it is "not easily explainable."

Could your story be low concept?
#5 - August 01, 2021, 10:47 AM

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Could your story be low concept?
I would definitely not pitch it that way, as it may come across as "not exciting" -- or, indeed, hard to explain, which can equal hard to pitch or shelve, which can equal No.

I don't think this is as hard to explain as it might appear. It's a middle-grade ghost story. When you write your query and present character, problem/goal, action, complication, and stakes, this will *show* that it is a ghost-hunting story rather than, say, one where the characters find out that the place they're in is haunted. You don't have to try to explain that it's a ghost hunting story in exactly those words. 

What concerns me is that you may not have a child front and center. I could be wrong, but I pictured your ghost hunter as an adult. If you can't make the ghost hunter a child, maybe give him/her a child "sidekick" who is actually the MC.

I second the advice to talk to a librarian AND bookseller to get the best of both opinions and find your comp titles. According to recent experience and industry talk, comps and how you choose them are becoming more and more make-it-or-break-it to your query or pitch.
#6 - August 01, 2021, 11:21 AM
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Hi, Robert! mrh has good advice here.

I wrote the book of my heart a few years ago (MG). It has a child MC and two young adult sidekicks. The kid is proactive, saves the day, drives the plot, etc.--but it was a hard no.  (My agent told me this and a Big Five editor confirmed.) Having an adult sidekick is an automatic dealbreaker right now; that could change in a few years of course, but if the MC themself isn't a kid you should probably reassess.
#7 - August 02, 2021, 07:44 PM
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