Elizabeth: What’s Your Shelf?

Terry Pratchett’s shelf seems to be quite full.

Earlier this year I attended a business conference in a lovely resort hotel in sunny Phoenix.  The days were packed with workshops and networking sessions, which I was eager to escape from at the end of the day for a little down time.

While other attendees were engaging in even more networking over dinner or dancing the night away in the silent disco, I was lacing up my sneakers and setting off to explore the surrounding area.

There wasn’t much around the resort itself – rocks, cactus, golf course, cactus, parking lot, cactus, rocks and more rocks and cactus – but a little less than a mile away there was a sprawling shopping center with dozens of stores, restaurants, and random works of art. More importantly, there was both a Starbucks and a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

After caffeinating and enjoying the “12 WEEKS. 12 ARTISTS. 12 MURALS“ art installation, I made my way to the bookstore, lured by the promise of wonderful bargain books just waiting for me in the clearance section.

There are very few physical bookstores around where I live, so I’m always happy to encounter one when I’m out and about.  This particular store, like the shopping center it was in, was large and sprawling and, judging by the comfortable chairs scattered about and the readers occupying them, could easily have been mistaken for a library.

The clearance section did not disappoint, providing me with two slim volumes – Machiavelli’s The Prince, and the Pocket Book of Poetry – that I was sure would stand me in good stead, should my conference take a turn for the boring the next day (it did) or my flight home experience a delay (it did not).

After scouring the clearance section for bargains I couldn’t resist, I wandered through the various fiction areas visualizing, as one does, where one of the books I’ve written might appear, should one magically transition from “this should be hidden under the bed” to “this should be published.”  The Regency and Contemporary stories were no problem, there was a logical place where they would fit and other authors I would be happy to have surrounding them.

My mystery was another story, so to speak.

It didn’t really fit with the serious suspenseful mysteries, but it didn’t fit with the cozy mysteries (a surprising number of which appeared to feature magical cats and other pets) either.  That got me thinking about which authors would I’d want to be surrounded by in this theoretical-published-book scenario.  Would I want to be by the magical pet / pun-filled-titles / busy-body sleuth authors or the authors with their professional investigators and more serious stories?

It’s not a completely esoteric exercise.  Blurbs for new books often have the “for fans of Author X” or “a cross between Author Y and Author Z” information in them for positioning and to help guide readers toward books they’re more likely to enjoy.  I hadn’t really given that much thought before, not being in (or close to) the publication phase, but looking at the shelves in the bookstore started me thinking.

I’ve been having trouble making progress on the revisions to my mystery story and the question of “where does this book belong” may be the root of the problem.  Is the story light-hearted or serious?  At the moment it’s trying to be both, and failing at both.

So this week I’m focusing on picking a lane, or rather a shelf.   Hopefully that will help me successfully move forward with my revisions and make publication of this story a little less theoretical.

So, how about you?  Have you had trouble deciding where your books would fit amongst all the other books out there or have you made and changes based on where you want to position it?

3 thoughts on “Elizabeth: What’s Your Shelf?

  1. I’m reminded of the article I read about the author who wanted to write under a pseudonym, and the surname that she chose was “Robert” because she wanted to be shelved next to Nora Roberts. She thought she’d have better sales that way. I wonder if that worked out for her?

    I think my books are fairly easy to categorize, but of course I would love to be shelved next to Jenny. I feel the warmth coming on just thinking about it.

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