Once upon a time…

books, Uncategorized

Choosing a book from library stacks or bookstore shelves used to be a simple and satisfying voyage of discovery. The options were Fiction or Nonfiction. If the reader’s choice was Nonfiction, there was the Dewey Decimal System to help locate a topic. If the choice was Fiction, there was the division between Adult and Juvenile. Within these categories, authors were ranged alphabetically, enabling readers to browse without borders. If readers wanted fiction subject guidance, Dewey could help with that, too.

Photo by Stuart Cale, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Stuart Cale, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Many readers seem to have lost faith in their ability to find fiction they’d like to read, at the level of meaning that’s important to them. Responsibility for this sad state lies with the BISAC marketing category codes, which were invented over lunch at a trade show in the 1970s, by a few marketing people who didn’t like the Dewey Decimal System. The people who wrote the BISAC acknowledge that any number of codes could be assigned to a book, but they recommend using no more than three. CreateSpace print-on-demand permits only one, and Smashwords e-book aggregator allows two.

This conveys to readers two unfortunate misunderstandings: first, that fiction can only be “about” one thing (meaning, it can be written in only one genre); and second, that a novel which strays from a single topic or genre is not a well-written book. In addition, when a BISAC marketing category is discontinued (an arbitrary decision based on fluctuating sales trends), the books that are tagged with that category also disappear (unless their authors become aware of the change and re-categorize the books).

Indiana State Library system catalog entry for Irish Firebrands. Click image to view full entry.

All of these factors make good books hard to find, as well as constituting  a stranglehold on creativity, as writers strive to make their works conform to unrealistic, ephemeral marketing expectations. Dewey Decimal System classifications are also retired as the system is refined, but the affected books migrate into new, related classifications, thus remaining findable; and because Dewey classification is made after publication by people who are educated in library science (not by an author, nor by a traditional publisher’s marketing department), it does not adversely affect the creative process.

Helping Readers Find FUSION FICTION

Life is not lived in only one genre. Works that cross genre lines tend to stand the test of time, because of their broader applicability to the human condition. This makes FUSION FICTION the category of classic literature. Modern digital technology also makes it possible for books never to go out of print. Writers need to build reader recognition for the unique and lasting value of stories that synthesize multiple genres.

It’s important for independent author-publishers to mention the category of FUSION FICTION in synopses, blurbs and other promotional materials, in addition to picking from several applicable genres, when classifying their cross-genre works.

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