I've noticed a lot of "mystery/thriller" books are dressed up romances.  I actually like some of them.  What I wonder is this.  How do you characterize your own work?

Me:  Hard core noir mysteries.

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The simplest explanation I've heard to differentiate between a thriller and a mystery is that a mystery is a puzzle and a thriller is a chase.

I guess I wrote a thriller.

I write crime thrillers.

That about covers me, I think.

I'm working on a series now I'd call "police procedural," though I do digress from time to time. I also have some straightforward hard-boiled Pi stories, and one standalone that can best be described as "crime fiction." It doesn't meet the high-stakes definition of  modern thriller, but there is no mystery involved except for "What happens next?"

I have a question about this.   I've seen several different "categories".

There's some official bookseller list of tags, then there's the ones amazon lets you claim.

And maybe there's a whole different set for talking to agents--maybe what bookstore signs say or something.

So... which one would you use?

I think at the end of the day you should just write what you like to write and not worry about the categories, which are just made up labels by the booksellers/publishers to figure out where to shelve them.

Write the best story you can write, the fans will find it. At least, that's my feeling.

You're at an important writer's conference.  You've stood in line for 40 minutes.  When you reach the table, the important book agent say, "Tell me about you story."

You say," I write what I like to write and don't worry about categories."

She says, "Thank you.  Next."

That's your own fault, for standing in line for 40 minutes just to spend five minutes kissing the ass of someone who's not likely to work with you, anyway. Maybe high concept stories are thr stuff of best sellers, bit if you don't like reading them yourself, you're not going to have the stomach to write them, and you're going to fail trying. Better to write what you love and adjust your expectations accordingly, as the writing itself is all you'll ever have control over. I'd much rather be happy with what I wrote, knowing it's probably not commercial, than to write what i thought was shit because someone else might like, only to find out the odd were still worse than 1,000-1 against. Just don't plan to make a living fiction, which few, if any, writers should plan on doing, anyway. Not saying none make a living at it, but it's precarious presumption.

Not the point.

I'm with Dana on this. (And I'm not making any money, but, hey, a breakthrough is still possible, right?).

I expect we choose our genre from the start.  It's probably whatever we enjoy reading most. Chances are there are others like us. Maybe those others make up big numbers and the book will be sort of generic to fit them. Maybe the numbers of potential readers is small. But either way, I wouldn't want to do something day in and day out if my heart wasn't in it. I've had that experience working for a salary, and I mostly hated it.

But of course nobody does that.

They can tell people what their book's about.  You don't have to write to a category to do that.

If you have a hard time figuring out how to call it, there are clinics and critique boards on creating loglines, pitches, etc.

Brian, I had some issues with this when I first started. An agent at a con helped me realize I was writing dark mysteries in the backstreets of the art world. My books have a romantic subplot, but that's not the central storyline and there's more sexual intrigue than sexual lip tricks.

I also adore the term, "noir," but too many people don't know it, so I didn't think it helped much.

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