It's hard to pinpoint, pigeonhole, and particularize a book. It may have elements of romance, mystery, adventure, suspense, paranormal, and historical. My book, MACBETH'S NIECE, has all of that. But agents and editors want you to tell them in a word what to call it. This is because they have to have a word to tell their marketing department which has to have a word to tell bookstore owners. "What shelf will it go on?" is the question. Nobody said it was fair, it just is.

Some publishers these days have a schedule; they publish three mysteries in January or one mystery and one romance or whatever. Where your book fits has a lot to do with whether they'll take it on. As unfair as it might be, you may be rejected because they've already filled their quota of suspense novels for the year. You can console yourself that you weren't rejected because of the quality of your work, but that doesn't get you any closer to publication.

The point is that you have to decide before you submet what you're going to call your project. Although MACBETH'S NIECE has all the elements I listed above, I chose to call it historical romance, and it has sold very well in that category. I was told by one editor that I could not send her a project labeled paranormal suspense. "Choose one or the other," was her advice. The odd thing is that once you've labeled a novel and gotten it accepted, nobody seems to care if it really fits the category. I've read books labeled "thriller" that were actually traditional mysteries, "romance" novels that were mostly suspense, and a few labeled "mystery" that were more like literary fiction due to the quality of the writing.

You can't label your work "a traditional mystery with paranormal elements in a romance format." Get over that urge to include everything in your description. Just tell them where it falls in the genre/subgenre. In other words, tell them which shelf it should be on in the bookstore.

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