At the conference on Saturday, Delacorte editor Kate Sullivan gave a really good talk on genre novels for young readers. I know it was helpful for me to hear what sells in middle grade vs young adult. But one of the most informative bits came about in response to a question.
One of the listeners has had critiquers tell him that if you take too long to go from real world to fantasy/mystery that you break the contract with the reader. By the time you get to the magic or the murder, they’ve come to expect straight up fiction and now you’ve annoyed them. He wanted to know if she found this to be true.
Her response? In a nut shell, nope.
As she explained, this is more of a problem for critiquers or submissions. When someone reads your manuscript, they are judging it by your words and your words alone.
The person reading your book, on the other hand, has much more to go on. They have the cover blurb. They have a title that has been okayed by both the editor and marketing. They have the cover art. All of these things taken together, but especially the cover blurb, should tell the reader what the book is. Yeah, they may still wonder why you’re taking so long but they do have some clue where you are going.
This is definitely something that I’m going to have to think over the next time that I’m reading a manuscript and want to say “you’ve violated your contract with the reader.” But it also shows how important that cover and title are to get your message across. It makes the thought of self-publishing even more intimidating!