Don’t worry, this isn’t a post pitting the two genres against each other in an attempt to make you pick your favorite.
Rather, it’s an attempt to figure out exactly what it is I’m writing, and how it fits into the existing book market.
As you may have noticed, a large chunk of the 86 books I’ve read/listened to this year have fallen into these categories – and yet, I’m still not completely certain I know how to tell which books are which.
And it seems like I’m not the only one.
For instance, Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series is often classified as Paranormal Romance, despite it not following a typical romance plotline and the author herself stating it’s not a romance (although the books do contain rather graphic sex scenes, which may be enough to earn the category title).
On the other hand, Julie Kenner’s Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series (which is the closest comp I can find for my WiP) is also classified as a Paranormal Romance, despite having nothing racier than a kiss (and a small romantic triangle sub-plot).
According to this Writer’s Digest post the five required components for an Urban Fantasy are: a city setting essential to the plot, magic, mystery, a 1st-person POV with a quirky character, and sex appeal.
All of which my WiP has.
On the other hand, it feels like any book that has those components and has anything even remotely feminine about it (like, say, a main character who is a mom) gets moved into paranormal romance regardless of whether it actually belongs there.
(For the record, I have nothing against Paranormal Romance, but I feel like misclassifying books only leads to disappointment for readers, which often turns into bad reviews/poor sales for authors.)
For the most part, this categorization doesn’t affect me right now. Ideally, once the book is finished, I’ll query it as an Urban Fantasy, and if an agent accepts it and wants to sub it as a Paranormal Romance, well, we can cross that bridge then.
The one part of my book the genre does affect is the title. Right now, my working title definitely comes off as more “chick-lit-y” (I really hate this term, but, let’s face it, it’s the thing most likely to get it pushed into a romance category despite a decided lack of romance plot – Urban Fantasy titles tend to be strong, shorter titles like: Storm Front, Dead Witch Walking, Scourged, or Frost-Bitten, while “Paranormal Romance” books end up with quirkier, punny names like: Undead Single Moms Club, The Trouble with Twelfth Grave, and Carpe Demon).
That said, titles change all the time, so this decision probably won’t ruin my chance of landing an agent with the book – but I also want to make sure my book’s title accurately reflects its content.
What do you think are the main differences between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal/Paranormal Romance? Is there something that defines the genre to you? Let me know in the comments.