How did you pick your writing tagline?

I get that for some of you writers out there, your genre is pretty darn obvious.  You write romance, or scifi, or horror.  But what about the rest of us, just writing books about life?  What do we call it?

I’m not self-important enough to claim that I write literary fiction, maybe someday, but not there yet.  Neither is my work popular enough to call it popular fiction, (heck, I’m not even published, so much for popular).  And, I hate the term chick-lit, because really, why alienate half the planet with that label?

Labels, labels, labels.  I like what John Updike said, “The category of ‘literary fiction’ has sprung up recently to torment people like me who just set out to write books, and if anybody wanted to read them, terrific, the more the merrier. But now, no, I’m a genre writer of a sort. I write literary fiction, which is like spy fiction or chick lit.”
So, I guess that leaves me somewhere in the range of contemporary, modern, commercial, or mainstream fiction.  But, which one is it?  Aren’t they all the same thing?  Today I received advice from a young literary agent whose weekly blog posts I really enjoy.  She suggested I create a new tagline on this page, something that better describes my writing.  While I agree with her, I have trouble picking the right words.  Somehow calling myself a writer of contemporary fiction does not say very much. Writer of modern adventures, perhaps?  Even that may be promising a thriller instead of just a story about life.  If you write in the sphere of literary or contemporary fiction, how did you decide to label yourself?

Even Powell’s blue “literature” room is a catchall for the books that do not fall under the traditional genre umbrellas. But, how does calling something literature describe it?

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8 thoughts on “How did you pick your writing tagline?

  1. luxsky says:

    I just discovered your blog and I absolutely love it!

  2. I’m following the “rules” and nominating you for the same blog award (and one other) that you nominated me for. 🙂

  3. kingmidget says:

    I had to laugh at this … “just writing books about life.” I wish there was a category for that. When people ask me what kind of stories I write, my response is usually something like “well, I don’t know, I guess I call them ‘slice of life’ stories.” In looking through the Novel and Short Story Market book, which includes listings for agents and publishers and describes the genres they’re interested in, I’ve accepted that my category is probably Mainstream Fiction. A couple of the things I’m working on now may rise to the level of Literary Fiction, but not yet. That’s the best I can do. That said, a few of my short stories cross into science fiction or horror and, ultimately, I don’t necessarily want to be limited to one genre. As a result “slice of life” or “books about life” fit perfectly. I look forward to seeing what your tagline becomes. Now that you mention it, I need to add a tagline to my book website. Can I steal yours? Just kidding. Though I think “slice of life” is going to make an appearance in my tag line.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I assure you it would not be stealing 😉 But, I like slice of life, it has a little more personality. I’m not ready to commit to a new tagline yet… Hoping that once I’m done-done with my book one will just pop out at me. Wishful thinking. Happy to hear mainstream fiction is in that book. I’ve found a lot of different genres that seem to be the same thing on the different agents info I’ve collected, so I guess I’ll just call in mainstream fiction. Thanks for the insight.

  4. jeffo says:

    “I’m not self-important enough to claim that I write literary fiction”
    I’ve gone through the same thing. When I decided it was time to start preparing my query, I really struggled with what to call it, and I really balked at the idea of calling it literary fiction. There’s a notion out there that literary fiction is all fancy-bordering-on-purple prose, dense and meaty, requiring a thesaurus to get through, that it places the writing above all else, and that’s not me. In the end, however, I looked at a definition that said literary was more concerned with character than plot, which is where I’m at right now.

    In the end, by the way, I kind of copped out with my query. Several agents I was interested in wanted ‘good fiction on the boundary of literary and commercial’, so I pitch it as Lit-Commercial (this might actually be what they call Upmarket–I’m not really sure). This may not be the best strategy, but it’s what I’m going with. And it’s not a tag line. I don’t really have one of those.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience! This actually helps me a lot. I have been trying to label myself not just for my blog tagline but also for my query, when I get there. Lit-commercial or Upmarket might just fit. Good luck with your queries!

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