Dear Author Enabler,
I am writing about a murder that happened about 90 years ago. I aim to use the real setting and characters, with the addition of creative dialogue, a fictional character and fictional associations. Therefore, historical characters, places and events are real, but some characters, dialogue and events are fiction. My question is: How do I categorize my book?
Elizabeth Kral
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Establishing the genre of a book is always tricky, since it is rare for good writing to fit neatly into one category. Is A Christmas Carol a sentimental tale about Christmas and redemption or a ghost story? Is War and Peace literary fiction or a historical novel? Or was it just something I had to read in college?

From a publishing standpoint, you want your book to be categorized accurately but also in a genre that will help it sell. The story you describe might be true crime, mystery or historical fiction.

I would categorize your book as historical fiction. The plot is drawn from a past you did not live through, and the setting appears to be a key literary ingredient—an important aspect of historical fiction.

Historical fiction should also present a believable and plausible depiction of the past. In other words, the information about the time period must be reasonably accurate and authentic. It sounds like this is important to you, and this reinforces my decision. I hope it sells.

Dear Author Enabler,
I am interested in publishing a children’s book I’ve written. The story is done, so what do I do next? Do I find an illustrator first? What’s the typical process?
Rebecca Thieme-Baeseman
Appleton, Wisconsin

Now that you’ve written the manuscript, you need to find a few trusted people to read it and give you their honest opinions. This can happen in a writing class, a writers’ conference or in the more informal setting of a writing group. Your local library or bookstore might offer writers’ groups or seminars in which you can get feedback.

Once you think you’re ready to shop your piece around to publishers, a good place to start is the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. This resource will help you to find outlets for your writing and provide information on how to write a query letter, format your manuscript and find an agent. Literary Market Place is another resource offering a comprehensive list of agents and publishers, their specialties, and requirements for query letters and submissions. Once you’ve done your research, send each publisher or agent whatever is asked for in the agency’s published guidelines.

You should also consider becoming a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a nonprofit organization that acts as a network for children’s book writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, librarians and other professionals.

Good luck! May the first line of your book come to be as familiar to the world as this one: “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”

Your friendly Author Enabler is changing his day job. When this column appears I will be the marketing director at Book Passage in San Francisco, one of America’s great independent bookstores and home of many fabulous author events and writer’s conferences. If you’re in the Bay Area, stop by and see me.

Send your questions about publishing to Please include your name and hometown.

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