Lesson No. 3: Promoting Hybrid Genre Work

One more thing that writers tend to forget: Even when your book or chapbook is artfully written and fascinating to read, people need a way of finding out about your work. With small press publishing especially, it’s up to the author to get their book into the hands of appreciative readers, reviewers, and interviewers. With that in mind, it’s crucial to use multiple platforms (traditional literary magazines, literary websites, social media, etc.) to help readers discover your book. This week, we’ll discuss several of these platforms for book promotion in greater detail. First, we should talk a little bit about how books and chapbooks fit into the literary community more generally.

Conversity: Literary Writing as a Conversation

During her tenure as editor of The Dial, Marianne Moore coined the term “conversity” to describe the way she understood literature. For Moore, writing is a kind of conversation between literary artists, in which each writer preserves some elements of the existing discussion, then modifies, revises, and parodies others. The nature of the discussion shifts as new participants enter the conversation, and others leave. The job of literary journals and presses, as Moore saw it, was to host this conversation. To provide a platform for dialogue.

With that in mind, the most surefire way to make sure that your book does well is to be as involved in this literary conversation as possible. This can mean sending work to journals and websites, but it also means responding to the work of other literary artists. Write reviews. Interview authors you admire. Be an advocate for other poets, essayists and fiction writers. I say this because the more involved in the literary conversation you are, the more people will respond to and engage your work. Getting people to engage your work, to write reviews, and ask to interview you— these things are especially crucial when your book or chapbook gets published.

The best advice I can give is to start promoting your work and the work of others before your first book is even completed. Being a reviewer, editor, or interviewer will also show you where the best places are for sending review copies, querying about interviews, etc. Getting involved promoting the work of other writers will also help you make connections with people in the literary community, who can offer insight if you’re ever unsure about how to promote a project.

Practical Advice for Getting Your Book or Chapbook Reviewed

  • Review copies are valuable things. Query magazines before sending an actual review copy and find out if they’re interested.
  • Keep a list of magazines that would be interested in reviewing your work. Keep another list of potential reviewers.
  • When you find an interested reviewer, match them up with literary markets that have expressed a desire to publish a review. This will benefit you both, since the reviewer will receive a publication credit, and your book will get some excellent press.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask writers to do a “review trade.” You review their book, they review yours. It’s a great way to find out about books you wouldn’t ordinarily read or review, thus broadening the scope of your own work. Everybody wins.
  • Be a reviewer. Review editors will be more likely to assign your book or chapbook to a reviewer if you have an established relationship with them.
  • Contact individual reviewers whose work you admire. Tell them how much you enjoy their reviews. Even if they don’t review your collection, your message probably brightened their day. Reviewers are frequently overlooked, even though much of the literary criticism being published is thoughtful and engaging.

Practical Advice for Getting Interviewed by Magazines

  • Don’t wait for your publisher to set up interviews. Query magazines you admire and see if they’d be interested. You’d be surprised by how many writers and editors run out of people to interview after awhile.
  • It often helps to find an interested interviewer, have them conduct the interview, and submit the finished product to a magazine. Most journals are terribly understaffed, and this definitely simplifies the process for them.
  • Interviews are substantially less work than book reviews. People are much more likely to agree to an interview than a book review.
  • Interview trades are also fair game, and a really enjoyable way to promote your book. This is also a great way to start a dialogue with another writer, and to form relationships within the literary community.

A Note on Genre Categories

  • Don’t limit your promotional work to magazines that specialize in hybrid genre work. Many publications simply have a very generally labeled “Reviews” section, which is not broken up into poetry, fiction, nonfiction, etc.

Writing Assignment | Hybrid, Inc.

For this week, I’d like you to draft a marketing plan for a book or chapbook. This book or chapbook can be something that you’ve just begun, a manuscript that has grown out of the work of the class. Or, it can be something that you’re in the process of submitting and shopping around. It can also be a book that’s published or forthcoming. As you draft your marketing plan, here are some things to consider:

  • What magazines would you most like to be reviewed in? Which markets are your goals?
  • Which review markets seem most attainable? Where can you be sure your work will have a good chance at being reviewed?
  • What steps can you take now to form working relationships with those publications?
  • Where have you had poems published? Do these magazines have a reviews section?
  • What friends, colleagues, or acquaintances also have books or chapbooks that will need to be promoted? How can you collaborate with them?
  • What reviewers do you most admire? Which critics write beautifully and intelligently about the type of writing you’re interested in?
  • As you work on this assignment, free to draw on the list of hybrid markets that was posted in lesson 2. 

Kristina Marie DarlingKristina Marie Darling is the author of eighteen books, which include VOW, PETRARCHAN, and SCORCHED ALTAR: SELECTED POEMS AND STORIES, 2007-2014, which is forthcoming from BlazeVOX Books. Her writing has been described by literary critics as “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” and “complex.” Poet and Kenyon Review editor Zach Savich writes that her body of work is a “singularly graceful and stunningly incisive exploration of poetic insight, vision, and transformation.”

Lesson No. 2: Publishing Hybrid Genre Work in Literary Magazines

Literary Magazines: A Taxonomy

One thing that writers tend to forget: literary magazines are almost always edited by other writers. In many cases, they’re just as deeply invested in subverting genre categories as we are. Don’t think that just because your work doesn’t fall neatly into one of the submission categories (which are almost always cut and dry: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, Book Reviews, etc.) that your work won’t be published. It’s simply a matter of finding the literary editors who read in a like-minded way.

There are magazines that fall on opposite ends of this spectrum, and everywhere in between. Additionally, this interest in hybrid genre work frequently isn’t reflected in the submission categories that are available. Here’s a comprehensive list of magazines that are deeply invested in interrogating genre categories. For each of the hybrid genres (shown in white), I’ll include links to several markets that would likely be receptive to more innovative work.

Lyrical Fiction & Prose Poetry

Lyric Essay

Creative Literary Criticism

This list of markets is only the beginning. It’s intended to be a resource for you as you write and send out work. But I hope this shows that there’s a home for almost every literary text, however avant-garde or genre-bending.

A Note on Submission Categories:  Using Them to Your Advantage

When sending hybrid genre work to magazines, there usually aren’t specific submission categories for genre-bending submissions.  In order to help you navigate these more traditional categories, here are some tips:

• Many of the markets listed above have specific categories for flash fiction and other prose experiments.
• If hybrid categories aren’t available, shorter prose texts (whether they’re lyric essays or flash fictions) are best submitted as poetry.
• Creative literary criticism can be submitted as poetry, fiction, or essay, depending on the work’s formal strategies and length.  If it’s shorter, poetry’s often the best match in terms of categories.  If it’s formally inventive (using footnotes, fragmentation, or typography), many fiction editors would be open to this kind of experimentation.  If the language is very evocative and poetic, this would likely be very exciting to a nonfiction editor.
• Lyric essays can sometimes work as experimental fictions.  This is especially true for work that you may not want to be read through the lens of autobiography.
• You should always feel free to manipulate and push existing submission categories.  They are often unnecessarily rigid.  Your experimentation is crucial for expanding what is possible within existing genre and submission categories.

Reading Assignments | Literary Journals

I’ve chosen one magazine from each list. Please click through the current issue, familiarizing yourself with the type of work that the magazine publishes.

Take the Magazines Apart

Create a catalog of the types of work that appear in the three journal issues you’ve just read. Your descriptions can be creative (i.e., “postmodern hipster fiction” or “beautiful coffeehouse ramblings”) but they should capture the style, tone, and editorial vision behind the work.  As you create a catalog of the types of literary texts in these magazines, think about how each market defines “Poetry,” “Fiction,” “Nonfiction,” and so on.  How far could these submission categories be pushed by an experimental writer?

Writing Assignment | Submission Bombing

From the three listed above, choose the magazine in which you’d most like your work to appear. Then write a hybrid piece geared toward that market. Here are some things to take into account:

  • What length is the typical poem/story/essay in the magazine you’ve chosen? Does the magazine have length guidelines?
  • Does the magazine privilege a certain genre (mostly poetry, mostly stories, etc.)?
  • Does the magazine privilege a certain form (fragmented texts, flash fictions, footnoted texts, lyric essays…)?
  • Does the magazine privilege a certain subject matter, or are they reading for a themed issue?
  • What is the editor’s background and what insight does that provide about his or her biases?
  • Most importantly:  How far can the submission categories for the magazine you’ve chosen be pushed?

Once you’ve done some research, write your piece. There are no restrictions, but it should fit the aesthetic of one of the three markets listed in the Reading Assignments. Once you are reading, submit!

Kristina Marie DarlingKristina Marie Darling is the author of eighteen books, which include VOW, PETRARCHAN, and SCORCHED ALTAR: SELECTED POEMS AND STORIES, 2007-2014, which is forthcoming from BlazeVOX Books. Her writing has been described by literary critics as “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” and “complex.” Poet and Kenyon Review editor Zach Savich writes that her body of work is a “singularly graceful and stunningly incisive exploration of poetic insight, vision, and transformation.”


Lesson No. 1: Introduction to Hybrid Genre Writing


Here is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, erased, blacked out by a reader’s magic marker. She has kept what is useful to her, and done away with the rest. Some might call this gesture irreverent, disrespectful, or even destructive. But writers do the same thing every day. When crafting a story or a poem, one selects the elements of convention that are useful, discarding the rest. Every poem, every story, and every essay is a deconstruction (and revision, and erasure) of the work that came before it. We select the parts of convention we wish to preserve, and there’s nothing disrespectful about it. It’s merely the writer’s job.

In my opinion, this erasure is useful for thinking about hybrid genre work for several reasons. First of all, you are selecting the aspects of genre convention that you wish to work with, and blacking out the rest. And even when working in hybrid forms, genre is still present in much the same way that Fitzgerald’s text is still visible beneath the black markings of the erasure. When we see a short story, for example, we expect a certain type of narrative arc. For the writer, these readerly expectations are material, knowledge you can use to surprise the reader and make them think. This is one of the primary goals of the course. Even when working in the most experimental modes, the ghosts of tradition, literary history, and genre convention will haunt your work. Just as the reader of the text shown above expected a pristine, unbroken narrative, your readers will come to your hybrid work with preconceived ideas about how stories unfold. In this class, we will work on using these readerly expectations to your advantage, making readers think, showing them new possibilities within received forms, and fostering more open-minded reading practices. Lastly, like the individual who erased Gatsby, you will select only the elements of tradition that are useful to you, forgetting the rest, or better yet, inventing the rest.

Hybrid Genre Writing: A Spectrum

Hybrid work can have elements of poetry, nonfiction, scholarship, fiction, or any combination thereof.

What does the term hybrid mean, exactly? For the purposes of this course, hybrid writing is any type of literary work that utilizes the resources of more than one traditional genre category. Here are some definitions and representative authors to help you get a sense of the range of hybrid genre work that exists in today’s literary landscape.

Lyrical Fiction: This term often refers to fiction (in novel or story form) that draws from the stylistic repertoire of poetry. Fiction that uses alliteration, assonance, consonance, and the repetition of sounds more generally, to create meaning. Fiction that relies on recurring imagistic motifs for structure and coherence, rather than narrative in the traditional sense. Lyrical prose frequently uses these poetic devices to heighten narrative suspense, and to elicit even more of an emotional response from the reader than the narrative itself could. The techniques of poetry supplement, create, and drive narrative in lyrical fiction. If you’re looking for some enjoyable examples available online, Carol Guess, Joanna Penn Cooper, Kelly Magee, Matt Bell and Molly Gaudry are a few well-known contemporary authors working in this tradition.

Lyric Essay: This term frequently refers to creative nonfiction that draws from the resources of poetry. Lyric essays, like creative nonfiction, draw their inspiration from the events of real life. But, like lyrical fiction, they frequently use the stylistic devices of poetry to elicit an emotional response from the reader. The lyric essay tradition is rich with imagistic motifs, fragmentation, and recursive narrative structures. The story folds in on itself, returning to images, ideas, and language from earlier in the text, often in a different context. Much like poetry, the lyric essay takes the imagery surrounding an experience (think of everyday objects, love tokens, mementos…), then inscribes it and reinscribes it with myriad possibilities for interpretation. Meaning accumulates, gathering around the detritus of a past experience. Unlike conventional prose works, which have a linear structure, lyric essays will circle around the same object or experience, which gains significance with each tangential orbit. Some contemporary practitioners of lyric essay include Maggie Nelson, Julie Marie Wade, and Eula Biss. If you’re interested, all three writers have work freely available online.

Creative Literary Criticism: There’s a great deal of hybrid genre work that questions the boundaries between “critical” and “creative” writing. After all, these distinctions seem arbitrary, and reflect larger power structures within the literary community and in the academy. Those in power decide what can be counted as “scholarship.” Perhaps the best known example of this type of writing is Jenny Boully’s The Body: An Essay, which we’ll look at later in the course. In this collection, Boully takes an academic form of writing (footnotes) and fills it with content that doesn’t seem academic at first glance: personal narratives, aestheticized language, and even descriptions of dreams. By using form in such a way, Boully calls our attention to the artificiality of the categories that we impose upon language. Indeed, personal experience, beauty, and the unconscious mind call all be brought to bear on theoretical debates. Other practictioners of creative scholarship include Kristy Bowen, Thalia Field, Spring Ulmer, and Carla Harryman.

Reading Assignments | Types of Hybridity

Lyrical Fiction

G.C. Waldrep, “Stigmatic Affection”

Richard Siken, “War of the Foxes”

Matt Bell, “The Girl in the Golden Hood”

Lyric Essay

Eula Biss, The Balloonists

Creative Literary Criticism

Kristy Bowen, “algorithms” and “footnotes to a history of

Jenny Boully, The Body

Writing Assignment | Erasing (or Inventing) Genre

Begin by choosing a form of writing that’s decidedly uncreative. This can be anything, from an advertisement to a footnote. Here are a few possibilities:

• Footnotes to a Book of Your Choosing
• A Glossary
• Endnotes
• An Appendix
• Job Listing
• Job Application Letter
• Conference Presentation
• Abstract for a Scholarly Paper
• An Encyclopedia Entry
• An Advertisement
• An Etiquette Guidebook
• A Travel Guide

Choose any form that interests you, but it should be a form of writing that readers expect to be practical. A type of writing that usually does its job, nothing less, nothing more.

Prompt & Example

Once you’ve chosen your form, make a list of elements that a reader will expect to find. For example, if you’ve chosen “Job Application Letter,” you know a reader would expect to find a list of credentials, an applicant’s name, his or her contact information, and perhaps some information on how the writer meets the qualifications of the job. After you’ve considered the components of this type of writing, decide which ones to keep, and choose which ones to discard. For the Job Application Letter, you might keep the letter format, but not include the applicant’s credentials. Once some of the elements of the genre have been discarded, think about what you will put in their place. For this assignment, I’d like you to insert some unexpected element (whether it’s content, sound, imagery, fragmentation, unconventional grammar, etc.) into this practical form of writing that you’ve chosen. Consider carefully what the reader will expect, and what they won’t expect. How can you use what’s familiar to surprise them?

Here’s an example: Robert Miltner’s “Hope is a Feathered Thing”


Kristina Marie DarlingKristina Marie Darling is the author of eighteen books, which include VOW, PETRARCHAN, and SCORCHED ALTAR: SELECTED POEMS AND STORIES, 2007-2014, which is forthcoming from BlazeVOX Books. Her writing has been described by literary critics as “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” and “complex.” Poet and Kenyon Review editor Zach Savich writes that her body of work is a “singularly graceful and stunningly incisive exploration of poetic insight, vision, and transformation.”