Hooray for Holopticon, my first book, is a “retro science fiction comedy.” My co-author and I bill it that way because it was written when we both had a summer free, with no plans for vacations or weddings or vacation trips or the like. If you read the description, you'll get a hint that the afore-mentioned free summer was some time ago. It was, to be exact, 25 years ago, before the invention of email and the World Wide Web, before computer viruses were common as houseflies, and when cellphones looked like bricks with antennas and overseas calls were all via transatlantic cable.
We were proud of our novel, and our various friends and family and even some professionals reviewed our manuscript and thought it worthy of sending off to publishers, so we did. Back then, you shipped an envelope or box full of paper on which you printed (one-sided, in Courier 12 pt.) your deathless prose, along with a cover letter and a SASE, and waited. And waited. And waited. And… you get the idea. It was considered bad form to submit to more than one publisher at a time, so once you got a “no thank you” letter or several months had passed with no response at all, you could try the next publisher, then wait some more. Responsive editors said our book was well-plotted and quite funny, but not as funny as the best of Ron Goulart or Harry Harrison, and they declined to publish it. By 1993, we gave up, put our MSS in the virtual file cabinet, and moved on.
Fast forward to 2009 and the brave new world of independent publishing, and suddenly, it's no longer called “vanity press” with the same tone of loathing reserved for something repugnant the cat dragged in. We had always loved our first book, and thought other readers might, too, so we resurrected the files and read it.
It was still wonderfully plotted, and very funny, but… If you read it with the idea that it was written pre-internet, it's a fine, silly romp with bad computer poetry, carnivorous ducks, and plucky heroes outsmarting the tax authority. But if you don't know that, there's a problem. You see, we kinda, sorta predicted the World Wide Web in our book (we called it the “hypernet,”), but to readers today, the futuristic, interconnected social universe that we took such delight in inventing, seems so… blasé. So, short of rewriting the whole thing, we came up with the descriptor of “retro SF comedy.” Oddly enough, that's not an available keyword category on Amazon. Go figure.
I know why traditional publishers and bookstores want standard keyword categories: they're easier to explain, and they don't have to re-invent the marketing wheel, as it were. Fortunately, ebook retailers allow us a little more latitude, so we put our book in more than one category: science fiction, humor, and teen/young adult. The latter is because it has a kind of youthful feel to all that silliness. We have a pretty good track record with the reviews on Amazon, so we must have set our readers' expectations correctly.
“They bite technology on the nose
and come out smelling like a rose.”