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Ask Daphne! What if style doesn’t match genre?

Don’t ask me where they think this will be a useful or weather-appropriate shoe, but Prada open-toe boots for Ben, who writes:

How much does mismatched presumable genre and book feel destroy a writer’s chance to get published? Say someone writes a book that has a general plot that hints that it very well could be a thriller (man wakes up to space in his bed indicating a missing wife, is presumed by the police to have killed her, and has to find out where she has gone and why before he gets arrested/killed). Say this book is then written with little to no action but a plot that nonetheless progresses and a likeable, lazy sort of wit. When an agent reads it, are they just going to toss it because of its potential unsaleability to traditional thriller readers?

Interesting question, Ben! I think the way to make sure you don’t confuse an agent reading your query is to speak plainly and inform them of the unique way you’re handing the plot.
“In a meandering, literary tone that emphasizes intellect over action, my novel takes the trope of a thriller and reexamines it as high brow, non-genre fiction.”
Something like that. Don’t sell it as a thriller and try to surprise a reader with something completely different. If you do, you’re more likely to piss off the readers who would read it as a thriller, and you’ll never find the readers who’d like it literary.
It’s a difficult sell, but no more impossible than a YA mystery with an autistic detective, or a high fantasy retelling of the Three Musketeers, I’d think.

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