McSweeney’s has a knack for lampooning precisely those social conventions I find most irritating. The fact that they do so with wit makes me love them all the more:

1. Establish your colors

Like most writers, you probably have a sense of what your book might be. You may even have a very good guess! Still, until a critic looks inside, you don’t know for sure. Here is a popular and convenient color chart of the literary possibilities:

  • Literary fiction (blue)
  • Upmarket women’s fiction (red)
  • Chick lit (pink)
  • Lad lit (dark blue)
  • Historical fiction (gold)
  • Thriller/mystery (black)
  • Sci-fi/fantasy (orange)
  • Erotica (magenta)
  • YA (purple)
  • Short stories (green)
  • Novel-in-stories (light green)

Match cocktails, candles, plates, napkins, cups—whatever you want!—to the pairing you choose.”