Shopper picks up the book. “What’s your genre?”
Author smiles. “It’s sort of a cozy, romantic, mysterious thriller for new adults.”
Shopper frowns. “Excuse me?”
Author continues smiling. “You know, something for everyone. Trust me, it’s a great story.”
Shopper puts book down, shakes her head, and walks away.
Bottom line: Many readers have expectations as well as definite genre preferences. We need to present our work in a way they can relate to.
Some writers know their genre and write accordingly. Others incorporate the guidelines of a number of genres in their books, possibly in hopes of gaining readers from multiple genres who are willing to cross the line to read a “great” book. A few even try to create a new genre/sub-genre to accommodate their work. Has it always been this confusing?
In the heyday of traditional publishing, publishers determined genre, as well as the guidelines required for that genre. At that time many writers played by the rules. However, the game has changed. The lines between genres have been blurred and rules have left the building with the advent of widespread independent publishing and the glut of books that now clutter the marketplace. But back to our topic: genres.
One website notes three main genres: fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. Then we have numerous sub-genres, which are uncounted because the number keeps changing as new ones are added. Another site includes a daunting list, which, curiously, doesn’t contain a single “cozy” anything that I could find. (What? No cozy mysteries?) Even Wikipedia gets into the act with another lengthy list. And so the game continues.
Realistically, it may make sense to research the main requirements of the genre in which you want to write and thus meet the expectations of readers who could well become fans. Another possibility is to meet the requirements a single genre, yet include elements of others. (Many writers do this quite successfully.) Mysteries and thrillers, for example, can be lightly peppered with romantic scenes. On the other hand, one can simply write an uncategorized story from the heart in such a compelling way that it draws readers in from the first p
age and keeps them engaged all the way to the end. This may cost the author some die-hard genre readers who insist on knowing exactly they’re getting, but some creative marketing may bring in a flood of new readers who put story above genre in order to read an extraordinary book.
Are you confused about the genre game?
Do you write in more than one genre? If so, do you use the same name or a pseudonym?
Have you ever crossed the line and incorporated more than one genre in a book?
Do you enjoy reading books that cross genre lines?
How do you choose where to shelve your book? (Heidi's post)
And, in case you missed Elspeth's Beginner's Guide to Genres, have a chuckle now.
|Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at www.denvereditor.com.|