What if your novel spans several genres? For example: women’s adventure thriller romance; or comedic horror romance with fantasy elements. Non-specific genres may lead to the infamous rejection letter.
If you wish to get published, and stay published, then you have to think of your book as a commercial product. One way you can help ensure your novels are commercial is to write them to fit into a specific category of fiction–one with a ready-made audience who regularly purchase the types of novels within that category.
Think of novels like products in a grocery store:
- Each aisle is devoted to a particular type of product: meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, breakfast cereals, and so on.
- Now suppose you invent a new product that is so unique it doesn’t fit into any of the aisles. No matter how good the product might be, if the grocery store can’t find a place for it on their shelves, or they can’t “position” it in the market, they simply won’t stock the product.
Here is a prime example. You met Sally Izawriter at a conference. She tells you about her paranormal romantic police thriller adventure novel. You visit the XYZ Bookstore–which section do you go to find Sally’s book? You stroll to the romance section, it isn’t there, nor is it with police thrillers, adventure or paranormal. Frustrated that you’ve wasted an hour walking up and down the aisles carefully scanning each title, you ask the clerk to check her computer to locate the book. Sadly, her response: the genre was non-specific, and she didn’t know where to shelve it, so she sent it back to the publisher.
As a writer you have a couple of goals: a) write a darn good book, b) get it published, c) hope to smile all the way to the bank when you receive your royalty checks.
The point is if I were to ask you, “What are you writing?” would you be able to answer without taking several minutes to ponder? What if it wasn’t me asking, but an agent or editor? Would you be able to answer them intelligently (and hopefully, in a way that hooks their interest)?
The reality is, however, that genre labels become necessary sooner or later. Agents and editors look for books that fall within the genres they specifically represent, and do their best to avoid ones that don’t. Just their preference. Nothing personal. But if you query an agent and say your novel is historical romance, when in reality it should’ve been science fiction (what with the aliens and time travel) then that might deter both their expectations for the book plus their opinion of whether you actually know what you’re about as a writer.
Also, by knowing your genre, you will have an easier time targeting your desired audience…and your audience is going to have an easier time discovering you!
Who are your readers? No, you can’t claim “everyone.” Just like some people don’t like broccoli, genres exist for a reason–because no one person loves every kind of book. So what kind of person is most likely to pick up your book and love it?
Consider this. Let’s pretend your book is under contract, and your agent/editor asks you “Okay, we need to send 10 copies of your book to certain groups or organizations to promote its release. Who should we send it to?”…can you answer that? By knowing your genre, you will have a much easier time tracking down people who might have significant interest in your story.
Determining a ‘specific’ genre doesn’t detract from the unique elements of your book. No need to fear that. But it does help make the connection between story and reader, plus helps industry professionals have a better sense of how the novel will perform within current trends and marketing efforts. Plus, it’ll help you craft a much stronger, tighter, elevator pitch for the next writer’s conference, when you find yourself at the dinner table with your dream agent who turns and asks:
“So, what are you writing?”
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