From the Archives: “The Importance of Genre”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: March 27th, 2012 ]

The genre of your book is one of the most important decisions you will make when self-publishing. It will impact who buys and reads your book as well as how reads it.

The most important to thing to remember when choosing a genre is to not pick a genre too soon. Too often, authors set out thinking “I want to write children’s books” or “I want to write adult mystery novels,” but writing often takes on a life of its own and your book may not best fit in the genre you originally intended.

Once the book is finished, it is important to consider the audience you hope to reach. Are children your target audience? Are professionals in a certain field your audience, or do you want your book to appeal to a wide, general audience? A narrow genre can limit the readers who find your book. This is one of the few cases where general can be better.

Finally, think about how readers will find your book. Will they primarily search online, or will they visit a  bookstore? If your readers will be searching online, consider keywords when choosing a genre. This will ensure that your book shows up in the search results.

If you are still unsure about the genre of your book, talk to other writers and people who work in the publishing and book distribution industry. Visit your local bookstores to look at the titles in your genre and talk to the sales people. Seeing and hearing what other writers are doing and what readers are buying can help make this difficult decision easier.

by Cheri Breeding

Genre is an important element of your book, before and during and after the publication process–but I must (politely) take a different tack from the one that Cheri Breeding took back in 2012.  In my personal (and somewhat expert) opinion, an author–particularly a self-publishing author–shouldn’t think about genre at all until after the manuscript is completely written.  I’m not saying that if you have a project underway you should intentionally scrub all thought of genre from your mind, but I am saying that your novel or book of poems or illustrated children’s book should be written the way it demands to be written, and those demands evolve over time as the characters and plot take on life of their own.  A book should not be written as a slave to notions of genre and all the expectations that go along with those notions.

genre book covers

The true importance of genre comes into play after the manuscript is written.  At that point, yes, you can take genre under consideration in reshaping whatever needs to be reshaped in order to reach masterful perfection–if you want, if that proves helpful to you–and you can take notes from the authors you admire whose works exert influence upon your source of inspiration.  But the best part is when the manuscript is done being a manuscript and has become a book you’re willing to send out into the world, because the best part happens when you start crafting something else entirely: your marketing strategy.

Genre is one of the most important discovery tools out there for authors of all stripes and colors.  In terms of importance, it’s right up there with personal recommendations and an attractive book cover–and even the most attractive of book covers doesn’t do much for sales if it doesn’t represent the tone and content of the book, giving hints and clues as to what the reader will find there.  And that’s … kind of the same wheelhouse as genre, isn’t it?   Genre is so fundamental to book discoverability that booksellers and watchdogs don’t just break down how many people buy books because of genre, but how many people buy books because of a highly specific genre–whether that’s science fiction, fantasy, romance, nonfiction, crime fiction, or any other of a number of genres available for discussion.

You can put genre to work in the marketing process first and foremost by ensuring that your marketing strategy lines up with your book’s genre–or genres.  Hybrid and cross-genre works are gaining ground in a crowded marketplace looking for fresh approaches to literature, so don’t be afraid to embrace the multi-dimensionality of your work–you just might have to use language that touches on the buzzwords of both categories in your promotional blog posts, tweets, and metadata.  And regardless of the genre of the book you’re publishing, you need to employ the language of genre in pretty much every scrap of promotion you put together.  Whether it’s in an on-air interview or in a press release or in the description you upload with your book trailer to YouTube, genre is your ally.  The more you talk about it, the more your book will turn up in the discussions–and indexed search results on Google and Bing–and that’s good news both for you and for your readers.

Never dismiss the importance of genre!  Just … don’t let your work be defined by it.  Your book enriches its genre, and informed the dimensions of what its genre or genres will be defined by in the future.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,


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