In Your Corner: Know Thyself (& Thy Genre)

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent some time looking a few of the many choices authors have to make during the self-publication and marketing processes, starting with the Big Whopper (“Choosing a Self-Publishing Company“) and then moving into choices regarding the text itself (“Choosing a Trim Size for Your Book“).  This Thursday, however, I’m writing less about making a choice than I am about detecting past choices you may not have been aware you were making … and then totally exploiting them for marketing purposes.

Let me explain.

You Don’t Choose A Genre So Much As Discover It:

It Probably Only Matters for Marketing Anyway

Thinking back over the history of publishing, I can’t begin to count the number of times a book has been rejected as “too weird” or “too out-there” when really, the issue at hand was the fact that the book in question didn’t fit neatly into one of the prescribed genres (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Western, Biography, etc).  And the marketing folks at a traditional publisher know: it’s hard to market something that doesn’t fit neatly into a category, because doing so requires flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking.  Hybrid thinking.  Opinions are changing, slowly, but not fast enough within the Big Five traditional publishing houses.

Self-publishing gives you a third way. You don’t have to pick a genre while writing, but you can take advantage of a book’s genre or genres plural by approaching genre as a diagnosis after the fact, and an expedition in search of what the Atlantic’s Noah Berlatsky calls “a ‘web of resemblances’ created by intertexual references” that are “constituted basically by social and cultural agreement,” quoting John Rieder and Jason Mittel.  It’s a hunt for markers that point you toward certain resemblances … resemblances you can capitalize on for their social currency.

genre

The diagnosis process is simple:

  1. What books have you read that influenced your work in a measurable way?
  2. What books on the shelves in bookstores now bear resemblance to yours in style and content?

Once you sketch out a couple of lists to answer this question, it’s time to hit the bookstore and your library.  Libraries tend to scale the number of genre sections they stock according to how much shelf space they have, so bigger libraries will have finer distinctions between genres, while bookstores tend to pick the genres they’re going to stock according to what’s popular.  If you survey both your local Barnes & Noble, Tattered Cover, or (*gasp*) actual real-life physical Amazon Bookstore as well as your local public library, you’ll pick up on some of the more common genres out there, including:

  • Action/Adventure
  • Biography
  • Fantasy/Sci-Fi
  • Horror
  • “Literary” Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Thriller/Suspense
  • Romance
  • Self-Help
  • Westerns
  • Women’s fiction

But the list could be a lot, lot longer.  I haven’t, for instance, mentioned more obscure genres like Steampunk and Grimoire.

Once you’ve found the shelf or shelves on which you could picture your book sitting in a bookstore or library, you’re ready to start integrating genre into your publishing and marketing processes.  Now, your book may have “resemblances” to any number of genres, but for simplicity’s sake it’s a good idea to pick just one or two that have left very clear thumbprints on your text.  You can take a quick poll of your early readers, or consult the professionals, for what they find most striking about the style and tone and voice of your book if you end up stuck for answers.  And before committing to your genre or genres, you’ll want to consider your readership.  What are they likely to connect to the most in terms of language?

Genre safely discovered and stowed away for future use, it’s time to start putting it to work.  The language of genre is rich with possibility in terms of “buzzwords” for marketing purposes, so sow them liberally amongst your back-cover blurbs, your press releases, your Amazon and Goodreads listings, your website and blog posts, as well as your social media interactions.  (Genres like #biopunk and #horrorlit make for great hashtags, don’t you think?)

There are lots of ways to use genre once your book is already written and ready to meet the world…but remember, it’s all a matter of timing.  You don’t need to write your entire book to meet a genre’s proscriptive requirements…just your promotional materials.  Genre can be confining, so it’s best to bring it into play only after the creative work is already done.  In my opinion.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

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.

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[ 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.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, 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, kellyschuknecht.com

 

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 6/27/14

TYPE FASTER!

Last month I attended an awards banquet for authors.  I was so excited to see such a variety of unconventional writers being recognized.  These were folks who wrote with passion, flamboyance and flare that could only come from their pens.  They inspired me!  Then, a few days later, I recalled a quote from one of my favorite authors, Isaac Asimov.  Remember him?  He’s the American author (and professor of biochemistry) who “saw” the world and universe in such unique ways and reached millions of readers through his science fiction books.  To writers then and now, Asimov spoke clearly these words of encouragement:  “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

Asimov has given me another level of encouragement, too; one that has pushed me (personally) outside of the genre box that first enclosed me.  He wrote in multiple genres: science textbooks; popular science; essays; mystery; scientific science fiction and social science fiction.  And he also wrote literary criticism pieces.  So for those of us who have painted ourselves into a corner—think again.  The gift of writing we’ve been given has many functions!  We need not be “nailed” to one genre!

When trying to encourage a friend (writer) several months ago—sharing the concept of not being “pegged” as only one type of author—I found myself stopping mid-sentence and then changing the subject.  This particular friend was not hearing what was being said.  Her mind was SET.  She was a Romance Writer and that was all there was to it.  And (sad for me), she believed that the only avenue of publication for her work was with the main-street publishers—the Houghton Mifflins and Random Houses.  She had sent her manuscript and was waiting.

So it is, my friends, that as I write today’s blog, I am hoping you can see beyond the “blinders.”  Look to your writings and re-discover them!  What other genres do your topics suggest?  My friend’s romance novel could have easily been enhanced with historical references and possibly action/adventure/mystery.  Plus, her own experiences in the writing craft could be expanded into articles for writers’ magazines and ezines.  Plus…Plus…Plus!

AND, don’t miss the opportunities of partnering with a self-publisher and their professional teams of layout designers, editors, marketing experts, etc.  You will, of course, need to research the one’s labeled as “the best” or “fastest” or “least expensive.”  QUALITY of product is what you’re looking for and having the personal power to make your own decisions is a great PLUS with these companies.  Their self-publishing “business” is a “service” business that has become a true blessing in the lives of authors and readers, today.

So…type faster!  Let those ideas flow!  Get the books published and hold your dreams in your hands.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

What is Narrative Nonfiction?

As a self-published author, you are asked to choose a genre for your book. The easy part is deciding whether your book is fiction or nonfiction. The more difficult part is determining what type of fiction or nonfiction to categorize your book.

Basically, there are two types of nonfiction books: narrative nonfiction and prescriptive nonfiction. All biographies and memoirs are considered narrative nonfiction, while how-to books are described as prescriptive nonfiction.

Remember, if you are writing a memoir, you must be able to attest to the accuracy of the details. In addition, the story must have the same elements as fiction stories: a beginning, middle, and end as well as conflict, interesting characters, setting, etc. If your memoir doesn’t meet these standards, you may want to write a fictional story loosely based on real life. This allows you to add information to create a better story and protects you from possible legal issues.

ABOUT WENDY STETINA: Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction, or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.

The Importance of Genre

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.

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING: Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

How to Choose A Genre for Your Book

Once you decide to publish your book, you must choose a genre. This sounds like an easy decision, but it can be one of the most confusing for new authors. Below are six tips to help you choose a genre that will make your book successful.

Wait Until the Manuscript is Finished

Many authors want to decide the genre of their book when they begin working on their manuscript. However, our books  often take on lives of their own and turn out different from what we expected. For instance, you may  start out writing an adult novel but later realize that it would be a great read for young adults. Don’t try to label your book to soon. Trust the creative process.

For Once, General is Better

You may think that a specific genre will help you market your book, but this is one case where general is better. If you choose a genre that is too specific, you may discourage certain buyers from purchasing your book. Don’t limit your readers by being too specific.

Think of Key Words

In today’s world of technology, readers often find books by searching key words. Consider who you want to find your book. What would they type into a search engine? However, don’t let this confuse you will being overly specific.  You want to pick a genre that is effective but not limiting.

You Can Choose More Than One

Many publishers let you choose up to three genres. The first one should be general: fiction or non-fiction. The second and third can be more specific. For instance, you may label your book as Fiction – Mystery or Fiction – Young Adult.

Search Online

Visit the websites of online retailers and search the genre you are considering for your book. Would you want your book placed next to these titles? What does your book have in common with these titles? How is it different from these titles?

Talk to Someone at Your Local Bookstore and Other Authors

The people who work at your local bookstore are up-to-date on publishing trends and can offer great advice when you are considering a genre for your book. Also, ask other authors about their experiences. It is always beneficial to seek tips from published authors. They can provide insight that no class or book can offer.

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

Choosing a Genre for Your Book

With so many genres to choose from, how does an author settle on one? Should you be general in your choice or should you be very specific?

From a marketing perspective, books should be marketed to a more narrow niche group, but this advice doesn’t apply to genre selection. For example, if you select a genre of Religious – Agnostic, you can possibly eliminate yourself from consideration by online retailers/bookstores that accept religious books because they are “turned off” by the “Agnostic”. So, to answer the above question – you should be as general as possible with picking your genre. This the case whether you are self publishing a book or especially if you’re going after representation by a literary agent.

It’s important to also make sure that your genre is reflective of your book. For instance, if you’ve written a murder mystery, your shouldn’t select a genre related to romance, and vice versa.

Have you ever experienced any issues with choosing genres or sub-genres?

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.