The Mystery of Genre

One persistent challenge we’ve faced is the difficulty of determining the genre of our books. You have to have a genre. This is how sites like Amazon.com and Smashwords.com organize books and you need to put your book in an accurate genre so the right audience will find it. It’s also important when you’re looking for people to review your book or places you might advertise as you need to hit the right demographic. Thus picking the right genre for your book is key.

The real challenge comes from the fact that most categorization systems are limited so you have to make hard decisions.

With our West Pacific Supers novels the genre is broadly speculative fiction, which encompasses all high concept fiction from fantasy to alternate histories to science fiction. It’s too broad. Specifically, West Pacific Supers is superhero fiction. However, that is rarely an option. Thus you have to get a little creative. On Amazon.com we have West Pacific Supers in the genre of “graphic novels: superheroes”, yet our West Pacific Supers novels aren’t graphic novels. However, our audience in large part are those who read graphic novels about superheroes. We had West Pacific Supers for a time in science fiction and it wasn’t working but when we switched to “graphic novels: superheroes” our sales significantly increased.

Our next release is Black Throne Conspiracy which is a mix of fantasy, science fiction, and suspense/thriller genres. So what do we label it? I don’t really know. There are strong fantasy elements in it with ancient evils and magic but it has aliens, spaceships, and all that great sci-fi stuff. Honestly, I’d call it space opera but that’s never really an option and some people consider that a derogatory term. In the end, we might just label the book as suspense/thriller as that seems to fit the best, yet I don’t think most people expect space opera elements when they think of suspense/thriller. The real challenge is to find a way to market Black Throne Conspiracy in a way that attracts lovers of the science fiction, fantasy, and suspense/thriller genres, because the mix of intrigue, tension, action, sci-fi, and more should appeal to a broad range of readers.

Fortunately, In the Garden of Our Minds is a children’s book – actually a Buddhist children’s book with the sort of full-page and full-color illustrations that should have a lot of cross-over appeal with parents and children who aren’t Buddhist. Perhaps it’s just not possible for us to produce a book that fits into only one genre, though there are worse things. As readers, we tend to enjoy books that don’t stay strictly within the lines of particular genres, so it probably makes sense that we write the same way!

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2 thoughts on “The Mystery of Genre

  1. In my opinion, the best way to target your audience is to look for a successful book that is in a similar vein (preferably also self-published), then use whatever genres that book uses. A good book leaves you wanting to read more like what you just read. Position your books to be a ready to fill that need. Targeting another successful self-published book targets an audience who isn’t afraid to try new things.

  2. That is good advice and what we do when picking genres on Amazon for our books. There is also another point – if you have a choice between genres sometimes the narrower the genre the better. Fantasy and Science Fiction have really almost become pointless categories due to the breadth of material they cover. Also in addition to genre, another big factor nowadays is “tag words” that trigger searches. You need to choose wisely and looking at successful similar books helps as well.

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