As we journey together on this path to becoming successful authors, one of the most crucial decisions we'll make is choosing the right genre for our books. This decision can make the difference between a book that languishes in obscurity and a bestseller that catapults us into the literary stratosphere. Or at least, like, the literary upper atmosphere. Are those the same thing? I don't know--I'm a writer. And Writers Don't Science! (That's MY motto, anyway.)
So, let's dive in and explore the strategic approach to genre selection.
Remember: genre selection is not just about labeling your book; it's about understanding your audience, the market, and where your book fits within that. It's just as much a strategic decision as a creative one--or more so. So, let's unpack this and delve deeper into why genre matters, how to understand the market, and how to align your passion with profit.
Some might argue that genre is just a label, a box that confines creativity. But in the world of self-publishing, genre is more than just a label—it's a roadmap to success. It guides readers to our books, helps us stand out in a crowded marketplace, and can even influence the profitability of our work.
Choosing the right genre is like choosing the right location for a brick-and-mortar store. You wouldn't open a high-end jewelry store in a rundown neighborhood, would you? Similarly, your book needs to be in a genre where your target readers are most likely to find it. It's about positioning your book in a place where it can shine, where it can reach its potential readers, and where it can make the most impact.
And just as important: genre helps set reader expectations. When readers pick up a mystery novel, they expect a certain level of suspense, a plot twist, and a satisfying resolution. If your book delivers on these expectations, you'll have satisfied readers who are likely to come back for more. If not, you risk disappointing your readers and losing potential future sales.
[NOTE: There are authors who try to game the system by putting their books in less-competitive categories where they don't belong so they can be "bestsellers." Don't do that! Not only is it unethical, it HURTS other authors, and it is a terrible long-term strategy.]
Before we can choose the right genre, we need to understand the market. This means not just knowing what genres are popular, but understanding why they're popular and who their readers are. This requires a bit of detective work, but the insights we gain can be invaluable.
For instance, romance novels consistently top the charts in terms of sales. But within the romance genre, there are numerous sub-genres, each with its own dedicated fanbase. Understanding these nuances can help us position our book for maximum visibility and profitability.
It's also important to keep an eye on emerging trends. Genres are not static; they evolve over time. What's popular today might not be popular tomorrow. By staying abreast of market trends, we can anticipate shifts in reader preferences and position our books accordingly.
And for those who say all this is crass "selling out": yeah, kinda. It's also part of acting like a business--and that's the thing that distinguishes a great author TALENT from a great author CAREER.
Choosing a genre solely based on market trends might seem like a smart business move. But as Lifers, we know that writing is more than just a business—it's a passion. So, how do we reconcile the need for profitability with our passion for storytelling?
The answer lies in finding the intersection between what we love to write and what readers love to read. This sweet spot is where we can create work that not only sells well but also fulfills us creatively. It's about finding a genre that resonates with us, that excites us, and that allows us to express our unique voice and perspective.
Remember, writing should be a joy, not a chore.
If you're passionate about your genre, that passion will shine through in your writing and captivate your readers. And when you love what you write, writing doesn't feel like work—it feels like play. That's when the magic happens.
Perhaps you started out writing fantasy but find yourself drawn to mystery. Or maybe you've been writing romance but are itching to try your hand at science fiction. That's okay. In fact, it's more than okay—it's a sign of growth. As writers, we should always be pushing our boundaries, exploring new territories, and challenging ourselves. If you feel like "you finally get it" that's a HUGE danger sign.
Remember, the goal isn't to chase trends but to create a sustainable writing career that brings us joy and financial success. And choosing the right genre is a big step in that direction.
It's hard to be happy when you live in a cruddy neighborhood. It's just as hard when you're writing for a market you don't like (or that doesn't like you--which CAN happen!). So let's make sure as we go forward that we're finding genres that are profitable, that we love to write, and where we can find an audience who loves us--and whom we love right back!
I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.
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