Friday, July 19, 2013

Why Do We Use Sub-Genres - Doesn't This Pigeonhole Writers?

I hear a lot of writers tell me time and time again that by placing stories into genres, by categorizing writers, we are pigeonholing the writers. There is this perception that this classification in publishing will limit the readership. In other words, marketing books as general fiction will somehow draw in more readers. Unfortunately this is probably not going to be the case.

Let's talk first about why we use sub-genres in publishing. This process is not there to limit writers to only doing one thing with their writing. The idea is focused more on the idea of marketing that book and making sure it gets out to readers. Think of this in terms of shopping. When you decide you want to go shopping, you first begin with what you are looking for. So let's say it is a new outfit. This means you now are limiting your search to a clothing store (let's say at the mall). But beyond that, you start to narrow down your search even more. Is this a casual outfit or a professional outfit? Is this an outfit for someone older or younger? As you can see, you are working with the same idea of "sub-genres" to find what you are looking for.

Readers out there will do the same thing. If they go into a bookstore (if they are still lucky to have that chance), they will head straight to the bookshelves of the "sub-genre" they are either interested in or like to read (science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, romance...).  The same thing happens when they are looking for books on their e-reader. They don't just start with the first book that pops up and just keep scanning through the thousands of books out there. They limit their search to the sub-genre they like to read.

You have to remember that bookstores, both online and brick & mortar, don't just put all of the books together in one room and say "go for it". They also don't put copies of your historical, paranormal, women's fiction story in each of the sections. They put it with the sub-genre it is most like.

For a new writer these days, the idea of having a sub-genre is even more important. You have to get your name and your book to the top among all of the other writers out there using self-publishing and e-publishing models. Just listing your book as fiction will likely not get that readership you are looking for. Consumers just don't have the patience.

Now, there is the other issue of getting readers who normally don't read that genre. There is this idea that by not classifying your writing, or mixing those genres, you will pull readers in. For example, if I market a book as an inspirational historical erotica, I will get readers who normally gravitate to those individual genres. I hate to break it to you, but it is not likely going to happen. Sure, you might have a few that like to "experiment" with new genres, but for the most part, historical readers want history and they don't want the writing found in the other two genres. And yes, the inspirational readers are probably not going to be leaping into the erotica market.

You have to remember that the publishing world is not telling you what you should write. The publishing world is really trying to use standard marketing procedures found in all other areas of commerce to get your product to the consumers. Embrace this model and don't fight it.

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