Thursday, July 15, 2021

Just Changing Your Book's Genre Does Not Fix The Problem

The genre of your book is what determines the placement of it with agents, editors and, more importantly where the book sellers are going to place your book. Whether you are going to self-publish, or take the traditional route, knowing the genre of your book is crucial. Think of it this way. When you want to buy a book, even online, what do you do? You go to the genre you like, and scan those books. You know that the books that are found in this list always have the same characteristics. 

Recently, however, I have seen several authors just slapping any genre they want on a book, just to get that book into the hands of an editor or agent. I have seen people go so far as claiming a 110,000 word non-fiction project is a Harlequin romance. Why? Just to get a non-fiction story into the hand of an agent that only represents romance. Sorry, but it is not going to work.

Now, before I go any further, let me say that I know some of you don't like to "categorize" your story. You don't want to be "shoved into a niche." That is not what we are doing here. We are just classifying your story. Think of it this way.

  • In music, we classify a piece by the time period, by the style by the instrumentation.
  • In architecture, we classify buildings by (again) the time period, by the use of materials, and by the shape of the building
  • In literature, we classify writing by the themes used, by the structure the author used and yes, again the time period.
In the present world of publishing we still do the same thing. We are, however, not just looking at the broader genre (mystery, romance, thriller, etc.) but the subgenres that the author is using such as romantic suspense, cozy mystery, etc.

I have seen various versions of this chart. This is just one example. Here is the link as well:

The thing to stress is that your book should have a single place.

But here comes the other twist to this. I have seen a lot of authors who will pitch a story to me, either in person or via query and will just change his or her genre when something is not quite working. If your story is a contemporary romance, just changing the ending to a sad ending doesn't make it a women's fiction. If you write with a category/series voice, making it 110,000 words does not make it a single title. If you write general fiction and just add a sex scene or put the story in a romantic setting does not change it to romance. 

I know that some of you are also thinking about your story being a "cross-over" novel. While that might be the case, the odds are, your story is not that. Determine exactly what your story is. In reality, you should have determined this BEFORE  you started writing the story.

If you really want to reduce the number of rejections you get, you might want to take the time to really dig into knowing your genres before you get back to submitting!

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