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Genre and Marketing

I got into a short discussion recently about genre in a forum thread about some other subject. I don’t remember what the thread was actually about but it did lead into the problem of selling books when you don’t have a clearly marked genre. The interesting thing was that one of the commenters quizzed me about my books’ failure to fit properly, and seemed to think that I should make more of an attempt to place them in their proper niches.

Well, of course, that’s something any writer should do — if they can. But what came through was the idea that marketing was the most important consideration, so it’s a major error to write books that don’t allow you to market properly. I don’t think it’s an accident that most of the authors participating on this forum write books that clearly belong to specific genres, and most of their books cluster in the most popular genres.

Someone started another thread asking whether the writers on the forum buy each others’ books. I didn’t follow the discussion beyond the first few replies, but I was tempted to say that, as far as I knew, none of the others wrote the kind of books I’m interested in reading.

Both as a writer and a reader, I exist on the fringes. My books don’t sell well because I write the stories I want to write, without considering how marketable they are. And it’s difficult to find very many books that engage me — maybe because the authors I’d enjoy have the same marketing problems.

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5 Comments

  1. Yeah, this is a difficult thing. I fear that my book(s) will fall into the same “un”-category. This is, of course, one of the main reasons why new writers are rejected by traditional publishers (and agents). The work just isn’t easily marketable.

    With that said, a story that captures wide interest will capture wide interest, despite its genre or lack of one.

    • I think there are a lot of us in the same boat, but we’re pretty much invisible, even to each other. Maybe that will change over time.

  2. It is a real problem, Catana, and one I share with you. I had one of the top agents in Aust’a for my Mullumbimby novel, but she couldn’t place the book because it didn’t fall clearly into one genre. I’ve done it with other novels as well, and they will have to go the same way – up onto the web as e-books. I had enough of writing inside genres when I was a single parent needing to make money from my short stories.

  3. same problem here. I say I write to the left of mainstream. Marketing is tough when you don’t have a clear genre, but writing is still so much more fun.

  4. Danielle, that’s one of the points that self-publishing nay sayers choose to ignore. Books aren’t necessarily rejected by publisher because they’re badly written. Very often, they just don’t fit the market. And that’s happening more and more as traditional publishers become more cautious about the bottom line.

    Thea, when there’s more concern about marketing your book than writing it, something’s off — unless you set out to write for money, not for the love of writing. And that’s how I see it. Most of the advice about marketing is aimed at the commercial mainstream.

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