Documentation Help Desk Shop Fan Site

It’s not Genres that matter. It’s Readers

This is freely taken from a post written by Harry at Jericho Writers

It’s not genres that matter. It’s readers. You do, I think, need to have a really clear idea of what kind of book yours is.

What’s the heart of its appeal?

What’s that appeal expressed in a sentence?

What kind of cover sings about that appeal?

Where on Amazon will your very best readers most likely gather?

What other authors do those readers love?

These questions matter. Genres don’t.

Agents want to know something about your book before they start to read it, in much the same way as you want to know something about a film on Netflix before you start watching. Is it a thriller? Or a rom-com? You might be happy with either, but you just want to set your expectations before you start.

It’s the same with agents. If you tell them that a book is a thriller, they will read with their thriller head-on. They’ll be thinking, Does this feel like the start of a thriller that publishers could sell successfully to a large audience? If you tell them your book is a rom-com, they’ll think about that market instead.

And if your book has a nice clean genre, then tell them. But most books don’t have those nice clear categories. So just describe the book in a sentence or two, much as you would if you were describing it to any reader.

Same with editors. When they read a manuscript, they’ll be thinking, “How can I package this book to achieve a strong level of sales?” They’ll be thinking about covers and comparable authors and recent hits and possible marketing approaches.

In order to get a good set of answers to those questions, editors do need a good two-line summary of the book but they don’t especially need any genre categorization at all. As a matter of fact, I’d go further than that. Genre descriptions can be so restricting that I’d want to throw them off, at least partly.

Harry’s novels are contemporary police procedurals with murder stories at their heart. But they’re also not some of the things you might expect them to be. So although the novels are technically procedural, they show an almost total disregard for actual police procedure. There’s not a lot of shooty-bang-bang stuff. The action is slow, not fast. So if I were writing a query letter – or an Amazon book blurb – I’d want to hint at the ways in which my books run contrary to the genre, not with it.

1 Like