Genre tells a reader what to expect when they buy a book. For self-publishing authors, identifying what genre their book falls into and marketing it properly can mean the difference between a great career with satisfied customers and a boatload of negative reviews and angry customers who won’t ever buy another book from that author.
1. Identify the Book’s Genre
It is very important for a writer to properly identify what genre their book falls into. For instance, a book that has a romance isn’t automatically classified in the romance genre. Books in the romance genre focus on romance and end with the couple together and happily anticipating their future lives as partners.
A book with a romantic subplot that ends with the couple together isn’t a romance.
A book focused on a romance that ends in the death of one of the couple members or the couple’s break up isn’t a romance.
Classifying the latter books incorrectly will cause the wrong reader to purchase the book and to go in with incorrect expectations which will lead to reader disappointment.
If a book doesn’t meet the elements of any genre then it should be labeled as general fiction.
2. Use Caution When Subverting Expectations
Readers like to be surprised when an author subverts their expectations however, they don’t appreciate it when those subversions change the genre of the book by not meeting genre expectations. For instance, readers who buy a mystery book won’t think it’s fun and interesting if the detective is unable to solve the mystery and the book ends without answers. The detective may not be able to prove the case and the criminal might get away but the mystery must be solved or the reader won’t feel that the book met their expectations as a reader of that genre.
3. Marketing Materials Should Make Genre Clear
A book’s cover, title, and synopsis should make it clear what genre the book belongs to. Every genre and subgenre has patterns in its titles and covers. Writers should ensure their custom book covers elicit the proper genre and subgenre.
A book cover with a punny title and a cat looking at a broken tea cup is going to suggest to a reader that the book is a cozy mystery. If they purchase the book and it turns out to be a gritty police procedural the reader will be disappointed
4. Your Name is Your Brand
Authors who write in multiple, uncomplimentary genres, should use pen names or variations on their names to avoid confusing readers.
Author name is part of branding, marketing, and establishing reader expectations. When an author puts out several books in a genre their name becomes associated with that genre and creates genre expectations for the reader. In many cases, it is known the writer is writing different genres however the distinction of the name on the cover allows readers to know what sort of book they’re getting. A great example of this is Nora Roberts and J D Robb. This is the same author but she uses her name to distinguish, for readers, what genre expectations they should have when picking up her books.
5. Don’t Switch Genre Mid-series
When an author is writing a series, all of the books in that series should be in the same genre. Readers enter a series with expectations laid out in book one and if the series suddenly moves from a cozy mystery to a science fiction alien invasion to a romance the readers will be disappointed and the latter books in the series might not find their tribe of readers while the early readers will stop reading as the genre changes unexpectedly and the books no longer meet their expectations.
While there is freedom when one decides on self-publishing a book, they still need to be aware of their reader’s expectations. Having a book that fits into a genre and is clearly marketed for that genre is one of the ways self-publishing authors can assure their book printing leads to satisfied readers.
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