5 Things to Know About Genre When Self-publishing a Book

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 science fiction background representing genre when self-publishing a book

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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Edit Your Novel before Self-Publishing

Always let someone else proof your novel before you publish, and make sure your editor isn’t such a good friend that he/she won’t tell you about the problems he/she finds. Along with errant commas and missing words, your editor should look for plot holes, weak writing and unresolved situations.

{ A good editor will suggest changes that tighten up your novel and elevate it from good to great. }

Your copy editor (could be a friend who currently works at a big publishing house or a friend who’s a writer). These editors can suggest people who would be excellent editors. You may choose an experienced editor with 10+ years of experience or a newbie with 2-3 years experience. It’s also good to get 2-3 people to edit your book before self-publishing.

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Time to fix those errors and polish your masterpiece.

Reread your novel, and as you finish each chapter, summarize the most important events that occur. Remember to focus on what happens in the novel including the character motivation and emotion that propels action and lends a human touch to the storyline.

Imagine that you’re telling your story to a group of friends. You won’t have their attention for five hours, but you will for a few minutes. So convey the essential storyline complete with tension, pacing and character emotion.

Make your synopsis complete and yet a quick read that stands on its own. The most effective synopsis provides the feeling of having read the entire book.

Of course, it’s impossible to tell from a single chapter or even the first few chapters whether an unknown writer can orchestrate the important elements of fiction — character, plot, dialogue, pacing, setting, and point of view. For this reason, editors find that fiction submissions of a plot synopsis or sample chapters aren’t enough to demonstrate, that the writer can carry through on what they promise. That’s why it’s important to write and rewrite your entire novel before submitting it for publication.

Working Mom’s Tricks to Writing a Novel in Your Free Time

Trick #1: Write Longhand:

Even the most lightweight laptop is a tricky thing to take to the playground or gym. However, a notebook and pen fit easily into the most crowded diaper bag. (Always put an extra working pen in your purse, in case one does not work.)

“Write longhand while you’re sitting on a bench at the playground.”

Write longhand while you’re standing and rocking a stroller with your foot. Write longhand while waiting for your pasta to boil and while waiting outside of your first ballet class, for your 5 year old daughter. When entering your text onto the laptop later, will give you the chance to revaluate your work with a fresh eye, and fix the errors or edit what’s necessary. You’re that much closer now to a polished manuscript!

Trick #2: Get Your Kids Involved:

Experts say that reading to your children is the best thing any parent can do to bond, raise IQ and otherwise earn mommy or brownie points. Sure, toddlers and older children would probably rather hear “Winnie the Pooh” than “Mommy’s New Novel.” But, can an infant really tell the difference?

Nothing gives writers a better idea of whether a scene, especially one featuring lots of dialogue, is working, than reading it out loud. It can be an ego-crushing experience as you realize that the brilliance you heard in your head doesn’t quite match the nonsense you seemed to be articulating… but that which does not kill you, gets you ready for more editorial rejection later on. And that’s a good thing.

So grab that baby and that manuscript and read it out loud until the prose finally shines. Or your infant is old enough to start requesting a different title.

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Keeping Control in Self Publishing

In the self-publishing process you want total control from start to finish. You want to make the decisions, not Mr. Big Publishing House, Inc. You want to own all rights and have complete control of your book. By maintaining control over the editing and proofreading process, you have the ultimate say with what actually stays in and what is omitted. You are again “in control” of what the audience reads as the final printed version. With big publishing houses or publishing companies, they often will want to edit and omit parts of the book you actually want to leave in. These publishing firms sometime delete too much of the important parts out of your introduction or parts of chapters that you think or know will be important to your book.

You want to remain in control over your work. You want to keep control of the entire writing, printing, & selling process. Bottom line is you have 100% control when you self publish.

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