Genre? What’s the Big Deal?

I can understand why folk get worked up about genre. If I were a Western fan, I wouldn’t want my novels to cross over into, say, Fantasy or Gay & Lesbian territory.

But I reckon you can get too fixated with purity of genre. Take A Tale of Two Cities, for example. In terms of Amazon’s fiction categories, it could justifiably be classed under Adventure & Action, Historical, Horror, Political, Psychological, Romance, Thrillers and War, not to mention Classical and Literary Fiction. Considering what a mongrel it is, it has done not too badly.

Anyhow, are Amazon’s genres relevant or up-to-date? On Twitter, countless folk say they’re writing Paranormal or Young Adult, yet Amazon doesn’t count these as genres (sub-genres, at best). And why are Women Writers a separate category? Didn’t that go out with the ark?

The reason why this is on my mind is that I’ve made big changes to my novel, The Girl with the Haunting Smile, so that I can list it under Romance. Okay, it has a powerful love interest that runs through the whole book but it isn’t by any means a conventional romance and its lead character is anything but conventional. It’s also told from a male POV, which isn’t exactly standard.

What I’m confessing is that, while I think genre can be rated too highly, I’ve got down from my soapbox and given in to market reality. Romance sells consistently well, so that’s the place for me. If you want to make your mark on Amazon, you have to play by its rules.

Do I feel bad about what I’ve done? Not really. Quite the opposite, in fact. The sobering truth I’ve now discovered is that, by homing in more consistently on the love interest and ensuring it is never out of the reader’s mind, I’ve given the novel a much stronger, more compelling focus.

Maybe genre isn’t so bad after all.

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About Richard Louden

Maybe it was because languages were my thing but I loved writing at school and I've loved it ever since. Obviously, I hope others will enjoy reading what I write but, now that I am turning my hand to novels, what matters most to me is to write what, as a reader, I would like to read. As a journalist with UK papers, I've written widely on education, business, sport and law. In the creative writing field, I've written the scripts of two TV dramas (BBC and ITV), contributed sketches to TV and radio comedy shows and had short stories published in national anthologies. That doesn’t make me a novelist but I hope it gives me a push in the right direction.

Posted on August 30, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Richard: have found your blog to be fascinating. in particular i found your comments about genre and how your book ‘haunting smile’ became a romance so close to my feelings it’s a little scary. I can understand the problem you faced with a male protagonist in a female dominated genre. and while ‘romance’ might be a little problematical (i haven’t read it but your comments make that clear), if romance or male/female (or today male male or etc) relationships are a good chunk of the book you wrote, why not try to open it up to as broad a readership as possible.

    I do sympathize with the problem you’re dealing with. i painted myself into a not-dissimilar situation with my self-published (or Indie book to be politically correct) “when we were married – the long fall, and volume 2 – second acts.” i published both on barnes and noble and later smashwords to sell to readers outside the u.s. and i ran into the problem of what to call the books. i settled on adult romances, although they don’t in any definition fit the accepted meaning of ‘romance’.

    romances – by definition today – involve attractive young woman falling in love or lust with gorgeous young men and by the end of the book there is cohabitation or a wedding ring. that’s 99 percent of the genre, whether it’s straight romance or a mystery bringing the couple together or a suspense piece where one is trying to kill or protect the other. That’s the template. AND the narrator has to be a woman. It’s the most sexually stratified genre in literature.

    again, if i described the books as long amalgams of courtroom action and the interaction of cops and crooks in a florida city, while a fat and flabby middleaged prosecutor fights for and loses his smoking hot MILF wife, they probably wouldn’t do too well. And there’s too much sex to entice straight legal/crime readers, and not enough sex to satisfy fans of erotica.

    so i hope you;ll understand why your thoughts were or particular interest to me. i wish you luck – and more luck than i’m having. The books are selling, and steadily if slowly, but i haven’t figured out how to broaden their appeal to readers beyond those who are already familiar with them and waiting to buy further installments. Just not enough of them.

  2. Hi Daniel Many thanks for taking the trouble to write such a detailed post. Your comments resonate with me and I fully understand your dilemma. But we can surely argue that somebody has to break the mould, so why not us? There’s no reason why a man can’t be the central character in a romance or why it has to be wall-to-wall coochy-coo.
    I don’t know if you listed your books solely under Romance. I may label mine as Action & Adventure, Contemporary Fiction or Psychological as well and feel I can honestly do that.
    Hang in there, as I plan to do. There are amazing stories of how books that lay unnoticed on Amazon’s shelves for ages suddenly took off and shot up the charts. Even E L James made a sluggish start. My attitude is that, if you believe in what you’ve written, you should stick with it and wait for the day of recognition to dawn.

  3. It is interesting to me that I had to research exactly what paranormal meant – it has such a wide definition all on its own! As soon as spirits come into play it seems it is not normal whereas many people live with spirits and interact on a regular basis.
    Artists, which is essential what writers are don’t really like to be boxed up in a definition but readers seem to need it to make choices.
    I had a person ask me to start writing in a definable genre and market but haven’t really found that possible, agreeing with you Richard, that I just have to stick with my own voice and hope it is heard.

    • Absolutely, Lesley. You’ve found your own voice, so you’ve got to be true to that. Not all novels fit neatly into little genre boxes. If you distort yours to make it fit into a box, you may regret it because it will no longer be the novel you planned. I wish you the best of luck and hope your voice is indeed heard.

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