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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Is Genre Important?

When I decided to write my first book about travelling around Australia, I didn't give its genre much consideration. I thought I would focus on writing and worry about the rest later.

It wasn't until I had finished my first draft that I seriously started to think about having it published. I wanted to see my book on a shelf at a popular bookstore, so I researched everything I possibly could about getting published the traditional way. And after three months of research I decided that the only way I stood a chance of traditional publication was to follow the guideline religiously.

I looked over my first draft a month after finishing it and decided my manuscript was in no fit state for anyone to cast their eyes over it. Feeling determined I typed up the second draft, and this time I decided the genre it fitted into best was autobiography/memoir. The book didn't have enough factual information to be classed as travel (I never intended to write a travel book anyway). I thought the memoir description was the most appropriate because the book is about my experiences on a gap year. But once I had given the manuscript a closer inspection, I saw elements of erotica and humour in there too. And I began to wonder ... was my book really a memoir, or was it nothing more than a confused mixture of genres?

Still feeling positive I sent my manuscript away to a professional copy editor and waited nervously for their verdict. When I received the critique, their main issue was the mixed genres.

Disappointed, I wondered what to do next. My book, so my editor said, was unlikely to get traditionally published unless I started again and wrote about one theme that would underpin and hold together the entire book.

It was about this time I started to research indie publishing. And I discovered books on the internet that had multiple genres, and were still selling well. Through doing this research I began to re-think my editors critique. I thought about publishing my book on the internet as an indie author instead of being a traditionally published writer. I could see all the benefits of taking the indie author path, and I thought my success could be potentially greater. So then I decided to put my theory to the test. I discovered that both Smashwords and Amazon allow you to tag your book with keywords that show up when people are searching for a particular catagory. So as long as I knew the main genre of my book, I could tag other relevant key words to it.

Three months later this strategy seems to be working. People are finding my book and buying it, even though it's a mixture of genres. And during these last three months, I've discovered many indie authors are saying the same thing about mixed genres. A lot of writers struggle to keep to one specific genre, they find it beneficial to cross genres where appropriate. They're still successful, even though they are doing something which the traditional publishing industry forbids.


  1. I tried to trad publish The Last Resort - which has an underlying women's fiction subplot with a thriller/mystery about a missing girl on top. Both are key to the character's actions and her skills. One of the editors I sent it to said to separate out one or the other, which would have weakened the story. Going Indie meant leaving the story I had written, and it's getting great reviews.

  2. That's great news Valerie!It seems that going Indie has huge opportunity. I'm sure your comment will inspire many others. Thank you very much for posting.