A to Z Challenge – Day 7: G is for Genre

Hi all,

I thought I’d briefly touch on genre today. It can be a tricky issue for any writer – there can be a great tendency, especially in ‘traditional publishing’ to want to be able to neatly pigeon-hole a novel and a writer into a tidy little box. On some level you can understand this, if they are investing in a novel then they want to know they can sell it – which means in their eyes there needs to be a clear way for them to market it and a specific audience to market it towards. I’ve heard stories from other writers of them submitting to publishers who apparently loved their work but who still wouldn’t take them on due to marketing concerns, things ranging from they had reached their quota of that ‘style’ of novel, to it was too cross-genre, to even ‘we don’t think the market can take another Scottish crime writer at the moment’! I’d imagine things like that could be more frustrating than actually being told a publisher just didn’t like your novel.


It can lead to dilemmas for writers – should they try and conform in the hopes of having a better chance of being published, or just write what they want anyway and hope they can find a home for it at the end. It can be a tricky one – the standard advice is often ‘just write what you feel and worry about the rest later’ but I think that if you’re wanting to write for a career rather than just for your own pleasure (and there’s nothing wrong with either!) then it’s wise to at least think about these issues before you find yourself with a epic 120k word western/vampire/space opera that may be the best thing ever written but no publisher will dare to even look at.

That said though, pushing the boundaries to some extent is not always a bad thing. I write paranormal romance mainly, and there was a time when that wouldn’t have been touched with a bargepole by traditional publishers, and now it’s probably one of their best-sellers. The same with urban fantasy, with steampunk, with young adult. They have become mainstream because people wrote what they loved, even though it didn’t fit the current mould and eventually someone took a chance on it. One of the good things about the changes in publishing means the rise in cross-genre novels, self-publishing provides a new option for those who may have excellent quality books but who may not fit the ‘marketable’ mould for traditional publishing. Even the rise in small e-publishers and ‘digital first’ imprints means that with reduced costs and less risk on their side they are more willing to take a chance on something a little different. Surely that can only be a good thing?



6 responses to “A to Z Challenge – Day 7: G is for Genre”

  1. Thanks for pointing out the advantages of self-publishing and digital publishing for genre-challenged authors like me!

  2. Genre is important if only so bookstores know where to put your novel, and to give readers an idea of what they’re buying. But if you tend to genre hop and genre mix, it can be tough to tell an agent exactly which pigeon hole your book fits in. Usually, most agents are happy for you to give your best guess, and they’ll fine-tune based on their knowledge and experience.

    As to writing in over-saturated genres, I still think the old dictum stands true: write the story that’s on your heart, regardless of genre. The story you care most about is going to be the best story you’ll write, and that matters more than genre. Publishing moves at a glacial pace, so by the time a publisher is looking at your manuscript, your genre may well be back in vogue. And if not, traditional publishers are not always right, and there may be a huge market for your book that self-publishing can exploit.

    Good topic!

  3. When I get an idea for a story, I don’t think in regards of what genre it’s going to be, only what’s going to happen, so it does get tough to pin a story with a genre that best fits it. I especially had a hard time with the genre for my series, which I like to call a supernatural-thriller but have started to say it’s a commercial-thriller in queries. It’s really important for writers, especially new writers to research genres before, during, and after writing a story.

  4. Interesting… so authors face the same pressure that artists do, that is to pick one thing and stick with it forever as if you cannot fully hone your craft unless you do. Glad I found your blog today – out wandering to read A to Z Challenges.

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