Before we get started, a quick announcement. I want to let you know that I begged, pleaded and bartered for Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg to offer a Master’s Series and being the AWESOME human being he is, he is doing How to Maximize Your Earning Potential as a Full-Time Writer just for us. This is three two-hour classes learning from a big name in Hollywood in your own home and it is recorded if you can’t make it live. He normally runs this series for $399, but he is super helpful and generous and giving it to us for $199.
The film industry is BOOMING and filmmakers need writers who can create excellent content. Joel is going to teach you how to tap into that massive emerging market.
Valentines Day gift. *wink wink* Just sayin’.
Okay, let’s sally forth…
One of the reasons I love blogging is I get an opportunity to have the crucial conversations with you guys that are going to make all the difference in your writing career. When I started out, I didn’t have such luxury and I bumbled around in the dark with what I “thought” professional writers did.
Back in 1999 I didn’t have the same access to experts as we all do today, so I had to wait almost four years until I could save enough money to attend conferences to get the dose of reality I needed if I hoped to go pro.
Last time we talked about basic, basic stuff. It seems so simple and yet it really isn’t. Most emerging writers don’t have a novel. They have a ton of pretty sentences and a lot of “stuff” happening, but they lack a core story problem. No core problem? No novel.
And again, if you are struggling with your book and you can’t whittle it down into ONE sentence, sign up for the Pitch Perfect class THIS SATURDAY (all you need is an internet connection and the recording comes with purchase).
I am teaching about query letters and how to write a synopsis, and this is a critical skill that can make sure you have a story and if you don’t? How to easily see what needs fixing so you aren’t wasting precious time repairing the wrong stuff. I will help you get that one sentence. I have a lot more practice doing this than you guys 😉 . It’ll be fun!
So once we have an idea for a story this is not enough, unless we are just writing for a hobby. If we actually one day hope to sell what we are writing we need to ask the hard questions.
What is the Genre?
All books have a genre. We must choose. Even folks who claim they don’t write “genre fiction” what they are meaning is they don’t write “commercial” fiction. Literary fiction IS a genre and it is going to have parameters and expectations we need to keep in mind while writing.
***And sure I guess there is “General Fiction” but how unsexy is that? Also, General Fiction is usually where literary is shelved and genre fiction misshelved. Seriously Goodreads? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is NOT general.
Some people don’t want to choose a genre. They shiver and feel it is base, that somehow by committing to a genre they are admitting their book might actually be like other books. How gauche! They will have to admit that is isn’t the world’s most unusual snowflake, a work that has never been seen before.
Hey, I used to be that person.
I felt that choosing a genre diminished my book, that it made it “like” others and thus somehow not “as good.” I was dead wrong. First of all, because I didn’t choose a genre, my book not only was NOT a special snowflake..it actually sucked pretty badly. I’d crafted some Frankenstein monster out of all genres to please (sell to) ALL readers. But, here’s the deal.
No one wants to read a “book by committee”.
Each genre has rules, guidelines and expectations. If you want a quick rundown on what they are, go to THIS POST.
Because I didn’t choose one genre? I was just mucking up every genre.
For instance, I get writers who come to me and they say they have a Romance BUT the core antagonist is the love interest. NOPE. Romance has rules and there must always be an HEA (happily ever after). Guy and girl must get together by the end. They must unite together to solve the problem greater than themselves (defeat the core antagonist).
If this doesn’t happen? Sorry it might be a good book, but romance it ain’t. And if the book is then placed in the wrong genre? That genre comes with an audience that has expectations the work has not met. So a book that might have gotten rave reviews as a Women’s Fiction gets slayed when shelved as a Romance.
Genre can impact everything from plot to character to word count. If my book is a 120,000 words and a High Fantasy? No problemo. If it is a YA? Going to be a seriously hard sell.
What are Audience Expectations?
Once we nail what genre our book is in, we then can keep audience expectations in mind when writing…THEN blow them away. Again, tending genre expectations is not “formulaic”. “Formulaic” has to do with execution.
For instance, if I go to a Mexican restaurant I have expectations. If they try to serve me schnitzel and lasagna not only am I going to be seriously confused, I might even get angry. Why? Because I did NOT expect schnitzel and lasagna at a Mexican food restaurant.
Now, I am a Texan and in Texas Mexican food has it’s own layer on the food pyramid. It can be a very simple cuisine. Lots of corn, beans, some kind of meat and cheese in various combinations and that is all great. Many Texans just want a plate of good old-fashioned cheese enchiladas with red sauce.
Yet, just because Mexican food carries expectations does NOT mean a chef cannot then mix up the rules and use a ton of imagination.
The chef knows we want enchiladas but instead of the tried and true versions? How about sweet potato enchiladas in blue corn tortillas with goat cheese and a mango chutney? Okay now I’m hungry.
But we are STILL within the expectations, just we are delivering an unexpected variation. Instead of alienating and potentially ticking off the patrons, we are WOWING them.
And remember, like food, there are all kinds of fusions. It is easy to add Southwestern food to a Mexican food menu. They are cousins. Same with genres like mystery, thriller and suspense. It is easy to have a mystery thriller. Or even a romantic suspense. We know the rules of suspense, but also can expect a nice love story as well.
Christian Inspirational Erotica? Yeah, not so much. Kind of hits us like a Polish Mediterranean restaurant.
How to SELL What We Have Written
Another HUGE reason for choosing a genre before we write is…
Eventually we WILL have to choose a genre anyway.
So we might as well do it ahead of time. A big reason for genre is to help readers find our work. Where will the sucker get shelved? Once we upload the book onto Amazon, we will have to declare what genre it falls into so readers can find it. Also we WANT our book to be like other books. When anyone buys a book on Amazon, we get this…
Trust me, I WANT people who loved Gone Girl to see my book in the list of “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” I DON’T want to do this all myself. I WANT if someone is looking for Gone Girl they see MY book or vice versa. It means I am in good company.
Also remember that readers…wait for this…often buy more than one book. I KNOW! So when they finish that traditional mainstream novel, they are going to go back for another dose of what they love to consume and genre is going to help them find YOU.
Even if we want to traditionally publish, genre is a huge deal. First, how can we query? We need to look at what an agent is looking for then pitch THAT. Also if an agent likes the book, she is going to have to be able to know how to SELL that book. Granted, she might do some tweaking—pitch a suspense as a romantic suspense but you get the idea.
Sometimes agents will reject a book because the author didn’t settle on a genre and so the agent already knows she won’t be able to SELL it.
I hope this clears things up for you if you didn’t before understand them, which is OKAY. We are not born knowing this stuff! What are your thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Remember Pitch Perfect is on SATURDAY and my NEW class The Art of Character is TOMORROW! How to create layered and compelling characters. If you want to take both, seriously just treat yourself and sign up for the Craft Master’s Series and you get a FREE class (Plotting for Dummies) .
I love hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!!
Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses!
All you need is an internet connection!
Yassss! Hollywood needs content creators so we can stop with the reboots, remakes, and long-delayed squeals. HA! And Christian Inspirational Erotica…haha. That would be one crazy book. I would buy it just to see what one would do with such a combination. Rawr.
Hi Kristen (or Joel),
I’m not sure what genre my book would be in. I went to the blog post you linked to (the one about what genre your book is), and I decided that my book could be considered a thriller (there’s definitely a ticking clock, something really world-threatening will happen), but it’s obviously a fantasy novel (i think?) because it’s set in a fantasy world with fantasy creatures. Is Fantasy-Thriller a thing? Or would it just be one or the other?
No you just have a fantasy. All books have some big event at the end. That is the climax. But in mystery the crime has already happened. In thriller you are PREVENTING it from happening.
Okay! That helps a lot. Thank you!
Reblogged this on authorkdrose and commented:
More great thoughts from Kristen Lamb!
My challenge is finding a groove in a particular genre. I know authors are supposed to ply their trade (mostly) in one genre, but I’ve written fantasy, science fiction and now a thriller. The stories are what they are and I slid them on the shelf in the best place I could find. But I do wonder how that might impede an audience settling into my brand.
Love it. I’ve been seeing this whole change in the genre thing. What do you think of the development of “blended genre” or “hyphen fiction” as I call it. That whole paranormal-romance, YA-paranormal, romance-thriller, and on and on. I’m seeing a lot of that going on. I think the one that broke my brain was the M/M-thriller-horror-paranormal-urban-YA that someone said on a post on Facebook. I felt like I had whiplash!
It’s like people want to define theirs differently to be able to triple-pigeon-hole it where they can be cross-marketed and I’m not sure that it’s working out.
And it seems that Amazon and some of the other sites allow some of this insanity with their “click to define your genre” in the author area, and it’s not limited to one, you can do multiples.
I’d love to throw my name into your hat for a chance for you to review the book I am writing – I Escaped Depression’s Black Box – so I can vet your expertise for further investments.
I write Fantasy Romance. Heavy on the Romance. At some point, I plan to move into Regency Romance.
Mine is Christian romantic suspense. Unfortunately it seems to irk all genres. Its a crime novel! It’s a slow burn romance! There’s no erotica! No, folks, it’s the romance w/in the narrow walk of Christianity, the suspense throws the fMC and mMC together. It’s character driven, high concept and longer than the usual romance (95000 words). Because there was use of alcohol, no Christian agent will take it. Because there’s no love scene and Christian, no agent will touch it. Self publish? Indie? No, I want traditional publishing. Ergh.
Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.
Reblogged this on Wind Eggs and commented:
Kristen Lamb helps writers identify their target market (an important lesson if you want to sell your books). Don’t ignore the link where she spells out the requirements for a book to fit a specific genre.
Thank you so much for sharing this!
Thanks Kristen. This is my biggest hurdle-trying to fit in the right genre. So helpful! Have a wonderful weekend.
Great post, as always, dear Kristen.
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
Here is a great post from Kristen Lamb on selling your book and identifying what you’re selling.
I wrote a novel on spec for a publisher who LOVED my short story in an anthology they were producing. When she came back to me with the REJECTION of my novel it was because it was adventure…dystopian…paranormal…with a little science-fiction. “Our customers won’t know where to shelve this.” And although she didn’t hate the story, she thought the work required for both of us to rewrite it to fit ONE genre was more than she wanted to tackle. So, there you have it. Of course, the fact that it didn’t have the same dark feel as the short story also but her off, but what can I say? If I want dark, I’ll turn off the lights. I read (and write) to shine light.
I am always amazed when authors don’t know what genre they write in. I’ll be at a book festival and someone will tell a reader there book has mystery and suspense, yet their book is really just a contemporary romance. All books have some level of mystery and suspense. Readers give bad reviews if you don’t get the genre right. Just ask a sci-fi reader how he feels when he gets sucked into buying a book that turns out to be fantasy.
Lol. Christian Inspirational Erotica? That should never be attempted. I see a book like that getting a lot more backlash than even 50 Shades. (Which, BTW, sucked to the 10 power). I’ve read so many comments from writers that were so let down and confused. “Why would a big time publisher even consider such a poorly written book?” IDK.
We’re hoping it’s a one time lapse in judgment.
I love these informational blogs. It’s very important to pick a genre. I had a little bit of a hard time with it. So, I took a good look at my book. Paranormal Romance was the best choice. It was suspenseful, some mystery, a little erotic. But, it was more a Paranormal Romance.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’ve put your blood, sweat, years and heart into a book.
Keep up the great work! Great blog!
Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
One of my favorite writers, bloggers, teachers and amazing human being, Kristen Lamb, has published a blog post on “How to sell your book” – and how to find out what it is.
Additionally, don’t miss: W.A.N.A. offers a new class “How to Maximize Your Earning Potential as a Full-Time Author Learn from Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg”
Isn’t this phenomenal? Check it out. Thank you so much, Kristen!