Targeting Genre

2015-11-18 target bulls eye darts arrowsI’ll say it upfront, I don’t know much about genre targeting. I also have a funny feeling I’m doing pretty poorly at it. (Although I had another author suggest that what I’d done was create my own sub-genre, “family suspense.”) I guess time will tell whether the reading public are interested in my family drama/suspense style of writing–cuz I’m also stubborn-minded enough to pursue this idea. Everything’s worth a shot once, right?

However, I really ought to learn a thing or two more about proper genre targeting. And I’ve found a great way to do that!

2016-03-30 Targeting Genre

What Is Genre Targeting?

2016-03-30 weather vane, arrow, target, direction, sky, windAs I understand it, targeting a genre means you learn your chosen niche well enough that you understand reader expectations for that genre, then you write to satisfy those expectations. That doesn’t mean writing to fill a cookie cutter; just that there are certain rules–from cover art to plot line–that should be followed to cue your reader in to what kind of story this is. For instance, it wouldn’t be romance if the primary plot weren’t about two people falling in love.

Where Can You Learn More About Genre Targeting?

2016-03-30 target bulls eyeI’ve just admitted, I don’t know much about the topic. But fortunately, I know someone who does, and her course looks pretty darn interesting! C. S. Lakin of the popular Live, Write, Thrive blog is the instructor on a new course all about how to sell better through targeting your chosen genre. Here are seven new skills you’ll learn in her course:

  • identify top-selling genres
  • pick a genre to write in that you’ll love
  • deconstruct best sellers in your target genre
  • structure your novel to fit perfectly into your target genre
  • pick a perfect title and cover design for success
  • prepare your online product pages to jump to the top of best-seller lists
  • price your book for your target market

As mentioned by one of her testimonials, she even goes into the very important topic of how to land your book in the right categories at Amazon!

If that looks as interesting to you as it does to me, I’d recommend you go check it out.

Targeting Genre for Big Sales

P.S., that’s an affiliate link, so Carrie and I will get part of the proceeds if you use it. But I know you love us. (Grins.)

So tell us, do you use genre targeting for better book sales? How does it work for you? Or are you going to give C. S. Lakin’s course a try?

6 Tips for Authors Who Write in Multiple Genres

A few weeks ago, I compared genres to food groups (you can read that post here).

At the end of that post, I said, “There are ways to clarify things for your readers, publishers, and marketers.” This week, I want to share a few of those ways.

6 Tips for Authors Who Write in Multiple Genres


Before I begin, though, I need to make two things perfectly clear.

1. If you write in one genre and only one genre, that’s okay.

2. If you write in more than one genre, that’s okay.

There is no single rule, method, technique, practice, or attitude that works for every writer who has ever lived, is now living, or ever will live. No magic bullet. No one-size-fits-all. None of that.

Writers are like Olympic athletes. Some are decathletes, able to do well and succeed in events as varied as the long jump, the pole vault, and the hundred yard dash.

Others are single event specialists who can run a sparkling dash, but don’t do pole vaulting or steeplechasing.

Whichever camp you fall into, be the best you can be.

The Purpose of This Post

The purpose of this post is to help those who write in more than one genre find ways to build readership and brand for each of the genres in which they write.

The first thing I need to tell you is that you’re not alone. Many successful authors have written in multiple genres. Who, you ask? Here are a few whose names you might recognize.

  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • H. G. Wells
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • James Patterson
  • John Grisham

There are many others, as well, so if you write in multiple genres, you are in good company.

So how do you juggle the genres? There are nearly as many answers to that as there are writers. Following are six ideas to get you started.

1. Different Genres; Same Name
James Patterson and John Grisham write under the same name regardless of the genre. They’ve chosen to let their readers determine on a book-by-book basis what they want to read.

If you’ve already written and/or published several books in different genres, this is probably the option that will work best for you. Especially if you’ve already established followings for each of the genres in which you work.

With the advent of electronic books and book marketing, the use of tags, and search features, you can still separate your books by genre and allow readers to look for all of your historical novels without having to wade through all of your science fiction novels or travel documentaries.

2. Different Genres; Different Names
Another option, especially for writers who are lightly published or unpublished is to consider using a different name for each genre you work in.

Stephen King also wrote under the name Richard Bachman (though he wrote horror under both identities).

Nora Roberts also writes under the pen name J. D. Robb.

Find pen names you like for each of the genres in which you write. Choose names that you’re likely to respond to. For example, I’m known for art as Carrie L. Lewis. When it comes to writing, I’m Carrie Lynn Lewis. In either case, I answer to Carrie and to Carrie Lynn equally well.

3. Establish One Genre
Find the genre that’s most “you.” Push it for all it’s worth. Get as many works published in that genre as you can, develop your target audience, and woo them.

When you’ve done that, you can then invite your loyal readers to try out a new genre with you. They won’t all take you up on your invitation, but some will.

4. Promote Your Work
Nobody knows your writing or your story better than you do. Take the time to promote each new novel like it’s the only one. Do not–let me repeat DO NOT–leave this all important work to someone else, no matter how you publish.

5. Build Relationship With Readers
Take the time to answer reader questions. If you keep a blog, keep up with the comments and reply to each one. Be friendly when you make public appearances. If you treat readers like friends instead of like potential book buyers, you’ll develop a lot of friends and a lot of those friends will become book buyers.

6. Write The Best You Can
If you hope to be published, gain a readership, and be successful (however you define success), there is no shortcut for writing the best fiction or nonfiction you can. None. Make every book you write the best book you can write and publish nothing before its time.

How Genres Are Like The Major Food Groups

Every story fits into one major writing category. Most could be wedged into two. Some are so broad based, they don’t appear to have a specific category.

In the publishing world, these categories are referred to as “genre.” What are genres and how are they like the major food groups? I’m glad you asked!

How Genres are Like Major Food GroupsGenre and Food Groups

We all know about the basic food groups: breads & cereals, vegetables & fruits, meats, and dairy. Each food group describes the foods it contains, how those foods can best be enjoyed, and what health benefits they offer. No two foods within a food group are the same, but they all share common traits.

The same with publishing genres. Each genre describes the type of story it contains, what readers can expect from the novels in that genre, and all sorts of other things. Some of the more popular genres are contemporary, historical, romance, and mystery.

Readers of the mystery genre expect a crime, usually murder. They expect one character devoted to unraveling the crime and they expect a lot of suspects, all of whom appear to have a legitimate reason for committing the crime.

Readers of novels in the literary category expect a leisurely pace and lots of introspection. Readers of suspense novels, on the other hand, expect fast-paced action.

Just as there are different types of vegetables within the vegetable food group, there are different types of stories within each genre. The mystery might have a heavy dose of romance. It might be historical. It might be humorous or suspenseful.

Why is Genre Important?

Publishers and readers alike expect certain characteristics from each genre. While publishers and readers like to see new and surprising things, a writer who regularly writes stories that don’t contain the more basic characteristics of the genre is going to have a difficult time reaching the desired target audience. Imagine a mystery novel without a crime or a romance without a love interest.

Genre also makes marketing easier. When you select a genre for a story, you’ve also narrowed the market from “all readers” to the “readers most likely to read the genre.” Marketing efforts can be targeted to those readers, saving you time, effort, and the expense of marketing to readers unlikely to be interested in your book. Writing decisions can likewise be guided by genre characteristics.

Can A Writer Write in More than One Genre?

Can you eat food from more than one food group? Of course you can.

And so you can write novels in more than one genre.

But be aware that writing and publishing books in multiple genres carries with it the risk of confusing your readers. If your first book is a thrilling suspense that kept readers on the edge of their seats beginning to end, those readers may be gravely disappointed to discover your follow up novel is a leisurely study of human nature told in a literary style. If both stories are well told, you will most likely retain some readers, but it’s just as likely that others will be put off.

What is most likely is that readers will see your name and not know what to expect. Chances are they won’t take the time to find out what the new book is about and will instead head for an author whose work they do know.

There are ways to clarify things for your readers, publishers, and marketers, including using a different name for each genre, but that’s a post for another time. Just be aware of the risk and make genre decisions accordingly.

Concluding Thoughts

If you take nothing else from this post, I hope you’ll remember this. Books weren’t created to fill genres; genres came into being to describe books.

A publishing world (or bookstore) with no genres is no more feasible or viable than a grocery store with all the food products lumped together.

Think about it.