If you’re like most authors, the word “marketing” probably sends you running frightened for the hills. The idea is terrifying, enough to reconsider the idea of self-publishing altogether. But, it doesn’t have to be all that, especially if you’re willing to understand how fiction genres work in marketing.
There was a time, not too long ago, when fiction genres were as easy to understand as a quick browse of the shelves of your local book store. The fiction section, as a rule, broke down into something like this: literature, romance, mystery, science-fiction and fantasy. Sure, there were outliers complicating the situation, horror and women’s fiction come to mind, but by and large, these were your sections.
You’ve probably heard this before, and if you’re like me, you’ve got a little sick of it. Things aren’t “simple” anymore. I’m talking anywhere, not just the shelves of your local book store. I mean, look around, there are a lot more than 31 flavors to be enjoyed.
So, the question for authors looking to self-publish their books, how do you make the proliferation of fiction genres work for you?
When You Don’t Understand Fiction Genres
The easiest way to understand what happens when an author publishes a book without first understand fiction genres is to use an example. I’ll go with an author whose story I know really, really well.
I write a book series called “The Strange Air”, a collection of stories I that I first conceived of as paranormal. The contemporary mysteries that I write all deal with investigations of ghosts and shadows, so the term “paranormal” made a lot of sense. Right?
Well, as I started marketing my books, I noticed something that felt… odd. The books marketed along with mine (or appearing on the same virtual Amazon bookshelf) didn’t look at all alike. In fact, in some cases, they looked as different as two books could possible. While I was selling stories about harried sheriffs and things that go bump in the night, my contemporaries were selling hunky werewolves and sexy witches.
You might be saying to yourself, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Looks can be deceiving. But, in the world of book marketing, what your book looks like matters a whole lot. To the customer browsing Amazon, it matters more than anything.
Here is how I know that is true. After months and months of marketing my books as “paranormal”, I was getting nowhere fast. My books were underperforming by every measurable metric, from sales to advertising impressions to reader reviews.
I was spending money to get my books in front of readers, but getting nowhere. I needed a new plan.
Why Fiction Genres Matter In Marketing Books
My experience taught me a very valuable lesson: ultimately, it is the reader that matters most.
Yes, that’s right. As a writer, your only job is to please the reader. Let that sink in.
Many writers, unfortunately, don’t take the time to fully comprehend what that means. They believe that their books are the exceptions to the rules. A simple look at reader behavior and interaction, however, tells us there are no exceptions. Even Steven King still needs to give the readers what they want.
Fiction genres matter a lot to readers. For that reason, understanding those categories should matter to us, as writers. Readers go to their favorite bookstore (on-line or in-person) looking for material they’re going to enjoy reading. They know their taste, whether it’s cozy mysteries or hardboiled crime fiction.
Putting something else in front of them isn’t going to change that. It will only frustrate that reader, alienating them from ever giving you a chance.
Fiction genres matter in marketing books because they are the first area of alignment. If you’re trying to sell a hardboiled crime book, full of babes, blood, and bullets, to a reader that is looking for a fireside cozy, you’re not going to get very far.
If they happen to buy and read, I would wager a pretty penny their review won’t be positive.
If, however, you take the adequate time to understand what fiction genres work with your book, and where it fits into those categories, you’re chance of pleasing those readers, your readers, increases exponentially.
What Can I Do To Understand Fiction Genres?
The first key, I think, is to understand the other books within your category. As a fiction author, you can write whatever you want. While sitting at the computer, or indulging your imagination, anything goes. You should feel free to create the world you want. It is once you take that book out into the world, however, that you need to understand where it is going to fit.
But how do you do that?
Spending hours browsing the shelves of your local bookstore has never been easier than it is today. Amazon, still the largest bookstore in the world, offers unlimited opportunities to explore. From your desk or phone, you can check out what books rank highly in their category, see their covers, their blurbs, and comparables.
To take it a step deeper (one I highly recommend) with eBooks relatively cheap (usually in the free to $5 range, or less with Kindle Unlimited) you can download and read books and figure out what categories work best with yours. Reading in your genre is invaluable.
Do you think your book fits in “paranormal”? If so, search PARANORMAL in the Kindle Store.
Does your book look and sound like the ones ranking highly in that category? If so, you’re probably on the right track to start there. Then, once you’ve established the broader fiction genres, you can dive down deeper. Down here you find the real gems like PARANORMAL ROMANCE.
Marketing books is difficult, harder than writing them, in some cases. But it doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Understanding fiction genres, reading and exploring what’s out there, is a crucial step, and it is one that has never been easier.
I hope this addressed some of your interest in fiction genres. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.