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What genre should I write in is a question that many writers have to face, especially when they are just starting out. When you look at other writers, it might make the process look very easy. You might believe that all you need to do is pick the genre that makes you the most money.
Sounds simple, right?
But how do you know which genre is going to help you make the most bucks?
Answering the question of “what genre should I write” is very important, not just for money, but it will dictate your path in writing. So you really need to be aware of which genre you fall into. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done because it can be confusing.
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Why Is Genre Important?
In essence, a genre just looks like a label you fall under, and there is often hesitation to pick when you look at this way.
However, picking a genre is important for other reasons. The following are two of the most important ones:
Agents and Editors
If you know your genre, your editor and your agent will have an easier time working with you. They rely on your knowledge of the genre to take the liberty of skipping over a few steps in the process too. Your book agent will not have the time to read the entire manuscript at times.
Plus, they have to field questions from publishers, shop the book and really market it to make it sell. If you’re unsure about the book’s genre and believe that it’s a mystery with some dystopian elements and a love story but some horror too, your agent is going to be confused.
This confusion will translate into their work as well.
If they don’t know what genre your book falls into, how will they market it to the right audience?
This is a factor which will make an agent wary of working with you. Writers can be difficult clients but a confused writer can be more problematic. Writers who usually claim that their book cannot be labeled because it is so complex are also more focused on highlighting their identity as a writer rather than becoming a selling author.
Your audience consists of readers who search for books based on their own likes and dislikes, and more specifically, the genre they are fans of. Try to imagine how you search for books in a library. If you like love stories, you go to the romance section, whereas if you like intrigue and adventure, you got to the mystery section.
This gives you a clear indication of how your readers will work as well. They’ll look for the books they want, based on the genre. You have a better chance of getting more readers and selling more books if you understand what audience you are targeting.
For example: If your genre is young adults and you wrote a heart-warming coming of age story, you can expect a lot of young readers and even some adults to read your books. However, if you’re marketing it as a romance novel just because someone got a crush on someone, you’re going to be tricking your audience.
This increases the dissatisfaction level for the readers and you’re going to be known as that writer. The one who doesn’t understand their own work well enough to pick the right genre. You don’t want to be known as that writer. Plus, the next time you publish a book, your readers will be wary of what to expect.
What Are the Different Genres You Can Write In?
Now that you understand the importance of picking a genre, you have to know the different kinds of genres there are. This is the part that gives a lot of difficulties and makes most writers reconsider picking a genre. There are just too many to pick from!
However, knowing the different types of genres makes it easier to identify the genre that suits your work. On this basis, we’re taking a closer look at them here:
The genre of fiction is vast and there are many subcategories and subgenres that sprout under this umbrella term. Fiction is also one of the most competitive and highly successful genres for writers to work in.
The following are some of the most popular subgenres that fiction has:
- Science fiction
- Urban fiction
Luckily, fiction isn’t just limited to these genres as well but for the sake of this review, we’re keeping things brief here. Additionally, based on the nature of the book and the writing, fiction can be further sub-divided into two large categories, namely:
Commercial fiction relates to stories that have an easy to explain concept to the readers. This kind of fiction is the one that you’ll find on your summer lists or reading assignments. Additionally, women’s literature is also common in commercial fiction which has led to a lot of bestsellers in this subgenre.
Biggest examples of this genre include Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and See Me by Nicholas Spark.
Literary fiction is more highbrow and has stories that are well-written, more complex and with a richer vocabulary. This genre refers to fiction which has an elevated status. They are often slower reads and you can’t expect to be done with it in one sitting.
Unfortunately, literary fiction books can be harder to sell. However, when they do sell, they become chart toppers.
Some examples here include The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Other than fiction, non-fiction is also the biggest genre in writing and one that also has many successful writers. Many writers dread this genre because they feel like it means the end of their creativity. Non-fiction doesn’t seem to spark the same magic as fiction does for them.
However, non-fiction is often misconstrued in this manner. The reality is that this is a very successful genre. It also has two different sub-divisions, based on the nature of the books and the demand of the readers.
Commercial non-fiction books relate to commercially easy and successful books that appeal to a large audience. It might appear as if the whole world is collectively reading that book. These books usually are best-sellers and appeal to a very wide audience.
Strong examples here relate to Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson or A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor.
This sub-division relates to more practical non-fiction books. They’re generally published independently by universities or small presses. Surprisingly, non-fiction is the only genre where non-commercial books are often known to outperform commercial books.
They’re also usually priced higher because their readers are people with expertise or skill sets in a particular area.
A common example in this genre includes the five volume encyclopedia on food titled, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Billet.
Self-help fiction books are extremely favored by readers and it is a growing sub-genre in non-fiction books. They usually include instructions, tricks or tips that the readers can apply to their life or different areas for self-improvement.
Popular books in this genre include books like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a …. by Mark Manson, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
Unlike self-help books, how-to non-fiction books have a definite, prescriptive tone to them and include direct instructions that are usually aimed at teaching the reader some skill sets. Based on how you write them, these can either be dry or be hard to sell or capture the interest of the audience and sell really well.
A good example of a best-selling, how-to, non-fiction book is the Dummies Guide series.
Memoirs fall into the domain of non-fiction but it is categorized differently because it is the largest subgenre of non-fiction. Additionally, it is large enough to have its own types, categories and sub-divisions, including commercial and literary memoirs.
Commercial memoirs are like commercial fiction stories. They have an easy concept, engaging content and are very easy for readers to read and understand. Many best-selling memoirs are commercial ones and they are also very easy to summarize with ease.
Examples of commercial memoirs include Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert or The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae.
Literary memoirs share similarities with literary fiction as well. They’re usually written with densely language but are also very engaging. The crafting and phrasing of the content are also more sophisticated and complex.
Just like literary fiction, these memoirs are also pretty hard to sell and are often rejected by editors or publishers.
Popular examples in this genre include Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, H is for Hank by Helen McDonald and The Liars Club by Mary Karr.
Middle Grade/Young Adult/New Adult – MG/YA/NA
This genre is especially influenced by the age of the readers. Based on this, you can generally break down the readers into the following groups:
- Middle Grade – MG – 8 to 12
- Young Adult – YA – 13 to 17
- New Adult – NA – 18 to 24
While this is one of the most popular genres currently, writers have to be careful. It’s very easy to write work that doesn’t relate to your audience. A good idea is to be very familiar with the genre before you start writing.
Common examples in this genre include work like The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman and the Twilight series by Stephanie Myers.
This relates to picture books and they’re usually meant for readers who are below the middle grade – MG level of age and reading. While it might seem easy to have a picture book, this genre is notoriously difficult for writers. Success stories here are rare since only the very best books receive publicity and fanfare in this genre.
Successful books in this genre include The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.
As you can see in this brief overlook, the genres in writing are vast and many if you want to pick among them, you will have your work cut for you.
What Genre Should I Choose?
If taking a closer look at the genres has still not answered your question, you should consider trying to delve a little deeper. In this case, you want to make sure that you’re focusing on a few important pointers. These help you naturally identify the genre and make it easier for you to write your work accordingly.
You Are What You Read
Before you pick a genre, take a look at what books you actively read and are naturally drawn to. Many writers are actually aware of the genre they want to write in because they avidly read books in that genre.
Doing so not only helps you understand the genre better, you are able to understand the different elements that go into the work here.
You won’t be able to write too well if you aren’t aware of your genre and start writing. However, by adopting this approach, you are able to evaluate what you like and find the answer to what genre you should write in?
Look at Major Elements in Your Work
If you’ve already started to write, you should try and identify major elements in your work that can highlight the genre you are suited for. Some writers naturally include these elements in their plot. While on the surface, your motivation for it could be to further the plot, are there certain things that you rely on more than others?
Try and find the answer to the following questions:
- Does your book always have a young adult protagonist?
- Do you make the romance plot elaborate or downplay it?
- Does mystery permeate through the stories?
- Is your story more action and adventure based?
- Are there always elements of fantasy here?
Finding the answers to these will allow you to see that your work naturally deviates towards a certain genre. If you see that, then you know that you have finally found the genre that you should write in!
It’s Okay to Have Overlapping Areas
Sometimes, you might think that your work is going in three or four different directions. After all, it is rare for a story to just have only one element or relate to only one genre only. However, in this case, you want to pick the major genre that you’re getting from it.
The Hunger Games is a good example of this. It’s a YA novel but it can also be categorized as a dystopian one because of the state of the world. On the other hand, it’s not going to be a good romance novel so it’s not going to get that sub-genre.
Similarly, Carrie by Stephen King can be considered as science-fiction because of the telekinetic elements in it. However, it also has horror and psychological thriller elements. And since these two concepts are stronger, readers don’t consider Carrie to be a science fiction story at all.
With these pointers, you can now focus on figuring out the answer to what genre should I write in? Good luck!
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