Should you worry about choosing your genre?

Something that you definitely need to know as an independent publisher is what genre your book actually is. When it comes to publishing it, it certainly helps to be able to say ‘my book is a crime thriller’ or ‘it’s a supernatural romance medical suspense fantasy drama about cats’. It helps if only for the simple reason is that identifying your genre is not only a good way of working out where on Amazon it needs to go, but also because it helps you identify it to potential readers.

We all judge books by their genres, just as we judge them by their covers and descriptions and whether or not we like the title. Even when we tell ourselves that just because we tend not to like fantasy stories, that doesn’t mean we won’t like this one, we still end up judging it. The genre is a sort of broad guide that helps a reader work out whether it’s something that they might be interested in. Your book might fall across two or three different genres, but that’s okay.

But what about before you start to write your novel? Do you need to actively choose your genre before you start to write? I would say for most people, this probably isn’t an issue. The genre of your book will just be there, either because you’ve always known that you want to write a crime novel or because the plot you come up with automatically falls into a particular genre so you don’t need to make a choice.

I’d also suggest you shouldn’t force your book into any particular genre. There was a survey carried out recently of independent publishers, which found that those writers who self-publish romance novels tend to make more money than people who write in other genres. It’s not out of the question that that information would inspire someone to write try and write a romance novel – but writing a particular genre because you think it will sell better is probably not the way to go for most people.

After all, you need to believe in your book, and if you’re writing a particular genre because you think that’s what you should do, it’s unlikely that you’ll like what you’re doing as much as if you simply wrote the story you’ve always wanted to write – no matter what category it falls into.

It’s useful to know what your genre is at the end of the book, and it might even be helpful to have an idea of where it might fall right from the start, but I’d suggest that when you’re just starting out with the writing process, the important thing is the story itself. We have enough to worry about just getting the words onto the page without also panicking about whether we actually are writing a supernatural thriller or whether it’s something else. So don’t worry. The categorising bit comes later. For now just write your book – and enjoy it.