Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's in a Name ~ Genres

I write suspense whether it is espionage, children's, southern, or horror. But when you look to specify a genre in most of the online publishing it can be quite a pickle.

Escape from Second Eden has espionage in it. Yes, it takes place on foreign lands. Yes, there is a ticking clock but time is not measured in days or hours, but a year. So when I look at a genre it's Suspense, but not a thriller. There is romance but not the hot, dating kind of new found love but an old established relationship with children. There is humor, bits of horror which have disgusted some readers, historical facts but isn't old enough in setting to be classified as a historical...modern ancient history of the 70's. Now throw in the fact that this was based on actual events (partially fictionalized). So how do you pick a genre for a novel like this?

It's a crap shoot at best. Because it's suspense, it's listed as a suspense/thriller.


The Sacrificial Lamb is southern suspense which isn't truly a genre. Southern fiction is supposed to be a cozy-up thing. But in this particular novel there is child abuse, murder, court room drama, vendetta, family life and recovery. There is a slight ticking clock in that the murderer wants to silence the main character before he gets convicted and will stop at nothing to do it. Besides the dialect (southern speak-think Jeff Foxworthy) and the setting it could be any place in small town America. It's not a murder mystery where you have to figure out who the killer is...you know in the first chapter who the killer is. So how do you pick a genre?

Once again, genre selection is elusive. It is listed as a suspense/thriller.

Then you have my last novel published in 2011 (besides the children's series)... Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption. Because of all the medical research it could be listed as a medical suspense/thriller similar to "Outbreak."

BUT there are zombies in it. This makes it horror.Yes, there is more gore in it than my other novels. But there is also romance, there is a medical drama unfolding, survivalists, and of course, the flesh-eating, living dead beings.

While I understand the need to classify books so people know what they like and can put a title to it, it is hard to classify some books into the mold. It's a publisher's tool. Somethings cannot be classified as one or the other. There are gray areas which some novels cross over multiple genres and if you just put it in one you miss the boat where other readers are involved.

Okay, so self-publishing is a bit different because you can add tags or keywords for searches. This helps a lot in getting your novel found, but how many tags should you have? At first I was hesitant about putting too many tags or keywords, but then I noticed other authors using 20+ keywords for their novels. The list of keywords is longer than the description of the novel (blurb).

Is this overkill? Or extreme to put so many? I guess not as they are getting larger sales numbers than I am. GoodReads has 8,004 tags in their giveaway section. Is your mind reeling yet? So at what point does this mini classification system reach an overload point? As an indie author you want to be found, you want readers to read your book, and you want there to be a sanity level.

So, you've done your homework. You know who your reading target audience is...terrific, fabulous. You've pretty much settled on a genre by publishing standards, but your novel is still outside the box. How do you highlight the point that this novel isn't your ordinary espionage/thriller/horror/romance/southern fiction? The blurb?

I've said many times I write for myself. I write the stories that are in me and most involve experiences I've had. As a writer I write what I know and I know too much. DO I break down and write the standard point A--->B romance, suspense, thriller, horror or do I still go with what I write the way I write it? So far every reader of my novels has come away with a different take on the novels. Some focus on the espionage, embassy life, military, the south, family, survival, etc while others focus on the zombies, politics, recovery and a long list of other things within my novels across both genders. It's an everyman field day.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

2 comments:

Zan Marie said...

Love the new colors, Jo!

Ah, genre. I keep trying to figure mine out. I call it women's fiction because it centers on a group of women and children, but there's abuse--domestic and child-- and a bit of romance, too. Who knows? If I ever finish it, I'll work harder to figure it out. ; )

J.L. Murphey said...

You will finish it. I believe in you. Even when I set out writing in one genre the story develops into multiple. It can drive me to drink trying to figure it all out.