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What’s in a genre? Who really decides? I write NOVELS. #AmWriting #Blog

After hearing all the comments and reviews during my querying process, I eventually came to the realization that nobody knows exactly what niche a book will fit snugly. One publisher may say not romantic enough, while another says too romantic. One may suggest mystery, another says definitely romance. (true story)

Does it really make people feel better if they can classify a book as romance, modern, contemporary, thriller, mystery, suspense, and the list goes on with so many sub-genres I’ve lost count.
The only genres I can easily put a label on are paranormal and fantasy, but then again, even those waters are now muddy with all sorts of sub-genres.
Then, I hear, if I write romantic-suspense, I cannot add a little paranormal in the mix. Your fans will not follow you. Who makes these rules? Guess what, my newest series has all the romantic-suspense aspects my readers enjoy, but I threw in a paranormal twist.  Why? Because I make the rules, and I believe it is what my readers will want.
I’m an avid-reader, and I read everything. Need proof, check out my Goodreads account, and those are just the books I remember or have had time to add. I’ve read everything from Beauty and the Beast (the original) to the Godfather (yes, the book). Movies don’t count; you only have to invest two to three hours of your life. Novels, on the other hand, you invest minimally eight hours of your time, depending on how fast you read. So, if it’s not in your genre, you better make sure you like it.
So, how do we decide?
I think it is up to two people: the one who writes it and the one who reads it.
The author must decide what genre they want to market their book, and the reader would do well not to buy a book just by its classification but also read what other readers are saying.

Until next time, happy reading!


Thank you for stopping by my place and reading my musings. Remember, these are just my opinions and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer.  If you’re curious about what I write, please visit one of my author pages, where you can read all about my novels and short stories. And hey, I’ll even give you a free book just for stopping by.

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  1. I so agree with you!

    It took me a while to investigate and determine what genre I fall into. I came up with Multicultural Romance/Women's Fiction. To me, adding too many titles just muddies the waters. Do I need to add Contemporary, Drama, Comedy and the like? As a reader I would have no clue WHAT I'm picking up! I chose the genre listings because my books have several things going for them. One, there is romance between people of different races, two, because the subject matter is not about the down on her luck heroine falling in love with the rich tycoon. It's modern day men and women who work hard to reach their goals and face the difficult issues that I'm sure my readers at some point in there lives, have had to face. In the case of "A Heart Not Easily Broke", my heroine faces the issue of rape. It's my understanding that the Romance genre doesn't like the 'R' word being used in a Romance novel. But you know what? The rape is NOT the focal point of the story. It's the heroine's journey to find love that's the story. It's deciding whether she's going to let what happened change her outlook on life that's the issue, thus there's the drama.

    So Carmen, I'm with you, I'm down for an e-pub who is looking to go outside the box to find something fresh and new. As a reader, I'm tired of books being about the same old thing. It's my goal to break those barriers and define and build a new genre: It's called:________- a book about something real! It needs no genre to call a home!

    1. And just to add a note here... MJ Kane's book is now published through 5 Prince Publishing. From the first day of publishing, A HEART NOT EASILY BROKEN has been on the bestseller list and has stayed there. Congratulations, MJ. I knew you could do it.

    2. Wow, Carmen, can't believe it's nearly been a year since reading this post and leaving that comment. I am happy to know that readers seem to feel the same way as I do about what type of story they want in a book!

  2. Hi Carmen,

    I agree with you on this one. IMO, being put into a genre box is too limiting and the idea of being pigeon-holed is not appealing to me. As long as the writing is engaging, vivid and lends itself to helping the reader escape his/her daily routine, what does it matter which genre it belongs in? Maybe there really are just two genres: a good read and a not so good read and even that is relative.

    I love your style, but then again, I maybe be partial as our styles are similar and we are tweet pals, but the truth of the matter is that you are one talented woman, and I admire you!

    Don't ever stop writing!


  3. I agree. I consider my manuscript to be romance, but a friend considers it to be drama. When I query, I will classify as romance, but there is drama and suspense interwoven. I understand why genres exist, as a reader I prefer romance and it's easier to search, but it can pigeonhole the writer.

  4. Genres are a literary fiction writer's worst nightmare. And I've found that most sites just have a "general fiction" option, but then, they have like 12 romance categories. A little literary variety would be nice here, folks!

  5. I know a writer who wrote a YA Horror novel about a sociopath hero who used his serial killer instincts to hunt down a demon plaguing his town. The publishers marketed it as a Physiological thriller despite the obvious supernatural elements. The bookstores put it in the General Fiction section despite being a YA and Horror book.

  6. I share your pain. I've concluded that my book is a dark urban fantasy thriller. Try to sell that one to an agent!

    1. LOL, Marie. I missed this comment. Some great novels have been rejected because agents couldn't place them in a proverbial "genre box". The two that pop out at me are "The Help" and "Clan of the Cave Bear", but I'm sure there are many more.

  7. MJ, I just dare anyone to try to tell you what to do. You know exactly what you want and will not let anyone tell you otherwise.

    I agree completely, Lahongrais. Those are the only types of books for me. Either I like them or I don’t.

    True, Synithia, because there are many who won’t pick up a ‘Romance’, reason for sub-genres….and I do understand this. But, my problem comes when one person decides what is too much or not enough romance. Granted, this is a wide swinging pendulum. Nora Roberts versus Terri Blackstock are on completely different planes. But it doesn’t mean neither are publishable, it just means a reader needs to research to decide which authors they like. One of the reasons the mini-synopsis or backflap is so important.

    Kelly, probably the reason I read everything an author writes if I like them. And, I always download a sample chapter….love that on Kindle. The publisher’s idea of genre doesn’t work for me. Did I say that ten times yet? ;)

    That’s just weird, Darin, but you know what….it’ll be the one that gets turned in to a movie, right?

    LOL, Marie! Exactly!

    You’ve all been great and obviously understand this difficult situation we, as writers, all face. I guess my point is... If you like fantasy, wouldn’t you want a little thrill and possibly even romance involved? Doesn't every genre include some romance?
    I mean, have you watched any movie that doesn't have an underlying love interest between the main character—or at least sexual tension.

    Actually, I guess my real point is: why would an agent turn down a great book, because it’s not romantic enough or another because it’s too romantic. Maybe, just maybe, readers don’t want to be in a box either. The reason so many Indies are doing great nowadays. Readers like what they are finding available. If they want to read, as Darin mentioned, a “YA Horror novel about a sociopath hero who uses his serial killer instincts to hunt down a demon plaguing his town”, that’s their prerogative. If it’s good, why turn it down just because it doesn’t fit inside the tight little box the establishment wants to force it in to.

    Write on, friends! If you feel it, write it.

    Just. Write. Well.

  8. I've actually always been confused on where the line is drawn between paranormal and fantasy. Isn't paranormal just dark fantasy? Is there even a line separating the two? Does it really matter?

    I don't think it does. Fussing over genres isn't something we need to lose sleep over.

    Thank you for this post, Carmen! It was a refreshing read.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Ana. And sorry I'm just now seeing it. Paranormal used to be classified as just ghosts...but now with so many paranormal subjects, I believe it includes vampires, werewolves, and other make-believe sentient beings. Fantasy always reminds me of different dimensions, another world, or an alternate “Avatar”, “Harry Potter”, and “Clash of the Titans” type of stuff. But see, that's just the point...we all see things differently. :)

  9. Somehow I got labeled as an erotica writer, but I primarily write romance. Yes, they have a lot shall I say...descriptive sex, but my books are about relationships--the good, the bad, and the twisted. If you want to call that erotica, so be it. I'll keep writing what I love.

    1. If you write what you love, then your passion comes out in the story...and hey, an erotic book is now a bestseller on Amazon. And from what I hear, it really is erotic. Some super conservatives could label my books as erotic, even though they are only sensual. But who decides where that fence lies. Again, the reason a reader should never be shocked if they do their homework.

  10. Amen to that post! That said, bucking against the system DOES make life more difficult. Fun, but difficult. I have a novel coming out in August that has a touch of what many would classify as paranormal. It's set in the Bigfoot culture of the Pacific Northwest. I also found a wonderful publisher who believes good writing tells its own tale, but the going was rough.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Pamela. I have a friend who wrote an action-adventure, thriller, mystery, with paranormal elements. Thank goodness he had no desire to query, because it would have been hard to sell. If an agent can't pigeonhole it, they toss it to the side. Well, that book is a bestseller now. And it was all because of his marketing. It didn't happen overnight, but it's there just the same. Two other famous books were tossed aside because the execs couldn't decide the genre: "Clan of the Cave Bear" and "The Help". I wouldn't mind having their problems. LOL! Good luck on your new release.

  11. It's the marketers and money men who want to classify you, because it makes their job easier. Why should you or I have to write what makes them happy?

    1. I agree, Gilli! When we write what *we* want to read and write, readers will feel the difference.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Have a wonderful day!



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