Like most people, I read all sorts of different books from a variety of categories, but I would say that at least 65% of the books I read are comedies. I’ve never really been into the fantasy stuff although I’ve read a few and crime thrillers give me nightmares. I don’t understand sci-fi and I stopped reading young adult when… well, when I was a young adult.
I’ve found the sort of book which I like to read. It’s usually funny, there’s always a love interest although hardly any actual sex, it’s based in an everyday situation and the good ones really make me think after I’ve read it. That’s it. Quite bland really when you consider that I could’ve been into flesh-eating werewolves and talking horses.
The reason I’m telling you all of this (which as I write, it dawns on me that it must be even worse when I describe blandness) is because most people actually read in a particular genre and that’s why the genres exist. You all know the cover that the type of book you like has, you know where to look for it and the other types of book next to it. So, genre is important. You’re more likely to take a chance on a book which looks exactly like the type that you’d really enjoy.
There’s a piece of advice which often gets wheeled out to writers, ‘just write the book which is inside you, forget the genre.’ Yeah, and what happens when that book that’s inside you happens to be about something which no-one will ever want to read. I think you have to be aware of genre from the very beginning otherwise you simply won’t sell many books. It’s maths. There’s a huge demand for books right now, more people are reading than ever before, but there are still not many reading about steam engines.
I could never write a fantasy book or a crime thriller although both are successful genres because it’s just not my bag. But, I like comedies and within that genre the most successful comedies are the romantic comedies because they cross over slightly into the Chick-Lit section. The most common demographic of that genre is woman between the ages of 25-50. I need to write books which will entertain and satisfy middle-aged women. I take this really importantly and every night I repeat the mantra, ‘I need to satisfy middle-aged women, I need to satisfy middle-aged women…’
The next reason why genre is so important is once you’re known within a genre you begin to gain fans. People who like reading your kind of stuff. The more books you bring out, hopefully the more fans you collect and they buy each of your new releases. You start to build a relationship as you learn more about what they like and they know you can satisfy them.
Another bit of bogus advice given out is, ‘experiment with style and genre, writers should be free to write whatever they feel like.’ Obviously very few writers are good enough to gain fans just by the power of their writing if they switched between genres every time.
Genre is massively important for these three reasons:
- The longer you practice within a particular genre the better you become
- Readers tend to buy most of their books in a couple of genres only
- If you write in a weird niche genre then you’ll have some dedicated readers who you’ll probably know by name, which will be handy when you need to ask them for money.