I hate the dropdown list.
If you’ve ever tried to enlist your book at a book-marketing website or even just self-publish it on Amazon, you’ve seen the dropdown list:
Please select a genre for your book:
- Science Fiction
- Young Adult
Of course, many of the lists are more diverse, giving you everything from Urban Fantasy to Paranormal Romance, but you know what? That doesn’t make any difference, because no matter how specific the genre, it still doesn’t fit my books. In fact, making the choices more specific only makes the problem worse. The smaller the pigeon-hole, the worse the fit.
There are two golden rules of selling stuff:
1. know what you are selling
2. know who you are selling to.
They are the twin maxims of marketing. Write something people want, and then go out and find them. Know thy audience! Then target them. I’ve given almost no thought to who my books are for. It’s not that I’m not interested. I want people to like my books, of course, but I have no control over that. I haven’t gone to a single bookstore, online or otherwise, trying to find other books that are similar to mine so I can tap into a ready-made audience.
I’m supposed to do that. I’m supposed to go and find that audience.
It’s one of the many things I’ve done wrong. I don’t target my audience. I don’t write high-concept. My books don’t sit comfortably in any particular genre. I can’t even identify an appropriate age group. I classified Spark as Young Adult, but in all the comments by reviewers at Amazon, what was the single most common observation?
The book isn’t really YA:
“…definitely different from your typical young adult novel.”
“I’m not sure it can be classified as Young Adult.”
“I am trying to think of the best genre to which this book belongs.”
“what separates this book from other YA or science fiction-type of books is the attention to detail and language.”
“…not typical of YA books in general.”
“…may be a little misclassified as a YA novel.”
Here’s the thing, though: while everybody mentioned it, nobody called it a bad thing. In some cases, not fitting in was a bonus. Being different can be a good thing.
So while a marketing consultant might leap on my genre dysphoria as the fatal flaw that is preventing the book from catapulting to a wider audience, I don’t think most readers really care all that much. And sure, there are plenty of people out there who only read cozy mysteries or high fantasy or YA dystopian, but those people probably aren’t going to be in my audience anyway. We’ll never be more than just friends.
And if I’m going to be totally honest about it, I like genre bending. I enjoy books that are hard to classify, that defy convention, that live in the spaces between categories. I like reading them. I like writing them. So maybe it isn’t a problem at all.
Except for those damned dropdown lists.