This week’s topic is one near and dear to my grizzled, cynical old heart—adjusting to the nightmarish landscape of book classifications.
Some writers have no problem with this stuff, and hey, more power to you. But as I wrote in What I’ve Learned In Six Years of Growing An Indie Author Business, “If you don’t write serial fiction, be prepared to adjust your sales expectations accordingly.”
I know serial fiction is all the rage these days. I get it. But I’ve never been a genre guy. I grew up on Dickens, Vonnegut, Hemingway, Faulkner, Balzac, and other writers who wrote Fiction. No one ever suggested that The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins should be categorized as Detective Fiction or that A Tale of Two Cities was an Unrequited Romance novel.
Classifications And More Classifications
Over time, something weird evolved, or rather, devolved in my beloved bookstores. The categorization fever that overtook my favorite record store began to overtake the publishing world, too. Where once was only Fiction, now there were shelves and shelves of Detective and Romance and Mystery and…well, you get the idea.
If you write something that falls into categories similar to what I write (literary, metaphysical, and so on), you can’t expect every reader to get that your fiction doesn’t comfortably fit into a genre.
I’ve written about this before, but ultimately, here’s what happened: I added Time Travel Fiction and Action and Adventure Literary Fiction to my IngramSpark listing for Whizzers, but Amazon didn’t seem to go for it, and sub-categorized the ebook as Metaphysical Fiction and Metaphysical Science Fiction ebooks—straight from the Department of Redundancy Department. Then they sub-categorized the paperback as Fantasy Action & Adventure and Time Travel Fiction.
And the Winner Is….
Here’s how the categories and subcategories ultimately stacked up for my books:
Whizzers – Metaphysical Fiction, Metaphysical Science Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Brothers’ Hand – Humorous Literary Fiction, Psychological Literary Fiction, Dark Humor
Miles of Files – American Humorous Fiction, Humorous Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Literary Fiction
Jana – LGBTQ+ Genre Fiction, Gay Fiction
Again, not a satisfactory result, but that’s about as good as it ever got. And the reason all this stuff is so important? If you don’t categorize your book, Amazon will do it for you.
Even in my example, I still don’t think they got all the sub-categories right. Imagine the mess they would have created if I hadn’t got my IngramSpark listing dialed in properly. When books aren’t categorized properly, the wrong readers find them—readers who dislike that type of book, maybe even feel they were misled into buying your book.