I’ve never been what you’d call a genre writer.

In fact, I’ve said this for years: “I’m not a genre writer.”

Problem is, we live in an age where everything must be classified.

It’s weird. I’m a guy who grew up listening to a lot of rock (the genre formerly known as “rock ‘n’ roll”). When I got into my late teens and early 20s, I noticed a strange trend: the stuff I thought of as Rock was now being labeled Classic Rock, and the newer rock was called Alternative or some other vague label.

So when I went to a record store—yes, I used to frequent such places—I found it confusing. And I kept trying to figure out where the new rock was, where the old rock was, and…. well, you get the idea.

 

Books, Too?

The same thing happened with literature. Growing up, I’d go to a bookstore and look for fiction. That was the name of that section of the store: Fiction. Over time, something weird evolved (or devolved) there, too. The categorization fever that overtook my favorite record store began to overtake the bookstore. Where once was only Fiction, now there were shelves and shelves of Detective and Romance and Mystery and…again, you get the idea.

I was confused. I grew up on Dickens, Vonnegut, Hemingway, Faulkner, Balzac, and a slew of 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. We had Fiction and Non-Fiction. Oh, and Biography. Can’t forget Biography.

When I started publishing my own novels, I was pained to learn I’d have to classify them as the snobby-sounding Literary Fiction. After all, my books were about pretty regular people. There were no zombies or werewolves or vampires interfering with their character arcs. In the brave new world (Sci-Fi!) of mandatory categorization, anything with regular people had to be classified as either Literary or Mainstream Fiction. My stuff wasn’t exactly mainstream—guy gets dosed with LSD at a party and has his hand chopped off by a speeding locomotive—so Literary Fiction it was.

 

What Sort of Genre Is This?!

Time went by, and I started a novel with something a little supernatural about it. Now the challenge wasn’t so much “How do I write in a different genre?” It was more like, “What do I call this book I’m writing, when the time comes?”

And time was a primary consideration indeed, because the book has a time travel element. Would it be Time Travel Fiction? Was that the category, or sub-category?

I had to step back from my project and figure out what people would call it. Ultimately, I researched the broad category of Speculative Fiction, aka, SpecFic, and learned all sorts of stuff about what people consider Science Fiction. In the end, it seemed like the best categorizations for Whizzers, because of its spiritual considerations, would be something called Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction.

I added Time Travel Fiction and Action and Adventure Literary Fiction to my IngramSpark listing. 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. They went to the extra extreme of sub-categorizing the paperback as Fantasy Action & Adventure (a dubious category at best) and Time Travel Fiction (Yay! Got one!).

The reason all this stuff is so important? Obviously, 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 what a mess they might have created if I hadn’t got my IngramSpark listing dialed in properly. And when books aren’t categorized properly, the wrong readers find them—readers who dislike that genre, maybe even feel they were misled into buying your book.

So now you know: writing in a new “genre” isn’t necessarily the hard part; categorizing and sub-categorizing it may be the hard part. After all, that’s what the book business is now, in some fashion, all about.

promo services

The Glories of Language: Making Stuff Up and Other Fun Things I Do

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” - Pablo Picasso   One thing I was never especially afraid of was breaking the rules. What I was afraid of was getting caught. When I was young, I got into a tiny bit of trouble, but not much....
creativity

Can Creativity Be Taught?

Have you ever thought about writing a book? Have you written a book? If the answer to the first question is Yes, but the answer to the second question is No, there might be a few reasons for this. One reason I frequently hear from potential ghostwriting clients is,...
genre writer

The Challenge of Writing in a Different Genre for the First Time

I’ve never been what you’d call a genre writer. In fact, I’ve said this for years: “I’m not a genre writer.” Problem is, we live in an age where everything must be classified. It’s weird. I’m a guy who grew up listening to a lot of rock (the genre formerly known as...

Blogging About…Blogging?

Last week I blogged a bit about my upcoming relaunch of Miles of Files and the accompanying blog tour. This week, I'm not delivering just more of the same. Other exciting events are afoot! First off, I'm pleased to announce that I'm going to be hosting another guest...

Facebook vs. Twitter

The news that Microsoft will be acquiring LinkedIn just sent shockwaves through the social media world, immediately leading to speculation about Twitter. Is it going to be next? We all assume that Facebook is not for sale, but in our topsy-turvy media world, I suppose...
holidays

Books: Great Holiday Gifts or The Greatest Holiday Gifts?

I saw a cartoon the other day that features a character who's starting to sing, "It's beginning to look a lot like..." A second character quickly and quietly puts the first character down, saying, "Shh. Sleep now." Dark stuff, right? But hey, these are dark times—in...

Indie Authors & Literary Fiction

Back in July, I posted an interview with fellow indie author Jay Lemming.  Jay has a terrific ongoing project simply called “Survey: Indie Writers of Literary Fiction.” In his survey, he asks fellow lit fiction authors about one of their novels, and in particular,...

Five Mistakes New Authors Make

Every author starts as a newbie, even if they held a job as a writer in some other capacity. The publishing business can be incredibly daunting for a newcomer: many authors work alone without much feedback, so their mistakes, while understandable, are also far too...

Lovers In A Dangerous Time

This past weekend, I did what a lot of us are doing nowadays—frittered some time away on Facebook. I'm doing one of those "post the cover of an album you love" every day for a week or whatever, and Sunday's pick was Bruce Cockburn's Stealing Fire, which featured the...

Miles of Files: Where Did It Come From?

I wrote my third novel between about 2007 and 2015. I can’t say it took a full eight years to write – I got stuck in the final third for a couple years – but it was an ambitious project. I’d gone from a third person novel to a first person novel, and now I was going...