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.

attorney

The Power of an Attorney

Last week I missed the deadline to post my Monday blog, then missed any other opportunity through the rest of the week. The reason? I'm power of attorney for my mother, who took a fall and had to be hospitalized. Hence the headline for this week's post. Being power of...
Thanksgiving

Gratitude Week: A Thanksgiving Reflection from Mike Sahno – Author. Speaker. Publisher.

2018 has been trying, to say the least. In January, I posted a New Year's resolution to finish my current WIP, Whizzers, this year. Then, on Valentine's Day, that got back-burnered when the call came that my 81-year-old mother had taken a fall and had to be...
characters

It All Starts With Character

“Sahno offers a compelling vision of a community whose need for companionship and support in the face of life's struggles is stirring.” “The characters are deep, well thought out…” “I read this novel in a few short days, drawn in by a believable plot and characters...
Whizzers

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....
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...
coronavirus

Racism In The Time Of Corona

Yesterday I was going to write my usual Monday blog post, but with the coronavirus pandemic, the fact that I’m just getting over a sinus infection, and much-needed appointments with my CPA and chiropractor before we all have to “shelter in place,” I simply didn’t have...
stars

Working on Novels

This week I’m back to blogging about the love of my life – no, not my lovely wife, Sunny, although I must admit she’s the true love of my life. I mean I’m blogging about my fiction again. People know me for a few different things: author, speaker, publisher. And since...
writer

Are You The Kind Of Writer Who Reads A Lot?

When I was in high school, I had a real dilemma: I loved the books the teachers assigned us, and as a result, the teachers loved me. Naturally, that meant some of the other students hated me. Now, I should clarify this by saying that I didn't always love what I was...
technophobia

Technophobia: A Writer’s Confession

To today's computer-savvy readers, "technophobia" might sound like a quaint leftover from the 20th century. You remember, right? Back in the 1980s, guys like me wrote poems of dismay about the invasion of technology into the arts. I still remember the words I penned...
ebook

Another Monday Blog Post – And a Special Offer

One of the great things about WordPress websites is the ability to schedule blog posts. So Happy Monday to you, but you're probably reading this while I'm taking my wife to DisneyWorld! Last week was "Happy New Year" time, so now we're into good old regular blog...