by Deren Hansen
The Appendix, a writing podcast, Robison Wells, Sarah Eden, and Marion Jensen discussed choosing a genre.
Marion Jensen said, "When you pick a genre, you've got to pick something that you like. It's kind of like picking a career."
right, writers. No pressure. Just like the end of high school when
well-meaning people like guidance counselors and parents say, "Now that
you've spent your life listening to us tell you what to do, it's time
for you to make a decision, oh and by the way, this decision will have
Choosing the genre in which you'll write is a critical decision only if you succeed.
with each book you publish you create precedents and build expectations
among your growing circle of readers. It's not that you can never try
anything different, but imagine the hue and cry if J. K. Rowling decided
she wanted to write gritty detective stories full of graphic sex and
The advice about picking a genre is better
understood in terms of setting up shop someplace where you're
comfortable because you could be spending a lot of time there.
of the reasons this seems like a big deal is because genre is to kind
as veal is to beef. This is another in a long series of cases where we
have two words in English with the same meaning, but the Latinate, or
more specifically French, version sounds more sophisticated.
after me, "Genre means kind." It's nothing more or less complicated
than deciding what kind of books your book ought to be shelved or
And why does that matter?
you're hoping to take advantage of recommendation engines, whether
human or automatic, that will suggest someone might like your book if
they liked something similar.
Put another way, in terms of publishing being a market, genre is shorthand for your audience.
That's why you must decide on your genre: you must know your audience and their expectations.
Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.