“How do I choose my novel’s category?” A student asked recently. She’s new to writing fiction and it’s an excellent question.
Choosing a genre can be a challenge, but if you avoid thinking about your novel, and where Amazon and other retailers will “shelve” your book, you’ll miss out on sales. Readers who’d love your book simply won’t find it.
She sent me a summary of her story, as well as the first couple of chapters.
Writing fiction: choosing a genre
After reading what she sent, I decided: domestic thriller. My student’s lucky. I just checked Amazon’s Top 100 in Thrillers; the image is below.
Although I haven’t read all the blurbs, it appears that the top six novels in the Top 100 are all domestic thrillers. This genre’s been bubbling away happily. The success of Gone Girl launched the genre into prominence.
I gave my student some advice about the blurb so that she can make good use of references to successful books, viz: If you enjoyed The Girl On The Train and The Couple Next Door, you’ll love…
Those references should fire up Amazon’s algorithm too.
Wondering how to choose a genre?
In Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense we look at genre, and how to find MTS (mystery, thriller, suspense) genre opportunities:
… (some self-publishing authors) write whatever’s popular at the time: vampire romances, billionaire romances, domestic thrillers… you MUST write to market on some level. With hundreds of thousands of books published each year… you can’t leave book sales to crossed fingers and a fervent hope that you’ll get lucky.
You’ll find the program’s guidance very useful for any fiction genre, not just mysteries.
Since Amazon lumps Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense together as a top genre, what’s the difference between those genres?
Is your novel a mystery, a thriller… or a suspense novel?
We looked at this in Mystery Fiction Genres: Win Loyal Readers, Make More Sales:
A mystery is a puzzle. You’re giving readers clues to solve the puzzle along with the sleuth. In a mystery the murderer is revealed only at the end of the book. In a sense, you’re writing a puzzle for readers to solve.
The story question in a mystery is: who did it?
A thriller or suspense novel engenders suspense. Readers read for hits of adrenaline. The murderer or bad guy is revealed early, sometimes at the start of the book. This gives readers time to enjoy the suspense.
The story question in thriller or suspense fiction is: can the bad guy(s) be stopped? (Readers love it when the sleuth lands on the killer’s hit list.)
Engage your beta readers to help you to choose genres
If you haven’t been writing to a specific genre — writing to market, so to speak — engage your beta readers.
You may read widely, but you can’t read everything, so your beta readers’ reading habits are gold.
Questions you could ask them:
- What’s your all-time favorite novel?
- Do you reread any favorite books? Which?
- What genres (categories) are your favorites?
- Could you suggest a genre for my novel? Or…
- What are your favorite two murder mysteries/ historical romances/ fantasy novels (or whatever genre you’re writing)?
Do you have a mailing list? Send out a questionnaire to your list to help you to assess the most popular genres among your readers. Offer an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) to everyone who competes the questionnaire.
Many readers won’t be sure of genre, but others will be. These are the voracious readers who love their local libraries and scour Amazon for books. If you’re not taking advantage of their expertise, you’re missing out.
The vital decision when you’re writing fiction
You need to decide: what am I writing? Where does my book belong?
More advice on that in Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.
NEW, “Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense”
Word for word, mystery authors earn more than authors of most other genres, including romance.
Check out our new report, “Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense”. You’ll discover how, why, and what types of mystery fiction are selling today, and how to develop a mystery writing career.
You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell.
You can rescue books which aren't selling, and have confidence that your new books will have the best chance to find their audience.More info →
Why write serial fiction?
Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.
It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.More info →