If you’re writing fiction, you’re writing in a genre.
Literary agents expect you to tell them your novel’s genre if you want them to represent you, and if you’re self-publishing, Amazon will expect you to choose a genre too. (“Browse categories” in Amazon’s terms.)
Many authors chafe at this: “I’ll decide on the genre later. It’s not important, is it?”
So… How important is genre?
Writing fiction: how important is genre?
Genre has always been important, because readers want to know what they’re reading.
From chats with my students, I know that they struggle with with assigning genre (category.) A novel may have elements of romance, urban fantasy, and the paranormal too — which genre is the “right” genre for the novel?
In the past, “serious” authors decried genre, but today:
… the forms of genre—science fiction, fantasy, the hardboiled detective story, the murder mystery, horror, vampire, and werewolf stories—have become the natural homes for the most serious literary questions.
There’s no real solution to the “which genre?” problem.
Additionally, Amazon tends to be something of a genre battleground. Authors place their books into irrelevant genres, sometimes innocently — or with deliberate calculation, because there’s less competition in a certain genre.
Trickery aside, an author’s primary goal is to serve those readers who are hunting for your book, so choose the best genre/ sub-genre you can, without thinking too much about competition.
Tip: you can email Amazon politely to ask that your book be placed in couple of additional genres, or even ask for a new genre to be created.
Let’s look at three tips to help you to sell more books.
1. Write series fiction, and promote, promote, and promote some more
I love writing standalone titles, but I tend to avoid it. I also suggest to my ghostwriting clients that they consider creating series. With a series, in any genre, if a reader loves it, you’re likely to get a fan who’ll buy the other books in the series, and will remember your name.
Promotion is essential. Today it’s not optional if you want to sell. Advertise, and use social media marketing too. (It works.)
2. Take your fiction wide: build your website
Fiddling with genres and keywords has a limited effect on Amazon these days, as does Amazon advertising.
With Amazon advertising, you need to spend a lot of money to make money. While this isn’t necessarily a problem as long as you get a return, it takes time — time which could be better spent writing.
Similarly with Facebook; you can get results, but advertising takes your valuable time.
It makes sense to take your books wide, by selling books in as many book stores as you can. Non-performers on Amazon can take off on Scribd or elsewhere.
Consider selling books from your website:
More authors are selling their books from their websites. This makes a lot of sense. If you have readers coming to your website, why not sell your books directly to your readers?
Similarly, build your platform.
3. Build your platform and your mailing list
Building your platform and your mailing list is vital for your longterm success as an author. It’s not a magic bullet however. It takes time to see results.
Writing fiction: write in series and build your platform
Advertising venues like Facebook and Amazon rise in popularity for books sales, then as soon as they’re popular, they become much less cost-effective, because ad rates go up.
So that’s the TL;DR takeaway.
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Updated: May 15, 2021
Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.