No one likes labels, and genre is the all-encompassing manifestation of them. Not only querying writers, but established writers fight against labelling their work in certain genres. Well, in publishing we need them.
Genres can range from something as broad as commercial fiction to as specific as magical realism. They aren’t trying to pigeon-hole you, especially if you don’t let them. Genre is a didactic framework that helps your work find readers. Genre helps you:
- Find an agent that reps your type of writing.
- Do research for competing titles and what’s selling in your market.
- Write metadata that will improve book discovery.
- Get your work published with an editor and imprint that sees your vision.
- Create an author brand within a strong and specific market.
- Reach your readers when they are looking for books on store shelves or online.
Literary or commercial fiction is a genre in itself, but using the framework of genre to your advantage by being specific (and accurate to your querying material) will help, not hinder your writing. Getting to know your genre and what works is part of having a market awareness as a writer.
Yes, certain commercial genres have stigmas, but they also have loyal, book-consuming fans. Many genre fiction authors write with a pen name and that helps ‘free’ them for working on other projects, too. Genre and author brands go hand in hand.
There is now lots of cross-over potential for genres like YA novels appealing to adult audiences, as we all know. Books can cross genres, but don’t rely on this to be your marketing tool because it is hit or miss and can often only work for established writers.
Have fun with genre! That’s the beauty of it. However, also use it to research and hone your skill in how to write for a market. Even if you fight genre labels, the people you work with through the publishing process embrace them because of the benefits noted above–so get used to engaging in the dialogue. Don’t see genres as limiting, see them as a marketing tool.