How are you contributing to your genre?

As an aspiring writer your goal should never be just to get your work out there, but how to get interesting media coverage, stand out in a bookstore, turn heads and have ears perk up. Each genre has tropes that are expected, but to break into mainstream publishing you also need to have your own spin.

Zone One‘s Colson Whitehead said: “If you’re writing a detective novel or horror or sci-fi, you want to expand or reinvigorate the genre in your own little way.” And I think this rings true for all genres. What are you trying to do that’s different? How are you contributing to your genre? How are you helping to move your genre in a new direction?

Great examples of this are Zone One, The Tipping Point, The Sisters Brothers, Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Wolf Hall, The Prague Cemetery, and The Stepford Wives.

What are all these books doing that makes them successful? They are pushing the boundaries of their genres beyond what we expect from them as readers, they are great for publicity such as newspaper coverage and television, they get the attention of sales staff at bookstores and a combination of all the previous points: they get the books into the hands of consumers through multiple channels of commercial permeation (television, newspaper, serial magazine rights, in-store hand-selling, online book discovery, and social media).

Remember: “Expand or reinvigorate the genre in your own little way.”

Image via CBC

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

2 thoughts on “How are you contributing to your genre?

  1. True, true, everything true–

    I also think it’s smart for unpublished or newer writers (like me) to really embrace that mantle; “I’m a writer, damn it!” and run with it. You can use the work in your genre to teach a class, host an event at a library or art center, contribute to industry magazines, etc. It’s all linked. There’s far more you can do besides publish to help your burgeoning publishing career.


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