How do you solve a problem like a genre
How catch a novel’s essence, state it true?
How do you find the words to tag the genre
A comedy, a dark romance, what’s new?
Many a thing you’d like to tell the reader
So they don’t think your category’s absurd
But how do you here portray
The theme that you’ve tried to say
How are you sure your essence here is heard?
Oh how do you solve a problem like a genre
How do you pitch a novel with one word?
(sung to the tune of the chorus of The Nun’s Song, Sound of Music).
So this issue has been vexing me of late. Vexation can be good, it can inspire a bit of frivolous fun like the lyrical satire above. But humor often masks a deeper issue, a darker truth.
I’m just at that point of my novel publishing journey where genre and proper marketing and whether I’ve done it right so far – with The Seed – or will do it properly or better with Curiosity – is the question of the day.
As I blogged on recently, I’ve made the mountain a more difficult climb for myself in choosing to publish a second novel in a completely different category to my first. Curiosity is light in tone and writing style, it is satire, it is sarcastic, it is not ‘deep’ in any real sense – it is a bit of fun, albeit darkish toned fun. So it may read, in some ways, like it was written by a completely different author – it wasn’t of course, the work is all mine, I probably have multiple writer personalities, LOL!! My editor says she really loved the diversity of my writing styles (having edited both books for me), which is a wonderful compliment, but it also means I have to work with that as a marketing challenge. 🙂
But even the first is proving elusive in some marketing aspects. The truth of The Seed is it is dark, ambiguous, heavy, introspective – it has lengthy passages of internal reverie, it has a very character rather than action driven plot. And just putting it in the only category that seemed close – romance – is probably misleading to many possible purchasers. There is a romance in there, it is about love, but it is not light and it is not essentially happy, nor even necessarily redemptive.
So far from reviews and feedback some readers love the dark, detailed introspection and others were surprised by it. All very valid reactions and very helpful and I’m grateful for all, but they illustrate the modern marketing dilemma – particularly for the indie writer. Without a publishing firm’s marketing machine behind you, and with the plethora of books in the ebook market etc – how can you try to ensure buyers really know what they are buying?
I’m not obsessed with having a best seller – of course I wouldn’t mind if my novels sold well (I’d love it in fact!), but what I really want is that they sell to those who are likely to like them. Then if they don’t like my writing style that’s fine, that happens, I don’t like every book in genres I typically do like either – but at least I would feel they responded to style rather than to a surprise at the type of book itself.
With The Seed at the moment I’m feeling I need to blog more about what makes it different to a popular, mainstream romance novel. I will be launching an author website soon to blog about my novels more specifically (which I’ll link to this blog for anyone interested in reading both), so I will use that platform, but whatever you do in this regard you are hostage to what people read and when. Plus I also don’t want to over-write about it either – surely there’s a balance where too much book promotion is just…too much?
Have others faced this issue, and if so, how have you dealt with it? As ever, any ideas will be gratefully received.
I suspect in some ways my second novel may be easier, presuming it is possible to categorise Curiosity as black/dark comedy so that the satire essence is understood. But who knows, it may be similarly vague in that genre category, so we shall see….