The question of genres worries me. It never used to. Then recently I read an excellent book; shortly afterwards I read a review of the same book. The reviewer placed it firmly in the YA (Young Adult) category. Long removed from being a YA I’d never have read that book at all had I seen it so labelled at the outset. (Though I do understand that YA isn’t a genre in itself but can straddle many.)
Why shoe-horn a book into a category that will restrict its readership? Well, most of the people in the publishing industry seem to expect it. And most of the advice to new writers is to know your market and write accordingly. And that seems to make some sort of logical sense. Agents and publishers know (or should know) the market, and they know the sort of writing that they themselves prefer to specialise in.
But here’s the thing. In many years of reading I have NEVER searched for a fiction book by genre. I suspect that I am joined in that same boat by many people. Until recently my method of choosing my next book has been done in three ways
- Through recommendation
- By author, someone I know I’ll like from previous experience
- Browsing – going along the shelves, pulling out a few at random and reading the blurb
It usually works. So worried was I that yesterday I popped into our local Waterstones. Not the biggest bookshop in the world but extensive enough. The fiction is, with few exception, ordered A-Z by Author. As I suspected. The exceptions include Crime and Local Interest (where my last effort resides by night and flies off the shelf by day.) So clearly the Jersey book buying public haven’t yet mounted a campaign for genre-divided bookshelves.
Of course non-fiction is divided by category and sub-category. You don’t want to be searching for a book on cricket randomly plonked amongst history, travel, business, science etc.
So the public has spoken. Genre is unimportant. OK I know that some people only want to read sci-fi for example. But they’ll know the authors that specialise in that writing. Similarly with chick-lit (which I’ve been known to read), classics, westerns, fantasy etc.
I suppose I could categorise my poor efforts to date (Barry – contemporary, Midsummer – local historical but also contemporary, Tess – local historical) but I can’t be bothered.
Comments from other authors? Am I wrong? It wouldn’t be the first time.