Anyway, a few days after writing my last blog entry I heard an interesting discussion about the relevance of ‘genre’ in the current publishing environment. The presenter was of the opinion that the market has changed so much in recent years that it is far less important than it used to be. In part, this is due to the death of many bookshops and their segmented, ordered shelves. Now you can write a scifi-cyberpunk-western-vampire-romance (y’know, if you wanted) and not have to worry about a bookshop accidentally filing it under scifi-cyberpunk-western-werewolf-romance. Because somewhere on the Internet I guarantee there is a chat room dedicated to the scifi-cyberpunk-western-vampire-romance scene. I haven’t checked, but I guarantee it nonetheless. If your book is well written, there is a market for it; you just have to find it.
And that was as far as the discussion went. An interesting and valid point. But incomplete. Because one thing they missed was the point I made in that previous blog post ('The Herd Mentality') about people following authors rather than genres (ah, if only they’d invited me as a guest!). This is something the Internet facilitates well via blogs, email lists, Facebook, Twitter, etc etc. You can communicate with your readers, and vice versa. Even when this communication doesn’t happen readers often follow writers rather than consuming a genre. Case in point: I am working through the DI Rebus books by Ian Rankin. I picked one up ages ago and was taken with his writing. Other than Rankin’s books, police procedurals bore the life out of me.
So because of the Internet genre is dead, yes?
Far from it.
You see, despite all of the above genre is very much alive. Yes, there are those books that defy conventional categorisation. Yes, there are those books that cross genres, mash up genres, turn genre conventions on their heads. But genre is still the yardstick by which we measure such anomalies.
Not only that, but genre is still an important marketing tool. I may not stick rigidly to tropes, I may use many sub-genres in my writing, but in terms of broad-strokes marketing, my novels are horror novels. It’s far more straightforward to speak to people who are horror fans about my novels than to seek out fans of each sub-genre and mashed-up element I’ve thrown in to my novels.
Take Swarm for example. It’s a horror novel. It’s a lost-in-the-woods horror novel. It’s a lost-in-the-woods horror novel with a twist on expected genre conventions. It’s a lost-in-the-woods horror novel with a twist on expected genre conventions, paced like a thriller.
It’s also definitely me. Some of the elements in the book will be familiar to those who have read my other offerings, particularly my disdain for rampant capitalism and the mysterious code ‘5304’. So if you enjoyed The Tor, Reformed, or The Soul Bazaar you will enjoy this. But so far my readership is relatively small, and in terms of marketing I am going to see a much bigger ROI if I sell it as a fast-paced horror novel rather than ‘the next Anthony Morgan-Clark novel’. As I build my readership my marketing focus will change accordingly. I write across many styles, of which horror is just one, and I hope in the future to have built a following loyal enough that they will read my books because they are fans of my writing as much as they are fans of horror.
So no, genre isn’t dead. But for me, it is a step up to bigger things.
All my books are available in e-formats from my pronoun page. My paperbacks are available on Amazon.