Choosing your genre

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

An editor suggested I take a look at this silly YouTube video, How to Write a Romance Novel. Check it out for yourself.

As I watched, I found myself wondering, What makes a novelist pick a certain genre in which to write? What makes someone with a yen to write a nonfiction book pick a certain category?

Here are a few reasons that occur to me:Choice - Many Boxes One is Different Alternative Royalty Free Stock Photography

  • The writer likes to read a certain type of book. If you’re hooked on romances, it makes sense you’d like to write one. If you are drawn to memoir, you can picture yourself writing your story that way.
  • The genre is revered. Writing literary fiction or a work of theological significance sounds erudite.
  • The category is popular. Harry Potter books set off a whirlwind of imitators; Heaven is for Real caused editors to seek out others who experienced heaven and returned to earth to tell us about it.
  • The writer can’t envision writing his or her book any other way. Sometimes a book idea arrives in a rush of creativity, neatly labelled in a certain category.

Why does genre matter?

  • Genres fall in and out of publishing favor. It hasn’t been that long since publishers didn’t want to touch a personal story unless the writer was a Big Name. Today, people with exquisite writing skills can recount a segment of their lives in a memoir and end up with numerous publishers vying to publish the book. Or another person can decide to take a year living unplugged and then write about it in the form of narrative nonfiction. But writing a missionary story still is a hard-sell, just as it has been for a couple of decades.
  • Writers have a “voice” that works in one genre but not in another. If a novelist writes in short, terse sentences, suspense is probably a natural, but romance probably is not.
  • Category affects a book’s structure and tone. If you want to write about encouraging others to read the Bible, you could choose to write: 1) a 365-day devotional; a memoir of your experience trying to live out a certain biblical precept for one year; a narrative nonfiction of someone reading Scripture and making a major life-change as a result; a Christian living book on how to read the Bible in a year; a novel in which a character’s life and therefore those around him/her is affected through Scripture reading. Each of these paths will create a very different book that will reach a very different audience. Genre matters!

What if you choose the wrong genre?

I think we can be pretty confident that the manuscript will never reach its potential if you make a genre misstep. A story that would have unfolded beautifully as a historical novel might fall flat as a contemporary. A nonfiction book that could have resonated with many as a memoir might never develop word of mouth as an investigative expose.

How do you decide?

  • If you don’t know your options, you can hardly make an informed choice. Know what categories exist in your chosen arena of fiction or nonfiction. If you don’t know the difference between a mystery and a suspense or between memoir and narrative nonfiction, how will you decide the best fit for your idea?
  • Stay current with what’s showing up in the market. If one book (or series) hits really big, it’s unlikely publishers will be buying manuscripts to compete with something that’s selling large. For example, when The Shack blew past all other books on the fiction best-seller list, that wasn’t a good time to write an allegory. Readers were unlikely to rush out to buy a ton of allegories; they wanted to hear more from The Shack‘s writer.
  • A lively market for a genre, as opposed to a single work, is an indication of an arena that might stay lively for awhile. Historical romance has been the hot ticket for the last several years, but the glut of novels in that genre has shifted the focus to suspense. Keeping up with the best-seller lists that reflect your potential readers’ interests (CBA vs. general market), helps to keep track of longer-range trends. The trick, of course, is that shifts can occur suddenly. So you can put your energies into writing a certain category only to discover publishers have overbought in it just about the time you are ready to show off your work.
  • To thine own self be true. The bottomline–always has been, always will be–is to listen to your instincts. If you’re comfortable writing in a category, don’t abandon it to follow the crowds. Writing a wonderful book occurs when you write with passion and compassion–for your characters and for your  cause.

Don’t ignore genres, don’t write manuscripts that straddle categories, and don’t worry about the naysayers of your chosen genre. Be like the woman who made the gently humorous YouTube video on romance writing, understand your genre and love it despite its foibles.

How did you choose the genre you write in–by default, natural selection, trial and error, or other?

Does the category you write in match or contrast with what you enjoy reading?

Is your current genre the love of your life or are you  loving the one you’re with?

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75 Comments

  • Anne Love says:

    I am, and always have been–romanced by history. Thus—historical romance with a hint of suspense is my preferred genre. I’ve read some more literary historical romance longer ago, but I find the more suspenseful–or at least some intelligent intrigue in the subplot–the most interesting.

    As a reader, I’m thrilled that the market has flooded with more historical romance novels–there’s more to choose from than ever before. As I writer, I hope that wave lasts a good long time.

  • Jenny Leo says:

    I’m with you, Anne. My love of history has made historical fiction my natural habitat. I’m still discovering what nuances I like best within the historical genre (historical romance, historical suspense, etc.), but a historical setting feels like home.

  • lisa says:

    I love contemporary love stories with history weaved into the plot. I also love non-fiction concerning making a difference. Social problems and service seem to naturally fit its way into my fiction. I hope I can keep learning to combine these loves into something that offers hope.

  • Sarah Thomas says:

    I’ve always read in LOTS of genres. While historical romance was probably at the top of the list, I also enjoyed women’s fiction, suspense, mystery and even some sci-fi. Basically, if it was a book, I’d give it a chance! But it’s funny, the more I WRITE women’s fiction, the more I want to READ it.

  • Jeanne T says:

    Like Sarah, I read in many genres. The story that got me writing came unexpectedly. I guess it fits with what tugs at my heart. My first story is very definitely women’s fiction.

    I’m trying to figure out exactly where my current wip fits genre-wise.

    About genre–I have a question for you, if you don’t mind. :) If there is a genre that seems to be low on publisher’s priorities for purchase, can a story be categorized in another genre. I may be inaccurate in my thoughts, but it seems like women’s fiction is not much sought after at the moment. I am wondering how to determine if my current wip might fit into contemporary fiction. Does this make sense? :)

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Jeanne, generally you want your book to be such a great fit in a genre that it can’t mush over into a different genre. Women who enjoy women’s fiction will resonate with your novel in a way that someone who like contemporary fiction wouldn’t.
      If your genre doesn’t seem to be “in” with publishers right now, console yourself with the knowledge that everything is cyclical in publishing (if you’re writing in an established genre). Historical has been hot for a few years, but the trend among editors has shifted to contemporary. Give that a few years, and historical will be back on top.
      Now, if you write fantasy or other speculative genres, in CBA, they’ve never caught on. That’s incredibly sad, and there have been brief glimmers of speculative taking off, but, no, publishers just haven’t figured out how to connect those books with their avid readers.

      • Jeanne T says:

        Thanks, Janet. That helps in my decision making about the genre. :) I always appreciate your posts and straight forward comments. Thanks!

  • Rick Barry says:

    I once heard an agent recommend writing what is selling best, and then transitioning to your preferred genre after establishing a track record of success. For me, that advice falls flat. Writing in a genre that I don’t even read simply because there’s money in it sounds like a recipe for disaster. My manuscripts would likely sound hollow and uninspired. Also, I’m not convinced that all readers would follow a writer to a totally different genre.

    • I think you’re spot on, Rick. From everything I’ve read, it is VERY difficult to transition from one genre to another (not impossible, but difficult) and if you go the traditional publishing route, the publishing house likely will not be happy about it.

      In regards to writing in a genre just because it’s what’s selling, to me that’s like becoming a doctor because you can make good money doing it. People have gone into the profession for that reason. They tend not to be very good at it or it makes them crazy. I was a nurse when I was in my twenties (I injured my back and transitioned to education. It was a God-send). There were people at the time who went into nursing for the money and now that I’m teaching in college, I find even more people who want to become RNs for the money. Anyone who has been in the hospital or who has a relative who has has probably met one or two of these “nurses.” They know about the business, but not the art of nursing. Similarly, someone who writes in a genre just for the money may be able to write the conventions but the writing will lack the heart and passion of the genre.

    • Jaibee says:

      I agree with you 100%

  • The genre of my WIP was by natural selection in more than one way. I am writing a YA fantasy novel. Fantasy is, has always been, and probably will always be my favorite genre in books, movies, tv series and art. I wasn’t even thinking about that when I started writing the book. I realized it as I was writing. The book also is Celtic, which isn’t a genre but seems to have become a subcategory. The Celtic part is conscious and intentional, but again, it comes from a natural place. I’m a second-generation Irish-American who grew up in a very Irish culture within my family. A few years back, I took a Celtic Spirituality workshop and was surprised to discover that a lot of the things I thought, believed and did that I thought were “Dorman family” things were actually Celtic. I found myself in a room with a group of people who had grown up with the same stuff I had (for example, the belief that heaven isn’t “up there” but is instead all around us).

    So writing a YA fantasy which draws its inspiration from Celtic, especially Irish, influences was a natural for me. And there is an upside and a downside to it. On the upside, YA fantasy is really hot right now. Helpfully, out of my Irish upbringing sprung faeries and banshees rather than vampires, wolves and boy wizards. The book, therefore, bares no resemblance to certain series of books which have been huge in the YA market in recent memory.

    On the downside, YA fantasy is a hot market right now. It has been for a while. Will it still be by the time my manuscript is finished, represented by an agent and being shown to publishers? Or will the market have moved on? I’m leaving that part in God’s hands. I have no control over it anyway except that I am trying to get the book finished ASAP without doing a rush job (a thin line to tread).

    Thank you for this post, Janet. I hope you have a great week.

    Blessings!

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Christine, you are among the fortunate writers in that you didn’t cast about in a variety of genres, looking to find your place. The lines all fell smoothly together for you.
      And you’re right: you can’t get worked up about where the fantasy market will be by the time you’re ready to find your launching pad. You just need to do your best work as fast as you can.

  • I love reading all sorts of fiction genres, but I can’t imagine a story without some sort of romance. However, mother-daughter stories kept coming to me, likely because of my life experience, so right now I’m writing contemporary with romantic elements. I could see myself writing full-on contemporary romance (with a male and female POV) in the future too.

  • Larry says:

    “…don’t write manuscripts that straddle categories….”

    Well, now what am I to do with my dystopian post-apocalyptic coming-of-age existential literary magical-surrealist love story which subverts and redefines the tradition of heroic literature (among other genres) ? :)

    I suppose the key to writng a novel like this particular novel is to write it so that the reader isn’t reading a jumble of different styles or juggling a myriad of changing narrative and other structual formats (except, of course, when one creates such dissonance on purpose…). I suppose this works for any novel where there is more than one style or genre at work.

    • Larry, I want to read it just to find out what a “dystopian post-apocalyptic coming-of-age literary magical-surrealistic love story which subverts and redefines the tradition of heroic literature” story looks like. :) Although I suspect you could narrow your genre name down to a YA dystopian high fantasy romance, but sense you subvert and redefine, I could be wrong. ;)

      • Larry says:

        Hmm….as far as what it looks like, the cover art is very nice; thinking about starting up doing Pinterest to post various possible cover art that I’ve been getting.

        Though, to be honest, I did quite a bit of condensing the story and themes with the description already! Though the high-concept pitch, “Twilight…meets Apocalypse Now ” might work also. ;)

    • Jan Thompson says:

      So what are you going to do, Larry? You seem to have a hybrid genre, but among your genres, what is the strongest one?

      I have a different problem in that I write in 2 different genres. You mix all your genres together into one. You make your own way. I’m on two roads diverging in the woods.

      Maybe we’re causing a new paradigm shift in the space-time continuum. Oh wait, that’s science fiction.

      • Larry says:

        I don’t know if one particular genre influences the story the most. Not only is it a genre hybrid, there’s a bit of “unreliable narrator” at play, and the question of whose story it is, as well as the question of out of characters who has the right to both tell the story and whose interpretation is valid (or maybe even just the last damning…)

        As far as two roads go, I always suggest taking the advice of Mr. Frost! :)

        And speaking of Sci-Fi, isn’t it cool that there’s a couple of space-opera writers here in the community? Think there are at least two mentioned here today.

        Even though many in the CBA say that there isn’t a market for that genre, I think Sci-Fi is coming back into vogue. Or put in another way:

        “Solomon! I HAVE RETURNED!”

      • Jan Thompson says:

        Or, “Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!”

        The day you describe you genre, it seems to be like a movie. They do hybrid genres in movies all the time.

      • Jan Thompson says:

        I mean “the Way” you describe your genre, not “the Day” — there is no undo button LOL. Sorry.

  • Tari Faris says:

    I love romance. It was an easy choice in that manner. I thought about historical romance since I have read and enjoyed that for years. But as you mentioned above, my voice lends itself better to contemporary romance and those are the stories that come to mind.
    I also like romantic suspense but I don’t think I’d be good at writing a convincing evil character. ;)

  • I read all genres, accept Amish Vampire Space Operas in the Key of D…uh.

    I write hisfic/sagas because, frankly, I LOVE a good old fashioned sweeping epic with brains, brawn and accurate history. I wanna cry like a baby at the end, too. And walk around the house pining for the characters. And start envisioning my husband in puffy shirts, buck skins and oops…fans self.
    Oh come ON, as if no one else does????

    The genre chose me, so did the story (Hey, I’m from Vancouver, roll with it). Once I’ve done this series, I have a WW2 Japanese POW/modern day Special Forces story all plotted and in the word doc.

    There’s enough room on the shelves of the world for all kinds of stories.

    • EXCEPT…I’m such a failure! AHHHH!
      Kidding…

    • Aw, come on, Jennifer! Don’t just read–write that Amish Vampire Space Opera in the Key of D. Or A Minor maybe. ;)

      And I so want to meet my characters! Also, I want the magical gifts of two of them. One is a healer. A little lavender oil, some music and a whispered magical prayer and no more arthritis. If I had her gift, the first thing I’d do is heal your back (complete seriousness there). The other can unlock locks and create thunderstorms at will. Obviously the first one would come in handy if I ever again lock my keys in my car and the second one, well, she has it because I would love to have it. I LOVE thunderstorms. Strange, I know, but there you go. Actually her ability to make thunderstorms is rather important to the plot, but really this gift of hers sprang from my own love of thunder. Then the plot came out of my asking myself, “What good would it do for a teenage faerie to be able to make thunderstorms?” Creativity is a strange thing…which is why I like it!

    • Sarah Thomas says:

      For me it’s less the puffy shirts and more the fabulous horse, nay steed, he rides up on–mmmmmm.

    • Larry says:

      “Amish Vampire Space Operas in the Key of D” is the name of my old college prog-rock group.

      Surely you’ve heard our single, “Bonnet Blues of Alpha Centuri”? :)

  • Hi Janet!

    I absolutely fell in love with my genre right away–Contemporary-Historical Fiction. I love the blending of present and past, the intertwining of history and modern day life.

    My first manuscripts were YA, because I felt compelled to write what I was reading. But I felt like something was missing, even though I was having a blast writing it.

    I was reading Susanna Kearsley’s wonderful book, “The Winter Sea,” when it was just like puzzle pieces fell into place. I had felt God nudging my heart to write about Germany after I returned from a trip there two months prior. I just didn’t know what type of book and it was that moment while reading Kearsley’s book that the genre clicked and the premise for my novel took root. An unforgettable moment. :)

    So I do absolutely love to read in the genre that I write – Susan Meissner, Lynn Austin, Tina Ann Forkner, Becky Melby, Kearsley, Kate Morton, and more. (I read plenty outside my genre too.) There seems to be more books releasing in this genre, which is quite exciting!

    Janet, what do you foresee for the future of the contemporary-historical genre? Is it gaining strength? Is it a tough sell? Any insight would be most appreciated.

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Morgan, the nice thing about a blend of contemporary and historical is that it stays in style regardless of the shifts in popularity between historical and contemporary. But some authors don’t do an even balance between the two in the story, so a novel might have flashes of historical but be mainly contemporary, such as Susan Meissner’s Girl in the Glass. So her books are categorized as contemporary.

  • Lori says:

    I read and listen to multiple genres and I am open to trying new genres.

    As for what I am writing, the story that is unfolding falls into thriller/suspense. However, I am more apt listen to suspense than I am to read it. Right now I am reading more mysteries and romances.

  • Love this post, Janet. I’ve seen that video before and it makes me crack up every time.

    In some ways, my genre chose me. I’ve always loved historicals. I read a fair amount of them. They are one of my favorite genres, along with mysteries, and inspirational romance. My current WIP is a middle grade historical.

    What I feel is interesting, though, is that I never planned to write for children; yet my first two books are picture books, I’ve written several picture books, and my current WIP is MG.

    I would still love to try writing for an older market; but right now, children’s is where I have been successful, so I’m not knocking it. My kids also provide a fair amount of inspiration.

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Cheryl, the nice thing about writing children’s is that it’s a pretty smooth transition to writing adult when you’re ready. And you’re absolutely right to stick with what’s working!

  • Susan Roach says:

    I’m so thankful you brought this topic up, Janet, because I’ve been wrestling a bit with it as a first-time author. I don’t really see myself as a romance writer, but I’m not sure what genre to call my own. The story I’m creating has romance in it, but it is not the focus of the book. Rather, the point of the book is that the heroine discovers that romance has become an idol in her life. She struggles first to recognize that and then to repent of it. And, each of the other book ideas I have swirling around in my head are similar – there’s always a much larger spiritual conflict for the hero/heroine, something that has nothing to do with romance, but there may be a bit of romance to the story line. I love Karen Kingsbury. Her books explore many deep, spiritual topics, and they, too, often have some romance to them. But, she doesn’t market her stories as “romance,” but rather as “life-changing fiction.” Is that an actual genre? And if so, does it sound like my ideas fit into it?

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Susan, Karen Kingsbury writes contemporary fiction. Her books explore contemporary issues but have romance. Yet romance isn’t the core of the story.
      So I’d say that’s what you’re writing as well, unless you’re exploring issues that tend to be more focused on women with women protagonists. Then your manuscript would fit in women’s fiction.

  • Emily R. says:

    I write a genre I don’t see too much in these days-YA. Not YA that’s dystopian, historical, strongly romantic, or fantasy (no offense to those genres, though!). I’m still a young adult myself, and I know that as a reader I always wished for characters that were real to my world–not in some other world or living some fantastically dreamy life I knew I’d never live. I wanted to read about realistic people with an exciting story. I’m a bit concerned about how my current WIP will play into the market, since I haven’t read many books like it, but I’m hopeful. :-) It was what was on my heart, and no matter what happens, I’m glad I wrote it.

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Emily, there’s always room for a great story that fits a genre, which certainly sounds like that’s the case for your book. But the best news of all is that you’re pleased (rightly so) for having written the story. Completing a novel is a grand achievement!

    • Larry says:

      I echo what Janet said. One of my writing mentors once told me, “Either you are a writer, or you aren’t.” In other words, so many folks like the idea of being a writer, or what they think being a writer is like, but rarely do they then do the actual writing.

      Congratulations on completing your novel!

      Speaking of mentors, I’m sure plenty of the ladies here would enjoy sharing the wisdom they have learned with you, and learning from your perspective as well (since a few write YA, it’d certainly be helpful to have the input of a young adult). Stop by their blogs and talk with ‘em, and welcome to the community!

  • Sometimes, the genre picks the writer. I spent six years writing historical and got nowhere with it. I kept hearing “I’ve never seen this before, I like it”, but nobody liked it enough to try and sell it.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love historicals. They’re what I naturally gravitate to. Until last May when the space opera branch of science fiction sunk its claws into me and refused to let go. It’s also a romance. If I took the romance out of it I wouldn’t have a story. Ditto if I take the space opera elements out of it.

    Talk about writing something even harder to place than the kind of historicals I like! But I don’t care. I’ve written and edited two 90K+ books in eleven months and I’m gearing up to write the third one in the series. I’ve found a group of other science fiction romance authors, pubbed and not, and we’re determined to make our genre break out. There are SFR readers all over the place, they just don’t know that’s what they’re reading.

    So I’ve completely changed gears to follow these stories that won’t let go of my imagination. I’m also not trying to make these CBA acceptable and it’s been a very liberating experience. Much of CBA is still totally closed to my generation (I’m 30) and the types of things we want to read.

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Rachel, radical! It’s so great that you’ve found where you belong. That’s so liberating (as you know). Congratuations and good luck on breaking out your genre!

    • Larry says:

      This.

      There’s quite a few writers out there who have realized the CBA isn’t meeting the needs of potential writers or readers. I suggest reading Heather Gilberts’ blog, as she recently interviewed a Sci-Fi writer who describes much of what you discussed, Rachel.

      I applaud your efforts to work with your fellow genre writers: many writers, including others from this community, are establishing themselves and their writing outside the traditional markets, and it is something which I find fascinating. Keep us informed on the efforts of you and your fellow writers, and in what ways you think we as writing communities can work together.

  • Elaine Faber says:

    And again, unlike your other writers, I land in a “cat”-a-gory by myself,.. writing my Cozy Cat Mystery series. My belief is that Christians still want to read a good clean G-rated mystery story that isn’t loaded down with sex and gore and bad language. What better than a light hearted mystery with a cat who helps solve the murder. As a reader of light mysteries, this seemed to be the best genre for me and the ‘cat with the memories’ called me to write his tales of intrigue,whimsey and romance.

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Elaine, technically your book would fit in the cozy mystery genre. The cat aspect is the “hook” that makes it unique from all other cozy mysteries. And certainly there is a market for cozy mysteries for the very reasons you state.

  • Jan Thompson says:

    I write in two different genres. I haven’t decided what to do about submissions yet, whether sequential or simultaneous, or to one agent for one genre and self-publish the other or both to the same agent or what..

    For most of the year, I major in thrillers. I’m IT by trade and this is my voice. Once I tried to rewrite my thriller trilogy into romantic suspense bc I thought that has a wider readership but no matter how I tried, my stories want to remain thrillers. It’s the only way I can write it, and this is what I enjoy writing.

    Some summer days, I write colonial fiction due to my deep interest in regional history. I have a whole series going. Writing colonial fiction is also fun for me. It’s almost like having a conversation over a cup of tea.

    I’ve tried other genres. But they are not exactly my forte. I can write them OK but they don’t satisfy my writing cravings as much as thrillers and colonial fiction. In fact they feel like I am writing term papers LOL.

    As for reading, in read all sorts of genres, some I don’t write in e.g. Medieval, regency, late 19th century, mysteries, legal thrillers, medical suspense, contemporary, and even poetry, and lots of non-fiction. Love a good non-fiction book.

    Question… Janet, what do you think about pseudonyms? I want to use my same name for all genres I write in. But I read varied opinions of that all over the place. Some say yes. Some say use pseudonyms. But for platforms and branding I think I need to use the same name bc of the way social media is. Too many names wild confuse my brand. Also, which writer shows up at a book talk or book festival if she has one pseudonym for every genre… Or am I wrong?

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Jan, pseudonyms are a complex issue. (Why, I think I’ll write a blog about that!) To try to keep my answer from drifting into the deep weeds, you don’t have a brand if you’re writing in both thrillers and colonial fiction. Those two audiences overlap only in that they both like to read. :-) So, if you write in both of your chosen genres, I don’t see any way you can try to herd your two, distinct groups together. As you said, colonial fiction is like sipping a cup of tea. A thriller is like downing Red Bull. The look of your social media needs to be two looks, each of which appeals to one of your reader-groups. Even though a pseudonym is confusing (and costly) for you as the author, it’s the only way to go. And who shows up at an author event? It depends on which of your readerships is in the audience. Ultimately, you have two author names, two brands, and two audiences.

      • Jan Thompson says:

        Thank you, Janet. I see your point about separate reading groups since the two genres I write in would not intersect. I’ll have to think about this and see what to do about my two roads. Thanks again!

      • Jan Thompson says:

        P.S. I have an example — Joel Rosenberg writes suspense AND non-fiction, but he uses the same name for both. I don’t see that he has two brands? Not everyone who reads his fiction also reads his non-fiction. Same with Brad Meltzer (thriller and comic book genres), and Michael Koryta (mystery and paranormal genres).

      • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

        Jan, Joel Osteen IS a brand. He, like Max Lucado or Karen Kingsbury, may write anything he would like, and he’ll have a boatload of readers. Exceptions exist for every rule. But I also would say that breaking the rules tends to work only when one understands the rules. Liz Curtis Higgs spoke to a group at Mount Hermon last year, and one of the attendees asked her how she managed to write both fiction and nonfiction, and how could he go and do likewise. She basically said not to try it. She started out writing nonfiction and didn’t add fiction until she had a major fan base. But she quickly learned that her fiction fans didn’t want to hear about her nonfiction and vice versa. So she created two newsletters and two mailing lists, etc. The amount of work to having two fan bases is…well, double. Food for thought, eh?

  • Historical Romantic Suspense is what I enjoy reading as well as writing.

    I receive a lot of inspiration from the way Victoria Holt used setting as another character in her stories and the way she explored lesser known areas of social history. I’ve always loved Gothic Romance and it’s thrilling to infuse this genre with inspirational elements as I write.

  • A better understanding of genre – and what genre I’m writing in – was one of the more valuable (it was all valuable) things I came away with from the Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference. I write inspirational non-fiction and memoir. I always have – I just didn’t know what to call it!

    It still seems to be inconsistent, however. I see books on Amazon categorized one way – Christian Living or Religion and Spirituality – only to be told by industry experts that they are something else entirely. Does anyone every truly agree or am I just working in a genre that has a lot of blurry edges?

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Adelle, sometimes there is a little leakage from one genre to the other, but it’s always best to decide which genre your current work fits in. If you don’t know, how will anyone at the publishing house, or the person putting your book on the bookstore’s shelf, or the reader? If you just can’t decide, your publisher (should you be fortunate enough to obtain one despite the genre confusion) can make this decision for you. The publisher will decide based on where the competition is stiffest for shelf space and which genre is the hottest.

    • Larry says:

      I agree with Janet, and I would add that some qualms I have regarding Amazon is that their Christian Fiction section (on the Kindle store, at least) needs to be refined to better show the variety of the various genres in the field.

  • Hi Janet,

    I come at this from a slightly different angle. I didn’t start as a writer looking for a genre; I started with passion for a topic, then wanted to write about it. I believe there is a huge spiritual need for parents to understand how to raise kids with confident faith in light of the specific barriers turning so many young adults away from Christianity. I see my opportunity as a writer to be a mainstream bridge for Christian parents, connecting difficult apologetics/theology and everyday parenting.

  • Kira says:

    I have been writing MG/YA fantasy and sci-fi for ever and ever, so long that I don’t even remember why I started. I like those genres, but I like many genres. For me, fantasy and sci-fi are the most meaningful in their ability to cut through all of reality into the deeper truths beyond it. I can’t write realistic fiction. I’ve tried. I need the fantastical to make my work shine. I also rarely read adult literature, so the youth part was obvious.

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      I smiled at the part of your comment that you had been writing in your genre for so long you couldn’t remember why you started. Obviously you’ve found your home. Congratulations!

  • Thank you for this lovely post, Janet. It confirms for me a decision I made recently to reformat my WIP into a daily devotional book. I didn’t see it at first, but the growth path of my book concept really lends itself well to this genre and I’m glad that became apparent BEFORE I got too far into it. And yes, I do love devotional books and even leading staff devotions in ministry. Daily Bible study is a must for me. Reading daily devotionals led to reading devotional Bibles and that led to discovering my love of Bible study.

    • Janet Grant Janet Grant says:

      Susi, I’m assuming you started writing your devotional in perhaps Christian Living? Those two formats are totally different, but it’s certainly possible to transition your work from one to the other. A lot of work, but still doable. How much nicer that you made the discovery of your voice early on.

  • Darby Kern says:

    I probably have only four or five thrillers in me. I don’t know what I’ll do after that…

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