Blogger: Rachel Kent
Location: Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers’ Conference, Philadelphia, PA
When a writer creates a book that’s outside the boundaries established for a genre, the book can lose its place in the market. But this can be a successful technique in a few, rare cases.
One instance that comes to mind is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This book isn’t a true Jane Austen-style story, and it isn’t horror, but because of the book’s tongue-in-cheek humor, it has sold well. The books that cross genres and do well typically need to have a little something extra to help reach the right audience. In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it was the humor and the Jane Austen connection.
When we review submissions at Books & Such, we see books that are well-written–great reads–that, unfortunately, we must pass on because they’re not in a defined genre and don’t speak to a specific audience. One project I remember is a story about a woman whose sister became a cloistered nun, and the two end up switching places by the end of the book. The sister who was the nun in the first place commits suicide once she’s out in the world.
The story was beautiful, the writing was exquisite, and the themes were heart-rending and thought-provoking. The problem was that it didn’t fit anywhere. How was it to find its audience? It wasn’t a book for the Christian market or the general market because of the strong Catholic themes. Nor did it fit in the Catholic market because of the suicide and the way it explored faith and nuns’ lives. This author had written a beautiful story, but the risk associated with publishing it was huge because it’s audience wasn’t clear.
Now, if this writer were a New York Times best-selling author, the risk would be reduced significantly because of the built-in audience–though you run the risk of losing some of your audience if you change your style and genre. So the goal is to write a book different enough to offer something to the market without being SO different it ruins your chances of connecting with an audience.
Have you ever read or written a book that broke the genre rules? Did it work? If you need a little help, think The Shack. 🙂 That book has an amazing publication story.