Wilkie Martin - Surviving Publication

Author of the unhuman series of addictive comedy cozy mysteries set in the Cotswolds. This documents my encounters with publishing and includes things I hope will be useful later. It also covers some local writing competitions and reviews some writing events.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Decide on a genre

An approach letter to an agent should usually include the genre of the book. In my book this is not very easy to identify – is it ‘crime’, ‘comedy’, or ‘fantasy’? Publishers will not create a new genre for my book no matter how much I’d like it to fit ‘fantastic realism’.
We are following these steps to help identify the most appropriate genre.


Bookshops normally display books by genres. Sometimes they change them (for instance our local Waterstones has recently combined ‘fantasy’ and ‘science fiction’ under one category of ‘sci fi’, so we will look again on our next visits to see what genres are going in and out of vogue).
Checking through the shelves under the genres we think the book might fit has helped identify if this is the right place, or the wrong place (and also shown which publishers are active in that genre). For instance, ‘fantasy’ may not be the appropriate genre (especially if the local bookshop doesn’t use it anymore). Perhaps it now fits better in ‘crime’. Looking at the best sellers in the area helps get a feel for the market, as does identifying similar writers.


Amazon also lists books by genre. These are broadly similar to those in bookshops. However, Amazon has user defined tags that break the genre into more specific topics (ones that mean something to the person adding the tag, perhaps the name of a key character, or location, or anything that would help find that book or a book like it). Looking through Amazon's tags is also helping us decide on an appropriate genre.

Amazon tags

To see the Amazon tags:

  • 1. Choose any book (Dan Brown’s latest for instance).

  • 2. Open the book page.

  • 3. Scroll down to the bottom and there is a tag area called 'Tags Customers Associate with This Product'.

  • 4. Click on the right on 'See most popular tags'.

  • 5. At the bottom of the list there is ‘see more’. Keep selecting ‘see more’ until the option isn’t offered anymore and you will have a long list of many (though not all) the user defined tags that have been added to books (not just the one you are looking at).

  • 6. The tags vary in size and in colour intensity. The bigger and darker tags are the more commonly used ones.

  • 7. Review this list of tags and identify ones that might be assigned and see if this alters our view of the genre.

  • 8. Select on the main tags to see which books are best-sellers in that area and to see if their content is similar.

  • 9. Open the details for a selection of these books and see what other tags have been assigned and see if any of these apply.

  • 10. Build a list of 'potential' tags that someone might assign.

  • 11. Keep reviewing the list of tags and books under these tags, because users can change them at any time.

No comments:

Post a Comment