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Lesson 3 of 3
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Genre for Writers

For writers, genre is all about reader expectation. If you’re writing a murder mystery, there had better be a murder and a mystery to be solved, if you’re writing science fiction then you need to take a scientific idea and stretch it till it bends the reader’s mind, if you’re writing a romance then you need people falling in love (though you don’t necessarily have to have a happy ending).

If you can understand the needs and expectations of your genre, then your chances of having a bestseller in that genre are increased. From a commercial perspective, getting your genre right means you are helping readers find your book.

Will Your Choice of Genre Dictate Your Writing Journey?

Some genres do better in traditional publishing, some do brilliantly well for indie authors, some do well in both.

Annie Stone & Julianne LaBrecque from Bookbub tell us which genres generally work best in their promotions:

Genre for Writers – The Bestseller Academy

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Thrillers and romance can do very well in eBook for both trad and indie authors, but these are very competitive categories. 

Science fiction, fantasy and horror might be a little more niche, but they have passionate readers, particularly for series. Both trad and indie can do well with these.

Contemporary literature — and what might be categorised as Literary Fiction — can be a struggle for indie authors, particularly if it’s a standalone novel. These kinds of books really benefit from the kind of mainstream publicity — newspaper reviews, radio and TV interviews  — that a publisher can get.

Children’s fiction can be very difficult for indie authors. The success of children’s fiction is driven by school events, festivals and — perhaps most importantly — word-of-mouth recommendation. Traditional publishers have a great reach into schools, festivals, bloggers and high street retailers who can drive word-of-mouth.

Non-Fiction is a broad church and bestselling success can depend on trends and zeitgeist as much as the writing. Editors keep on top of trends.


Million-seller Kate Harrison on how her BBC TV background helps her identify trends:

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Memoirs can be great in both trade and indie, though if you have a memoir set in a specific location — say, a nostalgic history of a particular town — you might do better self-publishing and focusing all your marketing in that town. You might have a passion for a particular hobby that might seem niche to mainstream publishers, but self-published and targeted at the right market it could be a smash.

Self-help and business titles have seen some great self-published bestsellers in recent years, driven by individuals and organisations who have grown their readership through their own brand-building online.


Kate Harrison on deciding to self-publish her million-selling non-fiction series: 

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What is your genre?

Think about what the genre and sub-genres for your bestseller are.

Sooner or later, someone will have to find a spot on the shelf for your bestseller in their bookstore or library. Where would they put it? And in which chart on Amazon might you get that orange flag for?


Complete the “What is Your Genre” exercise in your Genre Workbook

  1. List the broad category for your bestseller: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children’s
  2. List the broad genre for your bestseller
  3. List three possible sub-genres for your bestseller


If you are stuck with which genre to write in, try the following exercise:

  • For your book idea, write a short story of 500 to 1000 words in each genre. Which one works best for your story?
  • Try a mash-up of two different genres and write a short story version of this. Is it working? Are you excited to write more?