The Dos and Don’ts of Genre Publishing

As a writer, I see a lot of questions and comments about writing and publishing. So I thought I’d address the topic of genre fiction today on the blog.

Genre fiction mostly published in mass market paperback with wider distribution. The stories also follow some general genre guidelines. Westerns are set in… the West. Mysteries revolve around the solving of a crime (often murder) and usually end in the killer being caught. Paranormal books have something supernatural at their core that drives the story. Horror is horrifying. And romance is about the development of a romantic relationship between two people with a satisfying emotional conclusion. Once the genre requirements of a story are met then the rest of the story has few limits.

Most stories fit into a genre and most of the bestselling books are also genre stories. Romance alone makes up over 50% of the mass market books sold. So if you’re writing a genre-type story, there’s definitely a place for you in publishing. But there are also some dos and don’ts that apply to genre publishing (and honestly ALL publishing). Here are a few to keep in mind: 

  • Do Know the Market – Whatever type of book you’re writing, there is a specific market for it. Certain stories work better than others, certain editors buy for some lines, but not others, same thing with agents. Join a writing organization (Romance Writers of America is a great example and there are others), talk to other writers who are working on similar stories, read widely in the area you are writing and pay attention. Learn to write synopses and query letters. If you don’t know the market, you are handicapping yourself significantly.
  • Don’t Write Someone Else’s Voice – It may be tempting to try to write like “whoever” but the fact is that “whoever” is already successful and you can’t fill their spot through imitation. It’s better to develop your own idea and your own “voice” because that is what will make you unique and successful as an author. Respecting and studying the craft of other authors is a great tool… copying them… not so much.
  • Do Write – It sounds stupid, but the fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of would-be writers out there who have never done so much as write a word. The only way to get yourself from wanna-be to published author is to place your bottom in a chair and write. Then re-write, then write some more. Most new authors will only sell on a full, finished and polished work. So get cracking on getting yours done.
  • Don’t Expect Something For Nothing – There are tons of great resources out there for aspiring authors, both online and in books. But that doesn’t mean you can just depend on other people to give you all the answers. You have to be driven enough to research both for the content of your stories and for the intricacies of the publishing world. If you have a question, look it up. Make asking other authors (especially a published author) your last line of defense.
  • Do protect Yourself and your work by researching proper publishing practices – Publishing is one of those industries where lots of fakes and phonies can take advantage of you. It takes just a few minutes to google someone’s name and find out if there have been complaints. Don’t get taken advantage of just because you didn’t try a search engine. Respect your work enough to understand what is real and what is wrong.
  • Don’t Pay-for-Publishing or pay an agent before you sell – Money should only flow in one direction in publishing. TOWARD the author. If a publisher asks for money at any point in the process, including sending you to a book doctor, they are NOT legitimate. If an agent asks you pay them in advance of their actually placing your work with a legitimate publisher, they are NOT legitimate. Never, ever, ever let desperation take you to that place. You will not get your book out to any kind of wide audience. You might as well flush your hard earned money down the toilet and sell your book out of the back of your car to your relatives.
  • Do Make Writing a Safe Place – There are many things in this business that are difficult and frustrating, the industry is tough and that is the truth. So if you can make the writing a safe place, you will likely end up a happier person. Find the joy and the love for your writing and protect it. It can insulate you during the tough times.
  • Don’t Stop Reading – Read within your genre, read outside of your genre, read for fun and for research. But keep reading. It will spark your creativity and remind you why you’re doing this.
  • Do Respect Your Genre – If you think any genre is “easy” to break into… it isn’t. Write what you write because you have a passion for it. If you don’t, it will come through to editors and agents and you’ll likely not sell anyway. Plus, if you do by some miracle sell a book you have no passion for, you will be expected to write more books like it for years to come. Save yourself the misery, do the hard work and write what you love.

Being a professional writer is one of the greatest joys of my life and the fans of genre fiction make every hard moment worthwhile.

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