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Writer Wednesday: The Genre Debate & Marketability

Hello and good morning authors! Welcome to another Writer Wednesday, where we talk shop, industry, and more. What's in a Genre? Genre discussions have been simmering in the bookish community but its been a long suffering subject. Genre conventions are something we are encouraged as authors to explore, and often, the best content comes from the stories that dare to blur the lines between genres into new shapes. Look at Star Wars, a story that arguably meets many criteria for Science Fiction in setting, but meets the tropes and reads like Fantasy and Mythology, particularly with that opening line of 'A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...'. Replace 'galaxy' with 'kingdom' and you have a full blown epic fantasy.

The problem is while creatives continue to push boundaries between genres, markets and those who acquire for them feel more stringent. Now, this could be a straight forward post about profit versus art but there is more here. Telling stories outside genre boxes isn't a new thing, and some of the most memorable books, shows, and movies do just that. But the very nature of querying has created a sometimes difficult path for authors. The popularity of comp titles, the rejection of industry towards certain genres like New Adult, and the ever narrowing gap in traditional acquisitions lends more weight to genre and how we define our works.

The Curious Case of New Adult & Why The Market Shouldn't Control Art

We have touched on the subject of New Adult before. This is a genre that has been thoroughly marinated by the industry, deemed dead on arrival, yet continues to flourish in Self Publishing and indie circles. Readers continue to spend money on New Adult books, enough money that some self published authors like Jamie Mcguire and Tamara Webber were later acquired by traditional publishing after they'd already proven they could sell to the masses. Yet Trad publishing immediately labeled Webber's novel Easy, with its 19 year old protagonist as YA.

Not only did Trad Publishing fail the contemporary side of the genre, but completely failed to explore where New Adult blended with other genres like Paranormal and Fantasy. Trad Publishing has a long standing issue with shoving New Adult level material into younger age groups rather than bridging it to Adult. The best and biggest case for this is Sarah J Mass's Court of Thorns and Roses series which featured a New Adult storyline and themes in a fantasy setting. Only recently, has Court been aged up in many book stores with covers to match. It's finally shed the YA label in favor of Adult Fantasy with the marketable tagline of "The Sexy Action Packed Series".

Meanwhile, New Adult continues to grow and flex in indie publishing, with a slew of contemporary titles and series like Zodiac Academy prove there continues to be a reader's market for cross blending New Adult with other genres.

And this is the crux of the issue. Readers have proven with their wallets again and again there is a demand for these stories. While not EVERY story strikes gold, enough do that the complete shut out of New Adult doesn't make sense. This is where we swing back around to genre conventions. In the current publishing climate, trad sources seem less inclined to take risks on stories that defy genre convention. That is not to say success can't be found. There are many stories currently in circulation that blend several genres and gained success, but there is definitely a disparaging gap between genre benders that are published through trad houses versus indie houses or self pubbed. Whether this was born from the ever shrinking individuality of the Big 4 or myriad other factors, the take away is while writing within genre conventions might help with the marketability of a book, don't let the fear of not selling your book hold back your art. You may be the creator of the next genre bending hit. Or not. The market is fickle. But you will create art that satisfies your soul. And that sort of art has a draw on its own.

Resources & Further Reading

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