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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Genre

Having a good genre and subgenre fit is important for anyone looking to make a career writing fiction. Even if you start out securely in a popular niche, you might want to branch out at some point and test your limits writing something completely different.

Where do you start?

Before we go any further, I will clarify that I am NOT going to tell you to sell out and write whatever literary trend is topping the market. You shouldn’t sell out. If you don’t like what you’re writing, you might as well sign up for a secretarial or ghostwriting job somewhere else and earn a more reliable income.

Everyone’s different, and what genres catch your attention and excite you are a part of what sets you aside as an author. But you’re not the only player here. Writing has two main parties, the author and the readers, and what people want to read makes a huge difference in what flies off the shelves.

You can’t avoid market trends, but you don’t need to kowtow to them either. One of the big keys to writing success is learning how to work with popular trends and tropes to tell stories you’re excited to share with readers who want to read them.

Here are some questions to consider if you’re choosing which genre you want to settle down and write:

1. What do you want to write?

Don’t forget that you want to have fun here. Before you worry about anything else, just take some time to scribble down your favorite genres to write in. Chances are, one or more of these will be burning for a new author.

2. What are you good at writing?

You might love horror but be better suited for romantic suspense. While you will improve at whatever genre or genres you spend time with, you’ll save yourself a lot of strain if you stick with something that comes naturally to you, the “easy” genres. Easy for you translates to less work!

3. What ideas do you currently have?

Your current WIP might not fill in an in-demand spot in a market niche. That’s okay—you might still want to write it and give it a shot. But for the moment, you can break apart what your writing into the different genres and subgenres that it fills. Are any of those more popular? Are there any that align with ideas of what you want to write?

4. What do you enjoy reading?

Your reading habits are a great way to know where to write. If you don’t read a lot of self-published books, try checking a few out and skim through them until you find something you like. Many of these books are free or at a low price, and they can give you good information on what your readers are currently reading.

5. What genres catch your eye?

There are a lot of genres out there—an overwhelming number. Just below this you can find my custom list of subgenres arranged by major genre. If you skim this list—or any like it—you’ll notice that some of the subgenres listed pop out and catch your attention. These will be more specific than mainstream genres and can help you find a more targeted audience. Zombie apocalypse fiction and alien invasions might both make good horror reads, but they’ll have a slightly different reader base.

Frequently asked questions about genres:

What if I want to write in a niche genre? You can do that, but you’ll have no guarantee of success. If mermaid romance is what gets you excited, you’ll probably be able to top the charts early on. But very few readers will spend money on mermaid romance, and unless something changes and it becomes a super-popular genre, you’ll have to work hard to earn any royalties that come in.

Are more popular genres better to write in? Not always. Some people get by off of paranormal romance or erotica, but often more popular genres suffer from being swamped. A reliable, middle-of-the-road genre should have tons of fans, but few enough new books coming out to claim some ground of your own with minimal effort. Tools like Publisher Rocket can help with that.

Can I write first and pick a genre later? You can, theoretically. Because you won’t need to fill in categories and keywords until you are already uploading a book to your chosen publishers, your final genre slot won’t be chosen until later. It’s also possible that you’ll start writing with one subgenre in mind and switch to something else. For the best continuity (and again, less work) you should decide on a genre as soon as you start planning.

What genres have given you success? Please share in the comment section below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers by clicking on the button.


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