I accidentally read a work of Christian Fiction (The Samsara Effect, by Paul Black, which I reviewed here). I wouldn’t have done it on purpose, because I’m not a fan of the genre. But, my mistake was understandable – the book was not classified as Christian Fiction, nor was there any indication from the description that there were religious themes. As a result, not only was I disappointed in an ending I couldn’t buy into, I was left feeling like I’d been deceived into spending good money and investing precious time into something that doesn’t interest me.
I am not singling out Christian Fiction; that just happens to be my recent experience. I also don’t like Romance, Military Fiction, or Westerns, and would be equally miffed about being tricked into reading one of those (even more so, in the case of Romance). No matter what your genre, it is essential to play fair with readers by being clear about the themes in your book.
I understand the difficulty of classifying fiction, particularly as the cross-genre novel is popular. While I tend to classify my own Reflection of the Gods as Urban Fantasy, it could just as validly be classified as Historical Fantasy, or Paranormal. Due to this difficulty, cross-genre books sometimes get dumped into General Fiction. But this is where the book description comes in. Even if Reflection of the Gods ends up in the General Fiction section, anyone who picks it up will know that mythological beings feature prominently in the narrative. Potential readers can make an informed choice.
The purpose of defining your book’s genre is to target your readership. You want the people who read your book to enjoy it, and to tell their friends about it. In a good way. Word of mouth can drive sales, or it can kill them. Purposely aiming for a broader audience in the hopes that they will love it if you can just get them to read it doesn’t work. Readers who don’t care for your genre, and feel duped into reading it, are going to leave bad reviews. And once bitten, twice shy. Someone who’s been fooled once won’t take a chance on you again.
The cold, hard truth is that not everyone will like your writing. And that’s okay. Because for every genre, there is a devoted audience. The key is to connect with that audience. Your audience.