What Genre Should you Write?

I was talking to a friend about a new novel he’s working on. He’s not sure what genre it falls under and what genre he should aim for. Of course, there are two answers to this:

Just write. One way of looking at it is that he just needs to write it and let the marketing people worry about genre. This advice comes from those who believe the author’s vision and voice can transcend genre.
Target a genre. This advice comes from those who believe that to build a career, you must build an audience; and the easiest way to do that is to write in a certain genre and consistently deliver a book the audience wants. Once you have a consistent audience, then write a break-out book that will lead you to a larger audience. For example, literary agent Donald Maass advocates this approach in his book, The Career Novelist, which is now available on his website as a free pdf download.

What Genres are Selling to Publisher

Either way, out of curiosity, I also went to Publisher’s Marketplace and looked up stats on what actually sold this past year in various genres. Of course, not every deal is reported at Publisher’s Marketplace, but it should give you an idea of popularity of different genres.

This is how deals were made in December in each category, followed by how many for the year of 2009.

  • Adult Fiction
    • Horror- 0, 22
    • Inspirational – 5, 112
    • Mystery/Crime – 14, 145
    • Paranormal – 4, 15
    • SciFi – 4 ,117
    • Thriller – 1, 83
    • Women’s/Romance – 29, 396
    • General/Other Fiction – 31, 356
  • Children’s Fiction

    • Fantasy – 1, 13
    • Middle Grade – 17, 178
    • Picture book – 12, 198
    • Young adult – 34, 329

In the adult fiction, women’s/romance and general/other are the hot propertities. Notice also the strong showing of mystery/crime and SciFi. Paranormal seems on the outs.

In children’s fiction, young adult wins out. But equally strong are the picture book and middle grade categories. Picture books are said to be “soft” and hard to sell; not according to these stats! I also wonder how many titles were reported in the YA and MG genre which could have been reported instead as Fantasy.

(Interesting that PM lists fantasy novels, but not SciFi for children and vice versa for adults. Thanks, Harry!)

Comments are closed.