For many aspiring first-time writers, the first question is usually; how do I get started? If you have an idea for a book, you’re already in a good spot. The next step before you write anything should be to determine your genre and audience from the very beginning. It might sound backwards, and you might be thinking, “how can I define my audience and genre without knowing what the book is really about?” The answer is simple: keeping your target genre and audience in mind while you write both your outline and the book itself will help you sell more copies.
Now, you may be someone writing a book just to write it, just putting in hundreds of hours to publish a book just because, BUT for most writers, the goal is to sell some copies! Choosing your genre and audience should be one of the first steps you take when you start writing a new book because ultimately, you are writing your book to be read by as many people as possible. Having your genre in mind while you write your outline will help ensure that you follow the basic rules of that genre, which is not to say your book is going to be boring and bland, but whether you like it or not, there are certain rules that define every genre. If you are writing a romance novel, there should probably be a couple with some sort of conflict/tragedy. If you are writing a psychological thriller, there should probably be some sort of setting up of the mundane life of the main character, only for their life to be completely upturned. There is still a lot of freedom, even if you choose a genre in advance, but these general rules are long-established because that is what fans of those genres are looking for. Determining an audience is equally important.
If you are overwhelmed by the idea of coming up with an entire book, loosely using your genre and audience as a guide can be helpful to steer your writing in a certain direction.
* Whether you are planning on self-publishing, going through an indie publisher, or trying to get into a Big Five publisher, knowing your genre and audience will help you in the long run. *
The good news is, if you are unsure about either your audience or your genre, defining one will help you identify the other.
When you are listing your book to whatever distributer(s) you choose, you will have to select a genre so that the search engines can place your book in the appropriate category. You will select what is known as a BISAC, which stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications. BISAC subject headings are the industry-approved list of subject descriptors—basically, a list of possible genres and subgenres so that your book is properly categorized, which helps both you as well as readers. There are 54 BISAC subject headings, once you find the subject heading that best matches your book, there are tons of subcategories beneath each heading. If you are writing fiction, take a look at the subcategories under fiction. There are even lists of subcategories for YA Fiction and YA Nonfiction. If you are writing nonfiction, your subject headings and subcategories lists are much broader.
If you are looking at the possible genre categorizations and don’t feel that your book idea falls into any one on its own, don’t panic. You or your publisher will have the option of choosing two BISAC category codes when listing the book on Amazon. Going over these lists in advance can help you determine your genre.
A good tip for determining your audience from the beginning is to envision your ideal reader. How old are they? What gender are they? Where do they live? What is their occupation? What other books does s/he like to read?
Write your answers on your outline if that will help you keep your audience in mind while you write.
You’re writing a book you personally would want to read, yes, but it can be helpful to envision a reader while you write. What would surprise them? What would make them smile? What would make them cry? Who are their favorite characters?
Why it is important to identify audience and genre from the beginning
Knowing your genre and audience is the first step to successfully marketing (and selling) your book. If you categorize your book as a romance, but it is actually more of a thriller, you will turn off the readers who came to your book expecting a different genre. Misleading your readers, even if it is unintentional on the author’s part, can be highly self-destructive as you not only lose readers who expected something else, but you also miss out on the readers who would actually pick up your book and enjoy it if it was categorized properly.
Keeping your genre and audience in mind will help you develop your plot and characters to the level that is required for that genre from the start, saving you time in the editing process later.
Contact us at WIP Publications today to set up your free 30-minute creative consultation and to get started on your book plan, which will help determine your genre and audience no matter how far along you are into the process.