Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Picking A Genre

Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don't not sure what genre my story belongs in.

You'd think this would be a pretty simple question to answer.  My story is a simple fantasy, not particularly ground-breaking in any way, but fantasy is too vague a term these days.  There are all sorts of sub-genres under the fantasy umbrella--urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and paranormal romance to name a few.  And based on what I've learned about marketing books over the years, picking the correct sub-genre is extremely important, especially if you're selling through Amazon. Pick the wrong sub-genre and you'll miss many of the readers who would like your work as well as outraging those readers who did read your book expecting something else. And outraged readers typically leave bad reviews. 

I've always considered my story to be urban fantasy.  It takes place in the present, in an urban setting. The heroine gets caught up in an alchemical war that's been raging on our world unbeknownst to the general public for centuries. And these alchemists have the power to manipulate chemical reactions. So far, so good.  Sounds like urban fantasy to me.

But there are other ways in which the story doesn't follow urban fantasy tropes.  There is no magic. Period. The powers wielded by the alchemists may seem like magic to the normal person, but they are never presented as magic.  In fact, there are very specific scientific rules concerning how those powers can and cannot be used--kind of like the powers in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. Will urban fantasy readers be disappointed there aren't any spells?  

Another trope involves the inclusion of various fantasy creatures such as werewolves, vampires, wizards, witches, the Fae, dragons--you get the picture.  I only have one such creature, the tiny subatomic beings that work with the alchemists to give them their powers. That's it. Would not having any other creatures be enough for urban fantasy readers to turn up their noses at the story? 

This isn't an academic question. To be successful in today's market, the book's cover has to convey the sub-genre at a glance.  My inclination was to have a female character on the cover, much like other urban fantasy covers, but instead of having her glowing with magical energy (as most of those UF covers do, see below), I would surround her with chemical and alchemical imagery. 

So will having an urban fantasy type cover cause the wrong readership to consider purchasing my book? That's the question I'm struggling with as I finish my book.

Any comments or suggestions?