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?



  1. Not all urban fantasy has magic. Think of vampire stories set now where people are unaware of their existence - many don't use magic. I think you're on the right track.

  2. From your description, it definitely sounds like urban fantasy. I agree with Alex that no all books in that genre have magic.

  3. The Anita Blake Series is considered urban fantasy. It has romance, vampires, were-animals, witches, ghost, etc. It also has guns, and all vampires are out and considered citizens. They even have their own church. So you may still be safe under its umbrella. You could also select sci-fi as your cross genre to clarify.

    Sorry, I can't be more help. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  4. I think it sounds like urban fantasy, too. Although I don't know how much help I can really be. I can't even figure out my book's age group.

  5. And then you get into Sci-Fantasy, where you've got your fantasy-created elements, but with a science-based fiction. :D

    One of the local Idaho authors I've met ended up with the same thing. I can't remember his name, but he said his books were classified as fantasy, but then come the end of the series it's revealed it's all science and not magic at all. (He was rather proud of that fact.)

    I think Urban Fantasy is a good bucket, even if the "Magic System" isn't really magic at all.

  6. Urban fantasy or scifi-fantasy. Do a search on Amazon and see what key words and genres books similar to your story pull up. You'll know what direction to go then.

  7. I agree with Alex. It sounds like urban fantasy, and many books are a combination of genres. Just pick the genre that mostly represents your story.

  8. I consider my unpublished series as urban fantasy and there aren't any spells in them. Or magic. My character has powers, but they aren't magical powers. Urban fantasy isn't all that strict.

  9. These are really good questions, and I agree with Chrys, Natalie, and Alex! I think you can and should call them urban fantasy. If it's set in the real world, but someone has powers, it's urban fantasy. I think you can definitely go with that idea for a cover, too. It sounds good. :)

  10. That really sounds like Urban Fantasy to me. Mistborn was definitely fantasy and the way they used the minerals was magic. Your story sounds very original.

  11. I have always thought of Urban Fantasy as continuing series with the same MC every book with paranormal or magic or mystical elements. So sounds like Urban Fantasy to me too.

  12. Start with UF and go from there. It doesn't seem like it fits anything else anywhere near as well as UF. It likely has a bit of appeal to sci-fi fans, as well, but whether there's magic or science, it's all the same. It's speculative.

  13. Well, whatever genre your book is, it sounds amazing, and I really look forward to reading it!