A few months ago, I did a post about this writer’s group I lurk on in Facebook, and how one of the main strategies shared was to pump out as many books as they possibly could.
Now as I mentioned in that post, I don’t want to sound like I’m criticising that approach – if it works for them, that’s great. I just made the point that I could never do that. I can’t help but take the time to polish everything I write, often taking several years on a single work.
In this post, I wanted to comment on another piece of advice I see offered here, and in many other places I have to admit. That is the imperative to write to market – and in particular, to write to a market that prioritises genre. Romance, fantasy, scifi, detective thriller, whatever. Each of these genres has its rules, which must be followed. Readers expect nothing else, and if you break these rules, you lose your readers.
Again, I’m not going to argue against this. From what I can see, this strategy works a treat, and plenty of writers are crafting successful and lucrative careers following it. What I have to offer is purely a personal opinion.
I have to say I find it kind of sad. When e-publishing first opened the doors of self-publishing, it seemed that genre was one of the old conventions that would be thrown out the window. With the cultural gatekeepers shunted to the side, writers were free to explore new ideas, and to mix genres in interesting ways, without publishers and booksellers setting the rules and telling them what they could and couldn’t write.
But ten years on, it seems like we’ve gone the opposite way. The self-publishing world seems more beholden to genre than ever before. Amazon and other online bookstores are totally organised by genre. Those odd and wonderful books you might chance open in a bricks-and-mortar bookshop have become almost invisible.
And I feel like we’ve trained readers to demand certain things from the books they read, rather than being prepared to allow stories to take them into places they didn’t expect – something like ‘I wanted a detective book, but this didn’t follow the proper rules of a detective book so I’m not going to read it.’ Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I’d like to think that readers are a little more open than that and a bit more prepared to be challenged. At least the sort of readers I like to write for.
My final thought in this regard is that with all these writers churning out these books that closely follow the rules of genre (generic I believe is the adjective), we’re creating this great cultural morass of nothingness. I certainly don’t want to add to this. I want to think that anything I put out there is interesting and new – it adds to the cultural discourse, rather than repeating the same tired old tropes.
Again, I may be barking up the wrong tree. There are lots of successful writers following this approach, and as for me, I’m at no risk of quitting my day job. But it’s the only way I know how to write.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as