Most experts will advise you to list your novel under as many genres as possible to ensure your novel is discoverable for as many potential readers as possible. That’s not always the best idea, however, because using the wrong genre listing can seriously hurt your book. A genre listing is not only a method for categorizing books. A genre brings with it certain expectations for its readers. For example, in a sweet romance, the reader will expect there is no swearing and no sex. Sometimes references to sex are considered too shocking for the sweet romance genre. It’s not an exact science, however, which can make choosing a genre for your novel a headache.
I recently experienced more than a headache when I put my series, The Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives, on sale and marketed it on FreeBooksy as a cozy mystery. On the upside, the bundle reached #15 overall in free books and #1 in two categories. This caused a celebration from which I took two days to recover.
On the other hand, I received a bunch of very nasty reviews. EEK! Not because the book was poorly written or poorly edited. Nope! Because readers didn’t agree with me that these novels are ‘cozy mysteries’. Readers were, therefore, very upset to read references to sex and slightly naughty jokes. (On a side note: These novels don’t contain explicit sex scenes, but there is some fumbling around and there are definitely jokes of a sexual nature.)
I’m not going to write a treatise about what is a clean read or how cozy mystery is defined. I simply couldn’t as I’m still trying to figure it out. I walk a tightrope when writing these mysteries. Do I include swear words? Is ass a swear word when used as a term of anatomy? Etc. Etc. What I am trying to do here is caution you to think long and hard about choosing a genre because choosing the wrong genre can have serious implications for the life of your book. In my case, I received 4 one-star reviews and 2 two-star reviews based almost exclusively on readers finding the novels not cozy mysteries for whatever reason.
Before you run off and change all your genres, please note I also received 8 five-star reviews and 3 four-star reviews. As the pages read continue to climb, I hope (fingers and toes crossed!) to receive more genuine reviews. The entire experience did cause me to take a long, hard look at my current novel (Finders, Not Keepers is out August 20th). I had a few scenes in which the male love interest used naughty language. I also used the word ‘shit’ more than once or twice. In the end, I decided to take out the swear words as I could find good substitutes, which sometimes actually added to the humor of the novel. I’ll continue to chose cozy mystery as a genre on Amazon, but I won’t necessarily market the novel using that category. As always, I’ll let you know how I get on.
How about you? Anyone else have a horror story with regard to genre listings? Let’s discuss.