How the wrong genre listing can kill your book #WriterWednesday #WritingTips #AmWriting

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.

wrong genre 2

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.)

wrong genre 1

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.

11 thoughts on “How the wrong genre listing can kill your book #WriterWednesday #WritingTips #AmWriting

  1. ianbboyd says:

    I only have one novel completed so far called Madilla about a Himalayan girl who teaches herself piano and connects with a sparrow spirit animal. There are many angles to the story, but nothing of ‘Erotica’ as it has been placed on iBooks which I am having fun changing. The blurb begins with ‘From the very first touch of her fingers.’ They obviously didn’t read any further to find out that she was touching a piano.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ianbboyd says:

    I was told the other day that the most important feature of selling the book is to name which books it is like, even if its not necessarily accurate. I find that even harder to swallow.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. amjusticewrites says:

    Been there! Before releasing my novel, it was up on Netgalley under the “New Adult” and “Fantasy” categories. Well, “New Adult” turned out to be a mistake, because NA draws a lot of YA readers, and a lot of those readers weren’t prepared for or disliked the dark themes. They wanted a heroine with clearcut morals who bravely marches onward toward her goals, but my MC is haunted by past trauma and doesn’t always do the right thing as a result. They wanted Katniss Everdeen and I gave them Lisbeth Salander. Consequently, early on, I received a lot of negative reviews–nearly all my 1 and 2 star reviews come from that period.

    But the good thing about negative reviews is that they shape your market. The people who complain about blue language in your book (however blue or not it may actually be) are warning off others who won’t like it if a character yells “shit” when he hits his thumb with a hammer. You’ll lose a sale, but you will also be spared a future 1 star review. It also isn’t too likely to affect your overall sales, because these days most people don’t really mind the occasional s-bomb.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.