In the dynamic world of literature, genres evolve, and audience preferences change. Staying informed about these shifts is essential for creating marketable content. It’s a good idea to understand the genres you wish to write within and to do that you need to roll up your sleeves and research your genre. Through this article, you’ll gain a few tools and insights to excel in your chosen literary field.
Defining Your Genre
Before you can research your genre, it’s essential to know your choices and decide which is best for you. The genre is the blueprint that informs your writing style, themes, and audience expectations. Here’s how to define your genre:
Understand Genre Types
Genres can be broadly categorized into fiction and non-fiction. Within these categories, you’ll find numerous subgenres. Fictional genres include romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and more, while non-fiction spans from self-help to history and biographies. Identify where your work fits within this spectrum.
Determine Your Genre’s Characteristics
Each genre has unique characteristics that set it apart. For example, romance novels typically focus on love and relationships, while science fiction often explores futuristic technology and speculative ideas. Identify the key themes and elements that define your genre. Note: There can be overlap. For instance, you could have a Romance Sci-fi book, which is a popular genre.
Analyze Market Trends
Research the current market trends for the genre you are considering. Are there any emerging subgenres or themes gaining popularity? Understanding these trends can help you tailor your work to meet market demand.
Identifying Key Players
One of the most effective ways to research your genre is by studying successful authors and works within it. Here’s how to identify and analyze the key players:
Start by researching the authors who are top in your genre. The title “best-seller” can be misleading as this title can be bought. However, you can’t deny someone’s track record of continually selling throughout the years. Look for those key authors. For instance, if you’re leaning toward legal thrillers, you might research John Grisham. Or if you were interested in mystery suspense, you might study Janet Evanovich.
Look at who these authors are and what works have propelled them to success. Study their writing style, themes, and how they connect with their audience. Note: It’s not a bad idea to read the first few chapters of several books to get a feel for how they hook the reader.
Series and Standalones
Determine whether your genre tends to favor series or standalone novels. For example, the fantasy genre often features epic series, while thrillers frequently consist of standalone stories. Analyzing this aspect will help you understand reader preferences.
Don’t overlook self-published authors. Many successful writers have found their niche through self-publishing. Research their strategies and examine how they’ve reached a broad readership. Note: Unless you have a huge social media following, or another built-in marketing plan, you probably will have difficulty securing a traditional publisher. Self-publishing is a great alternative to explore. For that reason, diving into researching other authors who are self-publishing will be helpful in your research. Study what they did to reach success.
Utilizing Online Resources
The internet offers a wealth of resources to aid your genre research. Here are some online platforms and tools to help you in your quest:
Amazon is a valuable resource for identifying the top books in your chosen genre. You can filter results by subgenre and format, providing a comprehensive view of what’s currently selling. You can also discover new subgenres that you might not have considered. While there are about 100 different genres and subgenres in the literary world, Amazon has created many more. At last count, they had about 16,000!
Goodreads is a platform where readers review and discuss books. Explore your genre’s community and read reviews to understand what readers love or dislike about certain books. Pay attention to popular shelves and reader recommendations.
Author Websites and Blogs
Many authors maintain websites or blogs where they discuss their writing process, genre insights, and upcoming releases. Reading these can offer a deeper understanding of your genre.
Libraries house a wealth of reference materials that can provide historical context and in-depth knowledge about your genre. Look for genre-specific guides and examples of various books in your chosen genre.
Interact with Librarians
Librarians are often well-versed in the genres available in their collections. Consult with them for recommendations and insights into your chosen genre.
Rare and Out-of-Print Books
Libraries may have access to rare or out-of-print books that can be challenging to find elsewhere. These books can offer unique perspectives on the evolution of your genre.
Check Out Lots of Books
Once you have pinpointed your genre, check out a half-dozen books so you can study them. As I said before, start by reading the first few chapters to get a feel for how the successful and experienced authors handle your genre. Of course, if you get hooked, by all means, finish reading the book or series.
Analyzing Successful Works
Now that you’ve gathered a substantial amount of information, it’s time to drill down and analyze the successful works within your genre. Look for common themes, writing styles, and elements that make these books stand out. Here are the elements to study:
Examine the plot structures of bestselling books in your genre. Are there recurring patterns or narrative arcs that resonate with readers? Understanding these can help you structure your own work effectively. Note: Most follow the Three-Act Structure.
Study the elements that make the characters relatable or intriguing. Why do you like them or dislike them? Analyze how authors create dynamic and memorable characters that captivate readers. Note: If you enjoy writing dialogue, spend some time reading and reading the dialogue in some of your favorite books within your genre.
Writing Style and Voice
Pay attention to the writing style and authorial voice in successful works. Is the writing concise and straightforward, or does it feature rich, descriptive language? Understanding the preferred style in your genre can guide your own writing. Note: Finding your written voice takes time, so don’t expect it to happen overnight. Most writers will tell you that once you have written a few books, it will pop out. For me, I remember waking up one morning with the huge realization and win that I did in fact have my own written voice.
Reader Reviews and Feedback
Reader feedback is a goldmine of information. By analyzing reviews, you can gain insights into reader preferences and areas for improvement. Here’s how to approach this aspect of research:
Goodreads and Amazon Reviews
Study the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon for books in your genre. Look for recurring praise and criticism to understand what readers value and what they find lacking. What do they like best? What do they complain about most?
Beta Readers and Critique Groups
Most authors engage dozens of beta readers to help them analyze their work. Find people who love to read books within your genre. Look for common critiques and ignore comments from single readers. For instance, if ten readers say that your character Becky needs work, fix her. However, if one or two people voice opinions about some aspect of the story, you probably don’t need to act on that.
Surveys and Questionnaires
Consider creating surveys or questionnaires to gather direct feedback from potential readers. This can help you pinpoint specific elements that resonate with your target audience. Note: I like to use surveys when creating the titles of my books.
Researching your genre is not complete without a thorough market analysis. Understanding the commercial aspect of your genre is vital for success. You can start by examining the catalogs of major publishers to identify trends in your genre. This can help you see what types of books they are actively promoting and investing in.
I like to review the sales figures and rankings of books in the genre I’m writing for a client. This information can be found on platforms like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major book retailers. Pay attention to the overall sales performance and how long a book remains popular.
Genre research is an ongoing process. To ensure that your knowledge remains relevant, you must continuously update your information and adapt to changing trends. One strategy is to create Google Alerts for keywords related to your genre. This way, you’ll receive notifications when new content, news, or trends related to your genre are published.
In addition, you might subscribe to industry-specific magazines, websites, and newsletters. These sources provide the latest information on genre trends, author interviews, and publishing updates.
Another tip is to participate in genre-specific conferences, workshops, and seminars. These events offer opportunities to network with authors, publishers, and experts in your field, and to gain insights into emerging trends.
Finally, I’d suggest that you engage with online communities, forums, and social media groups dedicated to your genre. Participating in these discussions will help you stay informed about the latest developments and conversations within your genre.
In the ever-evolving world of literature, it is key to research your genre thoroughly. Understand what’s selling so you might produce a successful and marketable work. By thoroughly defining your genre, identifying key players, utilizing online resources, conducting library research, and analyzing successful works, you’ll be well-equipped to create content that resonates with your target audience. Additionally, tapping into reader reviews and feedback, conducting market analysis, and staying updated will help you adapt to changing trends and maintain your relevance as a writer. With the knowledge and insights gained through this comprehensive research process, you’ll be better prepared to excel in your chosen literary field and craft books that capture the hearts and minds of your readers.