Tighten the Genre Focus

Last week I posted a discussion about classifying your writing into the right genre in order to target the crafting of your manuscript, the agents you query, and the market you focus on.  Here’s a little follow-up on that with a blog post by very-wise-literary-agent Jessica Faust of BookEnds Literary.

A very important point to remember in all similar discussions is that the information is there to enlighten you and help you form your own thoughts about the subject.  Not every piece of advice is right for everybody.  Not every writing rule is set in stone.  Not every work of art, including that masterpiece you just might be working on right now, fits neatly into a genre compartment.  But all the advice and rules have been wrung out and verified as helpful by the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands of writers and agents and editors before you, so it’s wise to go ahead and listen, ponder, and evaluate what it all means to your own career and potential masterpieces.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”  Considering his fame and success, it’s probably a good idea to listen just a little harder.

I’m not exactly sure what I think about such a tight focus on your audience.  I’m hard-headed, I know.  I have a huge urge to try to appeal to as wide a fan base as possible.  But there’s a balance somewhere between reaching a wide audience shallowly and reaching a narrow audience deeply, and I’m not sure where that balance is.  I’d love to hear more thoughts on that, so please let me know what you think.

And it would do you good to wander around Ms. Faust’s blog and website a little and see what other good nuggets she has to offer.

Stop Writing for Everyone

Agent Jessica Faust
Apr 1, 2021

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and neither are you and neither is your book. So stop trying to write for all readers.

Write Your Genre

I think one of the biggest mistakes authors make, especially early on, is worrying too much about what will make their book appealing to everyone. You won’t. You can’t. Even today’s biggest selling books have their detractors. Heck, they have haters as much as they have lovers.

Your book is YA or it’s adult. It’s not both. If you’re super lucky you’ll have some crazy breakout book that will sell to all audiences, but when writing and querying the book you are appealing only to one. Harry Potter was not written for adults, neither was Twilight or Hunger Games. They were read by adults, but the authors never wrote them trying to make them appeal to everyone. They just did.

Your book can’t be a romance and a mystery and SFF and a memoir. It is one of those things. It might absolutely have elements of the others, but at the end of the day you’re writing a book with an eye toward one of the audiences above.

Writing Your Book

The same holds true of writing the book itself. Too often I see writers confined by the so-called rules (often passed along in writing groups) that keep them from really just writing a great book.

Even when choosing a genre, you will still not appeal to every reader within the genre. Not every romance reader likes romantic comedy, or bad boy heroes, or historical. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write them, that just means your book won’t be every romance reader’s cup of tea.

Choose Your Agent

The same holds true when choosing agents. I am not the agent for every writer. I don’t represent SFF or middle grade and I wouldn’t know where to start, I’m not great at hand-holding, and, whether you want it or not, you’re going to get (potentially) tough editorial feedback from me. Some of you might think all of those things are great. Others would rather find someone else. Either choice is great and perfect.

When searching for an agent I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the right fit for you. That’s not necessarily your best friend’s agent, your sister’s agent, or your professor’s agent. It’s your agent. Your business partner.

I would give the same advice to any reader choosing the only book they get to take along on a deserted island. Find the book that’s right for you. It’s not your friend’s, your mom’s, or your sister’s. Its the one you can happily read many times and love.

Honestly, I long ago embraced that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I long ago embraced the idea that not everyone likes me. I’m good with that. I can’t please everyone and if I did, I think I’d be doing it wrong.

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