LET’S STORM THE GENRE GATES!
I considered crafting this article as a practical guide to creating a new, personalized genre as a marketing tool, complete with a title like “25 New Sub-Sub-Genres Flooding the Book Market,” or a handy checklist like “Seven Steps to Confuse the Bookseller.” But frankly, not following a tried and true genre is impractical, and makes marketing the book tricky. But the book business is radically changing with self-publishing and online platforms, so I propose that how we look at genres is changing as well.
Certainly the amount of sub-genres is unbelievable. As in New Adult Paranormal Steampunk. The idea of a Hybrid genre is no big deal anymore, and helps catch attention. If many writers are freeing themselves from the Big Publishers, then they are free to dream in any genre they wish.
As they say, I have one book in me. It happens to be a series – 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles – with eleven volumes and 1001 chapters that will take the rest of my life to complete, but whatever: it’s the one book that drives me, which I desired to write before I read any manuals. Since I started life as a stage director and earned my bread as a musician, when I got around to writing I was motivated by a Big Idea and not a genre. In fact, one of the things I love about my series, where a character recounts a new past life story every chapter, is that I explore many different genres. This lifetime is in 17th Century France (historical fiction), that lifetime is on planet Proclivita (sci-fi), another lifetime is an Arabian Nights love story (medieval romance). Hybrid gone wild!
These days there are many authors whose ideas outrun their genres, especially us self-published writers working outside the box. We still contend with a market defined by genres, but perhaps it’s time for a more expanded view of things. I’m not pushing Genreless Literature; I’m no anarchist. But on bad days when I wander the self-marketing online desert bemoaning my neglect, nay my rejection of a comfy genre, I notice others posting articles about new genres, or genres that re-define old categories. Kindred souls! My ears prick up, and I feel a faint hope that the answer is to create my own genre, or cozy up to a new one that fits my work.
A lovely case in point. For years there’s been a somewhat fringe non-fiction genre called New Age, which included self-help books, spiritual reflections, occult histories, and psychedelic memoirs. Great stuff, but often in the back corner at Barnes & Noble, or only found at the gift shop of a yoga retreat in the Sierras. Lo and behold, I found the Visionary Fiction Alliance.
A group reframing the New Age genre with a defined purpose, and specifically for fiction authors. Bless them: since 1001 has a reincarnation theme, I had investigated self-publishing with Hay House, or partnering with a spiritual bookstore, but their books were always non-fiction. Finally, a group that recognized a broad area of fiction that didn’t fit traditional categories, but which was a rich trove of artists and material. I noticed others working out this genre, but with a different name:
The best definition or name may work itself out in time, but the point is that creative minds were defining their identity, recognizing a large cache of books, and promoting a genre.
The idea of inventing a new genre to define my non-traditional hybrid of hybrids (hydraid?), was so refreshing that it led me to consider a sub-genre, of Visionary Fiction, or perhaps Fantasy. In my research I discovered a slew of reincarnation fiction. Mostly romances, two present day beauties discovering their dripping passion is based on an intense past life connection in ancient Egypt. These books fit a larger Time Travel Romance sub-genre that includes blockbusters like Time Traveler’s Wife and the Outlander series. Then there are hybrids mixing Mystery or Thriller with the reincarnation theme, like Russell Perry’s The Returning.
Finally, there is literary fiction playing with past lives, such as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. 1001 could fit in there, too.
As I ponder this genre –
Past Life Fantasy?
– I think of my friends at the Visionary Fiction Alliance, and realize that if I’m serious about inventing a new genre, I have to promote it, raise awareness, write articles, reach out to authors working within it, and even advocate for its inclusion in genre lists on Amazon, Goodreads, or Publishers Weekly. A daunting task, but by promoting the genre you promote your book, and visa versa.
Since this is a nascent concept for me and for the publishing field (is it? I mean, how old is steampunk anyway?), I invite you to consider its value and practicality, to share and promote other newly minted genres you’ve heard of, or to conjure up a new genre for your one-of-a-kind tome. As I weigh the worth of pursuing this avenue, I’d love to hear your responses.
HOW TO REFRAME A LITERARY GENRE: KARMA LIT, ANYONE? by Stephen Weinstock http://goo.gl/3HXmh9 #TheArtistUnleashed #IndieAuthors #selfpub
Find 1001: The Qaraq, Book One of The Reincarnation Chronicles on: Amazon or Goodreads.