Writing a book: How to choose a genre?

How you write and structure a book has a lot to do with what genre you choose. This decision will also have a big influence on another aspect that’s important for publishers – your target market size. For many new writers there’s a natural inclination to be drawn towards a specific genre like romance, thrillers, science fiction, young adult, chick lit or any of the numerous other broad or niche genres available.

A big influence on choosing the genre might be the kind of novels, non-fiction books and online stories you’ve been reading for a long time. Reading bestsellers is a great way to get the pulse of the reader and the market. But it’s also got its pitfalls.

When the Harry Potter series became a hit, it spawned a whole new generation of me-too writers who tried to emulate the plot, characters and magical themes used in the best-selling series. But none came close to the success of JK Rowling in terms of print editions sold, forget about multi-million dollar movie deals.

You could list out many reasons why these books failed.

Many writers who were quick to get their books into the market couldn’t create unique and gripping plots with the same level of quality. The characters ended up being 2-dimensional caricatures of the originals. Other books that did justice to the plot and their characters ended up in the cans for too long. Blame it on the slow moving nature of the publishing industry (read this post on how long it can take to get published). By the time they got published and came to the book stores, the flavour of the season had changed. Most readers had moved on to fresher themes.

When it comes to trends, the publishing industry is pretty much like the Fashion industry. It’s difficult to predict what will be hot in the future or if what is hot today will remain hot in a few months’ time.

The lesson to be learnt here is – Publishers do like to ensure that their authors come out with books that have a high level of interest from the readers. But don’t be swayed by what’s selling in the market. Stick to the genres, stories, plots that you are comfortable with.

The same approach applies to non-fiction books too. I checked Flipkart to see how my book was faring. It currently ranks number 1 in the Education Books category.

How to write a book
In my case, the decision making process when it came to choosing a genre was pretty logical. My MBA book revolves about pitfalls to be aware of while considering ‘international MBA’ options. When I started writing the book, I had just graduated from an ‘international MBA’ program. A few years after I wrote my book, I started an MBA admissions consulting venture that gets applicants into ‘international MBA’ programs. My (other) blog is related to ‘international MBA’ topics.

All nicely falling in place around 1 common theme…and definitely not by accident.

It’s a book meant for a niche market which means that it’ll never come close to Ms Rowling’s book sales numbers. But as long as you are doing well in your niche, I guess that’s not a big deal.

Stick to your strengths, write a good book, and don’t shy away from learning about the commercial and business aspects. If you stay loyal to these three, it’s only a matter of time before you get published.

8 Comments

  1. Dr. Urwashi Parmar says:

    U r correct. New writers tend to copy best sellers. But if the book is unique & if the publishers have an eye for it I guess the book will work.

    Many first time writers did come out with some good concepts. Amish Tripathi with his Shiva Triology for eg.

    Urwashi.

  2. Uday says:

    My website has a list of publishers based out of India who look at ‘Crime, Mystery and Thriller’ genre more favourably.

  3. Yuhlung says:

    Dear Sameer,

    Warm greetings to you. By the way, can you please specify which is the best Indian publishers for academic (non-fiction) books for higher students, researchers and scholars. How reliable is the Mittal publisher, Astral, Cosmo, etc.
    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Yuhlung

  4. Vibha Lohani says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Appreciate the information consolidated by you. I have checked their sites as well as sites of some other literary agents in India. Unfortunately mostly have specified that they do not accept short stories. Can you suggest any agents who might be open for the short story genre?

  5. Niraj Agarwal says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Your website has really been of great help.

    Can you suggest some literary agents for a “spirituality” genre book in English?

    Regards.

  6. Ramsundar says:

    Hi Sameer

    I am Ramsundar from Mumbai. I am a writer. I written many short stories (Inspiring stories) and poems. I wish to publish some of my short stories.
    Pls guide me to proceed further

  7. Deshvardhan Singh says:

    mr. sameer kamat mai ek yuva upanyaskar hu deshvardhan singh(24). maine apna hindi novel “manan” apne shahar ajmer ke sthaniya prakashak se self publish karaya. yaha ke pratisthit sahityakar aur pathako ne jinhone bhi mere novel padha vah apna rudan rok nhi sake. unhe mera novel bahut accha laga. bahut kuch asi pratikriyaye ayee jinhe mai chand shabdo mai sametkar apko nahi bata sakta.
    mere publisher ka pustak distributors se bilkul bhi sampark nahi hai aur novel mai typikal mistakes bhi bahut ki hai. mai apna novel kisi acche publisher se publish karvana chahta hu jo “manan” ko jan jan tak pahucha sake..
    kripaya mera margdarsan kijiye.
    dhanyawad.

  8. M. Srinivasxan says:

    Dear Sri Sameer

    I am a translator and an author. I have translated more than about 55 books from Tamil to English. I have done about
    5 books from Tamil to English. Written in original about 5 books. I have one book written now in English. Kindly let
    me know the addresses / email ids of any literary agents in Chennai.

    With regards
    -Ln M.Srinivasan

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