Saturday 2 May 2015

IAF15: Genres Busting Out All Over

By Linda Gillard

Rave rejections. That’s what authors call them. Publishers say, “We all loved it, but it just won’t sell.” Translation: “We wouldn’t know how to market it.” Books that belong to no clear genre or to more than one, are (it’s said) difficult to market and for something to sell (it’s said), it has to be marketed. Publicity budgets and marketing departments are organised around this commercial fact of life.

Some years ago I parted company with my publisher over my fourth novel, HOUSE OF SILENCE. My editor claimed if I didn’t re-write it as a romance, they wouldn’t know how to market it. It was a country house mystery/gothic rom-com/psychological family drama, so I could see their point. But I thought it was a rattling good yarn as it stood, so I withdrew the manuscript, thereby committing professional suicide because every other editor delivered the same verdict: HOUSE OF SILENCE was unmarketable.

After two years of rave rejections, I published it myself in 2011. It became a Kindle bestseller. I’ve sold more than 56,000 downloads (it’s never been free) and over 800 paperbacks.

Marketing? I don’t have a clue. (Neither do publishers, as overflowing remainder bookshops will attest.) My marketing budget was spent on a professional cover. I actually promoted HOUSE OF SILENCE as a mixed-genre novel and my teaser blurb ended: “REBECCA meets COLD COMFORT FARM.” Possibly my smartest move was putting my backlist and two more new novels on Kindle and Smashwords as soon as HOUSE OF SILENCE began to sell.

I dealt with mixed-genre marketing problems by ignoring them, refusing to believe selling fiction is all about genre. It isn’t. It’s about story. Time and again, readers tell me they don’t care about genre. It’s all about the story, the characters and the authorial voice.

I had to promote my stories (and myself) because I don’t write genre fiction. It worked because readers are looking for authors to fall in love with and when they find one, they read everything s/he’s written. My novels range from psychological literary fiction to paranormal romance, but someone reviewed me on Amazon recently saying she’d read all seven books in two months. That’s someone buying a voice, not a genre.

Traditional publishers see themselves as gatekeepers, vetting the content and quality of what we read. What authors always knew (but readers didn’t) was that the gates were mostly kept shut. Only certain types of book got through - increasingly, the type supermarkets prefer to sell, with does-what-it-says-on-the-tin covers. Pioneering indie authors took creative risks and discovered readers are far more adventurous than publishers give them credit for. With the subsequent proliferation of genres, sub-genres and creative inter-breeding, boundaries have become gloriously blurred.

So it’s a brave new book world now. Whatever you want to read – gay nautical historical fiction, steampunk erotica, Roman romance with male or even female gladiators – someone is writing it and, thanks to indie authors, someone is publishing it. All kinds of books for all kinds of readers. Isn’t that just what we always wanted?

Linda Gillard lives in the Scottish Highlands. She is the author of seven novels, including STAR GAZING, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and HOUSE OF SILENCE, selected by Amazon UK as one of their Top Ten "Best of 2011" in the Indie Author category.


  1. A great read, Linda. Full of good information and inspiration.

  2. Excellent and encouraging piece, Linda. Thank you.

  3. Great post Linda. Really informative as was your workshop at SAW conference

  4. Completely agree with you, Linda, and you are the proof that genre doesn't matter if you can write well!