Why new storytellers write stories that don’t find an audience
When I started writing stories I had no idea what I was doing. I sat down at a keyboard and let my writing pour onto the page in a muddy puddle.
Surprisingly, nobody was interested in reading them. Not even the people closest to me that I forced to read them. I felt unheard. Maybe I wasn’t a good writer.
Reverse the thinking
Eventually I came to realise that I was coming at the problem from the wrong direction. Rather than writing a story and then trying to find an audience, I needed to find an audience and then write a story for them.
So how do you find your audience?
Well that’s what genres are for. They allow readers to find the stories that interest them. They allow writers to find an audience for their stories, and to tailor their work to them.
The Storytelling Business Is All About Buying and Selling Genres.
— John Truby
So what are genres, and how do you work with them?
If you have ever been into a bookshop, you will already be familiar with genres. They are sections in which the books are found.
Similarly if you have ever bought a book online, they are the categories that the online bookshop uses to divide up the books.
So what do you need to know about genre in order to help you write your book?
What are the different types of genres?
If you select a book on Amazon there are multiple categories listed, for example The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose is categorised as
- #1 in Domestic Thrillers (Kindle Store)
- #1 in Murder Thrillers
- #1 in Psychological Thrillers (Kindle Store)
But when you are starting out, the most important thing is the primary genre, in this case Thriller.
There are 3 main resources I use when talking about genre.
- Pages & Platforms has a guide to seven essential Story Types
- Story Grid has Genre 5-Leaf Clover overview
- Anatomy of Genre has fourteen genres
Although these have slightly different approaches, and may use different names, you can find parallels between the main genres in each.
How do you choose the right genre for your story?
The key to choosing the primary genre for your story is to look at the desire line in your story. What is the main character’s mission?
But for any except the simplest story, you may need a secondary genre, or more.
Pages & Platforms and Story Grid distinguish between external genres and internal genres. The external genre describes what the protagonist wants in the outer world. The internal genre describes how the protagonist needs to change internally to achieve it. Combining them leads to a satisfying story.
Anatomy of Genres does not have this distinction, but suggests that combing 2–4 genres is the way to create a more compelling story that will transcend the primary genre.
How does genre affect the way a story is told?
Each genre has conventions that you must meet as an author if you don’t want to disappoint the audience.
There are also obligatory scenes or story beats that you must hit for the audience to be satisfied.
In Story Grid you can read about these by clicking on the genre links
For Anatomy of Genre, you can read more about the fourteen genres by purchasing the book here.
How do writers use genre to market their books?
One way writers can find readers is by targeting ads on Amazon, Facebook or Google Ads.
When you know the specific genre of your book, you can target your ads to users who have shown an interest in authors or books that are in the same genre.
If they like that author, or that book, that is in the same genre as yours, then maybe they will buy yours too.
With only one book, the ads will likely cost more than the revenue you make, but you may choose to pay that cost to find new readers. With a call to action in the front and back of the book to join your email list, you will have a ready made audience when the next book comes out.
When you have a series of books, then assuming you have good read-through (a good percentage of the people who bought book 1 will also buy book 2 in the series, etc) then your overall income from finding one new reader may outweigh the cost of the advert.
Alternatively you could bundle your series into a more expensive package that can give better revenue than the cost of the ads.
If no one is reading your stories, then write in a specific genre to ensure there is an audience for your stories before you write them.