Whose Fantasy Is This Anyway?
Part 2 – Fantasy Writers in the Wilderness
This is the second of a five part series about authors navigating fantasy’s many overlapping subgenres (for Part 1, please see: Whose Fantasy Is This Anyway? Part 1 ).
The risk of being categorized with books significantly different from your chosen subgenre is especially true for indie fantasy writers (and lessor known traditionally published fantasy authors) without an established brand to cue potential readers about where their novel fits in the fantasy firmament.
Authorial anonymity increases the chances that your work will be inappropriately aggregated until it’s sold enough so that potential readers know where to find it or a platform’s search architecture has trained itself about what kind of book you’ve written. Meantime, you may find yourself in strange company thanks to ‘sponsored products related to this title’ functionality (e.g. on Amazon). Keyword descriptors including ‘urban’, ‘contemporary’, ‘modern’, and ‘paranormal’ seem especially prone to uncertain interpretations by both humans and machine driven searches. My own modern fantasies often wind up on the same page as completely different types of books ( https://amzn.to/2DhS9bo ).
But so what if your opus is mistaken for some other subgenre by the casual shopper miss-directed by clumsy algorithms? Isn’t a little reader confusion potentially helpful? Maybe they’ll buy your book (or at least read some sample pages) and discover that they adore your stuff. In an era where ‘discoverability’ is a damnable challenge for lesser-known authors, being mistakenly associated with more popular books in other subgenres certainly sounds like a recipe for broader reader awareness. And discovery by fair means or foul gains you recognition…
…except getting discovered by the right readers is what you really need.
In an era of hyperbolic book critiques on platforms like Goodreads, it’s helpful to a nascent authorial reputation if your potential readers are predisposed to like your subgenre. And while a few readers might be pleasantly surprised that they’ve stumbled unexpectedly on your work, many more are likely to be irritated and vent with a bad review – just look at reviewers taking vengeance on some poor book for all the wrongs real and imagined that life has inflicted on them. Worse, folks that really would be interested in your work won’t spot it. So, this is a calamity on several fronts – working to ensure that your book is grouped with other work most like it is vital to successfully marketing your novels. (see Part 3 of the series)