3 Ways You Can Use Categories to Sell Your Books


Typically, as we write, the core message (or in fiction the core conflict) will determine what the book is about. These “cores” do not, however determine the book’s genre or category and knowing and using the difference to your advantage are an important distinctions for writers to realize and to which they need to hold true.

Category (or genre) refers to a book’s classification based on rules and book marketing concepts developed over the years. Books are often marketed as “mystery” or “leadership,” or “Young Adult.” Just a peak at the USAToday bestseller report will give you an example. There’s drop down menu list of conventional categories used in book publishing.

Restrictive as this may sound to creative, free-thinking authors, it’s inescapable even if you self-publish. It’s a way for retailers (physical and online) to classify products and it’s a way for you to connect with readers who happen to love a particular genre. By using category to your advantage your book is automatically classified with other best selling books and as readers browse favorite categories, they have a better opportunity of finding yours.

There are some simple ways you can use category to help you sell books:

First, make sure your cover and jacket blurb clearly help the reader identify it. If you try to be too cute or fool the reader too much, they won’t pick it up or order it online.

Second, make sure in your writing that you stay within your category. Early in my career I published a book that was a “tell-all” type book and we categorized it in biography. The author, however, delivered three chapters of biography and 10 chapters where he just vented and ranted. Readers expected a sizzling biography, but they got a preachy commentary on current affairs. I think we received more back in returns than we actually sold. Needless to say the book died and the author needed to spend considerable time rebuilding the trust of his readers.

Third, no matter what category you choose to write in, know the rules of that category. How do you know the rules? Read great books that are bestsellers in that category. They will give you insight into the rules of the category—things like book length, chapter length, reading level, plot sequence, how much or how little conflict, etc.

I know knowing and staying within a publishing category may sound boring and restrictive, but that’s what the readers wants and let’s face it, readers are your buyers.


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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