Saturday Series On Reviews # 3 with guest post by Robb Grindstaff

Today is the third week talking about reviews.  Last week in this post we covered what I feel are two key points to reviewing:  Who can review and  What do you need to know to review.  Additionally, Lauren Royal provided a breakdown that talks about the importance of reader-reviews.   That discounting the star ratings, the SEO optimization is geared to the total number of reviews – not the average star rating.  More total reviews = more people who will see your book.  So – reviews are an important factor in publicity generation.

This week – we are going to delve deeper into genres: define them and look at all the ways to classify titles. With this information, you will learn how to choose or avoid books that have elements that appeal to you specifically.

Now- it is important to note here that there is no right or wrong, or even a must do.  And it is important to remember that no two people ever read the same book: every life experience you have will influence how a character or story speaks to you. Unless you have a clone out there, your experience and feelings about a book will be different from mine, your sister, your mother or even your best friend.

Saturday-Series New
What is a Genre?

A category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.  So – there is something ‘similar’ in the style, the form or the content.  We are talking about books, so we will talk about genres in terms of general and then get more specific.

Fiction is a large catchall that encompasses many different types of books that you will encounter.  Fiction is written stories about people and events that are not real, stories which are imagined by the writer. Now, fiction can use real people, places and events to inform the story, but most of the story is a product of imagination.

In this series, we are really talking only about fiction: there are different standards and implied knowledge that a reader would have to review a non-fiction text.  Memoirs and Biographies fall into that curious middle-ground, where much of the impression of a book when you finish the last page comes from someone else’s life experience, or your familiarity with the events that the biographer is detailing.

Genre includes the standard categories such as science-fiction, fantasy, romance, historical, young adult, horror, thriller/suspense, crime, mystery, erotica, women’s fiction, commercial, and literary.Then there are sub-genres within genres, e.g., sci-fi space opera, paranormal romance, high fantasy, and chick-lit. Steampunk is a sub-genre that combines historical, sci-fi, and fantasy in unique, anachronistic ways, such as a story set in the Victorian age with high-tech gadgets powered by steam engines.As a genre, commercial fiction (sometimes called general or mainstream) might have a wide appeal and sell to a larger audience, and it doesn’t fall into one of the more narrowly defined genres which appeal to a specific group of readers with a particular interest. Think Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) for commercial fiction, although Da Vinci could also be categorized in the thriller/suspense genre. So ‘commercial’ might be the genre description, or it can be used to describe a different genre book that appeals to a wider audience.Beyond categorizing a book by genre, there are market categories and descriptions. This is where the term ‘upmarket’ has come into play in recent years. From an audience perspective, upmarket means fiction that will appeal to readers who are educated, highly read, and prefer books with substantive quality writing and stronger stories/themes. Upmarket describes commercial fiction that bumps up against literary fiction, or literary fiction that holds a wider appeal, or a work straddles the two genres.Mass market (as opposed to upmarket) usually means those small paperbacks lining the shelves in the grocery store. These might be crime, thriller, romance, detective, or general fiction, but these are the books some readers devour at a rate of one or more a week, or buy a stack to take to the beach on vacation. Other market categories include Christian, ethnic or multi-cultural, and LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender).

So you can now categorize your book by genre, by sub-genre, and by market audience. On top of that, you can describe it in more detail by the time and place setting. Contemporary fiction means the story is set in today’s real world, as opposed to historical fiction (e.g., set in England during the Victorian era or in the American Civil War), or the fictional worlds of sci-fi and fantasy (Starship Enterprise or Middle Earth). ‘Crossover’ means a book that, while neatly labeled with one genre or market category (such as women’s fiction), also appeals to other readers (such as men). Or middle-grade/YA (such as Harry Potter) that appeals to adults as well as teens/kids.

‘Cross-genre’ is completely different from crossover. Cross-genre books are a mix of two or more specific genres. When a particular cross-genre gains popularity and has enough books written in that category, it might become its own sub-genre. A romance novel set in the Victorian era falls in the sub-genre/cross-genre of historical romance. A vampire novel aimed at teens might be labeled YA paranormal fantasy, which might be considered a cross-genre, or a sub-genre (paranormal fantasy) aimed at the YA market, or its own sub-genre.

~Original content used with permission: first appeared at Robb Grindstaff, Book Editor.

Right now you are thinking that no where have I helped you choose a genre.  Because YOU have to choose for yourself.  You like romance? Then start there. Don’t like vamps? Cross them off your list.  Like Jane Austen? Try Historical Romances, or Regencies.  The more genres and sub-genres you try, the more you will discover what YOU like to read. Because honestly – life is far to short to read something you ought to read over something you want to read.

Just do yourself a favor. If you know that you don’t like something (I don’t read horror – rarely for pleasure, never for review, I just don’t like being scared out of my wits) do not review it. Likewise if you are tiring of a particular type of story-line , give yourself permission to try something new.

Use the blurbs, samples and reviewers comments to decide on the next read for you. Blurbs almost always contain information that will let you know about potentially controversial topics / scenes within a book: don’t just ignore those because the cover is pretty.  Many a reader has been surprised (and not always in a good way) by unexpected content behind a cover that screams buy me,

Today’s guest post is from Robb Grindstaff, Author and Editor: his website is a fabulous repository of information about reading, editing and writing: one of his posts is quoted above to talk about taxonomy challenges with books.


The Importance of Editing
Author: Robb Grindstaff

As a reader, have you ever stumbled across so many typos, misspelled words, incorrect grammar and punctuation that it made it hard to read the book? Have you ever read a book that may have been relatively correct, but the writing just fell flat or felt amateurish, or maybe the dialogue sounded stiff and unnatural? Or maybe the writing was fine, but the characters felt two-dimensional, with nothing about them to make you care what happened.

Perhaps you've been reading along, enjoying the story and the characters, when something completely unrelated to the story happens, or a new character jumps into the story momentarily like you're supposed to know who that was? The opposite can happen too: a character you've been waiting for several chapters to find out what happened to her, and the book ends without ever mentioning her again.

Yes, these are writing problems. All writers have writing problems. It comes with the territory.

But these are also editing problems -- signs that the book was either poorly edited or not edited at all.

As a writer, I wouldn't dream of publishing a book that hasn't been thoroughly edited -- by professional editors, not just self-edited. And I am an editor -- it's how I support my writing habit. I've been editing book manuscripts for several years, and I've been in the newspaper and journalism business my whole life. But editing my own work is like a neurosurgeon operating on his own brain. It's not a good idea.

There's a simple reason for writers to hire an editor -- no writer can see all of his or her own mistakes. The brain "sees" what the brain intended to say, not what is actually on the page. All of us writers are too close to our stories, and our characters, to objectively see if the words on the page are accurately conveying what we want to say. We make revisions and cut out a character, only to miss that one paragraph 148 pages later where he is mentioned. Or a character's eyes are blue on page 17, but green on page 217.

Books that are well edited are important to readers for several reasons. When a reader pays good money -- whether that's 99 cents or $29.95 -- for a book, and plans to spend several hours reading that book, there's an inherent contract between reader and writer. The writer has promised to provide the very best work possible; the reader promises to read it and hopes to be entertained for a few hours.

When a writer puts out a book that has not been professionally edited, the writer isn't fulfilling his end of the bargain.

As a reader, what do you do when you find writing/editing problems in a book? Finish the book and write a negative review? Contact the writer and let her know about the problems? Throw the book against the wall, curse, and turn on the TV?

Or do you just stop reading and never buy another book by that author? For writers, that should be our worst nightmare.

About Robb Grindstaff

In addition to a career as a newspaper editor, publisher, and manager, I’ve written fiction most of my life. The newspaper biz has taken my family and me from Phoenix, Arizona, to small towns in North Carolina and Texas, and from seven years in Washington, D.C., to five years in Asia. Born and raised a small-town kid, I’m as comfortable in Tokyo or Tuna, Texas.

I now reside in a small community in Wisconsin where I manage the business operations of a daily newspaper. The variety of places I’ve lived and visited serve as settings for the characters who invade my head.

I’ve had a dozen short stories published in several print anthologies and e-zines, and several articles on the craft of writing fiction. My first novel, Hannah’s Voice, published January 2013, and Carry Me Away published in September 2013. I’m currently working on the next, perhaps ready by Spring/Summer 2014.

I also edit fiction and non-fiction books for authors from around the world. It helps that I’m fluent in five languages: U.S. English, U.K. English, Canadian English, and Australian English, plus my native language, Texan

Next week: how to find your reviewer or reviewers.  A list of tips for authors and readers. 

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