Genre Marketing

For a time when I was in high school, I was on a serious horror story kick. I would visit my tiny local library and pick out a stack of books from the single aisle containing the stories I wanted. I knew exactly where to look when I was able to visit Borders in the city nearby, and on one such trip, I picked out a new release from one of the display tables. This book had a ghostly woman overlooking the sea on the cover and was surrounded by similar-looking Gothic/noir/thriller books. The back cover promised a haunting and unsettling story. I started reading it as soon as I got home, only to discover the book was a romance. The haunting was of a lost love, and the woman was ghostly and unsettling because she was in search of someone to make her whole again.

I’ll admit, I haven’t researched the author in the fifteen years since, but I have to assume that unless she found a marketer who understood the genre in which she was writing, she has struggled to find and maintain an audience. Building an audience is one of the most important facets of marketing, but if book marketers cannot effectively establish a genre, they cannot establish an audience. The marketers of the book I mentioned failed on two fronts: they failed to reach the romance audience who would spread the word about the story and the author through word of mouth and potentially buy her next book, and they failed to satisfy the thriller-seeking audience who will not pick up a book by this author again.

If that same book were released today, a marketer would need to play up the romance aspects of the book by reaching out to the vast audience base on Goodreads and Pinterest—it is key for a marketer to know which platforms genre readers are using. A novel with a young adult bent would be better promoted on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, while a mystery novel might be more likely to find its audience on Facebook. Social media platforms like this make it particularly easy to find audiences based on an individual’s current and specific interests. For example, an ad on Twitter for a new horror book could be tailored to those who follow Stephen King on the platform, while an ad for a new thriller on Facebook would appear on the timeline of a user who liked the page for Dean Koontz. These ads need to follow color scheme conventions of genre as well: dark colors with significant contrast for thrillers and mysteries, pastels and purples for young adult, and so on. Giveaways on these sites also need to reflect genre: romance novels may offer winners wine or bath candles, while a heartwarming memoir might promise a tea created to promote the book. Had those marketers all those years ago used any of these tactics, I might not have found myself reading a book so far outside my own genre interests, and the author and publishers would have found themselves building their audience.