Have I invented a whole new fiction genre? | Ian Sutherland

Have I invented a whole new fiction genre?

Have I invented a whole new fiction genre? Or have I written a book that no one will read?

One of the golden rules of marketing is to go niche. Or even ‘ultra niche’. The idea is to dissect a larger market, identifying smaller sub-niche ones to focus on and dominate. This niche market typically has a need that is not serviced well. And then if you come along with a specific solution laser-targeted at this new niche then you can build a strong business. That’s the theory anyway.

Publishers love creating new genres in order to sell more books. One of the most recent examples of this is “new adult” fiction, aimed at the 18-25 age bracket, typically focussing on issues such as first love, leaving home, developing sexuality, getting a job and so on. The poster child of this is  new genre is Cora Carmack, with her novel Losing It. The genre follows hot on the heels of “young adult” fiction, which became massively popular following the explosive success of Harry Potter and the Twilight Saga. In many ways, ‘new adult’ is ‘young adult’ with some sex and swearing thrown in.

Genre labels on books are there to help readers find more of the same. The whole publishing business is based on it. It makes it easier for publishers to market and sell and it makes it easier for readers to find and buy. It sets expectations for everyone.

Traditional publishers avoid books that don’t naturally fall into a single genre – the dreaded cross-genre book. But indie-authors have been having a field day with them, and are finding readers aplenty. However, there is a lot of very poor cross-genre fiction out there!

A great example that I personally love is The Man from Primrose Lane by Jeremy Renner. It masquerades somewhere between literary fiction and a murder mystery. But as it unfolds, it turns out you’re in the middle of a science fiction story. What’s interesting is that the blurb on the back of the book very much hides any reference to science fiction. It’s the readers’ reviews on sites like Amazon that clue you in ahead of reading it.

And so we come to my upcoming novel, Invasion of Privacy. How would I classify it? Well, it’s definitely a classic crime novel. In fact, within crime fiction it’s specifically a murder mystery, no more than that it’s a serial killer focused police procedural. There a thousands of these kinds of books out there, so it will be in good company. I’d be happy for it to be shelved alongside Ian Rankin or Jeffery Deaver (wouldn’t we all!!).

But then there’s the technology side of the book, which is very much focused on computer hacking. So we have technology . . . hmm, does that make it a techno-thriller? Yes and no. It does thoroughly explore the inner workings of computer hacking and it is based on real-world technology with a plausible premise. But it’s not got the global world dominating conspiracy backdrop that is typical of the techno-thriller genre. Invasion of Privacy certainly wouldn’t look comfortable nestled between Tom Clancy and Michael Chrichton (although you wouldn’t find me complaining too much if I walked into Waterstones and found a few copies there!).

Cyber-crime thriller

So what I seem to have created is a novel that sits somewhere in two different sub-niches of the thriller genre – ‘crime’ and ‘techno’. And so, if we switch out techno for a stronger word, more relevant to the book, we get ‘crime’ and ‘cyber’. Swap them around and suddenly we have a very current and familiar word – ‘cyber-crime’. And there you have it ladies and gentleman, Invasion of Privacy is in a new sub-genre all of its own: it’s a cyber-crime thriller! And that makes me a cyber-crime novelist.

But for that to be totally true, I should be able to google the phrase and not find too much. And, to be fair, I don’t. There’s a reference to an ebook with ‘cyber-crime’ in it’s subtitle (and when you read the blurb, there’s not a lot of ‘cyber’ in it). And then there lots of references to an upcoming Hollywood movie by director Michael Mann, called Cyber, that will be released in 2014.

Funny, that’s when I plan to publish Invasion of Privacy!

Maybe my timing is fortuitous and I’ll benefit from Hollywood’s marketing dollars in  defining the genre. Or maybe I should go the way of Jeremy Renner and just present it as a standard murder mystery?

Have I have been one of the founders of a whole new fiction genre? Or, and this is the worrying bit, have I written a book that no one will read because it doesn’t quite fit in?

Time will tell.

Let me know what you think below.

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