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Pigeonholes - finding a genre for my novel

As a newbie self-publishing indie author, many successful writers, experts and authorities in the business advise us rookies to stick to a genre. Fair enough, as a reader I certainly need to know I’m getting women’s fiction or dystopian novel rather than science fiction or horror. You may be familiar with others, such as chick lit, romance, thriller, or humour.

Author extraordinaire David Mitchell plays with genres in his amazing novel ‘Cloud Atlas’, one of my favourite books. Here a nest of stories hops through some well-loved tropes such as historical adventure, epistolary novel, hard-boiled detective thriller, comedy, dystopian and post-apocalyptic, which showcases the incredible talent of this writer. But when trying to find keywords and accurately label my own creation, I have found that the genre journey is like going down the proverbial rabbit hole.

When it comes to choosing a category for your book the list is much longer. For example, there are various types of thriller: military, police procedural, suspense to name a few, various types of romance: historical, contemporary, erotic. There are MG (middle grade), NA (new adult), YA (young adult). It doesn’t end there. There are a million sub-categories and niches. For example, have you heard of paranormal romance, reverse harem, steampunk, cyberpunk, biopunk, sword and sorcery, space opera, western, urban fantasy, cozy mystery, alien invasion or Christian romance? Don’t get me started on horror! Gothic, erotic vampire, dark fantasy and of course, zombie.

After writing my book I had to find a pigeonhole to categorize it in the marketplace and a cozy mystery is what I inadvertently wrote. Think Agatha Christie’s Miss Marples or The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith. They are stories populated with a dead body in a close-knit community and are often filled with puns (at least in the title) and contain no sex or bad language and a (usually female) protagonist who solves the case. Even so, I found my book thwarted some of the tropes. No dead bodies (that really matter), a bit of bad language and it’s not set in a small town or village.

There are new niches being invented all the time: splatterpunk, transrealism, LitRPG, Nordic noir - look them up, it's fascinating stuff and I love the names of some of these niches. So, with my novel being about a hairdresser’s exploits I thought it might be fun to create my own niche, if harems can have their own niche, then why not hairdressers, right?

I came up with:

  • sty-fi (as in hairstyle fiction)

  • hairy-fairy

  • comb-com

  • short back and si-fi

  • hair-lit

  • flick-lit

  • flick-fic

  • and finally, gunkpunk.

What do you reckon? Am I onto a winner? Which one is your favourite?

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