Will self-publishing kill the fiction genre?


So, there’s this gold rush of self-publishing going on. Lots of writers are excited about the chance to make a living, and I’m one of them.

But it’s not all about the money. Lately I’ve started to wonder about how much this publishing revolution is going to change what we write. At the tip of the iceberg is the concept of the fiction genre. If there’s no bookstore, no physical shelf, no corporation – what kind of work are individuals going to create? It’s still early, and most of us are still dancing around within the old categories: romance, mystery, fantasy, sci fi, thriller, horror.

Like most restaurants, we pick one and hope we get an automatic customer who knows what to expect from a taqueria, a pizzeria, a deli, or Chinese take-out. The really popular places that excite people and have us lining out the door, though, do something new. “Fusion” is still a hot idea here in California – we’ve got an Indian burrito place and a Thai bistro right in my little town.

I expect to see more writers, like modern chefs, throwing out the categories and inventing their own. Already there are writers turning to digital self-publishing for the work they’ve already written that doesn’t fit any classification. I see threads on writing forums like Kindleboards with authors struggling to define their time-travel horror romance, their YA fantasy mystery, or their romantic erotic comedy (like my novella Quick Study). It’s a challenge to market, even online, so most of us are in the habit of choosing a genre to get an audience.

Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe the really good stuff, the great stuff, is going to be the most undefinable. I don’t mean like the stories that might come out of an MFA program – that too is a genre. I mean the really wild ideas that wouldn’t fit in any of the slots we currently have. Maybe it will be multimedia, maybe it will be the length of text, serial stories for a cell phone, or a choose-your-own adventure mashup. I don’t know. Just wondering and imagining.

4 thoughts on “Will self-publishing kill the fiction genre?

  1. Chris Hunt says:

    Interesting post. I hadn't thought about the possibility of category changes due to the self-publishing revolution, but it seems like there's a real chance. It's also interesting in light of the fact that I have enjoyed reading a couple of your posted samples despite not being a "romance" reader. In other words, it must be the comedy (at least I'll keep telling myself that ;)) that I like.

  2. Gretchen Galway says:

    I think we'd all like to transcend our genre and be known just for our work itself. Make your own genre, have your own brand.

    I'm so glad you like my samples. I don't know that I'm a typical romance writer, proceed to enjoy without reservation. 😛

  3. Harper Alibeck says:

    I have a book coming out this week that is a romance (it has a "happily ever after" ending) with erotic writing, a paranormal element (think Somewhere in Time — sorta) and a travelogue aspect. It's also a little historical. Picking one category is not going to be easy.

  4. Gretchen Galway says:

    Harper: best thing is, you don't have to pick just one. I'm really excited about all the genre-bending that's going to be taking off the next few years.

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