Genre is important. For many reasons, it’s crucial for a writer to know the genre he or she is writing in and to know it well. In some cases, the devoted readers of a certain genre have defined expectations. For example, they may expect certain tropes and taboos to be observed (even if they’ve never thought about their expectations). After all, there are reasons readers prefer certain genres. And authors, editors, and agents think about genre all the time.
But recently a reader of this blog asked a genre question I’d never considered. Bill Bethel, commenting on my post about my favorite “writer movies,” said it made him wonder what qualities in a book might tempt readers away from their favorite genre.
Thanks, Bill. Now I wonder that too. I wasn’t sure what my answer would be, so I asked some of my wonderful friends (who also happen to be clients), “As a reader, what (if anything) about a book tempts you to read outside your favorite or usual genre?” Here’s what they said:
“Some of the most interesting people I know are curious. Promiscuously curious. Their many and varied inquiries span a broad range of topics and fields—which seldom limits their reading to one category or genre. These are the people that inspire me to read outside of my (normal) area of interest” (Kevin Brown, author of Designed for Good).
“If a trusted friend or colleague strongly recommends a particular book” (Andrea Jo Rodgers, author of At Heaven’s Edge).
“I’m intensely loyal to my favorite genres so it takes a full-on assault to make me read outside the lines. The most effective weapon? Enthusiastic reviews from like-minded friends” (Lori Hatcher, author of Refresh Your Faith: Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible).
“When a storyline resonated with an experience in my life or in the headlines” (Lori Stanley Roeleveld, co-author of Colorful Connections: 12 Questions about Race that Open Healthy Conversations).
“Something that challenged my thinking and helped me see something from another perspective” (Brenda Yoder, author of Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind).
“Author friends who write in different genres and recommendations from those I admire” (Crystal Storms, host of the Simplicity of Heart podcast).
“Outside my favorite genre of woodworking books and novels, I read books that help me learn a new task that I need to address or do something a little better. Those get my attention” (Austin Boyd, author of the Mars Hill Classified trilogy, Nobody’s Child, and H2O).
“What tempts me is the understanding that any well-written book outside my usual genre will introduce some fresh breezes into my stuffy writing style” (Rob Currie, author of Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel).
“I’ll pick up a brief book that’s way outside my usual subject matter. For example, Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson, or How to Tell a Joke by Cicero. I figure a hundred pages won’t cost me too much” (Lawrence W. Wilson, author of Promises & Prayers for Men).
“Characters! Interesting or unusual characters will prompt me to purchase a book outside my comfort zone” (Liz Shoaf, author of Texas Ranch Sabotage and Texas Ranch Refuge).
“I’m tempted by a library, Amazon, or Audible recommendation that piques my curiosity by offering a new take on something I have thought about in the past. Titles and subtitles carry a lot of power. The back of the book is the next place I’ll look before diving in” (Alan Ehler, author of How to Make Big Decisions Wisely).
“It usually takes the recommendation (AKA book-pushing), from a friend for me to read outside of my favorite genre” (Rebekah Millet, inspirational romance author).
“Book club gives me the chance to try new genres. We vote on a different genre for each month and then a book from that genre” (Leslie DeVooght, writing faith, love, and laughter at “In a Sea Shell” and Spark Flash Fiction).
“When my spouse won’t stop talking about it” (Rick Hamlin, author of Even Silence Is Praise).
“When the topic addresses an urgent or current event topic. They provide valuable insights into subjects of which I have limited knowledge” (Sharon Hoover, author of Mapping Church Missions).
What about you? What (if anything) about a book tempts you to read outside your favorite or usual genre? Let us all know in the comments.