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Lead Books versus Genre Books

What is a lead book and what is a genre book? As a beginning writer, what is significant to know about these types of books?

First, let's deal with a genre book because then it will be easier to explain exactly what constitutes a lead book. A genre book is quite simply a book that fits into a genre. Genre comes from the French word for "kind" or "class" and is used in the world of fiction to refer to a specific category of books. These categories, for example, are as follows:

      Mystery
      Romance
      Fantasy
      Science fiction
      Horror
      Historical fiction
      Children's literature

These are some of the basic categories. In our complicated world of ever-increasing diversification and specialization, however, sub-genres have evolved as well. Examples of these include sword and sorcery fantasy fiction, whodunit mysteries, techno-thrillers, children's literature for teens, civil war fiction, etc. Examples of famous genre books include J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (sword and sorcery fantasy), Stephen King's Salem's Lot (horror), and Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October (techno-thriller). Regardless of the genre, each one has its own set of requirements as to what defines it, and the best way to understand this is to read books in a particular genre.

This brings us to the definition of a lead book. A lead book is simply a book that doesn't fit neatly into a genre category.

So why do I tell you all of this' As a beginning writer with a burning desire to get published, you actually have a greater chance if you write a genre book. The reason being that publishers have a fairly clear idea of which genres are selling well and which aren't at any given time. Therefore, if the horror genre happens to be hot and horror books are selling like mad, and you write a good horror novel, you have a greater chance of being published than if you write a sword and sorcery fantasy novel that is not selling particularly well.

Due to the unique nature of lead books, traditional publishers do not have a good way to measure their potential success and are therefore less willing to take risks on new writers of lead books unless their manuscript is unusually brilliant! (In case no one ever told you, publishing is a tough business in which to make a profit. Because of this, books are often rejected even if they are good because traditional publishers feel they are not marketable despite their quality. Of course, many are rejected because they are just plain bad.) Here's a direct quote from a rejection letter to illustrate what I mean.

"I found the plot very inventive. Unfortunately this type of book, which mixes several genres and doesn't fit neatly into a category, is very difficult to publish. Since it doesn't fit into a category, it really needs to be done as a lead, and I'm afraid I didn't find the writing strong enough to make this a lead."

See what I am saying? Think hard about your goals before you write your book. If you are driven to break into the world of big publishers, a genre book may be the best place to start. And remember this: your manuscript will not be rejected at IndyPublish because you become the publisher. We just help you do it!


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