Writing Outside The Book Box


It’s something that every author has heard when someone comes up and meets them for the first time. The question itself is innocent enough, but the answer might not be as simple.


“So, what kind of book is this?”


Oy. If you write something deep inside a single genre—horror, science-fiction, romance, western, or whatever—then the answer isn’t too bad. You tell them the genre and then you move right on into the basic description of the plot and your sales pitch. And there is not a damn thing wrong with that.


What if you aren’t that cut and dried, though? One of the advantages of self-publishing is the ability to write something a little bit—or a lot—outside the publishing box. If you want to stretch the concept of what you’re doing, you are free to do that, whether for good or ill.


It might not be a great idea to write a Victorian-medical-alien-romance-cyber-apocalypse—or it could be genius. If you have the concept and the plot, go for it! Just be prepared for a lot of people to look at you funny and sort of back away from you when you answer that inevitable question. And you might not see the sales figures you were hoping to see. There are several reasons why people like to write in a familiar sandbox, after all.


In case you are wondering, I’m speaking from experience. My first two novels I self-describe as alternate-future-anthro-science-fantasy novels, which causes people to raise an eyebrow. And my newest novel, Edible Complex, would be urban-fantasy-horror-satire. Neither of these descriptions has a strong core readership, but that hasn’t stopped me. I started out writing Edible Complex as more horror-comedy, but the further I got into it the more I realized that just didn’t properly describe it. Still, my editor was happy with the results, my pre-readers were happy, and, most importantly, I was happy with the results.


The important thing to remember is that there is no wrong genre to write. There is nothing that is verboten. You just have to have the chops to follow it up and support it. If you aren’t comfortable in your own world, then your reader won’t be either. Make it believable and make it enjoyable, if you can do that, then don’t worry about classifying your work, just write it. Let the book be itself and it will find its audience. It’s not important to think, “I don’t know if my readers will get this.” It is important to think, “The right readers will get this.” Just make sure that there is something there for them to get.


The publishing world we are living in is exciting. Our options as writers have never been greater, and we need to embrace the possibilities and horizons that we haven’t even seen yet. Just so long as we keep on looking for them, we’re in for a good experience.



Brett Brooks has been writing professionally for over twenty years. From comics to games to journalism to novels, he’s dabbled in a bit of everything. His new novel, Edible Complex, is now available on and at select bookstores.