Author Success Series: Cross Marketing – Playing the Genre Game WELL

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve read about what I call “The Genre Game” but playing the game and playing it WELL for Cross Marketing are two different things.

To briefly explain the Genre Game, let’s imagine you own a beauty salon. Your immediate first customers will be women seeking a stylist to cut, color or style their hair. One of those women might bring in their child for an appointment. Now you’ve found a Cross Market and a new customer, children, and you stick a sign on your window stating that you style kids hair too. One afternoon, one of your stylist mentions that she does manicures, and you set up a station for her where she can do manicures and pedicures and another sign goes into your window. You’ve Cross Marketed further and your customer base just grew again. After that, you put a few shelves up and stocked them with shampoos, conditioners, hair treatments, brushes and combs. Have you gained more customers? Not exactly but you have gained more sales from your existing customers.

The point of this example is simple. Cross Marketing works on a variety of levels for new exposure, but it also helps with creating stronger ties to your existing fans. There is another, very important point to make here. Like the beauty salon, you, the author, must deliver quality to the customers. Bad hair stylists are more likely to lose customers than gain them, and broken promises are guaranteed to create nothing but failure.

Another example – A picnic. It was just a July 4th weekend here in America and I went to four different picnics, so this one is fresh in my mind. Say you want to have a simple picnic, toss a few hot dogs and burgers on the grill, whip up some potato salad, maybe bring a watermelon and don’t forget the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for the S’mores. Nice. But say you want to have a small picnic for friends. For that you might pack some cold fried chicken, a grilled veggie salad and oatmeal cookies. Yum. Now perhaps you’re planning a romantic picnic just for two. This time you may want to grill some lamb chops, take great cheese and a crusty loaf of French bread and a bottle of wine. The primary genre here? Picnic.

In this case we’ve looked at an extremely broad genre – picnic – and created different sub-genres to market to.

These examples may seem elementary but everything about good marketing and Cross Marketing is extremely simple.

If you’ve written a mystery, “Mystery” is your primary genre but it’s just the jumping off point for your specific Cross Marketing efforts. You need to explore deeply into your manuscript to discover how many possible sub-genres you can Cross Market to. Is your mystery a period mystery? Does it have a little steampunk flavor it? Is there romance involved? Are there paranormal elements in the book – ghosts or supernatural creatures or paranormal events? Is there a hint of horror in your story? Is the target reader primarily young adults?  Because remember, a great additional target for YA is women, 35-50 years of age. Is it a cozy mystery or does it have hints of sexuality or erotic romance in it?

Now a yes answer to any of these questions might cover only a minor subplot to the story … but if so, it is a terrific cross marketing avenue. Stretch out your mental minions like curious fingers and comb through your book. If you’re marketing it hard to mystery readers, it could be extremely profitable to slip in and do some marketing to groups that fit the various subgenres you uncover. You shouldn’t go to a Romance audience and call it a Romance Mystery, but you certainly can go to a romance audience and tell them that your book is a Mystery with some romance.

Literary agents pretty much perfected the Genre Game while trying to pitch and sell books to major publishers. There’s no reason we can’t use it to help get more sales for our books. Playing a GREAT Genre Game is all about understanding the target audiences you’re going after. Do some serious research. Granted, there are a few genres that simply can’t play this game – children’s books, non-fiction and extremely hard erotica, for example. But generally, every other genre can grow an audience simply by taking itself out of the genre pigeon-hole.

Take the challenge and see what you can learn about your own book. Write down every descriptive word you can think of about your story and explore the possibility of exposing your book to that audience. You’ll be amazed how many options are available to you!

Next week we’ll discuss … Locating YOUR Cross Markets. See you then!

Author Success Series: Cross Marketing

What is Cross Marketing?

Cross Marketing from the Obvious to the Sublime

Crossing the line into TURBO Creative Thinking

Cross Marketing – Expanding your Platforms



About Deborah Riley-Magnus

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising, and public relations as a writer for print, television, and radio. She writes fiction and non-fiction. Since 2010, she had two novels released. In 2013 her nonfiction, Finding Author Success (Second Edition), and Cross Marketing Magic for Authors were released. Her newest book, Write Brain/Left Brain, focuses on bridging the gap between the creative writer and the marketing author. Deborah produces several pieces monthly for various websites and online publications. She writes an author industry blog and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Deborah has lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and recently returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years. View all posts by Deborah Riley-Magnus

6 responses to “Author Success Series: Cross Marketing – Playing the Genre Game WELL

  • David Bowman

    As ever,Deborah. Point and game!

  • jennymilch

    Ah, the genre game. Great post. I think the crossing genres of my debut made it harder to sell, but perhaps exciting once it did find its home. My editor seems really pleased by the mystery/suspense/thriller threads in there, and I feel incredibly lucky to have found someone who is. It’s definitely an aspect worth considering once your work is out there–more and more potential audiences to find.

    • Deborah Riley-Magnus

      Thanks, Jenn

      Experienced authors like you understand that it’s a constant job to grow readers and fans. Cross marketing with the genre game this way is one of the keys … but mixing genres in platforms is not. I’m careful to make sure author’s realize the dangers of distilling or alienating one audience for another.


  • Katherine Owen

    What an inspiring article. I love the way you explained the genre game and allowed for expansion beyond it. Is it possible that we’ve lived with these categories simply because that’s how bookstores needed them labeled on their shelves and agents and publishers always did it this way? Maybe. And now, as the world’s readers change and read on just about any electronic device, do we still have to categorize books exactly the same way? Perhaps they’d like us to, but we don’t have to. No. No, we don’t. Thanks for this illuminating post.

    I’ve struggled with my women’s fiction novels being stuck in the romance category even though they have a bit of literary, even a avant garde, flair, but you’ve made me realize that it’s not necessarily a bad thing and may just garner me even more readers. Nicely done!!!

    • Deborah Riley-Magnus

      Thanks so much, Katherine. YES, YES, YES! That’s exactly why we’ve followed genre rules for so long. It’s the bookstores (and not the public) that demands or rejects a particular genre and thus pretty much tells the agents and publishers what to publish! AND it’s the book store shelves that made it necessary to create broad but limited categories like Romance, Mystery, Horror, etc. It’s we writers who have pretty much splintered the whole thing by writing sub-genres and multi-genres in one book. NOW, with the changes in readers, we can get some control, if not completely in the primary place where our books are featured, but in how we approach the market with our own promotions and strategies. When you think about it, it’s a no-brainer. LOL.


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