Are you a published author? Here are five reasons to read beyond your genre

How do you respond to readers who say they do not read in your genre? Their response presents two options; wave them to a good day, or, find a way to engage with them.

After marketing my print books at public places in the last four months, I’ve found a way to engage readers whose first response to my books is, “I do not read in that genre, meaning Women’s Fiction.”

I published my first book, Grandma Arrives in the City: and our new baby is clean-shaven, in 2016 and my first novel, Ignited by Education in 2018. To date, I have seven published books and my eighth book is out with my copy editor. The surprise is that my books have not reached the hands of as many readers as planned, aka, not sold much. I have since revisited my marketing strategy and added “physical presence” as part of my book marketing.

The physical activities include a book signing event at a bookstore, and paid for a table/tent space to market my books at public events.

Whenever a potential reader pauses at my table, I need to capture their attention through a greeting, tell them I am the author on a book signing event – all done in less than a minute, before I ask, “What books/genre do you like to read?”

This far, I have received responses - verbal and non-verbal, which I classify into two:

  • There are those who pause long enough to tell me they do not read in my genre – mostly after they see my author poster where I have stated my genre as Women’s Fiction.

  • For those who show interest, I proceed to pitch my books, “I write about the African girl-child who has acquired an education. I use fictional characters to illustrate on their journey of becoming career women.” If the person picks one of my books, I busy myself, give them time to read the blurb or I answer their question until they buy or thank me and leave.

Here’s how I hold the attention of those who read in different genres

I draw from my lifelong love of books to engage them. Over the years I have read widely and across genres, which gives me confidence to talk about books in general.

I make eye contact and ask, “What genre do you like to read?”

In most instances the person will move closer to my table and say something like: I only read non-fiction, I read thrillers or mysteries, I read motivational books, I read any nice book, etc.

They have no idea of the great chance they’ve accorded me to talk about books. Below are some of my responses:

I read only non-fiction books

To anyone who says they read only non-fiction books, I ask, “Which speciality in non-fiction do you read?”

Their response would be something like, “I read science books, engineering books, etc.” I ask, “Have you tried science-fiction, you might find the science part in the books to be of interest.”

This is where your expertise in non-verbal communication comes in, capture what their body language says, to determine what you say next.

Give me a mystery book, any day

Did they just throw me into an unknown world? No, because I read thrillers and mysteries, so I say, “I enjoy the chase in thrillers, I like to solve mysteries before I finish a book. What are you reading currently?”

There are times when our discussions have drawn people passing by into an instant group of book lovers. One time, some lady told me, “I have read mysteries set in Africa, McCall Smith.”

I asked, “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency? I have read the whole series, and I have met the author, he signed some of my books.

We made an instant friendship when the lady told me she too attended McCall’s talk when he visited our city in 2015.

What about those who say they read only Christian books?

Several elderly women have told me, “I like to read Christian books.”

To such book lovers, I say something like, “I have read some Christian romance, I like the way the authors use the concept of forgiveness in stories where one person is hesitant to pursue friendship with the other because of something they did in the past.The writer will use the two people to show that human beings do make mistakes, show remorse, are forgiven and the two have a happy ending.”

How did I score on that answer?

I prefer personal/self-development books

Those who say they prefer personal development books provide me a chance to draw them back to my books. I pick up Ignited by Education and provide a gist into the journey of Sophia after she completes her bachelor’s education and getting into the world of employment, marriage and family life. Born into a poverty-stricken family, how does Sophia embrace the inherent challenges and opportunities as an educated career woman?

Next, I pick a copy of A Nanny for the CEO and explain that it’s got elements of self-development – Angela getting pregnant at eighteen, her determination to take care of her baby while not losing her lifelong dream of a university education.

A focus on my books has also led to a wider discussion on gender and African women’s participation in business enterprises.

You could ask me, did the gurus not say we should be focused?

Did I just lose a sale by engaging readers out of my genre?

  1. Not really. I like to see/hear the excitement as readers talk about books, whatever the genre. I get a chance to recommend great books I have read in other genres – last week I had to search Amazon and show someone a mystery thriller I have read and recommended for them to try out.

  2. It would be boring to spend six hours talking only about my books – don’t chefs like to eat food items prepared by other speciality chefs?

  3. Some of those who declare their genre would benefit from exposure to other genres. I have had instances where such “genre-tied readers” end up buying my books because of the stories I focus on, the journey of the African girl-child.

  4. Who said I will not add new genres to my future book-writing adventure? I can now reveal that I have a 2017 draft book - a crime mystery with a female sleuth. Stay tuned.

  5. Reading widely takes me to places I would never afford the time or money to visit. You now know the tours you’ve missed by not reading that book.

What has been your encounter like, with readers who prefer genres different from yours? How would you feel suggesting books by other writers? I am interested to read about your experience.