5 Star Review: Genre Expectations

So what is 5 star review?  Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not.  This week’s topic: genre expectations.

Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.


What is genre expectation?

This is what the reader expects will occur within the context of your book based solely on the genre.  Title, cover, and blurb have no influence on genre expectation.  Most readers automatically drift towards one genre or another based on past experiences on reading books in these genres.  If they like a book, then they look for more books in its genre.  But if they don’t like a book, then they will avoid books that are in that genre.

As an author, you need to know what genre your book fits in so you can find your target reader.  This is also very important when looking for reviewers – each reviewer has different genre preferences, which may change based on mood.  Reviewers should have a policy that highlights the genres they read and enjoy the most.  If your book’s genre is not on that list – then don’t submit to the reviewer.

  • Best case scenario:  reviewer decides to start reading that genre.
  • Worse case scenario:  reviewer reads the book and rates one star because they are reminded why they DON’T READ that particular genre.

I know what I like in a book.  I like fast paced stories with the romance as a sub-plot and not the driving factor to what happens.  I like to have both minor and major characters go through life-threatening obstacles and I really like it when some of them don’t survive.  I like the ending to be bittersweet and NOT happy.  I like not knowing what to expect when I pick up a novel.

I don’t think it is fair for the author to be penalized because it is the genre I don’t like and not the book itself.

What are my genre expectations?

If you tell me that your book is a genre I read and review (and thus love reading), then be sure that your book meets and exceeds my expectations for the genre.  I have very different expectations for each genre I read.  Also, my expectations and appreciation for a book might be different solely on a genre.  I’m more tolerant of instant love in a paranormal romance than I am in a dark fiction novel.  I can handle a slower pace in a contemporary novel than I can in a thriller or horror novel.

Horror: I expect horror novels to be scary.  I expect there to be a chance in every single scene that the worst is going to happen.  No one needs to die, but I need to believe that it could happen.  I expect the bad guy to be more bite than bark.  I’m extra happy when character and monster stereotypes are broken.

Science Fiction: I expect there to be either aliens as major characters or humans in space.  I predict that the setting will take place in the future, but I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t.  I’m extra happy when I don’t have to use a thesaurus because SAT words litter the chapters.

Paranormal Romance: I expect there to be superhuman qualities in major characters.  Typically there are vampires or werewolves.   The setting is modern and most humans do not accept the existence of the paranormal.  I expect there to be a romance between the two leading characters.  I’m extra happy when the leading characters are not attracted at first sight.

Fantasy:  I expect multiple strange races in a setting that is not modern.  Typically there are elves, dwarfs, or mermaids.  Humans accept that there are other races and sometimes there are no humans at all in the novel.  Typically there is a quest.  I’m extra happy when the quest does not involve finding some tiny object in a troll infested area.

Dark Fiction (Contemporary):  I expect the main character to be going through a traumatic experience that no normal human being would WANT to experience, but some of us can relate.  I expect the main character(s) to make some pretty dumb choices that make his/her situation worse.  I expect a lot of character development and that the character(s) evolve from beginning to end.  I don’t expect there to be anything in the book that cannot be explained by science – no paranormal, aliens, or religious savior.

Thriller:  I expect non-stop action and a very fast pace.  I expect more focus on the plot than on romance.  I expect the main characters to be put in dangerous situations.  I can tolerate less character development in thrillers than other genres.

The genres I turn down consistently:

Romance:  I turn down romance books because I feel that the ending is spoiled the second the main characters are introduced.  By the last chapter, the two character will be together and the story will end on a happy note.  Most romance publishers will turn down your book if the romance is not a HEA (happily ever after) ending.  Check out the requirements to publish a novel in Harlequin Romance Series.  From reading romance books, I’ve learned not to like them.  If I read your romance novel, chances are I won’t like it either.  I’m not your targeted audience.

Erotica:  I don’t review erotica (usually), but I do read it…I like violent and taboo erotica.  Regular sex and foreplay between a man and a woman bores me.  I know one or both will climax and either end book or end sex scene.  There are no surprises in normal erotica.  Now, where there are whips, chains, and a vampire or two…I enjoy.  My reasonings for NOT liking 50 Shades of Grey have nothing to do with the subject matter.  Basically, I review and read erotica when it crosses into one of the other genres I read, such as dark fiction or paranormal.

Contemporary:  I’m extremely picky with contemporary novels.  I like those that deal with death and break-ups.  I prefer the main character to be depressed, insane, or in deep shit for most of the novel.  Think Romeo and Juliet.  I like my contemporary novels to be disturbing on a psychological level.  At no time in the novel do I wish to envy the character’s life – I want them to envy mine.

Christian:  I don’t like to be preached to.  I actually like some of the stories (and music, while we’re on the subject), but I hate it when the story is interrupted so that the reader can receive some moral guidance.  Save the preaching for Church!  I want to read about what happens when we don’t listen to God, not have some author “tell” me I need to.

TL;DR?

It is important to find people who enjoying reading books similar to yours (same genre), particularly when looking for positive reviews.  If they don’t like books like yours, then they probably won’t like your book!


Readers:  What are your genre expectations?

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6 comments

  1. I’m with you on the romance novels, but I do occasionally read one just to see if I can find a gem of a man, the silent and strong alpha male. ;)

  2. Other than the romance category, I really don’t have genre expectations like you do. I understand the genres to be large categories meant to help readers identify the books they’ll like. But science fiction can involve science and no space. Fantasy is one of the widest categories because all kinds of weirdness can fall into it. Urban fantasy is fantasy in an urban setting. It doesn’t even have to be in this world. Fantasy characters can all be human. Even with genres, I open a book with an open mind about the story I’ll be reading. If it isn’t what I want, then I’ll close the book, but it’s nice to get a surprise.

    • I definitely agree with your points. My genre expectations seem more like stereotypes, but it’s my immediate reaction to what I think books will be about knowing only the genre. There’s some pretty awesome books that can’t fit into any one genre. I won’t avoid a science fiction novel that isn’t about aliens – but I’ll be thinking the whole time I’m reading, “when will the aliens show up?” I read a paranormal romance novel once that didn’t have a single paranormal thing happen. I didn’t get it.

  3. This is definitely a post that makes you think. I’m a reader that likes a variety and I don’t generally have genre expectations. I also think that sometimes it’s hard to find an audience for particular books when you go by genre. Just like the women’s fiction book I’ve been pitching. It’s technically women’s fiction but those reading it for women’s fiction don’t tend to like it much. Those who go in without the ‘women’s fiction’ genre in their head and expect more a fluffy time travel-like story with a YA crossover appeal seem to like it much more. It’s made it a little hard to figure out who to pitch it to so I went a little widespread. But generally I hope that the blogger won’t accept it if they don’t really think it’s their thing, so yeah, the author or publicist needs to at least ‘try’ to find the right audience, but the blogger needs to know when it’s not a book for them and say no. I definitely agree that putting your genre preferences in your policy is a good idea. It cuts down on the requests you get for books you aren’t interested in.

    I’m not a fan of romance books myself. I read some paranormal romance and some urban fantasy almost fits the romance genre, but the typical romance story seems to be the same ol’ thing…

    • I agree that a genre tag can sometimes hurt as much as help. It’s a hard balance for authors to both appeal to fans of a genre and attract new fans. As much as I have genre expectations, sometimes I’m pleased when a book doesn’t conform to my expectations. I like books that are out of the box. But I think out of the box books gain most of their fans through word of mouth (which is why I read Slammed) and not by people looking for a certain genre.

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