Author’s tribe and genre

author genre and tribe

author genre and tribe

I am looking for my book genre, when will then help me find my author’s tribe. Once I have a tribe, I will have sales galore. Once I have sales galore, I can live the life I am writing and reading about.

 I am going to really stick my neck out—you are going to have the devil of a time “finding your tribe”, because you cannot force people to read your book. You cannot force readers to opt for your genre.

Have you ever “convinced” your children do something of no interest to them? Most of the time, they pretend to go along and drop the pretence as soon as you have turned your back.

I grew up in a family of book readers ranging from voracious to keenly interested, and my son disappointed me during his formative years. He was barely interested in books. Several times, I tried to nudge him gently, but never achieved much. As he neared his teens I noticed that possibly because of peer pressure, he did read books that were the current rage—among others, he read all the Harry Potter books, all the Twilight books, most of Tolkien’s works and most (possibly all) of the Narnia books. Almost invariably, he read the books shortly before or after he saw the film version. No author’s tribe there; he was following his own youngster tribe.

In recent days, I have seen him reading authors like King, Baldacci and Grisham. I am not sure what motivated him.

Now, here is the point—two points, rather. The first point is that I never tried hard to make my son read, even though I believe a non-reader will always be a work in progress. I feared that pressuring him would have the almost inevitable opposite result. The second point is a derivative: I (therefore) never influenced his choice of book genre.

I started reading books early. I must have started reading sometime after I learned that alphabets make words, words make sentences and sentences make stories. As I grew up, I read a whole tribe of authors spread over a whole spectrum of genres. I went on adventures with Enid Blyton, solved murder cases with Agatha Christie, rode the western trail with Louis L’Amour and ate at the Drones Club with P. G. Wodehouse. I stormed the Bastille with Charles Dickens, visited high places with Arthur Hailey, mourned Julius Caesar with William Shakespeare, investigated the Bourne identity with Robert Ludlum, toured horrorville with Stephen King, discovered a new –ism with Ayn Rand and worked on a few cases with David Baldacci. I also flirted with Barbara Cartland, Denise Robbins and Mills & Boon.

You will notice there is a whole medley of genres in that lot of authors, and it is nowhere near being a comprehensive list. However, I cannot think of anyone or anything that forced me to read or influenced my choices of genre, except maybe for the curriculum at school—a certifiable tough nut—which compelled my choice of authors like William Shakespeare. My father—a certifiable Wild West nut—inspired my choice of authors like Louis L’Amour. My sisters—certifiable mush nuts—influenced my choice of authors like Denise Robbins. I am sure I was subject to a whole lot of other influences that I was not even aware of then and cannot remember now.

So, then, am I right in asserting you cannot force people to read books unless they are your English Language or Literature students? You can influence them, and that needs subtlety. You just cannot give in to your instincts to brain your son with a box set of books by Freud.

In logical progression, that also means, of course, that you cannot force people to read a book genre. This is where I see a big difference between my growing up years and today. We were interested in stories. We did not know the word genre interested, and probably would not have given a damn if we did know. If an author interested us, we read as many of his books as we could find and tried to find other similar authors. Louis L’Amour made me try Luke Short, Max Brand, Zane Grey…

Now we come to the author’s tribe.

How do you “find your tribe”? And before we answer that question, let us try another: what is a tribe? Presumably, for an author a tribe is a bunch of reader-follower-hardcore fans who get pissed off if she delays her next book by longer than it takes to read the last book. For an author’s purposes, a tribe cannot be construed to be “a group of people that includes many families and relatives who have the same language, customs and beliefs”, as the Merriam-Webster insists.

Seth Godin says a tribe is “any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.” I daresay this definition is more suitable for the purposes of this post, especially if you add “author” to “one another, a leader, and an idea”.

So then, again: how do you find your tribe?

I have read a whole slew of articles telling me that to succeed, the author needs to find her tribe. Not one article has told me just what she should do, in practical step by logical next step, to find her tribe. I have yet to see a dunce’s 12 steps to tribe domination.

When I first came across the concept of tribes, I thought maybe tribes were genre-based. I tried damn hard to find a suitable author’s tribe for myself. Since my forte is humor, I looked for tribes of readers who devoured humor.

Guess what? Forget the tribes, I initially could not find a humor genre in existence! It was an astonishing discovery. I did find comedy, tragicomedy and romantic comedy. To the best of my knowledge, my writing normally has neither romantic nor tragic elements.

Comedy? I am not sure. I associate “comedy” with, say, Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Do I want to be a comical author, as opposed to a humorous one? Ugh. Right or wrong, I associate comedy with slapstick.

I dug deeper, and almost wished I had not. Humor is a sub-genre, under the fiction or non-fiction genres. And that brought up another conundrum: since I tend to write humorous stories based on real life characters and incidents, am I writing genre fiction, sub-genre humor, or am I writing genre non-fiction, sub-genre humor?

Once I resolve that problem, I still have to find that elusive author’s tribe. Some people say use social media. I am doing that. Other people say blog. I am doing that. Yet others say comment on other people’s blog posts. I am doing that. Still others say be active on sites like Quora. I am doing that. And then there are those who insist I should be on forums, groups, communities. I am doing that.

I have done all of that for months now and I have yet to sight my tribe. Conversely, I am in danger of losing my ancestral tribe, many of who are beginning to wonder if I am some kind of weirdo.

I will give it a few months, and if nothing continues to work out, I will try another tack to find a tribe. I have started some deep research on the Kalahari, Borneo, the Amazon and the Andaman.

in search of a tribe

in search of a tribe

What about you? Have you found your book genre? And what about your tribe? Some pointers in a comment would be of great help.

And yes, please: if you like, share.

  • Hi Venkatesh. I understand your frustration and I think the only thing I can contribute is something I have learned from many other blog business websites: that you will have to find the “sweet spot” where your passions and other people’s needs or interests intersect.

    Sometimes it is just not possible to create a business from our passions, so they must remain hobbies. Can you find something else that you are also interested in that may cross the interests or needs of others as well?

    I hate to sound pessimistic, but am just trying to be real.

    • venkyiyer58

      Hi Marianne – first of all, sincere apologies. I fully intend to be ultra-rewsponsive to comments, and have screwed up straightaway. I did not set up my Disqus notifications properly. Please forgive me. Marianne, re your comment: I do not intend to give up. I know there is a big readership population out there in the world for my kind of writing, and it is MY job to find them. I will. Thanks for commenting, and do be a regular. It would thrill me.

      • I admire your tenacity and after reading Jenny’s comment below, that makes sense. I hope you find them!

        I also like your redesign! It’s much cleaner!

        • venkyiyer58

          Thanks. and thanks again – my site is still a work in progress, and I attend to it whenever I find the time. The two priorities I try not to compromise on are posting and SEO (as it is understood in 2014).

  • I had a nice long comment, but it seems to have disappeared! I wanted to commiserate because this is something I’ve thought about for a long, long time. My earlier comment linked to a writer named Holly Lisle who has a section on her website called Are You My Reader. Google it. I think it might give you some ideas about figuring out who your ideal readers are, and then from there you can work on how to target your blog posts and social media to them. It may be that you have a few different lists in the end – one that covers your writer followers, one that covers readers in one genre, one that covers readers in another. It’s a thought, anyway. I hope you’ll keep at it! I read just about anything, so by my own definition and your description of what you like to read, I may be one of your ideal readers! 🙂

  • venkyiyer58

    Jenni, sincere apologies. I fully intend to be ultra-rewsponsive to comments, and have screwed up straightaway. I did not set up my Disqus notifications properly. Please forgive me. Regarding your comment: I read Holly Lisle’s post, and I would wrap it up thus: You are my reader if I have succeeded in making you want more of me. I am sticking to my forte, humor, because I know there is a big readership out there. I am not going to change my genre just because the fad is something else. It is my job to find my readers, and I will.

    • No worries. I’m still learning all this too. It sounds like humor is your niche, and I wish you the best in finding your tribe. 🙂

Author’s tribe and genre

by Venkatesh Iyer time to read: 5 min