Tuesday, April 21, 2015


So, a few weeks ago, I went to the meeting of the local writing group. It's not a big group, just a handful of people really that get together to read bits and pieces of their works in progress for feedback.

Last time I went, someone brought in the opening for a book they were working on. Before reading, they described it as an intricate sci-fi story, bridging religion and science, centered around an autistic man discovering a way to bridge the regular world with another dimension. The later parts of the book would be about trying to find a way to put the genie back in the bottle once it was released.

Sounds like an incredible story, huh?

Then they started reading.

The first chapter is about his girlfriend and her musings on how much she wants to leave him, but can't bring herself to.

When asked about the difference, they replied that they had read that romance novels were the biggest seller of books on Amazon, and they wanted to grab those readers.

Now, I want to point out that is a recognized fact. Romance novels ARE the biggest sellers on Amazon and probably most other outlets as well. It's also something that you want to portray your work as cross-genre, in order to attract readers that otherwise might pass on your book.

That being said, you want to be very careful when you set up a bait-and-switch like this. Yes, you might draw in a few people that wouldn't have read and enjoyed your work before; but you also run the risk of pissing off just as many, if not more people.

Given the description of the book, if you picked it up expecting an interesting sci-fi story and found the entire first chapter read like something out of a romance novel would you really keep on reading? Or would you close the book and move on, possibly leaving a scathing review on the way past?

What if you read the first chapter and thought you were picking up some kind of romance novel? Once the first chapter is over, the POV switches, and the focus is entirely on the guy and his discovery, would you keep reading? Or would you be outraged at being caught in the bait-and-switch?

I actually know from experience that people get angry when they don't get what they think they bought. Angry people are also those most likely to leave bad reviews.

My first book was supposed to be a slow horror/thriller story. Unfortunately, between the cover, blurb, and the way it was written, a lot of people seem to have mistaken it for a supernatural romance and I paid the price for that in reviews. That's one of the reasons that I withdrew it from sale. It was completely unintentional, but it did end up being a kind of bait-and-switch. Some people did like it, despite it not being what they thought it was, but far more were angry.

Yeah, not exactly genre-specific, is it?

I'm only speaking from my own experience. I'm not saying anyone should or shouldn't try the bait-and-switch approach. If you know how to advertise to specific groups, and you're aware of the risks involved, feel free to give it a go. After all, what doesn't work for some, might work very well for others.

Just make sure you're well aware of what you might be bringing down on yourself should you get it wrong.

~ Shaun


  1. Great topic!

    I almost ran into this with my first novel, Bloodline. Now...it is advertised as a young adult, sci-fi. Based on the title and genre alone, what do you think it's about?

    If you answered a tween story involving vampires or werewolves...I'm not at all surprised. However...it couldn't be further from what it really is. I try to make this VERY clear in the blurb and any advertising I do, but I know it cost me a bit on a few reviews because they just weren't the right audience.

    If the reader were to look at the title of the trilogy 'Forgotten Origins', and the titles of all three books: Bloodline, Heritage and Descent (a play on words for both descending into war/darkness and descendants) then it starts to become a bit clearer.

    The trilogy is a true science fiction story. There is ZERO romance or sex in the first novel. The plot has nothing to do with any romantic interests of the main character. There are no vampires, no werewolves, nor anything of a fantasy nature. (though there are some supernatural elements) It's all about ancient history, cryptic messages, conspiracy theory and ancient aliens.

    I wish now that I had chosen a different title for the first book, because although it makes sense in relation to what the story really is...it gives the wrong impression. I'm afraid I'm missing some of my audience because they might pass it over, not realizing what it is.

    SO...this is a very real topic. I get quite irritated when I start out with a book that appears to be one thing, and then degrades into something else entirely. I feel a bit cheated, because it's obvious it was done intentionally as a bait. Not cool. ;)

  2. This is absolutely a thing that I worry about. Especially with this one novel that I'm working on, because there are some important things that I don't want to tip the reader off to and yet... I also don't want the reader to assume that the story is one way when it's actually another.