Publishing and bibliography (1): signalling the genre

One of the common problems I’ve found with book proposals in professional and academic publishing is that authors don’t always pay enough attention to genre.

They often fail to state explicitly what genre a proposed book would fall into. This creates the possibility of confusion.

And sometimes the author hasn’t really thought about the genre and so proposes a book that falls down the gap between genres. Knowing the genre is crucial: it has a direct impact on such matters as text design, marketing, sales, and pricing.

How genres are categorised varies a little between publishers. In most of the contexts I’ve worked in, the following typology has been sufficient:reference

  1. reference
  2. monograph
  3. adoptable books: textbooks; readers
  4. how-tos and student guides
  5. trade books (consumer books).

As a reader I also experience a problem with genres. I look up a book on a library catalogue, go and find it, and then think, ‘Oh! It’s that kind of book. I don’t really want to read a [insert genre]’.

We have well-developed tools for designating subjects. BIC, BISAC, Library of Congress, Dewey. But not for genres.

Some of the above stray into the area of genre (arguably the reference category in Dewey is generic). Such blurring doesn’t make for clarity.

Don’t we just need a parallel bibliographic tool for genre?

Then we could categorise books by both subject and genre, providing a much richer description.




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