by Eric Dontigney
The distinct problem with a trying to market cross-genre books is that you don’t have the time you need to adequately explain the nature of the book. Hence, that rule of thumb that you shouldn’t try to appeal across multiple market segments. (Yes, you do get the occasional Harry Potter, but that was a freak confluence of cultural events, not any kind of brilliant marketing strategy.) Rather than trying to explain what the book is, pick the market segment that the book is most closely associated with and aim it directly at that market. I'm sure that sounds a little counter-intuitive and you're probably wondering something like, "Why would I limit my market that way?"
There are lots of reasons. Some of it is product positioning and some of it is an author branding issue. At the core though, people want to know what box something fits into in the world. They want to feel like they have a handle on things. The product that tries to fit into lots of boxes winds up getting bought by no one, because marketing messages are so muddled. People don’t feel like they understand it and can’t find the right box for it. The movie Stardust is a great example of this. At various junctures they tried to market it as a kids movie, a family movie, a fantasy-action adventure movie and, in the end, it was a box office bomb that barely made back its budget ..despite being a great movie with high profile talent and terrific special effects.
None of which is to say you can't direct other market segments to your book, but you have to go about it differently. If you're book is primarily a young adult book, you need to reiterate that young adults are the target, but then you expand the message. If someone asks you who your book is for you can say something like, "It's intended for young adults, but...(train enthusiasts, survivalists, mommy bloggers, insert your group of choice) might get a kick out of it too." If your book is primarily a fantasy book, you say that over and over again and then, if someone asks, "It's a fantasy novel, but it's got strong (historical elements, science elements, whatever other genre it fits into)." People are willing to accept some ambiguity about those things as long as they feel like they've got a handle on "what it really is" or "who it's really for." It's silly, but human beings like "being in control."