Identify Your Novel’s Genre

Writers often ask me, “How do I figure out what genre my book is?” While the answer is straightforward for some people, it can be a tricky question for others. It becomes even more complicated if you’re also resisting the idea that you have to put a classification or label on your novel at all. So let’s start there.

You need to be able to tell someone what genre your novel is for a variety of reasons that all relate to the fact that you’re trying to make your art into a business. When talking to an agent or publisher about your novel, practically the first thing out of your mouth should be the genre. It sets the stage, sets up an expectation, and gets your listener in the right frame of mind to understand your story. Just like on Netflix or at the Redbox, where you can choose to search movies by category (thriller, action, romance, comedy, family), the genre is usually the first thing someone wants to know about your book.

So you really must be able to classify your bookin a genre — you’re not getting away from it. Some genres are broad, such as “literary fiction” or “commercial fiction.” Others are more specific, like paranormal romance or western.

But what if your book is hard to classify because it has elements of several genres?

Here is my secret for figuring out what genre to call your novel: Find ten books whose readers will probably also like your book. When you’re thinking about the audience for your book, you should be thinking, “My readers are people who love books such as _____, _____, and _____.” What are those books? Now, what genre are those books?

That’s most likely your genre. The reason is, genres exist for the purpose of helping readers find the books they like. So if you’re having trouble identifying your genre, start with your intended audience and work backwards.

When identifying your genre, remember they aren’t cut and dried. People won’t always agree about which genre a certain book falls into. Just do the best you can to capture your book with a helpful genre description.

It’s okay to use two or sometimes even three words for your genre. Historical romance. Paranormal thriller. Medical romantic suspense. Sometimes people embellish a little: women’s fiction with romantic elements. That’s all fine, as long as you keep it simple.

If an age group is part of your genre, add another descriptor. YA paranormal. YA  romance. General YA. Middle grade adventure. Middle grade fantasy.

Here are some examples of fiction genres: fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, mystery, thriller, suspense, literary, historical, women’s, Christian, inspirational, horror, romance, western, crime-detective, action-adventure, commercial, or general.

Here is a post on AgentQuery that defines some genres.

Here is a Wikipedia page that has a bit more on genres.

What genre are you writing? Are you having any trouble identifying your genre?

TOMORROW on the Books & Such blog, I’ll answer the question, “Can I write in multiple genres?”

Be Sociable, Share!
Tags:
  • Malin Larsson

    I’m having trouble because I write paranormal and UF, but people around me have told me I have a literary style. I don’t know if those are genres that mesh well, and I have a nagging doubt that there will be no interest in it. I’ve tried to remove the fantastic element of my stories or write them more commercial (my idea of it) but have never managed to make the stories flow that way.

    • http://ibischild.blogspot.com marion

      My gut tells me you should write in the style you feel comfortable with. Otherwise, it might come out sounding empty and contrived. You don’t have to pigeonhole it at the beginning, do you?
      That’s what’s scary about writing. You don’t know where you’re going to end up!

    • Elissa

      There seems to be a misconception that paranormal and UF can’t be literary. Genre writing does not equal trash writing. As Marion says, don’t change your style to suit someone else’s idea of what’s “right”.

    • http://kristinlaughtin.blogspot.com Kristin Laughtin

      There is tons of literary fantasy. You can absolutely write genre fiction that is literary.

      • Malin Larsson

        I’ve never actually found literary UF/paranormal – maybe I’ve missed it? You have any suggestions for me? My mt tbr is dwindling.

        My only “similar style” is Joanne Harris even though I’m far from her expertise and that I have more magic.

        • http://kristinlaughtin.blogspot.com Kristin Laughtin

          I’ve never been really into UF/paranormal, but there’s plenty of literary content in every other area of fantasy, so I don’t think it would be impossible for you to combine the two. In my mind, “literary” fiction is less a specific genre (though it is marketed this way) and more an approach, voice, style, and focus on the inner lives of the characters more than the external events. I can understand your fears about there not being a market for it–I have the same fears for some of my books, for different reasons–but as you said, it didn’t work well when you tried to remove the fantasy elements, and I imagine you don’t want to change your voice to be more commercial. I’m not a pro so you can take this with a grain of salt, but I think you should just continue writing what you write and see how it works out. Many books straddle the line between commercial and literary fiction both within and outside the fantasy genres, and yours might be able to do the same.

    • http://jessdoesstuff.blogspot.com Jessica Peter

      I’d say Charles De Lint, who pioneered urban fantasy, writes in a literary style. And he’s still definitely in the fantasy realm.

      Then again, there’s also magical realism in the literary genre that could fit. . .

  • http://katelarkindale.blogspot.com/ Kate Larkindale

    Mine’s easy. I write contemporary YA, at least, primarily. I have written a historical romance too, but the less said about that, the better…

  • JulieS

    I’m writing a mystery novel set in 1950 – not long after World War 2, the start of the Korean War and the red scare. All of these historical events affected everyday people. I find that a little interesting and it opens up a lot of possible plots for a mystery novel.

    I would like make it a series and so I might have continuing subplots. One subplot is that the main character is not a christian but he is surrounded by people of faith. So part of the “mystery” is why doesn’t he want to commit.

  • Kara

    Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance. I use the / because sometimes the girl doesn’t end up with the guy and I’ve been told that part is kind of important in a romance ;)

  • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

    I have two WIPs, one that I’m actively working on, and one that I’ve taken a break from. The current one is easy to categorize. It is a YA fantasy. The other, my baby that I have worked on for years and is in its sixth revision, is harder to classify. It’s an adult novel about two friends, one of whom has DID. There is much more involved in it as well. The best I can do is to call it a psychological drama.

    • Jeanne T

      That sounds interesting. Do you mind me asking what DID is?

      • Josh C.

        Dissociative Identity Disorder…aka Multiple Personality Disorder.

      • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

        Thank you for asking, Jeanne, and thank you for the compliment. As Josh said, DID stands for Dissociative Identity Disorder. Although, it is commonly called Multiple Identity Disorder, this term is inaccurate, so I try not to use it.

        As I said, this novel is my baby. I’ve done extensive research of the illness as well as of other elements in the book (e.g. the music industry). After I wrote my fourth draft, a mystery writer told me that my flashback structure was passe. I spent some time trying to think of how else to structure the story. Finally I decide to imitate the DID character’s experiences of “lost time” and having to orient himself quickly to his new surroundings and circumstances whenever he wakes up. This seems to be working, but it is like laying stones in a complex mosaic. So before working on the sixth (and hopefully final) draft, I’m taking a breather and writing a YA novel. It’s fun to get away from the intensity of the psychological drama and play for a while in the magical world of my teenage daughter of a banshee.

        • http://ibischild.blogspot.com marion

          I’m glad you took lemons–your friend’s comment that flashback structure is passe–and made lemonade. Your new structural framework sounds fascinating, though giving you lots of headaches.

          I find dictatorial comments like your friend’s annoying. Any gimmick goes out of style very quickly. But a device that’s integral to the story is never passe, IMHO. Just do whatever works, I say!

          Do you have some dreams as well? Seems like it would integrate with the waking-up confusion. Or are dreams passe too?!

          • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

            Thank you, Marion, for such affirming feedback! It was frustrating when she first told me that the structure was passe, but it also challenged me to be creative. Ultimately, I think the novel has benefited from it.

            I do have dreams! Whether or not that’s a passe device, I don’t know or care. As you said, I need to do what works, and the dreams are vital to the story (IMHO). David was abused as a child and repressed the memories of the abuse. He has a lot going on in the subconscious, so he has dreams, sleepwalking and insomnia. It’s kind of fun to play a bit with the readers–the narrative doesn’t make it obvious immediately whether David is in a new situation or just dreaming. So the reader has to orient too. Of course, I have to walk a very fine line between having the reader share David’s disorientation and frustrating the reader.

        • Jeanne T

          Thanks for the explanation. Your story and the way you plan to structure it sounds intriguing. :) Enjoy your YA “escape.” ;)

          • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

            You’re welcome! Thank you for asking (although I probably gave you too much information as an answer–sorry).

            Thank you for the encouraging feedback.

            Good luck with your women’s fiction novel.

  • http://doubtingwriter.blogspot.com/ jeffo

    It’s taken me a while to pin it down, but mine is one of those Literary/Commercial crossovers. Or is that ‘Upmarket’….

  • http://www.brentstratford.com Brent Stratford

    My WIP is fantasy. The hard part is determining if it is YA or MG. It seems that everyone has a different definition and I have found the not so sweet spot in the middle. I’d love to hear how you draw the line between YA and MG.

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

      Great question, Brent. I’ve seen different age ranges as well.

  • http://theotherstephenkingonwriting.blogspot.com Stephen H. King

    As a “man’s man”–former Infantryman, got a sabre hanging over my front door, drink cheap beer even when I can afford the more expensive stuff, etc.–I don’t read romance. I mean, I read a couple of them once, on a long road trip back when cars only had two possible radio channels, AM and FM, and portable personal electronics (like the Walkman) were still too expensive for a boy child of two poor parents, but I promise I didn’t enjoy them. Scout’s word, and all.

    Imagine my surprise, then, when the small publisher with whom I first worked put my rollicking Mythic Fantasy novel up under “Mythic Romance.” No, no, no–God of War, Goddess of Love, duking it out over a human woman–yes, there are more romantic and lovemaking scenes than battle scenes, but–I have dragons, and romance books don’t have dragons. Yeah, that’s it. *sigh*

    Sometimes, anyway, it’s tough to pin down which genre a book belongs in the most. That one and its sequel are now “shelved” in Amazon under general fantasy, since Amazon doesn’t have a mythic fantasy shelf, but I was just interviewed by the owner of a romance reading site who seemed to think it fitting. Also, by using the “secret” that Rachelle gives in the post, I have to say that the readers I already have are pretty evenly split between fantasy and romance.

    I guess, legitimately, it’s both.

    My new series is much easier. No romance at all, at least not till Book 3 or so. It’s all 18-year-old Mississippi girl attitude. And elves. So, YA fantasy, clearly. YA YA Fantasy, even (“Yet Another YA Fantasy”).

  • http://arielswan.blogspot.com AM Swan

    I agree with Malin Larsson. I write – what I call – supernatural women’s fiction. But, I guess it is paranormal – but to me that = women in skimpy tanktops with glowing eyes fighting zombies. I write ghost and magic stories – but with a literary bent and women’s themes. Think Practical Magic. There are mysteries involved. So – Women’s Paranormal Mysteries? Just fiction? The genres make it sound too genre-ish, but it is not literary women’s fiction either. I have no idea really. And what does this kind of cross genre mean in terms of publishability?

    • http://www.cgblake.wordpress.com CG Blake

      AM,
      From your description of your work it sounds like it fits into paranormal fiction. Have you ever read Alice Hoffman? Your work seems similar to hers. She may be a good reference point for you. Good luck.

  • http://www.cgblake.wordpress.com CG Blake

    Rachelle,
    This is a helpful post. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    I write family sagas, but my WIP is a political satire similar in tone to the novels of Carl Hiaasen. I’m seriously considering using a pseudonym.

  • http://www.conniemyres.com/ Connie Myres

    My novella is a science fiction thriller. My dilemma is finding what the appropriate abbreviation for science fiction is. SciFi, Sci-Fi, Sci-fi, or SF.

    I frequently use sci-fi/thriller. Does it matter?

  • http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ Wendy Paine Miller

    I danced between women’s fiction, literary, and family saga when I first began. But that was back when I was counting words on the pages of some of my favorite books and multiplying to figure out how long my novels needed to be.

    At home with women’s fiction.
    ~ Wendy

  • Stephanie M.

    I have a new one I’m calling a “cozy thriller” which I’m pretty sure I just made up.

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

      I love this term! While I usually don’t read thrillers, I might consider reading “a cozy thriller.”

    • JulieS

      The term “cozy thriller ” is mentioned by Hallie Ephron in her book “Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel”. Two examples she uses are Agatha Christie’s Miss Maple and Jessica Fletcher (from TV’s Murder She Wrote).

      • JulieS

        hmm…that should be Miss Marple instead of Miss Maple.

  • Jeanne T

    Thanks for outlining how to determine the genre, Rachelle. So helpful!

    It’s fun to read all the different genres represented here. :) When I began writing my story, I wasn’t sure what it was. Now, I’m comfortable calling it women’s fiction.

  • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

    I would classify my writing as inspirational women’s fiction with romantic elements. :)

    Of course, there’s a bit of suspense thrown in for good measure, but mostly, it’s about the inner journeys of the main characters, who are women.

  • Josh C.

    I dabble in a few things, but none of it is difficult to place in a genre. I write short stories in both crime and horror, and my novels are mystery and suspense. I typically write the kinds of things I enjoy reading, authors like James Lee Burke, William Kent Krueger, Cormac McCarthy, Dennis Lehane, Dean Koontz, T. Jefferson Parker, etc, only not as well as they do, of course.

  • http://www.sarahanneloudinthomas.wordpress.com Sarah Thomas

    I’ve settled in women’s fiction, though book two is set in the 50s, so does that automatically make it historical fiction?

    Another question–I thought inspirational was a euphimism for Christian, but you have both in your list. What’s the difference?

  • http://ibischild.blogspot.com marion

    I thought I was writing historical fiction. But it’s mainstream, though with a historical setting.
    Why? Hard to define. Less driven by a plot full of romance and/or intrigue. More driven by characters and angst!

  • Jana Hutcheson

    Speculative Christian YA Romance??? :)

    • http://www.cattapanscookies.blogspot.com Amy

      Jana, I had to smile when I read your post. I’m kind of in the same boat.

      So far I’ve been calling my WIP YA Supernatural because it involves a teenaged angel fighting off demon shadows.

      However, I don’t want an agent to think it’s like the many secular books out there that involve fallen angels, so I’m considering calling it “YA Christian Supernatural.”

      My WIP is a little like Heather Burch’s Halflings, which has been labeled everything thing from Urban Fantasy to Supernatural to Paranormal to Romance. Guess that comparison doesn’t help me much! :)

      Better figure it out soon–I’m starting the query process in a couple weeks!

  • Lori

    I would say I am working on a thriller/suspense but I am not sure what is the difference between a novel that is a thriller and a novel that is a suspense. It will have a lot of cultural and religious overtones but I would not say it is a religious thriller/suspense.

    • Josh C.

      I’m no expert, but from my understanding, a thriller has tons of action in it, whereas a suspense novel has loads of danger, but not necessarily action. It’s the threat that drives a suspense novel. Hope that helps somewhat.

  • http://www.kellyhitchcock.com Kelly Hitchcock

    Thanks for this topic! I write literary/women’s contemporary fiction, but most people have no idea what any of these means…

    “Oh, women’s fiction… like romance?” “No.”
    “Literary fiction? What’s that?”
    “Contemporary fiction… that’s vague.”

  • http://davidatodd.com David Todd

    My first novel was Historical Fiction, New Testament era. Or maybe that genre is called Biblical Fiction, without regard to Old or New testaments.

    I’m having trouble deciding what the genre of my second novel is. I’ve been calling it a Sports Thriller (baseball), but I really don’t have thriller elements in it. By that I mean I don’t have constant action, going from car chase to gun action to things exploding to sequential scenes of physical danger. Perhaps it’s a Contemporary Suspense, since much of the book is forboding physical harm to the protag. Is there a Sports Suspense genre?

  • http://crowproductions.com Joan Cimyotte

    You said to keep it simple. Only use two to three words for your genre. My story has a lot of the categories like; Modern Western, romantic comedy, mystery, paranormal/science fiction, action adventure with Christian overtones. How about contemporary fiction? Your blog is most helpful in my case. Thank you.

  • Jennifer Major

    Historical fiction/romance with a dash of Scott O’Dell in there for good measure.

  • Jennifer Major

    Why did this post make me think of “Cowboys vs Aliens”? WHAT was that?

  • http://www.juturnafaerthing.blogspot.com Rebekkah N.

    On the importance of genre:

    “Ack, it’s salty! Bleh, worst cookie I’ve ever tasted.”
    “It’s a cheese straw.”
    “Oh.” (second bite) “Hey, that’s really good! Pass me another.”
    (brought to you by surprises on the potluck table)

    I’m classifying my current manuscript as urban fantasy. I think that’s the audience that will find it most appealing. But I have considered calling it just fantasy, and my incomplete manuscript I’m wobbling between urban fantasy, fantasy, science fiction, and science fantasy. But I think I’ll finish it first before choosing a genre!

  • http://www.colindsmith.com/blog Colin Smith

    I think some writers recoil at the idea of choosing a genre for their book. After all, that sounds like pigeon-holing, and my novel is unique! How am I going to sell my one-of-a-kind story if it’s “just another contemporary YA, or paranormal novel”? But you’re right, Rachelle. We need to step away from our artistic sensibilities and look at this as a business call. If we want people to read our books, we need to make sure they get into the hands of the people most likely to read them (duh!). And the first thing people are going to look at is the genre (or “is this the kind of book I like to read?”). So it serves us well to define that as best we can.

    My current WIP is about a teenage alien that ends up in Victorian London. Is it YA Sci-Fi, or YA Historical? I’ve decided that since the majority of the story involves my MC navigating her way around Victorian London, it is more Historical than Sci-Fi, so I intend to classify it as YA Historical.

    Thanks for another great article, Rachelle. :)

  • http://www.hypnoticdreams.com/stories/redemption-for-the-hypnotist.html Daniel

    I’m writing in the “erotic hypnosis” genre. Which is to say that I wrote my first novel specifically for people who enjoy reading about the erotic use of hypnosis. But how how am I going to sell that idea to a publisher or the general public?

  • http://writingandliving.net Staci Eastin

    Women’s fiction. I would like to think upmarket, but I don’t know if others would agree. :)

    The harder part is determining whether to shoot for the Christian fiction or secular fiction market. What I write would never have passed muster with Christian fiction publishers 15 years ago, but the requirements are relaxing.

    • http://www.intheshadeofthecherrytree.blogspot.com Zan Marie

      Staci, I’ve got the same problem on the Christian vs. secular markets with my women’s fiction!

  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    My first novel is still a difficult one to classify and to query. While the writing isn’t complex, the story line is. It begins with a prologue that says the power of the Nephalites comes from aliens, which seems like sci-fi. Yet the family saga takes place in the historical time preceding King Arthur, which would be historical fiction. However, the Nephalites find out they are actually angels or Nephalim(Reversing chariots of the Gods) and that seems more like inspirational fantasy. So what is it? Historical Fantasy? Historical Sci-Fi? Sci-Fi Fantasy? I am confused as to the genre. It would probably appeal to those who like C.S. Lewis’ “Space Trilogy.”
    I realize Rachelle can’t answer all these, so any help from other writers would be appreciated!!

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

      Wow, PJ! I’m intrigued. I hope you get your novel published soon so that I can read it.

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Thank you, Christine!

        P.S. On my journey through Shadowshield Mountain, I would want to encounter a magical spring which gives a momentary speed increase, but I wouldn’t want to encounter its guardian gnomes who attack like piranha! :-)

        • http://fragmentsandfriends@blogspot.com Christine Dorman

          You’re welcome, P.J.

          Thank you for the feedback on Soul Searcher and for checking out my blog! Guardian gnomes who attack like piranha–oh, boy! I didn’t know they were there and will look out for them. I definitely want to stay away from them!

          Thanks so much for the feedback and the laugh!

    • http://www.intheshadeofthecherrytree.blogspot.com Zan Marie

      I’d guess it would be shelved with fantasy. The different look at a historical era reminds me of the alternative histories that fit on a bridge between SF and fantasy based on how much science is involved in the changes. Don’t know if that helps you or not, P.J.

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        It all helps, Zan Marie! Thank you for taking the time to respond!

    • http://kristinlaughtin.blogspot.com Kristin Laughtin

      My guess would be fantasy, or perhaps science fantasy, but you’re lucky in that SF and fantasy are often shelved together, so a precise definition is not as crucial.

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Thanks, Kristin!

        I loved what you put in yesterday’s blog about the jerk in your new book. You said you didn’t “know how complex (you’d) make him since (you) were going to kill him anyway. Some people are just grumpy!” That was priceless!

        • http://kristinlaughtin.blogspot.com Kristin Laughtin

          Haha, I’m glad it struck you. I do have some idea of his backstory and why he’d be the way he is and all that, but I’m doubting its importance to the main story. Since he’s gone so quickly, I’m not sure yet how much of that will end up on the cutting room floor!

          I love the angel/alien thing in your description and love C.S. Lewis. When your book is published, I will definitely want to read it!

    • http://kristinlaughtin.blogspot.com Kristin Laughtin

      P.S. It sounds really interesting!

  • http://www.intheshadeofthecherrytree.blogspot.com Zan Marie

    I’ve been chewing over the genre of my main WIP for awhile. I kept coming back to Women’s Fiction, but couldn’t find a good definition or even two definitions that agreed. The link to Agent Query was good, Rachelle. That defintion was clear, concise, and exactly what I’m working on. Thanks.

  • http://everythingtosomeone.blogspot.com/ Christie

    The current novel (oh dear goodness, yes, there are several) is YA historical. Even though it’s based on a fairy tale, there’s not really any fantastic elements to it, so I hesitate to call it fantasy. Definitely Christian undertones (how can I separate my faith from what I write?) but not explicitly Christian.

  • http://kristinlaughtin.blogspot.com Kristin Laughtin

    It’s always been really easy to identify my writing as science fiction and fantasy, since both of those genres have very obvious conventions. I’m glad!

  • B.M.McClure

    Thanks so much for this, Rachelle! Classifying this novel I’ve been working on recently has been an issue since I first started with it. Unfortunately, it has only become more difficult as I fleshed out the idea and started writing.

    The best thing I can come up with genre-wise is Literary Christian Historical Romance…with a bit of mystery/suspense thrown in there too. I wish I could streamline it (imagine me presenting that “genre” to an agent or publisher;D) but there is not really any way I could describe the book. Do you think I could keep it?

  • http://tedthethird.blogspot.com Ted

    I’m wasn’t sure what genre to put my story in. I know it’s Christian, but I wanted something more than just Christian fiction, so I read the new releases from ACFW to see what books mine was similar to, and the ones it seems closest to are Urban Fiction.

  • http://www.brokengirl.info London Crockett

    Thanks for the topical (for me) post, Rachelle. This has long been a difficulty for me. I’m kind of settling on YA literary fantasy, but The Book Thief or Swamplandia! seem like better comparisons than the YA fantasy I’ve read. I suppose the key is to read even more—not a horrible task :)

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ruth-A-Taylor/112941348748036 Ruth Taylor

    Would Romance/Thriller/Suspense work?

    I somehow feel that it won’t, so after reading the article on AgentQuery (SO helpful!), I’ve come to the conclusion that the Thriller/Suspense category is what fits my WIP.

    Or not.

    TBD

  • Pingback: SF Tidbits for 4/5/12 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog

  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda Adams

    I’ve had trouble identifying my genre. It’s a cross genre. I started out calling it an urban fantasy/thriller, because it was set in an urban setting. It’s in a fictional country, and done in omniscient rather than first person. It also has magic, but doesn’t have vampires or werewolves, or anything paranormal. The story is a ticking time bomb of thriller.

    I was told by a critique group group that it was contemporary fantasy, not urban fantasy. Then I was later told by an urban fantasy writer that it was contemporary fantasy. Different critique group, and they’re telling me it’s an urban fantasy. I want to bang my head against the wall.

  • http://www.laramsey.com Lori

    Is there such a thing as Romantic Fantasy? My book will appeal to those who like fantasy, think “beyond” humans with a strong romantic element. I have thoroughly mixed the two.

  • http://siripaulson.wordpress.com Siri Paulson

    Linda Adams, urban fantasy and contemporary fantasy are close enough that you could probably use either one and be safe — it’ll get the idea across either way. And a lot of urban fantasy novels these days have a mystery/action component, so your thriller aspect should fit right in.

    Lori, that sounds like paranormal romance to me, especially if it’s set in the real world.

    I write all over the science fiction and fantasy spectrum, but I know I’ll have to specialize eventually. So far the likeliest subgenres for me are epic fantasy based on real places (what Guy Gavriel Kay writes) and steampunk. My main problem is that my novels tend to straddle the line between YA and adult.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KarenAWyle Karen A. Wyle

    I’ve been describing the novel that’s now out to my beta readers as “a family drama with mystery elements, set in an afterlife of my own devising.” This afterlife is not specifically Judeo-Christian. I don’t know what genre The Lovely Bones is in, but I’m wondering if I’m in it.

  • http://jessdoesstuff.blogspot.com Jessica Peter

    My current novel is definitely romance (single title, not category) so I know where it will sit on a shelf. It’s a little trickier to get my sub-genre on there.

    In my query, I call it “post-apocalyptic romance with steampunk elements”.

    For official romance subgenres, it could be “futuristic romance” (except I wouldn’t want anyone to mistake it for sci-fi, because it isn’t), “steampunk romance” (except it isn’t traditional steampunk), or “paranormal romance” at a big stretch (except it doesn’t technically HAVE paranormal elements. . .). Hm.

  • http://beckydoughtybooks.com Becky Doughty

    Yep. Been there. Made the mistake of querying to an agent who told me my book wasn’t a genre she represented. It took an explanation of genres (from you!) to see things a little clearer.

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://jmloftus.wordpress.com Jessica Loftus

    I don’t really know what my novel’s genre would be. I think it may be fantasy but the story takes place in present time Earth and another dimension. Would that be considered fantasy or something else?

    If anyone has a clue please let me know but I have no idea at this point.

    Thanks,
    Jessie

    • http://www.1600words.com Amy Armstrong

      How is the conflict in your story resolved? Do the characters rely on special abilities or technology? If they solve problems with futuristic technology, it’s science fiction. If they use special powers (e.g. Teleportation, magic, etc.) it’s fantasy.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    It took me a long time (and four novels) to actually figure out the genre…I went through paranormal romance, christian ghost stories, and a bunch of others until I realized that it’s really just christian romantic fiction. I mean, each story’s based on one of the beatitudes, there is always a love interest, and what I thought ‘paranormal’ are just the kind of miraculous events that any Christian reader will recognize and accept.

  • http://theblogpile.wordpress.com Peter DeHaan

    I’ve heard of instances where a publisher’s marketing team misidentified a book’s genre and the sales were abysmal. That risk can be reduced when the author clearly communicates the genre.

  • http://www.1600words.com Amy Armstrong

    YA contemporary is my thing, but I have one oddball idea for a sci fi novel. Not sure I’d be able to rock that though.

  • http://www.crystalwarrenmiller.com Crystal Laine Miller

    This is so important and is why I’ve taken so long, working on my own fiction. After several manuscripts, stutters and starts, bad finishes, confusion, I have settled into contemporary romance. My last online class was so helpful in finding this place.

    It’s actually a relief to me. I didn’t think I fit there, but as I did exercises in my class, it became rather clear.

    I’m too uptight, I suppose. Sigh.

  • http://www.laurenmillerbooks.com Lauren Miller

    My WIP is a mash-up of a lot of different genres so I’m not sure HOW it would be classified by a bookshop, yet. It’s tentatively under the broad umbrella of “speculative fiction”. Hopefully as I finish the first-draft, the perfect ‘genre’ will come into focus.

  • Pingback: Thank you!! Also: This Week in Books 4/6/12 Lenore KochLenore Koch

  • Pingback: Writing Updates & Recommended Reading

  • http://www.macmake-up.net MAC Makeup

    Thtank you for share!

  • Sam

    Thanks for the post! I’m struggling with exactly this question right now. I’m wondering mostly about commercial fiction. I think I might be writing commercial fiction, but it feels presumptuous to call my novice ms commercial because I associate that classification with best seller. Plus, it feels like a cop out because I would get to avoid the problem of picking mystery or women’s fiction. Am I overthinking this?

  • http://www.marcbymarcjacobsoutlet.us Marc Jacobs

    It’s really a good post. I have learnt a lot from it. I will recommend it to my firends. Hope they ill like it too.

  • Pingback: Around the Web: April 10, 2012 | paper heroes

  • Pingback: Link Feast Vol. 3 | Reetta Raitanen's Blog

  • Pingback: Novella genre | Imperialtaco

  • http://www.sunderedspheres.com James Wilson

    I call most of my novels fantasy adventures, because they’re not exactly swords & sorcery, and not exactly historical fantasy, and definitely not epic fantasy. No world-saving at all. Well if you tie all the threads from several of them, it adds up to a whole-lotta-people-saving, but still not the world; the characters themselves have no idea of the significance of their deeds. They are adventure stories in a fantasy setting, hence fantasy adventures. There are two that are definitely epic fantasy, but the rest all all adventure stories, including one for children. Now if only I could get them all published!

  • nuku

    My WIP is labelled as sci-fi/fantasy, without the magic. I find that kind of fantasy as overdone and boring. Nobody can say it’s a romance, as the two MCs are only in the same town for the first 100 or so pages. It’s 7 books, but the longest page count is a little over 300. If this sounds boring to you, trust me, it’s not. I won’t tell you why, as that’d give away my plot. (^O^)
    (Sorry Mrs. Gardner if this curls your toes, I know you’re not much for the two genres.)

  • Pingback: Genres: Pick Your Box! | Midtown Underground

  • http://richard-weir.com Richard

    I think it’s important to distinguish between the business of marketing your fiction, and the creation. Yes, you need to know how to market it, but that doesn’t mean you should create for a genre market. If you do, you run the risk, as another commenter stated, of coming across as contrived.

    My personal feeling that if you are writing within a genre, you are writing with a straightjacket that isn’t tied. Shake it off, go where your mind wants to go. Leave it to bookstore clerks and librarians to figure out where to shelve you! (And honestly, don’t the best works confuse them on this point?) You can focus on marketing when the creation is done.

    http://richard-weir.com/say-goodbye-to-your-straightjac-erm-genre/

  • Sarah

    I’m having trouble with it, because it does not cleanly fall into either post apocalyptic or dystopian. And then if I tried to put it in YA, the key factor of the adults being the main problem is heavily subverted.

  • Pingback: Most-Viewed Posts of 2012 | Rachelle Gardner

  • Pingback: Monday Advice from Agents and Editors: Meet Rachelle Gardner | Tangled Words

  • Pingback: What Genre Is My Novel? « Stacey J. Mitchell

  • http://www.dreamwoodtales.wordpress.com Grokdad

    My first book is an INTENTIONALLY cross-genre anthology, scifi, fantasy, paranormal mystery, crime thriller, humor, mythological, etc. I realize that makes me less likely to be stereotypically indentifiable, but also resists pigeonholing.
    I write what I want to read, and I’m eclectic in my taste.
    This article has some good basic advice but I know my situation is somewhat different than most.

  • http://www.write4reel.com Peter Frahm

    Excellent post with great information. I will incorporate your advice in my query letters. The external links were helpful as well. Thanks!

  • http://mauzewriting.wordpress.com Rebecca Monaco

    Thank you very much for this post. I was always confused about how to list my genre – mostly because I didn’t understand some of the terms, but your links and walk-through have been very helpful. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gurunathan11 Nathan Guru

    What about a novel with different time travel and different genre for each of it?

    • Oya

      I know this question is a bit old but time-travel is typically sci-fi. But if it is all in one book then there has to be one deciding element that connects all of the story-lines/different time pieces. If it is something like Cloud Atlas then it is drama and sci-fi.

  • Buts99

    If I am doing a report on a book for school, how do I work out the genre?? Please reply ASAP!!

  • Pingback: The Pearly Droplets ~ July 2013 | The Pearly Droplets

  • Unknown

    My child has a report to do and her book report is gonna be on Maya Gold cinderella cleaners #1 and we cant figure out what genre it is can any one help ASAP!!!!!!!!

  • Pingback: An Experiment in Genre – #AndTheGenreIs…? | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  • Jane Meep

    I seem to be drawn to writing what I think of as “inductive mysteries,” where all the elements of a crime come into being until the crime itself is seemingly inevitable. (They’re horrible to write, if you like the characters. It’s hard to type while hollering, “No! Don’t do it!” at the keyboard.) The best example I can think of of this sort of thing is Ruth Rendell’s *A Judgment in Stone.* The trouble is that book’s been called “suspense,” and “mystery” and “crime fiction” and “psychological thriller.” Similar classification problem for something like *We Have Always Lived in the Castle* (Shirley Jackson), which is called all of the above, and also “psychological horror.” Any suggestions on what would be the best name for this subgenre?

line
Site by Author Media © Rachelle Gardner.