How to Figure Out Your Book’s Genre

colorfiles“How do I know what genre my novel fits into?”

I see this question a lot.

It’s not that authors aren’t familiar with genres — although with the proliferation of sub-genres cropping up daily, it’s hard to keep up — but often it’s because they feel their books could fit more than one genre.  They don’t want to be pigeon-holed.  They don’t want to miss a potential audience.  At the same time, picking a genre is expected.  What to do?

First:  get familiar with what’s out there.

One of the easiest ways is to look at a bookstore, whether it’s online or bricks-and-mortar, and see how they classify fiction.  This changes a bit over time.  (Anybody else remember when they had a “Chick Lit” section at Borders?  Hell, anybody remember Borders?)

Here are some of the most common umbrella genres.

  • Action/Adventure — stories including epic journeys, lots of conflict, high stakes, some violence.
  • Erotica — stories of sexual exploration.
  • Fantasy — stories usually involving magic, other worlds, mythological/mystical figures.
  • Horror — stories that invoke fear.
  • Literary Fiction — stories with a focus on the quality of the prose over the narrative arc.
  • Mystery — stories that involve solving a crime, usually a murder. 
  • Thriller/Suspense — stories of high tension that can involve either action or mystery.
  • Romance — stories about love/intimacy.
  • Sci-fi — stories usually involving technology, aliens, science-related alternative worlds.
  • Westerns — stories taking place in America’s “Old West,” often with focus on justice. 
  • Women’s fiction — stories about women experiencing emotional growth.  Primary emotion:  hope.

There are obviously lots of sub-genres for most of these categories. Also, I’ve left out Children’s/YA/New Adult fiction, simply because you can have these same umbrella genres within those categories — it’s more about the age of the protagonists rather than the subject matter, and the targeted age of the reader.  So you can have YA paranormal romance, or Middle Grade sci-fi, or what have you.

Next, look at the “genre qualities” of your book.

Did you have a genre in mind when you wrote it?  If not, given what you’ve just learned about the genres, and what readers expect from each genre, where might it possibly fit?

Most importantly, which of the above audiences would be the most happy with what you’ve written?

Example:  Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation

It’s a book about two sisters who go to a small town to make a film.  It involves a love story. There is also a mystery.  There is also a decent amount of sex.

That said, it’s not really a mystery, despite the dead body and various machinations as the murderer is discovered. It’s not that difficult to solve, and it’s not the primary focus.  Mystery readers, who are driven to figure out “who did it?” will not be satisfied at the dilution of the mystery with elements that they’d see as secondary: the love story takes up way too much real estate.

It’s also not an erotica.  While the sex is steamy, the focus is more on falling in love and emotional intimacy than sex as a vehicle of character development: there are character development scenes with the heroine and the hero’s child, for example, or the sisters discussing their past.  For someone looking to read erotica, this would seem extraneous, and possibly slow-paced or boring.

It is definitely a love story.  The mystery elements and the sex both serve to reinforce the growth of the love between the protagonists.  So the genre that makes the most sense is romance.

Another example:  Jim Butcher’s Dresden File series.

The protagonist, Harry Dresden, is a detective, solving cases that usually involve murder on the mean streets of Chicago.  He tackles a lot of epic adventures, giving it elements of Action/Adventure.

That said, he is also a Wizard.

They are definitely mysteries, taking a page out of the classic noir novels.  It would definitely satisfy a lot of mystery readers… if they were also amenable to the magical/mystical features of Fantasy, which many might not be.  Same with the action/adventure reader set.

Fantasy readers — specifically Urban Fantasy readers — would be very satisfied by the other-worldly aspects, the world building, and the magic and mystical figures.  The action, adventure and mystery all work with the fantasy element.  Harry shoots things with fireballs and magic spells as well as shotguns.  He solves mysteries that may or may not involve fairies, necromancers, or mythological gods.  It’s immersive, with world building so thorough that you are completely drawn in.  Urban Fantasy is the best fit.

Finally:  identify why you want to know.

There’s a difference between choosing a genre for a potential agent, for example, and choosing a category for a self-publishing listing.

When you’re writing a query, you want to show the agent that you have a sense of who your target audience is and where your book would most likely sell.

You might think “but isn’t that the agent’s job?”  and indeed, said agent may have some opinions on how to better position your work.  But if you don’t have any clue, and you just dump a book in his/her lap with the expectation that they will read through it and glean the positioning, it’s a harbinger of things to come.  Tacitly saying “but that isn’t my job” when it comes to something as relatively simple as genre choice suggests that you’re really going to balk when it comes time to actually  market and promote the thing.

For an agent, choose the most likely readership. 

As I mentioned, mystery readers could enjoy Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. But they aren’t the most likely readership.  An agent will want to know what’s the most likely readership — who is the mostly likely to seek out this particular type of book, buy this type of book, and enjoy this type of book.  Not someone who stumbles across this book and decides to give it a try on a whim, enjoying it more than he expected.

For self-publishing, you’re looking for the most likely category, and the least populated fit.

When uploading a digital self-published release, you’re allowed to choose several categories/genres for your novel.  These are pretty fluid: bookstores like Amazon change their listings of sub-genres all the time, so it’s a bit of a moving target.  But what you want is to choose a broad genre that fits your right reader’s expectations, just like you’d choose for targeting an agent.  Then, you’re also going to choose a niche, preferably one that isn’t heavily populated, that also fits your novel.

If you have a mystery that involves a police detective, you could pick “Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense” as a category.  Looking it up under Kindle Books, however, you will notice that it has 107,974 results offered — that’s how many ebooks use the same category.

The odds of you getting in the top 100, where many readers look for new authors, or anywhere near a “category bestseller” that will kick on the Amazon Recommendation Engine, is pretty paltry.

Look at the sub-category “Police procedurals” and  the number of books specifically categorized as such drops to 4,844.

To really get specific, if you had a “cat sleuth”?  The number of books drops to 23.  You’d be in the top 100 by default!  (Remember, if you don’t have a cat sleuth, don’t select it just to get a better category ranking.  Getting bad reviews from dedicated niche readers who feel mislead isn’t worth the ranking boost, in my opinion.)

Remember, you can generally pick two categories.  Try to hit one broad category, and one narrow niche.

It’s more art than science.

There isn’t a hard-and-fast way to figure this out, but hopefully these tips will give you a simplified approach to looking at what emotional satisfaction your work provides for genre audiences, and how to move forward.  Don’t be afraid to take a stand — and don’t worry if you have to amend your stance later!

What do you think about the genre listings?  How would you categorize your work?

Please leave a comment — I’d love to hear what you think!

80 Replies to “How to Figure Out Your Book’s Genre”

  1. This is a question that’s been on my mind a lot recently.

    I’d like to say women’s fiction – given that I set out to write a book I’d like to read – but my protagonist is a man and it’s about issues of memory, trust and that which is lost when we die.

    Literary fiction would be the other option, but I don’t consider my prose to be more important than the narrative. If anything, the story is at the heart of the novel for me.

    As a result – I’m still stuck. I need to do some more investigating, but this post provides me with a method of doing that and also suggests that my novel might not fit directly under an umbrella term but might be more suited to a sub-genre.

    Thanks for tackling this topic! 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting, Cat.

      I should probably qualify the literary fiction definition. I think that lit fic can (and in my opinion, should) consider the narrative important, but a lot of the time, you hear about the quality of the writing, even if it doesn’t follow a traditional narrative structure. It certainly can ignore the three-act structure that genre fiction generally adheres to.

      If it’s got a man as protagonist, and with the themes you’re mentioning, I’d say mainstream or literary fiction sounds like the best fit. Your next step, in my opinion, would be to look at books that could be considered “comps” — comparable books, ones that people who enjoy your book would love. Then look at how they’re categorized on Amazon. That will get you closer.

      Hope that helps! 😀

      1. I’m in the same boat as Cat. Wrote a book I wanted to read. Women’s fiction I suppose. But your reply makes me ask: HOW to find comparable books. Specifically.
        It’s hard to find a bookstore to browse anymore, and if I turn to Amazon, without having an author or title, really tough to get to a book like mine. I’ve been flumoxed on this for some time. Not quite romance, not quite historical fiction… and the breakdown of sub-genres is ridiculous. Can you point me in a clearer direction to find comps?

  2. It seems you taught me to embrace those who would most likely read my work a long time ago. I remember a time when I fretted over my lack of magic and sentient non-humans. And I used to fret that my Right Reader seemed to be female. I think embracing the epic historical fantasy genre has only been a boon. You’re right–it’s all about finding the audience that will be most satisfied. None of the rest of it matters. I wonder now why I ever questioned it.

    Just one of many reasons I’m grateful for your guidance, Coach! 🙂

  3. I think I would have to categorize my work as literary fiction, and I’m glad you elaborated on your thoughts about narrative and prose style in that genre, because I was thinking something similar. I appreciate the freedom to experiment with narrative structure, but I do feel structure is important for the type of reader I want to attract. I’m working on revisions now and trying to pay particular attention to this. (I’m finding Rock Your Revisions very helpful, by the way!)

    1. I love that you say that: “the type of reader I want to attract.” Knowing your audience and making conscious choices for who you want to connect with — not “I want to connect with everyone!” but knowing what you enjoy and who would most likely enjoy it as well — is a crucial part of the revision process, IMO.

      And I’m very glad you’re finding Rock Your Revisions useful! 🙂

  4. I began my first novel some months ago, and had great fun just writing and seeing what happened. After some 20,000 words, I stepped back and realized I had no idea where it was going and also that it was part mystery, part romance, part dystopia, and maybe some other things too. Began researching sub-genres by drilling down on Amazon and by websurfing, and bingo! I discovered a sub-genre called cozy mysteries, which I had never heard of but was a perfect fit for my characters and my own approach. Not my plot, though, and that’s how I found you. So now I’m starting a series with some of the same characters and the same setting, but a totally new plot. Thanks!

    1. Good job researching, Zana! Are you keeping the dystopian elements? I’d never heard of a dystopian cozy… interesting concept!

  5. Hi,
    I found your information very helpful and I will try and categorise the book under 2 different genres. My problem is that my book is a passionate, sexually explicit romance, all accompanied and mirrored by an equally passionate love for fly fishing.
    Try pigeon holing those two themes, not easy!


    1. It does seem a bit disparate! 🙂 That said, it becomes a matter of audience. There’s a difference between a book with romance elements, and a romance. For example, there is a romance in The Da Vinci Code but the main focus is not on the romance. The main focus is on solving the mystery under violent pressures (a thriller.) Romance readers can and do enjoy it. Taking the opposite tack, if you take a romance with suspense/thriller elements, you will find true thriller fans disappointed because “there’s too much love story” getting in the way.

      So the question becomes: Will fly fishing aficionados be irritated by the amount of love story? Will romance readers be satisfied by the arc and focus of the love story? I’d strongly recommend choosing one, the most likely buyer, and focusing there.

  6. Thanks for a compelling article. I’m writing a series of mysteries where the CAT DOES help solve the crimes. I’m Still looking for a publisher. Seems that the addition of the ‘cat sleuth’ character puts off the agent or publishers. Any recommendation of who or where I might query? Sounds like, if published, I’d have a fair shot at sales.

    1. Question: since it is so niche, why not simply self-publish? You would have a fair shot with a very select niche, and could build from there — and nothing says you can’t switch to a publisher with actual numbers for proof. They’re saying KDP is the new slush pile… it’s worth mulling over.

      1. It is something on my mind and as the time passes without success, I’m thinking more about it. Just so wanted to go the traditional way. Still have a couple of publisher ‘looking at the manuscript,’ so there is still hope. Thanks for your post and I’ve subscribed to your blog.

  7. I liked this! Even though there *is* a romance in my novel, and the girl is a nice character, the romance isn’t the main plot. The book is mainly about a young soldier living in a civil war, trying to fight the other, eviler side in a small militia army, so I decided it must be more of a thriller. I think the lesson is that even though the two sides of the country are fighting, in the end, nobody is the winner. My main character convinces them of this.

  8. Thank you for the insights. I still need help identifying my novel’s genre. My main character’s a ghost, narrating beyond the grave. In the last five chapters, he does return to haunt the living, looking for revenge. The majority of the book, however, is his narration on how he came to die. There aren’t other supernatural elements along the way. It’s an intense, dark tale of incest, suicide and murder. Not really horror, not really mystery. What do you think?

    1. Is the reader aware that the character is a ghost? What is your main character’s goal for the majority of the book? It doesn’t sound like traditionally genre fiction. Is he trying to solve his own murder? Is he working his way towards vengeance? Otherwise, it feels like most of your book might be backstory — intriguing backstory, but I’m not getting a sense (just from your small description, mind you — I’m probably totally wrong here) that there’s forward momentum or a driving plot question, which makes the genre harder to pin down.

      1. Hmm, yes the reader’s aware that the narrator’s a ghost. His main goal throughout the book is to stay with the woman he loves, while she tries–to the point of killing him–to be free of him. His goal after death is to take revenge on the friends who helped her plot his murder, and to simply remain with her, “haunting” her. The supernatural elements are 1) the narrator; 2) some of his spooky vengeance; and 3) his remaining with his love after death. But it doesn’t feel quite right labeling it fantasy or supernatural, and the murder isn’t a mystery nor is it the focal point of the story. I deeply appreciate any advice on genre you can offer me!

        1. It sounds like it could be mainstream or “literary” fiction, since you don’t really want it to be fantasy or mystery. Otherwise, could be mainstream “thriller” pretty effectively — it all depends on the tone.

  9. I was having problems knowing what to classify these couple books as, if I ever have a chance to publish them, but I still am having an issue. See just from default they seem to go in suspense/thriller category or mystery, but that’s mostly because they don’t fit anywhere else and I don’t think i should just put them somewhere because they don’t seem to belong anywhere else.

  10. Enjoyed the article Cathy; clear, concise thought process and guidance. All that’s left is for you to suggest what categories apply. Joking, of course…well maybe not. If you’ve introduced a few sub-genres, identifying the most appropriate one could use some outside suggestions. Thanks for the well written article.

  11. Great article! This is just what I was looking for, in terms of advice, but I’m going to probe for something more specific; I’m not sure where to start searching for similar works, or if I’m thinking of the right genre (literary fiction…of some sort).

    I’m working on a first 1/2 draft. The story revolves around four high school girls and their mutual interest and highly varied opinions about one guy.
    It has strong suspense/thriller elements (and maybe mystery), because there’s the question of which perception is accurate. There are “twists” that change the meanings of earlier events, and there’s an increasing threat of violence.

    However, it’s also very “coming of age” tale, non-linear, and it has mild retro-futuristic and metafictional elements.

  12. Your article was very helpful – especially when I’m at a stage where I need to establish my genre. (Who knew this would be harder then actually writing the book???) I’m about to self-publish with Creatspace, where they allow you a choice of ONE genre. (for the BISAC category). My story fits perfectly into two categories – both very broad: (All their BISAC categories are broad) I find it hard to decide between “Fiction/contemporary women” or “Fiction/romantic suspense”. There are about the same number of book on Amazon for both categories. How do I decide???

    1. Hi Annabelle,

      Contemporary women’s fiction and romantic suspense are very different categories, actually. Women’s fiction, as opposed to romance, tends to be more about a woman’s journey. I’m thinking Sarah Addison Allen, Jodi Piccoult, Barbara O’Neal, just to name a few. Romantic suspense is a lot more narrow in how it’s defined. The romance plot needs to be integral (for example, “The Da Vinci Code” has a slight romantic element, but it’s not romantic suspense) and of course there needs to be a suspense/mystery element that’s similarly strong. Reading something like Jennifer Crusie’s “Crazy For You” might have a small mystery, but it’s not a suspense by any stretch. Think about the person who would most love your book, based on other books she reads. And then I’d look on Amazon… look under “Literature & Fiction” under “Women’s Fiction,” and look at the top titles, then look under “Romance” in the subcategory “Romantic Suspense.” See which one feels more like your book. Hope that helps!


  13. Thank you Cathy for your detailed and thoughtful response. Yes, you really helped! From your description of the difference between the two genres I was able to decide which of the two was a better fit. (Contemporary Women) Since my story is more of a woman’s journey and the romance and suspense aspect weren’t dominant enough.

    Thanks again,


    1. It looks like they’re both being categorized as Literary Fiction, Picoult is being categorized with the subgenres of “Psychological” and “Mystery/Thriller.” Tony Johnson’s “The Harmonica” is being sub-categorized as “historical fiction” with an emphasis on Holocaust/Europe.

  14. Hey, I still need help as to which genre my story could fit into, the beginning is below.
    Holding my tattered old teddy bear close to my heart, I stumbled down the road looking for a safe asylum. The streets were empty and the eerie scene didn’t in the least bit help calm my nerves. Bringing my tattered bear’s buttoned nose to touch the tip of my nose I let silent tears fall. I knew it was stupid to have an emotionless plush toy try and console me but that doll was all I had left. I had nowhere to go; no one to call and no one was about to swoop in and save me like in the cliché romance movies I loved. Ignoring the searing pains shooting through my right shoulder and fighting the urge to give into my fears of lost hope, my feet pushed me ahead. Placing one in front of the other in a confident stride they disregarded even the possibility of giving way to let me crumble to side walk in the shaking sobbing mess I wished to be.
    The streets were filled with an unfamiliar silence.
    Thank you for reading, please let me know what you think.

    1. Hi Mali,

      I can’t really tell just from an opening, although I like your voice. What is the story about?

  15. Fabulous article! Okay, my turn for some advice, please. 🙂 Here’s a brief synopsis of my novel:
    ‘Rumors exist of a secret government base buried deep under the Archuleta Mesa in New Mexico. The main character is Josh Hawkins, a feature writer for a major newspaper in Texas. In his quest to discover what became of his uncle (formerly a social fringe, UFO hunter type), he stumbles upon online accounts of an alleged secret government facility: ‘Dulce Base’. He and one of his friends take a road trip to Dulce, New Mexico to find his uncle, but also to write an article about the base where purportedly heinous genetic experiments are conducted utilizing humans and extraterrestrials. They find his uncle and also evidence that our government is indeed creating human-alien hybrids for nefarious reasons. The final experiments before the base was overrun were designed to create the perfect biological killing machine and resulted in lethal hybrids with a driving desire to kill humans. They have overrun the base and escaped. Six months later, Josh spots one in Dallas which was inadvertently caught in a non-related TV news story. He and his friends know the invasion has begun.’

    So it’s definitely a suspense thriller but there is an extraterrestrial element and a large dose of ‘ancient alien’ theories in the content. I wouldn’t classify it as science fiction though and I honestly don’t know who my audience is…people like me, I suppose; but my reading preferences are all over the board.

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Nicki,

      Sounds like an interesting novel! If you’re trying to query agents, I’d simply call it a suspense thriller, as you say. I think your best comp would be Dean Koontz’s suspense — they tend to have a paranormal element. If you’re self-publishing, I’d categorize it under thriller — government conspiracy and suspense — paranormal, just off the top of my head. Good luck!

  16. Thanks for the information. I’m in the process of self-publishing the first book in a series, and I wasn’t sure how to categorize it. It deals with a young woman just a few years out of college who goes on her first ghost hunt (Paranormal). Things get pretty intense, and she realizes that the team is dealing with a malevolent spirit who took an extreme dislike to the protagonist, putting her in danger (Adventure). Also, she has a major crush on one of her teammates and an unwilling but persistent physical attraction to another teammate, which leads to a lot of romantic fantasies (Romance). The romance will figure in much more in the coming books, but for now it’s just under the surface.

    1. Hi Deb, thanks for the comment. Since the romance is a secondary plot that doesn’t “pay off” or have a focus, it’s not paranormal romance. Given the paranormal element and the adventure, it sounds like it may be Urban Fantasy, especially for a series. Since you’re self-publishing, and I don’t know what level of intensity you’ve got, you might consider a subset of horror. Look for a broad based category that closely matches, and a less-populated niche category that really nails it (and where you have a chance of making a bestseller because there’s less competition.) Good luck!

  17. This article was SO helpful in helping me weed out some of the genres that my novel does not fit into, but I’m still having trouble deciding where it fits in exactly. The plot involves a lot of romance that does pay off in the end, but the two characters involved are apart from each other for a good chunk of the story through a misunderstanding in their past, and they pine for each other for a while before finally reuniting. I’m fairly certain I can still categorize it as romance, but the tricky part is that it is a novel about superheroes and I’m not sure what genre that fits into. Action/adventure? Fantasy (since some of the heroes have unnatural powers) or sci-fi (since others’ powers involve the use of advanced technology)? It is definitely high-stakes, and the romance part is consistently woven through, however, the big payoff is saving the world, not the romantic resolution.
    Any thoughts and opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for this helpful article!

    1. I can’t be sure without reading the full synopsis, but off the top it sounds like an Urban Fantasy. Have you read Carrie Vaughn’s “After the Golden Age”? Kindle also has a specific sub category: “sci/fi fantasy — fantasy — superheroes.” So I’d say it fits there. At a stretch, it could be considered paranormal romance, but since there’s more pining than interplay between your hero & heroine, I think romance fans would be disappointed… you’re better off targeting fantasy fans who like a liberal dose of romance. Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you so much!! I hadn’t even thought of urban fantasy as a possibility but now it just makes sense. And it of course fits more specifically into the superhero category. Thanks so much for the help!!!

  18. Can cathy or anyone give me an idea that what would be the genre of the book with the following story:
    A 11 year old visits new park with his family somehow he is seperated from his family and gets kidnapped by a psycho and locked in a small room having many kids of his age including his the the story is about how the kid struggles and escapes from that room but his life doesnt get any better he struggles through situations throughout his child and is adopted in the end by a good rich couple …so is this action/adventure???

  19. Hey Cathy thank you for the article!
    I’ve been struggling as well because I certainly treasure my prose over the setting/technologies used in my stories. That being said, I also realize that without the elements of sci-fi, the situations and stories depicted wouldn’t be able to exist. I fear having my series published under the sci-fi genre because (maybe incorrectly) I feel as though it’d limit my audience. So what sub-genre combines lit fic and sci-fi?? I focus primarily on the dialogue and descriptions, rather than exclusively on the sci-fi/situations…

  20. I am just beginning my research and found the information to be informative. I would classify my novel as historical fiction with a saga twist. The primary focus of the novel is discovering one’s purpose in life. Based on the experiences of and told by the primary character. I am flexible and understand that the genre may change.
    Nita Holyfield-McGee

  21. I guess that based on my summary, my book could also be inspirational. However this is a first book in a series of books about this same character.

  22. Cathy, great article!
    Writing my first book was the easiest part. Now I have the same dilemma.
    My book is a love story which takes place in a European former communist country. It does have a historical background, but I won’t consider it historical fiction because it looks it’s more in the romance category than fiction. What is the difference between women fiction and romance? More forums/blogs I read, more confused I get. I would really appreciate some help. Thank you so much.

  23. Still don’t know what genre I’m writing. It’s not that it fits into multiple genres like you said it’s that it doesn’t fit into any genre.

    It could be horror or thriller but it’s from the bad guy’s point of view.

  24. This is helpful. I am looking for an agent for my first book. It is about a girl growing up in East Texas during The Great Depression, but I don’t want to label it biography or women’s fiction. The story is definitely from her viewpoint. It is 85% fact, but I don’t want to document like a biography.

  25. For me I think after reading this would be three catgories with Action/adventure and Fantasy being the strongest and Thriller/suspense being the weak one.
    I think this because my story is about five kids who learn skills to better their unique powers while also being controlled by their enemy, as well as figuring out big secrets.

  26. Thanks for the helpful information. I’m a freelance editor, and most of my work involves proofreading and Copyediting. But I also offer critiquing to selective clients. The author I’m currently critiquing for, has asked which genre his book fits into. This is something I’ve never considered for the books I edit, because I’m not involved in the publishing aspect. But I’d like to give him a helpful answer. This article is very helpful for determining the main genre. But what about sub-genres? Should I just browse through Amazon, or do you know of another list of sub-genres posted somewhere that I could review? Thanks for any suggestions.

  27. what category is my story in? here is it’s description:
    Rockie isn’t normal. She is literally radioactive (Yes, again, but I wanted a better story than Wanted Girl.) and is on the run from the people who want to kill her after she escaped from the quarantine unit she was being held in before her execution. Now, scared, desperate and on the run, she is in more danger than she ever thought. The people who are after her are everywhere-and they are closing in…
    Please tell me quickly!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Thanks for the breakdowns but especially the examples! I’m a bit of a Pantser so “I just write” and don’t know my genre, but I know it’s important for the readers to know, so I need to know. 🙂

  29. Help! My book is about a teen (so YA) who lives in the modern world (so Contemporary) who discovers Celtic fairy tales are actually her family history (so Fairy Tales/Fiction) and learns her family are druids/aka wizards (Fantasy) and must go back in time (Time Travel) to save her family from a curse. And I weave in Celtic history (so History.) I have no idea how to describe my book in BISAC.

  30. This is a very helpful article! Thank you. I have been exploring and flirting with the idea of writing a book for number of years but I don’t have a clue as to how to start! It can be women’s fiction because it’s about a woman’s journey through life and how she overcomes obstacles finally blossoming into what she always wanted to be. The story has some romance, sex and sexual abuse issues including others. I am trying to find the reasons why the audience would read my book! Since, nowadays there are so many books that are about women’s journey through life beating the odds; I am really confused about making it different. Any tips or ideas will be very much appreciated.

  31. Hi
    Can anyone help me figure out my books genre? Its about a teenage girl with schizophrenia who has blackouts because she doesn’t take her meds. But when she is conscious she’s bullied and all that. In the end, her mum and doctor realise that she hasn’t been taking her meds and her mum forces her to, but this actually makes the voices torment her so she ends up mixing all her pills with vodka and dying by intentional overdose.

  32. Based on what you wrote, I’ve re-assessed my genre. My original thought was “NA Fantasy” because many of the characters are in their twenties in a fantasy world. Then I realized it wasn’t really about the challenge of growing up and experiencing new experiences. My story is primarily about the world and the quest.

    That being said, is “Quest Fantasy” an acceptable genre?

  33. Hi there. I seen you reply to your comments and loved the advice you gave… Help! I just turned 23 and just started writing, literally yesterday. Never seen myself as a writer or wanting a create a book, but after sitting down at my laptop yesterday I ended up spilling out 7,000 words in one sitting. Well needless to say, I decided to try to make something of it.
    Long story short, I need help with the type of genre I’m creating. I would also like any advice for a new writer. I talk about my experience cheating after a 5 year relationship with my childhood sweetheart. I speak about the causes and effects from cheating to both the victim along with the cheater. I wanted to speak out about the socially taboo topic, which is unfortunately way to common. It aims towards giving advice to the cheater if they are interested in mending the relationship, but also comforting the victim by giving insight into a cheaters mind. I would also love to target anyone that finds themselves unhappy in a relationship, that is starting to go down a negative path of cheating or who is currently. I want to influence them away from it by sharing my personal experience.
    I also am in infatuated with the matrix series. In my writing I explain how the world around us can negatively influence us, through a conditioned mindset, marketing, social media, etc. . In return that can lead to choices such as cheating. PLEASEEEE help. I’m thinking it’s a self help book, but I feel that I might be missing something. I plan on at least doubling the word count, if not more. I appreciate any advice and tips that you are able to give. Thank You!

  34. I’m writing a historical fiction novel featuring 2 parallel timelines with 1 main female character in each.
    There will be an overlap in the plots/ timelines.
    Is this fantasy Or sci-fi ? Although there are traumatic points in the story, it is more mysterious, than murder mystery.
    Can you name the genre? Womens Fiction seems quite broad. Thank you.

  35. My genre is mystery. My amateur sleuth is a woman trying to solve the who dunnit murder. There are bits of romance and suspense in the book . Should I just stick to the genre mystery?

  36. Your article was very helpful. The novel I am preparing to attempt to launch has elements of romance and mystery but it is definitely paranormal because that is the main focus. Reading your article and the examples you provided allowed me to cut through all the sub themes and zero in on the actual audience I am trying to attract. Now to convince and agent! Thank you.

  37. This is so tricky. My protagonist is a multi-phobic who wants to impress his love interest. In his pursuit, he steps on the wrong kind of toes, i.e. gangsters, ends up in prison, and has to fight his fears to clear his name and get the girl in the process. Adventure? Humor (is that a category?) Romantic comedy? Commercial fiction? Contemporary romance?
    I’m really not sure. I usually call it humor, but the refusals are piling up. Maybe I’ve got it wrong.

    1. Humor is (sort of) a genre, but it sounds like you’re writing perhaps a comedic action-adventure. The market’s probably a bit thin for that, from what I’ve seen. Because of the emphasis on the protagonist “winning the girl” it doesn’t feel like romance at all to me, not in the genre sense, despite the “getting the girl in the process” angle. You’ll probably want to look at what’s somewhat comparable to get a sense of how things that are similar are being marketed. I hope that helps!

  38. This post is years old, but it is just what I have been looking for since 2013. For me, putting my books in the correct genre has been a real chore. I have a book which I wrote three years ago. The problem is, I could never figure out which genre to put it in, and if that was not bad enough, I could not decide on a cover type—serious with real photos or playful with illustrations. After reading your post, I have come to the conclusion that my book is like your first example, so it would fit best into romance. I had been leaning toward romantic suspense. After seeing how you flipped the interpretation of basing it on reader satisfaction, I now have a better understanding. The book has an interracial romance that builds from each of them bringing something to the table that benefits them both. There are major life differences. He’s homeless but talented. She has a popular talk show, but she sees more in him than a homeless man. There’s a third person, the partner on the talk show. There’s tension between the two women as soon as the man enters the picture. He brings danger. There’s a kidnapping, a murder, and a bit of humor. There is no solving of the murder. We all know who did it. The mystery is how the homeless man fits in with the kidnapping when the kidnapper demands he wants his money. As for the book cover, I have an illustration that’s more of the Chick Lit fashion or Cozy Mystery—two women at a table with drinks gossipping. I think I am clear on the genre, not on the cover. Thanks for leaving this up.

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