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.
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?”