What Genre Is My Novel?

19 Feb
Source: Tsahi Levent-Levi, Flickr

Source: Tsahi Levent-Levi, Flickr

What genre is my novel? This isn’t really a question I’d given much thought to until I was filling out some information for my chosen cover designer. Obviously, he needs to know the book pretty well to be able to design an appropriate cover.

And you might be thinking that I should probably know my own genre seeing as I wrote the book. But I was so intent on the writing and editing of the book that it never occurred to me to think about its genre. And I don’t think it slots neatly into one particular genre.

If I hadn’t thought about it before, I would’ve come to a grinding halt when it came to uploading the book to Amazon, and figuring out just where it belongs on the virtual shelves.

Self-publishing gives authors so much more freedom. Genres seem to be much less rigid than they used to be, and new genres seem to be opening up all the time. Book lengths are no longer standard either — anything goes so long as the reader enjoys what he or she buys.

Some authors have gone down the route of self-publishing simply because agents and publishers told them that although they liked their book a lot, they just didn’t know where to put it, or how they might market it.

So my problem was that I wrote the book that was in my head, and didn’t really give too much thought as to how it might fit into the range of genres that are out there. For an idea, go to Amazon and take a look at the way the ‘Fiction’ category is broken down. There are almost 1.7 million books currently on Amazon and almost the same number of genres, or so it seems.

The advice for figuring out your genre (and I’m pleased that it seems to be a fairly common thing, and not just a sign of someone who is completely clueless!) is either to work out some books that include similar themes to your own, or to think about other authors and whether their readers might also enjoy your books.

When you know that, you’re halfway there, as you can just go on to Amazon or a similar site and find out what genre that book fits into. Then — ta-da! — you know your own book’s genre. This article by Rachelle Gardner explains a little more about identifying your novel’s genre.

For me, it didn’t seem to be that simple. I couldn’t really think of any books similar to mine. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not suggesting my book is 100% unique. I’m just saying I’ve not come across the books that are similar. Actually, maybe The Guardian Angel’s Journal is kind of similar in some of its themes.

Then I thought about the setting. It’s set in the ‘real world’, in modern times, but includes some fantasy elements. It’s a fairly lighthearted book too (so not very much like The Guardian Angel’s Journal in that respect). In the end, and after much browsing through the fiction genres Amazon has to offer, I’ve decided on Contemporary Fantasy.

Do you write to fit a particular genre? Have you ever had a similar problem with a book, or has your novel come ready formed, genre and all?

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12 Responses to “What Genre Is My Novel?”

  1. Alex J. Cavanaugh February 19, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    It sounds like it will fit that genre just fine.
    I knew mine was science fiction, but didn’t realize that genre was broken down into so many sub-genres. Now i know my niche is space opera.

    • Stacey Mitchell February 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      Thanks Alex. I have to admit I don’t know much about science fiction, but I just checked — on Amazon alone it’s broken down into 14 sub-genres. Seems like there’s a niche for everyone!

  2. Christina James February 19, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    I’m delighted that you didn’t write to a pre-conceived genre or to a pre-determined length. Whatever would happen to originality if everyone did that? You’ve interested me more by saying that it doesn’t fit easily into a genre than if you’d confidently plumped for one in particular! In any case, I’d go for chalk and save your cheese for later… ;)

    • Stacey Mitchell February 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      Thanks Christina. You’re definitely right about originality. My only concern is readers feeling like they’ve been ripped off if I pop my book in the ‘wrong’ category — if they’re expecting it to be something that it doesn’t turn out to be.

  3. Natalie February 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I always knew mine was a fantasy but until I started looking into it I never realised how many sub-genres there are! I concluded that it is probably an epic fantasy. The main problem I am having is with my target audience – it is YA, but more the MG side of it.

    Comtemporary fantasy sounds appropriate for your novel given the excerpt I have read. :-)

    • Stacey Mitchell February 20, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Thanks Natalie! That’s the thing — all the sub-genres. It’s a good thing in a way as everyone should be able to find a niche for them, but on the other hand there’s too much choice!

      Regarding your target audience, how old is your protagonist? I read somewhere that considering that can help, as MG/YA readers like to read about characters roughly their own age. I just did a quick Google search and came up with this article: http://writersblocknz.weebly.com/1/post/2010/9/the-difference-between-mg-and-ya-novels.html Might help? I’m not very knowledgeable on that kind of thing as I only really write for adults! :-)

      • Natalie February 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

        Thanks, Stacey. It’s a great article – far better than those I have come across before which just confused me further. I think that where I am at the moment isin MG terrority. BUT, the changes I want to make will make it YA. This gives me something to aim for. :-)

      • Stacey Mitchell February 21, 2013 at 10:15 am #

        Good, I’m glad the article was useful :-)

  4. Elle Turner February 20, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    I have had brain ache many a time trying to work out the distinction between, for example, “contemporary romance”, “women’s popular fiction” and “women’s fiction” (I find women’s fiction a funny term anyway, but that’s maybe a discussion for another day ;-) ). Glad you got it sorted out in the end xx

    • Stacey Mitchell February 21, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      I know what you mean about the term “women’s fiction”. Also I find it a bit baffling that there’s a genre or category on Amazon called “Women writers & fiction”. I really don’t get that, as I’d never go on Amazon thinking, “What I really want to buy today is a book written by a woman…” I’d be more likely to search for a particular writer or book title, or just browse generally.

      Anyway, I’d better stop there before I get too carried away! Thanks for your comment, Elle :-)

  5. Rebecca Bradley February 22, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    The first one I wrote was easy, I knew I was writing crime fiction, sub category police procedural. I do have another one I am slowly working on though, that I will have this problem with and this post has been quite helpful for it, though I’m still not sure, but at least I have an idea how to look!

    • Stacey Mitchell February 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      Trial and error (and Wikipedia!) helped me. Good luck figuring yours out :-)

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