Why should you choose the right genre for your book? Aren’t genres just fancy categories? Why should I box myself in like that? My book is for EVERYBODY! Uh, no your book is not for “everybody.”
Selecting a genre for your book tells people the type of story you are writing; the genre you choose tells editors and agents the “kind” of book you are marketing. It is important to know the genre of your book, and in order to know the right genre, you have to know your target audience. Your target audience will, in turn, look for your book based on the genre you select. Putting your book in the correct genre will improve the odds of your book being found and bought by those readers who will actually want to read what you have written. Your book’s genre will also go a long way in helping your publisher (or you, if you are self-publishing) to market your book more effectively.
So, should you choose the genre first and then write your book, or write your book first, and then select the proper genre? Well, that depends. Most writers specialize in a particular genre, but sometimes the way a book starts is not the way it ends, and the finished manuscript may qualify for a completely different genre. Additionally, your editor or publisher may decide that your manuscript fits a particular genre, especially for marketing purposes.
Of course, it helps to know exactly what genres are used most often to identify a book, to also understand the difference between a genre and a category. For fiction books, there are approximately eight recognized genres:
- Romance: where the relationship between the protagonist of the story and his or her love interest is the core of the book. Authors of romance novels deeply explore the emotions of the characters.
- Crime and Mystery: some of these books focus on the crime itself, while others focus on who did the crime and why. There are usually lots of plot twists in this genre and crime and mystery novels are well-suited to becoming a series.
- Thriller: although closely related to crime and mystery books, thrillers keep the tension of the story very high throughout the book.
- Historical: as long as the setting in a particular time period is central to the plot, a book can be marketed as historical fiction. Think of the two main characters of your manuscript and what happens to them. How would that change if the time period were different? The amount of historical detail in historical fiction varies, but this genre of writing also lends itself well to becoming a series.
- Fantasy: these novels can be short stories based on myths or fairy tales, or they can be very long contemporary or futuristic stories that turn into a series.
- Science Fiction: Most often set in the future, science fiction has as its foundation a very imaginative rendering of “what could happen” to the human species depending on technology or psychology.
- Horror: Horror fiction is not just lots of blood, guts, and gore. Dark stories about relatively quiet ghosts and about monsters and serial killers fit in this genre. Major publishers do not handle horror fiction as much as in the past; this genre is well-situated for smaller press runs and self-publishing.
- Literary: Literary fiction focuses on strong prose over plot structure, and often the plot takes quite a while to grow and build. Writers who desire to be more experimental with language and plot enjoy writing in this genre.
These are the genres for fiction books; there are different labels for non-fiction books, too. We will discuss those in a future post.
The most important take-aways from this short introduction to fictional genres are these: take the time to learn about and understand your target audience and ideal reader, and remember that the correct genre is central to the marketing success of your book.