With all the genres that exist in the literary world, it can be hard to figure out where your book falls on the list. By following these five simple steps, you’ll be able to sleuth it out and lead your novel to success on the shelves.
So, you’ve just finished writing your novel. Horray! It’s probably been, weeks, months, even years in the making, but you’re finally ready to send your work to a publishing house. But when you get to the abstract part of your manuscript, you freeze; what category does your book fall under? How will readers find your book? What’s the genre?
Believe it or not, most authors don’t choose the genre of their book before writing it; in fact, many writers claim that they will start with an idea and roll with it, allowing the genre to form itself! But sometimes, a genre might decide to hide itself in your work, and it is your job to sleuth out its identity.
When a reader looks for a book to read, they will usually browse their options by the genres they enjoy. The right genre for your book will help them to find what they’re looking for. But where to start? Follow these how-to steps to discover your book’s perfect fit!
Step 1: Get to know your options.
It is imperative to know the differences between fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, and realistic fiction if you are trying to determine your book’s genre. A quick google search should do the trick.
Also become familiar with Comedy, Drama, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Satire, Tragedy, Tragicomedy and Fantasy. These are only a few of the most popular genres out there in the literary world.
It might also help to do some research on the categories that fall under these genres, otherwise known as the sub-genres. For example, nonfiction has biographies, autobiographies, essays, memoirs, speeches, textbook prose and more. But we’ll get to that later.
Still not sure? It’s always better to start with what you know. Try to think of the books that you’ve read, and where you think they would fall on the list. Once you’ve looked through a few book descriptions, you’ll understand what elements are important to each genre’s readers.
Check out my list post on my top 5 most beloved literary genres for some guidance!
Step 2: Identify elements of genre in your work.
Does your main character know how to move things with their mind? A supernatural book is in the making! Is the setting in a haunted castle in the middle of nowhere? Possibly fantasy or mystery will shape the bulk of your plot, depending on whether there are imagined elements that are impossible in reality, or a series of crimes or questions that need to be solved. Are there realistic relationships between characters, or an epic love story between the sun and the sea? Either way, it sounds like a romance novel is coming together.
Analyzing the main plot points of your work will help to separate things out into easier sections to analyze rather than having to reread the entire novel over again (although you might feel you want to!). Breaking the book down into main points also helps to determine sub-genres that can appear under your main genre.
Step 3: Determine your audience.
Of course, the audience is the most important portion of any novel, so keeping their interests in mind is key. You don’t want to explain the logistics of the American Constitution to a seven-year-old. Too soon, too soon.
Who will enjoy reading your work? Did you have anyone in mind while writing it? What are the pet-peeves of your super-fans? Getting familiar with your audience will help you to decide what genre fits your book best. As mentioned before, not all writers determine their book’s genre before writing it, or even who they are writing for. Yes, sometimes authors actually write for themselves! Often times you need to get the bulk of a book idea written before discovering which road it will take you down.
If your audience is mainly younger readers between the ages of 12-18 years old, you might consider labeling your book a Young Adult novel. In contrast, if you feel like your book uses advanced language and concepts (maybe your main character works for a political campaign and is struggling to juggle their job, bills, romantic and sexual relationships, and family issues), targeting baby-boomers or generation X might be a good way to identify which genre your book falls under.
This is not to say that a YA book will not have romantic or sexual relationships, or a book targeting an older audience might not be about teenagers. This is where genre can become subjective, so it is important to keep your mind open to different ideas while determining who will benefit most from your story.
Something to keep in mind: You are not looking for the people who might enjoy your novel. You’re searching for those few who will love it, and rave about it to other fans who share an interest in the same genres (and no, your mom does not count).
Step 4: Use comparative titles to determine a sub-genre
Okay, now you have a basic idea of what genre your book might fall under. But what separates it from other books in the same category? This is where your sub-genre gets developed.
Not all fiction novels have to be romance. Not all satire novels have to be political. In order to set your book apart from the others on the shelf, a sub-genre is an important component of your novel’s final product.
Maybe you have a fictional piece that involves a mystery or element of the supernatural that the characters must overcome. It could be that your horror novel has some religious undertones. Once you have the main genre, try to dive a little deeper… it will help your success in the long run.
Here are some examples of popular sub-genres and their genre categorizations!
Step 5: Ask for input.
Don’t feel embarrassed to ask someone you trust for their input on your work! Once they’ve finished, you can ask them questions such as:
What did you feel the main plot point was?
Is this a book that you would recommend to your age group?
Where would you look in a bookstore to find this novel?
Collaboration with others is always a smart, interactive way to brainstorm and see other people’s viewpoints. And who knows, they might offer up some edits or final comments that you can consider before you send the final manuscript into a publisher.
After all, teamwork makes the dream work!