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How To Define Your Books Genre
By Bethany Cadman on November 18, 2016
Having a clear understanding of your books genre is so important. As the author you will be expected to be able to clearly and confidently say where you book fits – this is a question that will be asked of you each and every time you submit to an agent or publishing house.
Genres are important because they help to categorise different works of fiction (and fact for that matter!) and they, therefore, help a reader to gain a better understanding of what they can expect from your book. A reader of a romance novel, for example, wouldn’t expect to come across scenes of gruesome and horrifying murder, just as a reader of historical fiction wouldn’t expect the book to be set in the future (unless there was a time travelling aspect, naturally!)
If you are writing your first novel, however, you may not be thinking about where exactly your novel ‘fits’ in the market. The sooner you do this, however, the better. Deciding on the genre for your book allows you to research it, and with research comes understanding. Not only are there rules of the genre that you must decide whether to meekly follow or bravely (and riskily) break there are also readers, hordes of fans at your fingertips which, if you play your cards right, could turn into your biggest supporters.
Unfortunately, for many authors, defining your books genre isn’t as easy as it sounds, and you have to choose carefully so you don’t:
a) compromise your story
b) irk your readers
It seems that the number of genres to choose from is multiplying faster than we can keep up, and don’t get us started on sub-genres! However, if you are struggling to define your books genre, there are some things you can do.
Go to a bookstore. Have a look at how they have categorised their books, and see what kind of books are in each section. Do any of them have similar themes and plot lines to yours? Understanding how a bookstore classifies its fiction can give you a useful insight into where your book might sit.
Did you have a particular genre in mind when you began your book? It might be that you love thriller novels and thought you would write one of your own, or that you are a huge fan of fantasy and had a bright idea for an epic fantastical adventure too. Learn about the different qualities that are associated with each genre – are they qualities of your book?
Of course, you might have several themes going on in your book each of which point to a different genre. Your story may be about a girl going missing and the detective who sets out to find her. But the detective also falls in love with the girl’s mother, and there are surreal, ghostly circumstances surrounding her disappearance. Is your book detective fiction, a romance novel, a ghost story? Think about how readers of each particular genre would feel if they read your book. Is the romance between the detective and the girls mother the primary focus of the novel, or is it about finding the missing girl? Are the surreal, paranormal elements actually what drives the story forwards?
When approaching agents and publishers, you need to demonstrate that you know which genre your novel fits into, that you understand what readers of that genre want, and exactly why your book can deliver it to them.
It’s also a good idea to think strategically, particularly when it comes to choosing a genre for a self-published novel. Pick a category that your book fits into, but also one that is least populated. If you just put your novel in ‘fantasy’ for example you will have a lot more competition then say ‘paranormal’ – so it is worth investigating. Remember you can usually choose several genres for your novel to sit in, so it’s worth covering all your bases by selecting the closest popular, well-known genre, and then being more specific with your subgenre to catch the attention of fans looking for something exact.
When it comes to picking a genre, there are no absolute right and wrong answers, but it is certainly a part of the writing and publishing process you should give some time and consideration to as picking unwisely could have a significant impact on the success and popularity of your book.