I know today, the lines between genres are blurring and there are new genres coming out, but it is important to know where your book belongs. Not only will it help readers know what they are reading, but it will also help you write better. You will know what to focus on in your plot. Is your book a mix of action and romance? Well, which is the strongest voice or plot strand?
Not to mention, if you can’t classify your book, how is anyone else going to? An agent won’t and a publisher won’t. It’s on you.
So to that end, I’ve compiled a short list of genres (and subgenres) with equally short definitions to get you started.
Romance: a love story
Mystery: a whodunit
Fantasy: a mythical world that bends the laws of nature
Sci-Fi: a made up place with advanced technology
Thriller: a suspense filled story
Horror: some grotesque elements and fear for the main characters
Literary Fiction: “serious fiction”-highbrow writing and concepts
Historical: set in the past
Contemporary: present time
Paranormal: include characters or elements of make-believe
Western: set in mid-west
Gothic: dark elements
Profession: a certain type of profession (legal, medicine, politics) prevalent in the story
Inspirational: relying on faith (usually Christian based)
Erotica: focus on sexual relationships instead of emotional ones
Chick-lit: humorous tales of the main female character
Steampunk: a new sub-genre involving steam technology
The list could go on and on. Spend time researching genres and really thinking about what your story is. Also, don’t be afraid to let go of what you want the book to be and what it actually is. One author I met said he always wanted to be Stephen King and tried to write books like him, but when he sat down and finished his book, he found out he was a YA Paranormal Romance writer instead.
Remember find a home for your book!