3 Things to Consider When Deciding the Genre of Your Novel

Ah, the dreaded genre dilemma. You may start this inner debate with yourself early in the writing process, or wait until after your manuscript is complete, but you’re going to have to address the issue at some point—so I suppose there’s no time like the present!

While dictionaries define the selection of genre as merely the categorization of books, in the modern publishing world, a genre is much more than that. It encompasses everything from your marketing strategy to exactly what your readers will expect from you—so you definitely don’t want to choose the wrong one.

Here are three questions to ask yourself before making this critical decision:

1. How do you plan on marketing your book?

Before deciding what genre to label your book as, think about the style of marketing that you or your promoter would like to implement.

Are you envisioning mainly social media promotion? Are you thinking about book trailers and videos? Would you rather just pay for an end spot at the bookstore? Each of these work best with different target audiences, and not every audience enjoys every genre.

Remember as well that you will be fighting for sales against other books in the genre your choose, so once you’ve decided what genre to list under, you’ll want to look at how these authors advertise themselves and compare that to your personal marketing strategy.

2. What expectations should your readers have going in?

Another big part of genre distinction is what each category means to readers. Most bookies want to know exactly what they’re getting into when they buy a book, and the genre labels help them accomplish this.

For instance, a reader would probably feel betrayed if they picked up a book in the romance section if it was an adventure story that merely had a romantic subplot. On the other hand, a fantasy reader is very much expecting magic and perhaps imaginary figures, so just because your book isn’t 100 percent realistic doesn’t mean it’s necessary “fantasy.”

The salability of a book is quite contingent on its adherence to these unspoken genre guidelines, so you’ll want to understand them well before making a final decision.

3. How are you planning to publish your novel?

One last thing to consider before selecting a genre is your method of publication.

If you’re planning to self-publish, you can essentially write whatever story you want, pick a genre at the end—perhaps one that mixes several larger categories—and you have the potential to be successful. Because there are many options on Amazon and other self-publishing platforms to choose from, and you have the creative freedom that comes from being an independent author, you have total control!

On the other hand, if you plan on traditionally publishing, you’re going to have to limit your genre overlap. For instance, from a sales perspective, it’d be hard for a publisher to justify publishing a book that mixes horror with comedy. There isn’t an immediately available audience for comedic thrillers, so you’re more likely to be turned down—even if you have a solid plot.

That said, every book is going to have some overlap, especially if you include subplots—but more likely than not, a traditionally published author is going to have to pick one or the other, so from a business perspective, you might be better off deciding a genre from the beginning and catering your story to fit that category!

Still not sure which genre to choose? Check out Goodreads’s list of genres here for some inspiration!

What genre does your book fit into? Why did you choose that one? Share with us in the comments!

About Michelle Adams
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2 thoughts on “3 Things to Consider When Deciding the Genre of Your Novel

  1. I am trying to figure out what genre my novel is. Inspired by the works of Jane Austen, it is a contemporary novel in which the “mature” heroine kind of comes of age and finds love, deals with past losses, and relies on the wisdom of Jane Austen in doing so. Kind of a combination of Jane Austen Book Club (the film) and Under the Tuscan Sun (the film). The heroine is a horsewoman, the hero is a polo player, there are horseback adventures and danger, and a family secret with a twist at the end. It seems to be a lot deeper than the “romances” I have read. Any advice?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, I LOVE Jane Austen. Your book sounds awesome! That said, I agree with you—anything more than straight-up love story will disappoint romance readers; however, it sounds like the romantic part is more than just a subplot. For that reason (with full disclosure that I haven’t read the manuscript, obviously), I think you’re hovering in the category of adventure-romance. It’s definitely not a bad thing to combine these two genres, and many, many stories do so (think Hunger Games, even!), so I think you’re in the clear! Were you hoping to self-publish or go the traditional route?

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