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  • Writer's pictureWendiFournier

How to Determine Your Book’s Genre

Updated: May 23, 2022

So, you’ve finished writing your beloved manuscript. Hooray to you! High-five! Woo-hoo! Wave that checkered flag high above your head and pat yourself on the back because you are now officially part of the Five-Percenters Club! All those days, weeks, months, or even years have paid off and now you’re ready to take that leap into the publishing world.

But how will potential readers find your novel? What book genre does your story fall under?

Believe it or not, most authors don’t identify their book’s genre before they write it, but rather allow the genre to form itself. And it is your job as its creator, to flush out the proper shelving of your little darling.

Don’t fret. I’ve got you! Follow these five easy steps and you’ll be zipping down the race track and across that finish line in no time!

Step 1: Know your options. Understanding the difference between fantasy and realistic fiction is as important as knowing the difference between nonfiction and fiction. Do a google search on book genres and study each one so you are familiar with the shelving options. Look at which books are shelved under each genre for comparison to yours.

Step 2: Identify the elements. Does your MC sprout blood-sucking fangs or move objects with their mind? If so, you have a supernatural book in the making. Is there a realistic relationship between characters who have fallen madly in love beneath the moon and stars? If so, sounds like the makings of a great romance novel. Taking a close look at your work will not only help you establish your main genre, but breaking down the main points of your book will also help you identify any sub-genres your story may have.

Step 3: Determine and understand your target audience. Who will be reading your book? What do they look for in a story? Getting to know your audience is equally as important as identifying your book’s audience and will help you decide which genre is the best fit. If your audience is mainly between the ages of 12 and 18, you might want to consider shelving your novel as young adult. In contrast, if you have adult themes with sexual relationships, it looks like you’ve got an adult novel on your hands. Keep in mind that YA books can have romantic relationships just as an older audience might enjoy a book about a group of teens saving the world. Genres are subjective, and this is why it is best to keep an open mind when deciding who will most benefit from your story.

Step 4: Use comps to identify sub-genres. Now that you’ve established your main genre, let’s step on the gas pedal a bit more and turn things up a notch. Determining your sub-genre is what will set your book apart from the rest in your main genre. Let’s say you have a YA fantasy novel. But within that novel, your setting takes place in an urban setting with a storyline that would survive without its romance thread. If this is the case, you may have an urban fantasy sub-genre on your hands. Or maybe you have a fictional piece with bits of supernatural or historical undertones. Whatever the case might be, take time to closely examine your work to help gain greater success down the road.


Step 5: Get input. Don’t be afraid to ask a trusted source for help. Call upon your beta readers or close friends and ask them where they would look for your book in a bookstore. Ask them what they thought the main plot point was and if they’d recommend this book to someone in their age group. Teamwork makes the dream work, right? Rally your tribe and work to get ‘er done!

Identifying book genres can be tricky, but with a little teamwork and some good ‘ole fashioned research, you’ll feel better knowing you’ve placed your beloved little darling in the right slot on the bookshelf.

If you’re not burning rubber, you’re not going fast enough! Now get out there and show this world what you’re made of!

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