By Glen C. Strathy
Many genres of books have been identified by publishers, booksellers, critics, and readers -- along with countless subgenres and cross genres. The proliferation of these labels causes many aspiring writers to lose sleep worrying about which genre their current work-in-progress falls into, and how that will affect its saleability.
While genre classification is an important marketing tool, it is not always one that writers need to be an expert in. The task of assigning an exact genre is often best left to the publisher.
Nonetheless, here's a little insight into the various genres of books, how they are created, and how you can use this knowledge as a writer.
Genre as a Marketing Tool
Imagine you are a book seller or librarian. One morning a person walks into your establishment and says, "I really liked the last book I read. Do you have anything else like it?"
Obviously, the first thing a good book seller or librarian will do is see if they have other books by the same author. But what if the author hasn't written anything else? Or what if the customer has read everything by that author already?
Having books grouped according to genre can help direct someone to a shelf where similar books are kept together. So if the customer really liked The Hunger Games, the book seller can point her towards other YA dystopian science fiction novels.
Publishers and libraries can also use genre labels to help with acquisitions. For instance, if a certain book becomes a runaway best seller, publishers will want to quickly produce other books in the same genre that can be sold to fans of the first book, whose appetite has now been whetted for more.
6 Ways the Genres of Books are Determined
Broadly speaking, a genre is a group of books that are similar enough that they will appeal to the same group of readers. Nonfiction books can be classified by subject matter, which is a fairly easy process thanks to Melvil Dewey and the Library of Congress. With fiction, however, it is much harder to determine which traits best distinguish one genre from another or appeal to the same group of readers.
I've provided definitions for the most common genres of books elsewhere.
Roughly speaking, there are at least six different ways that fiction can be categorized. I'll present them here, starting with the least important...
1. Medium or Format
Fiction can be categorized by the format or medium it is presented in. Stories can be told through...
a) Music (as in opera, musical theatre, or folk songs)
b) Drama (plays, film, television, radio drama, video games, etc.)
c) Artwork (graphic novels, comic strips)
d) Printed language (novels, short stories, narrative poems)
However, while it's true that some people prefer one medium to another, and many libraries and bookstores shelve different media separately, most people feel the content of the story is more important than the medium.
2. Literary classifications
In the past 2,400 years of human storytelling, scholars have come up with various genre labels which most people only use in school.
For instance, classical drama was given labels such as tragedy or comedy (as in a happy ending, not necessarily humour).
Or you may come across labels such as pastoral, gothic, epic, bildungsroman, etc. which speak to tradition, but are seldom used in bookstore signage today.
3. Graphic Content
With some exceptions such as Splatterpunk or some subgenres of Romance, graphic content is not a terribly useful way to distinguish genres. Few readers walk into a library and ask for a story with a particular level of sex, violence, gore, or profanity.
Of course there are exceptions, which is why Romance publishers will create separate lines for readerswho do not want graphic sex (e.g. "Sweet Romances") and other lines forthose who prefer something closer to Erotica (e.g. "Blaze").
What is more likely is that a reader will state that they DO NOT want a book with more graphic content than makes them comfortable.
However, the presence of a trigger warning on a book does not by itself give much indication about the actual story.
A more useful way to identify genres of books is by traits the intended audience has in common. Assuming you are writing in English, readers can be distinguished by...
a) Culture (e.g. Afro-American, Indigenous).
b) Region. Books are often identified as belonging to the literature of a particular country or region, on the grounds that some readers like to read about their own culture.
c) Age (e.g. picture books, middle-grade, young adult)
d) Gender (e.g. women, men, LGBTQ)
e) Inspiration (e.g. Christian, New Age)
All authors should have some idea about their readership, since (to take an obvious example) the appropriate graphic content, vocabulary, and style will change considerably if you are writing for Middle Grade versus adult. In some genres, such as Romance or Young Adult, it adds to the book's appeal if the main character shares similarities with your ideal reader.
Certain genres of books are distinguished mainly by their particular setting (e.g. Historical, Western, Alternative History, High Fantasy).
However, it should be noted that setting alone is not always a good indicator of genre. For instance, a murder mystery set in Victorian times will more likely appeal to readers of Mystery than Historical fiction. In determining the genres of books, setting takes a back seat to the next category...
6. The Intellectual or Emotional Experience
All writing can be seen as taking the reader on an intellectual and emotional journey. However, just as some people prefer a European museum crawl to a North American road trip, different readers get enjoyment from different types of experiences. So many genres of books are distinguished by the type of intellectual/emotional journey they offer.
In her book The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, librarian Joyce G. Saricks applies takes this approach to grouping some of the most popular genres of books. For instance, under the banner of Emotional stories are those designed to produce the feeling of...
These are fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat stories that produce a particular feeling of thrill or excitement. Genres in this category include
Thrillers (of all kinds)
Obviously, the Horror genre is all about creating the experience of fear for the reader.
This type of emotional response is created by genres focused on relationship building (such as Romance or Friendship stories).
Women's fiction (which differs from Romance) is written to produce the feeling of finding fulfillment in areas of life other than romance.
In either case, the reader experiences emotional fulfillment vicariously through the main character's story.
Other genres of books offer experiences that are more intellectual. These include...
Mysteries: where the focus is on solving an external puzzle.
Psychological Suspense: stories that offer an exploration of madness or psychological aberration (an internal puzzle). The reader tends to feel more detached from the main character in these stories -- observing the psychological breakdown rather than experiencing it.
Science Fiction: which, in its pure form, focuses on speculation regarding the future and is based on current trends in science, technology, and society. This is a genre where ideas dominate.
7. Cross Genres
Each of the above six ways of categorizing stories can be useful when determining what genre label to put on a book. If you are a writer, it helps to know what genre you are writing for when you are developing a story -- who your readers are and what they are looking for in a new, potentially favourite book.
However, many writers create interesting subgenres by mixing and matching these six categorization schemes. The result are often called cross genre stories or genre blends.
One common approach is to take a particular type of journey, such as Romance or Mystery and place it in a non-contemporary/mainstream setting, such as a historical period, a futuristic setting, or a fantasy world. For example, while the films Alien and Blade Runner 2049 are both Science Fiction stories with futuristic settings, Alien combines the SF with a Horror plot while Blade Runner 2049 combines it with a Mystery plot.
Or you might choose an established subgenre, such as Regency Romance, but tailor it to appeal to a different audience (for instance, Young Adult rather than Adult). Or perhaps you import a character type from a genre like Horror to create a Paranormal Romance (e.g. Twilight).
What if a story doesn't seem to be part of an established genre?
Novels with realistic, contemporary settings and no fantasy elements that do not seem to fall into any particular genre can often be identified as either Mainstream or Literary Fiction. Distinguishing between these two genres of books is challenging for everyone and may depend on which label the publisher's marketing department thinks will lead to more sales.
Of course, when in doubt you should always write the story that interests you and not worry about the exact genre label until it becomes time to market the book.
- Genres of Books
You might like these
How to Write a Romance
Planning to write a romance novel? Here's how...(Video) How To Win Friends And Influence People Audiobook
Genre Definitions: A Partial but Practical List
Popular genre definitions for fiction writers
Write a Horror Story: 6 Dark Secrets
Dark secrets you must unearth to effectively write a horror story.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...
Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?
- Click on the HTML link code below.
- Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.
What are the 7 types of genre? ›
- Adventure stories.
- Fairy tales, fables, and folk tales.
- Historical fiction.
- Humour and satire.
- Action and Adventure.
- Comic Book or Graphic Novel.
- Detective and Mystery.
- Historical Fiction.
- Literary Fiction.
You can turn the slightest concept into a gripping tale by mastering the seven essential elements of a story — theme, characters, setting, plot, conflict, point of view, and style. To help you better understand how stories come together, here are seven elements you'll find in almost any story: 1. Theme.What is genre and example? ›
A genre is a specific type of music, film, or writing. Your favorite literary genre might be science fiction, and your favorite film genre might be horror flicks about cheerleaders. Go figure. In music, genre refers to musical style such as jazz, salsa or rock.What is meant by book genre? ›
What is the genre of a book? Quite simply, the genre of a book is the category of a book. Examples of book genres include fiction, historical fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and young adult.What are different genres? ›
The four main literary genres are poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, with each varying in style, structure, subject matter, and the use of figurative language. The genre raises certain expectations in what the reader anticipates will happen within that work.What are the 4 types of books? ›
- Edited (non-fiction)
- Reference (non-fiction)
Books play a quintessential role in every student's life by introducing them to a world of imagination, providing knowledge of the outside world, improving their reading, writing and speaking skills as well as boosting memory and intelligence.Why should we read different types of books? ›
Book reading is meant to develop overall skills for life. The genre you pick will give you knowledge revolving around it. But if you prefer different genres, you will expand your area of learning new things and skills. Students are highly recommended to start reading books of all genres since their childhood.
What is the full meaning of book? ›
Definition of book. noun. a handwritten or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers.What are the different 21st century literary genres answers? ›
" 21st Century Literacy Genres are Hypertext, Speculative Fictional, Experimental Fictional, Auto fictional "What are the 7 elements of writing? ›
- 1 — A Theme. Plot (#5) is what happens in a story, a theme is why it happens—which you need to know while you're writing the plot. ...
- 2 — Characters. I'm talking believable characters who feel knowable. ...
- 3 — Setting. ...
- 4 — Point of View. ...
- 5 — Plot. ...
- 6 — Conflict. ...
- 7 — Resolution.
These terms include: plot, characters, point of view, setting, theme, conflict, and style. Understanding how these elements work helps us better analyze narratives and to determine meanings.Why are genres important? ›
Genres are useful.
Writers and readers both use genres because of the cognitive and social work they accomplish. For writers, using the patterns of a genre accepted by readers for accomplishing their purposes allows them to establish a working relationship with readers.
The purpose of a genre is to help you figure out how people tend to act, react, and interact in the situation in which you are writing. So if you tell your readers you are giving them a “movie review,” they will have some predictable expectations about the content, organization, style, and design of your text.How do you use genre in a sentence? ›
Genre sentence example. Before you begin writing your novel, you must decide on a form and a genre. Movies in the romantic genre are often cheesy and fake. Rupert refuses to watch any movie from the horror genre.What are the 6 genres of writing? ›
There a six genres of writing: descriptive, expository, persuasive, narrative, technical and poetic. Compare and Contrast: you examine similarities and differences between two people, places, ideas, or things.What are the categories of fiction and their characteristic? ›
There are several different types, or genres, of fiction novels. Mystery, historical, romance, fantasy, western, science fiction, action/adventure, humor, medical, tragedy, erotic, thriller, horror and espionage are some of the main categories of fiction novels. Some genres follow a consistent theme.What is the difference between the three genres of literature? ›
Prose is usually written in sentences that form paragraphs. In Drama, the words are conveyed in dialogues between characters. While in Poetry, the words are penned down in lines, verses and stanzas.
What is the genre of the text? ›
Definition: A text genre is a type of written or spoken discourse. Discussion: Texts are classified into genres on the basis of the intent of the communicator.What is the most popular book genre right now? ›
The most popular genre of books depends on the format and situation. The bestselling book genre is romance and the most profitable fiction book genre. Religious & inspirational books are the most popular non-fiction genre, whilst thrillers are the most popular audiobooks.What is a theme of a book? ›
The theme is the message, lesson, or moral of a book. By asking crucial questions at before you read, while you read, and after you read a book, you can determine the main idea and theme of any book you are reading!Is novel a type of genre? ›
The novel is a genre of fiction, and fiction may be defined as the art or craft of contriving, through the written word, representations of human life that instruct or divert or both.Is fiction a genre? ›
fiction, literature created from the imagination, not presented as fact, though it may be based on a true story or situation. Types of literature in the fiction genre include the novel, short story, and novella.What does genre mean in writing? ›
Genre is the form of your writing (a business letter, memo, report). A medium is the way in which a piece of writing is delivered (email versus a mailed paper copy, for example). Genre and medium are both determined by audience and purpose.Why do we choose the genre? ›
People love genres in film and books. They choose them because they know what they're getting and they know that they will be entertained. Choosing a genre as a first-time author may be more important than you think. When you consider an author, the first thing that comes to mind is the type of books they write.What are the features of genre? ›
Genre consists of four elements or parts: character, story, plot and setting. An equation for remembering the genre is: Story (Action) + Plot + Character + Setting = Genre. This becomes an easy way to remember the elements of a genre.What are the three categories of novel? ›
Novels usually fall into three categories: literary fiction, genre fiction, and mainstream fiction.What are the two main types of books? ›
All books are classified as either fiction or nonfiction.
How can books teach us? ›
Books help us to teach ourselves about history, the arts, science, religion, nature, mathematics, and technology –– anything and everything in our universe and beyond. Books also help us to understand the effect that all those things have on us and our world. Books entertain and offer a great escape.How do books impact your life? ›
There are numerous ways that books influence our lives -- they give us insight into how other people live, they broaden our worldview, they influence our thoughts on politics and social issues, they show us how to be better people, and they help us to not feel alone.How can books improve your knowledge? ›
Because reading increases your vocabulary and your knowledge of how to correctly use new words, reading helps you clearly articulate what you want to say. The knowledge you gain from reading also gives you lots to talk about with others.What kind of books do you enjoy reading? ›
- mystery 12 votes 22.64 %
- science fiction 4 votes 7.55 %
- fantasy 2 votes 3.77 %
- romance 7 votes 13.21 %
- action and adventure 9 votes 16.98 %
- classics 1 vote 1.89 %
- graphic novels 1 vote 1.89 %
- nonfiction 14 votes 26.42 %
Keep it simple, stupid (KISS) is a design principle which states that designs and/or systems should be as simple as possible.Why is it called a book? ›
The word book comes from Old English “bōc” which in its turn comes from a Germanic root “*bōk-“, which means “beech” – as in the beech tree.Who made the first book? ›
The world's first known author is widely considered to be Enheduanna, a woman who lived in the 23rd century BCE in ancient Mesopotamia (approximately 2285-2250 BCE).What is the difference between conventional and modern literary genres Brainly? ›
Traditional literature usually follow a strict set of rules in writing, whereas, modern literature is more free, and sometimes mixes different qualities of literary work to form a more creative and innovative piece.What is the meaning of 21st century literature genres? ›
The 21st century in literature refers to world literature produced during the 21st century. The measure of years is, for the purpose of this article, literature written from (roughly) the year 2001 to the present.What are the common characteristics of modern literature genres? ›
- Individualism. In Modernist literature, the individual is more interesting than society. ...
- Experimentation. Modernist writers broke free of old forms and techniques. ...
- Absurdity. The carnage of two World Wars profoundly affected writers of the period. ...
- Symbolism. ...
What are the 6 genres of writing? ›
There a six genres of writing: descriptive, expository, persuasive, narrative, technical and poetic. Compare and Contrast: you examine similarities and differences between two people, places, ideas, or things.What are the 5 genres of writing? ›
Learn about the major writing styles: narrative, descriptive, persuasive, expository, and creative, and read examples of each.What are different genres? ›
The four main literary genres are poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, with each varying in style, structure, subject matter, and the use of figurative language. The genre raises certain expectations in what the reader anticipates will happen within that work.How many genres are there in literature? ›
At the most basic level, there are essentially three main genres for literature - poetry, prose and drama - and each can be broken down even further, resulting in dozens of subgenres for each.Why are literary genres important? ›
Genres also provide the writer with general organizational patterns that can help them arrange what they say and when they say it. For readers, genres help organize information so that they can more easily make sense of what they are about to read.What are the 4 types of books? ›
- Edited (non-fiction)
- Reference (non-fiction)
Definition of genre
1 : a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content a classic of the gothic novel genre. 2 : kind, sort.
Genre simply means 'type' or 'kind' and refers to groups of texts that have similarities in form and function. Genres are not prescribed categories but have developed through trial and error as the most effective way to achieve a purpose.What does genre mean in writing? ›
Genre is the form of your writing (a business letter, memo, report). A medium is the way in which a piece of writing is delivered (email versus a mailed paper copy, for example). Genre and medium are both determined by audience and purpose.What is the purpose of genre? ›
The purpose of a genre is to help you figure out how people tend to act, react, and interact in the situation in which you are writing. So if you tell your readers you are giving them a “movie review,” they will have some predictable expectations about the content, organization, style, and design of your text.
Why do we choose the genre? ›
People love genres in film and books. They choose them because they know what they're getting and they know that they will be entertained. Choosing a genre as a first-time author may be more important than you think. When you consider an author, the first thing that comes to mind is the type of books they write.How do you use the word genre? ›
- Rock was his favorite genre of music, but he also had a secret love for country.
- Though he did not normally enjoy movies in the horror genre, he found the trailer quite compelling.
- Science fiction is an interesting genre that melds real-life science with fantasy elements.