photo courtesy of Tom Hermans on Unsplash

If you’re querying agents or otherwise pitching a book-length manuscript, you’ll need to nail down your genre. It can be difficult to put our work “in a box,” but the publishing industry uses these boxes to market and sell books. Let’s explore some of the most common fiction genres:

Book club: character-driven stories that invite discussion (Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People; Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere; Therese Anne Fowler’s A Good Neighborhood)

Fantasy: involves world-building and supernatural, mythological, or magical elements (Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses; J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

Historical: Reflective of a specific time period before the average reader’s lifetime (Susan Meissner’s As Bright as Heaven; Kimberly Brock’s The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare; Shana Abe’s The Second Mrs. Astor)

Literary: contemplative/experimental; driven by attention to language versus plot (Marie-Helene Bertino’s Parakeet; Paul Harding’s Enon; Sheila Heti’s Pure Color)

Mystery: centers around a crime; often involves a professional or amateur sleuth; sub-genres include cozy, police procedural, and more. (Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club; Landis Wade’s Deadly Declarations; Margaret Maron’s Long Upon the Land)

Romance: focuses on a romantic relationship culminating in a “happily ever after” (Emily Henry’s Beach Read; Katherine Center’s What You Wish For; Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient)

Science Fiction/speculative: explores futuristic, scientific, or technological “what if” scenarios (Katharine McGee’s The Thousandth Floor; Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games; Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun)

Thriller/suspense: Keeps the reader in a state of suspense until the story’s resolution (Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train; Kimberly Belle’s My Darling Husband; Janelle Brown’s Pretty Things)

Women’s Fiction: follows a female character as she journeys through life (Kristyn Kusek Lewis’ Perfect Happiness; Kristy Woodson Harvey’s Slightly South of Simple; Nancy Thayer’s Surfside Sisters)

Your age category (Adult, YA, Middle Grade, etc.) is distinct from your genre.

Although these explanations are overly simplified and all genres aren’t listed, I hope they answer some of your general questions. Happy writing!