How to Discover the Genre of Your Manuscript

If you have written a few manuscripts, you know how confusing it can be to try and figure out exactly which genre or category your book falls under.

Knowing what genre you are writing in is especially important when listing it on Amazon or when submitting it to literary agents through a query letter.

Since agents disregard letters with descriptions like this one: ‘My book is a horror/mystery with elements of fantasy and a dash of romance, a la Twilight’, here are some tips by best-selling authors for discovering the genre of your book.

Genre-Discovering Tips

  • If you are unsure of the genre in which your book falls, check out ten books in each of several genres and read a page or two from each book. If you think you’re writing fantasy, check out ten fantasy books and read a page or two from each. Do you still think you’re writing fantasy?’ –Laura Whitcomb, Your First Novel
  • ‘Read not only the books in what you think might be your genre, but also read books outside your presumed genre.’ –John Grisham
  • ‘Think of which books and authors you admire. Think of which books you enjoy reading. Try letting your writing shape your target market instead and see what happens.’ –Catherine Ryan Hide, Writersdigest
  • Ask yourself, Who would be interested in this story? Who would buy it? Fans of which genre? –Logic

Decide Which Genre Your Book is (and dont try to make it fit into a different genre)

It is important to establish early on–while you write your outline–the genre of your tale; it will help you narrow down voice and atmosphere and identify the most important aspects to illuminate in that specific genre.

This is crucial, as different aspects are more prominent in certain genres. Consider: Character, setting, language/slang, level of sex and violence, pacing, etc. Understanding which aspects to elevate and which to underplay will make the genre appear more obvious and focused to whomever is reading your book.

For fantasy, include the Thrill of Discovery.

For mystery, employ elements of deception like an unreliable narrator, confusing crime scenes, and conflicting reports.

For  horror, infuse the tale with a heavy sense of dread and doom.

For Romance, don’t forget to highlight aromas and various tactile points of narration, to lend a physical sensation to every chapter.

For further help, you might do well to check out writerslife or this article by literary agent Rachelle Gardner.

God bless, and keep up the writing!