Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Writing 101: Which Genre Do You Claim?

I talk a lot about formatting books for ereaders, proper punctuation, grammar and all the blood, sweat and tears that go into writing an ebook. But the truth is, once everything's said and done and you're good and finished with all the little details you can still find yourself running smack into a brick wall (metaphorically speaking, of course). Because once you've got the perfect blurb and that gorgeous cover and that must-read book all put together, you've still got work to do. You still have to figure out exactly where your book fits into the whole massive world of ebooks -- and it's really not very easy.

Which Genre?

Before you can publish your ebook in any online store, you're going to be asked a very important question: where does it go? You're going to have to sort your book into multiple categories and figure out exactly what it is you've written. Otherwise, it just can't be sold.

Age Group 

 The first choice you have to make is which age group your book fits into best. In the main, online bookstores have only a few categories from which you'll need to pick, and your book is going to have to be put into one of them.
  • Children's books are written for youths under the age of 12. 
  • Young adult books are written for children aged 12 to 18 (primarily, however the YA genre is appealing to many age groups). However, you cannot call a book a YA book because you want to. The subject matter in your book must be geared toward the YA age group, and cannot contain any material which would be considered adult in nature. Think of it this way: if your book was a movie, it should be rated PG-13. If it would get an R rating, you didn't write a YA book. 
  • Adult books are written for people over the age of 18. Even if your book doesn't contain overtly adult themes (sex, violence, four-letter words) if your protagonist is an adult then you can safely assume you've written an adult book. 
  •  Mature books contain very overt adult themes. Often, this genre is reserved for erotica novels or those that have intense violence and extreme language. 
This one should be pretty easy to answer. Have you written a completely factual book that's true in every way? If so, your work belongs in the nonfiction category. If you've created an original story that you invented inside your mind, you've got a fiction book on your hands.

And All the Rest

But all of that is the easy part. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of picking a genre for your book, things can get very complicated and confusing. Online bookstores have genres within genres, categories within categories, and that makes it incredibly hard to choose where you should place your work. First, you've got to decide the basic genre, or genres, where your book should go. Happily, many online bookstores allow you to put your book in up to three different genres so you can attract a wider base of readers.

Even after you've picked that basic genre, you might have to choose sub-genres...and there are a lot. Some of these genres are fairly self-explanatory (obviously, if you've written a cookbook then you should put it in Cooking) so I'm going to skip some of them.
  • Action & Adventure books, as you might expect, usually follow a hero who has embarked on some sort of quest. Generally the hero must face peril, and prevail, in order to accomplish his or her noble feat. Action and adventure books are packed with death-defying events, which generally occur at a very fast pace.
  • Coming of Age books tell the tale of someone who is becoming an adult, usually through a series of tragic events, and making a very poignant transition from childhood.
  • Drama books might not be what you think they are. In literary genres, a drama is presented in play or script form.
  • Fantasy novels are set in a world that does not exist, and may take place in any time period. Often, fantasy novels contain fantastic creatures such as elves, gnomes, trolls, and so forth. Magic commonly features in fantasy tales.
  • Historical novels take place in the past as determined by when they are written. The novels written by Dickens hundreds of years ago were contemporary to his time, so even though today they read like historical novels technically they are not.
  • Mystery novels are quite popular, and for this reason there are many sub-genres of mystery books. The most common are hard-boiled, historical, police procedural and women sleuths. Hard-boiled mysteries very unflinchingly depict sex, violence and other adult themes. Police procedural mysteries usually revolve around a professional investigator of some sort whose job it is to examine evidence and use this to solve the crime (the mystery in question). Mysteries that feature women sleuths obviously revolve around a female protagonist. 
  • Romance books are also divided into many different sub-genres. Contemporary romances take place in the present day, in the author's own time, whereas historical romances occur in the past. There are additional categories within the historical romance genre, as determined by time. Regency romances, for example, take place in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Erotica romance novels are very sex-driven, quite overtly so.
  • Suspense novels are filled with tension, usually to create a fearful effect for the reader and the protagonist. Most books contain some element of suspense (the reader wonders what's going to happen), but when a book is built around this theme it is considered a suspense novel.
  • Thrillers also use suspense as a device, but often employ elements of horror and excitement as well. Thrillers stimulate the reader greatly to incite fear, and often they contain a good deal of action and mystery.
  • Westerns take place in the American Old West (most commonly, between the years 1860 and 1900) and only in the American Old West.

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1 comment:

  1. i write mostly western/historical fiction, fantasy, and scifi (im surprised you didnt hit that one in your list of the larger genres) lol