You’ve finally written your book and now people keep asking you what genre your book falls into. But the last thing you want to do is to pop your valued, unique work into a box, so you say, ‘It doesn’t really fit into any genre.’
Wrong, I’m afraid.
On Amazon Kindle store there are thousands of fiction categories alone, from sweet wholesome romance to dark fantasy horror and everything in between. And that doesn’t take into account the nonfiction side. Your book will fit into one category, or two or ten. Placing a book into a category isn’t a bad thing; you are in no way devaluing your work. Rather the opposite, you are giving potential readers the chance to discover your title. Imagine a shop where all books are in a jumble on the floor. No-one will find a title at the bottom of the pile, neither will anyone know what the books are about if they’re not organised in shelves by fiction, nonfiction, subject – and genre. Below I talk mainly about fiction, as nonfiction books are more easily defined by their subject matter.
How to find your book’s genre?
Here are five sure-fire ways to find the correct category, or genre, for your book.
First of all, look at the plot of your book. Is it action-filled, or slow-paced? If the former, it probably fits into the Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense category (see Lies by T M Logan). If the pace is less hectic, your book might be a Romance or fall into the Literary Fiction genre. Books which are character-led, meaning the action takes place in the heads of the characters, are often classified as Literary Fiction. But be aware that this category is very general, which means you are amongst many, many titles. It is also the category that sells a fewer number of books than, say, Romance.
Main idea of the book
What is the main idea of the book? Does the girl get her man or woman (Romance)? Does the main character solve an intricate plot to overthrow the government in a near-future world (Dystopian Thriller) while falling in love with her best friend (Dystopian Romance)? See Genre Game by Bella Forrest. Perhaps it’s a modern satire or a tale of love full of funny twists? (Romantic Comedy). I have a theory that most books are really about love, although the main driver of the plot can be anything from solving a crime to surviving an earthquake or finding a long-lost relative. In order to find the correct genre, you need to ask yourself, what is the book actually about?
What about the setting of the book? Does the narrative take place in the past and characterized chiefly by an imagined reconstruction of historical events? In this case, you are looking at a Historical Novel. As an example, see books by the best-selling historical fiction author, Clare Flynn. Her latest novel, The Chalky Sea is now on pre-order. (See also a guest post here on how to write historical fiction by Clare Flynn.) If the setting of your book is current (this means approximately up to 50 years in the past), the book will fall into Contemporary Fiction genre, if it is in the future, it could be Dystopian Fiction. (But don’t forget the all-important sub-genres – see below).
What about the age and sexuality of your protagonists? Are they adults, teens or children? If they are gay, you can take advantage of a growing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender category. See for example Owning It by Riley Hart, the current gay romance number one Kindle read on Amazon. Children’s fiction also has many sub-genres, all the way from Baby up to Teen and New Adult. With Children’s Fiction, it is particularly important to know what age group your book is aimed at. The marketing of a book for small children, who rely on their parents for their book choices, is completely different to that of a book that is aimed at Teens, who buy their books themselves.
Similar to …?
Now look at the books you read yourself. Does your novel remind you of the books you have loved? Go to Amazon and scroll down to the books, and see what categories they are listed in. I love Liane Moriarty’s novels and found that her books are all listed under Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction, so that is where I first pitched my novels too. Of course, both of these are huge categories, so I needed to drill down a little more to find my particular sub-category (see below).
Do your research
It’s important to research thoroughly the genre and category of your book. The BISAC Subject Codes are a good starting point for categories, after which exploring Amazon’s sub-genres that your book might fall into will be invaluable.
Doing your research will pay dividends later. BISAC and Amazon are excellent places to explore different categories, but if you wish to drill further and make the process a little less time-consuming, I’d recommend K-lytics reports. They are not free, but I found them incredibly useful. For a first-time author, I’d recommend buying a report on the genre you think your book is, which is very reasonable and completely comprehensive account of sub-genres and their popularity. When you have a few titles under your belt, an annual or even lifetime membership will be more suitable. (I am an affiliate of the company, so if you click on the link, you will support this blog).
Don’t forget the sub-genres
When I published my first title, The English Heart, I struggled to find the right genre. I knew The Nordic Heart series of books were Contemporary Romances, telling the tale of a long-distance love affair between a young Finnish student and a dashing British Navy Officer. The books are also Nordic and Military but don’t contain any explicit sex scenes, something which seemed to be the norm with the latest contemporary romance genre novels.
When I looked at the categories, I found that Nordic titles were all dark detective novels (think Stieg Larson or Jo Nesbo) and Military Romances about Navy Seals with book covers littered with bare-chested men. The rose petals on the covers of my titles looked completely out of sync with either of these categories.
It wasn’t until I bought the Romance Genre Report from K-lytics that I found there was a growing category on Amazon called Clean and Wholesome Romance. I would never have put my novels in this category, but when drilling down further, found that this was the perfect place for my books. Naturally, they also fit into the other general categories, like Contemporary Women’s Fiction and Contemporary Romance, but finding a select sub-category was an important revelation and has certainly been reflected in my book sales. To get the latest report on Clean and Wholesome Romance, go here
Up to 10 Book Categories
When you publish your book on Amazon KDP, you can choose two categories. Other bookstores such as iBooks, GooglePlay or Kobo all have their set numbers of categories too. However, with Amazon KDP, you can select up to ten categories per book, but you have to email Amazon through the Author Central page to include the additional categories. Also, remember that the keywords (you are allowed 7 per book on Amazon KDP) need to work with the categories; for example, my books now have ‘clean romance’ as a keyword because they are in the Clean and Wholesome Romance category. Make sure, however, that when you email Amazon, you put the categories in the correct format, ie.
Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Romance
The top categories on Amazon at the moment by K-lytics
- Literature & Fiction
- Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
- Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Teen & Young Adult
- Biographies & Memoirs
- Children’s eBooks
- Religion & Spirituality
- Business & Money
- Health, Fitness & Dieting
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender eBooks
I hope I have demystified some of the issues around a book’s genre. In this age when the metadata is increasingly important to find the right readership for your book, it pays to take some time to find the right genre, categories, sub-categories, and keywords.
Which genre does your novel (or book) fall into?
Xina Marie Uhl says
Hmmm. Interesting post. It has given me the idea that my novelette may fall under Mystery/Thriller/Suspense in addition to the other categories. It’s a bit of a strange one, though, being a humorous romance in Antarctica 1900. But it does contain some mystery too.
How do I choose the “Clean and Wholesome romance” category? It doesn’t show up in the Romance category on the “product details” page where you choose the categories for your book. Do I have to e-mail Amazon and request to be put into that category? Thanks!
Helena Halme says
Yes, you have to write to Amazon via the help function on your KDP Dashboard. You are allowed to add eight further categories apart from the two you choose when you published your book. When you’re in Help, select ‘Contact Us” and from the left-hand side menu, select, ‘Amazon Product Page’ and from there ‘Update Categories or Keywords’.
Make sure, however, the categories are displayed exactly as they are on the Amazon site. For example Books>Romance>Clean&Wholesome
The best way to find the genre is to scroll down the bottom where it lists the book’s rating on Amazon and click onto the category that you think your own book is closest to. On the left of the best-seller list, you can see the categories. In my example, ‘Books’ is on top, then ‘Romance’ and lastly ‘Clean & Wholesome’. The drill-down to your category on Kindle may be longer, starting with Kindle Store>Kindle Ebooks>Romance>Clean&Wholesome
Amazon changes the categories constantly and has recently changed the way it displays them at the bottom of the books, so we have to look a bit harder to find our categories there. The best way to keep up to date with the categories, I find, is K-Lytics. 😉
I hope this helps!
Pamela Allegretto says
Interesting and helpful article.