What’s My Genre?

by Lesley-Anne Longo

Published at 2024-01-16

If you’re a regular reader, you may already be familiar with book genres and what your favourites are. Maybe you like thrillers, or horror! Or, perhaps you’re more into romance. There’s also mystery, dystopian, fantasy…the list goes on. Plus, each genre has sub-genres within it, to help readers narrow down the types of books they like most.

However, if you’re a reader who is less familiar with those genres and sub-genres, it can be difficult to figure out what your niche is. You know you loved the book you just read, but how do you find another that has the same elements you enjoyed? Figuring out the sub-genres you enjoy can help you discover more books and authors that you’ll love!

As a writer, it is also important to know your genre so you can write for your audience. As well, to market your book effectively, you need to know how it can be identified and categorized.

So, let’s get into some of the most common genres out there!


Popular Genres and Sub-Genres

Crime & Mystery

Crime novels are always going to be popular, and for good reason! You can find thrilling elements of mysterious occurrences, suspense, and the triumph of good over evil within the pages of crime and mystery novels. These genres also have a large number of sub-genres within them, such as:

  • Psychological thriller
  • Cozy mysteries (considered more “gentle,” these books usually have no explicit elements — no/little cursing, no sex, and no graphic violence)
  • Classic detective
  • Hardboiled detective (usually involving a flawed detective/investigator, these books can be as much about the detective’s character as the crime itself)
  • Suspense
  • Thriller (could be legal, medical, forensic, etc.)



Romance books have been popular for many, many years, and you can consistently rely on most bestseller lists to have at least one romance novel or two topping the charts. And what’s not to like? They’re a great escape, and everyone loves a happy ending! Like crime, romance has a large number of sub-genres, including:

  • Young adult romance
  • Historical romance
  • Queer romance
  • Fantasy romance
  • Christian romance
  • Comedic romance

You might even get romance blending into other genres, such as mystery or contemporary! The options truly are endless.



Fantasy books have been surging in popularity over the last few decades, what with the popularity of series such as Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. The fantasy genre is defined by its inclusion of the supernatural and magical elements. This genre can be subdivided into a huge number of sub-genres, from magical realism to Arthurian to dark to epic.

If you’re interested in fantasy sub-genres, check out this Reedsy blog, which lists 50 fantasy sub-genres and a book recommendation for each.


Science Fiction

Often known as “sci-fi,” this genre includes elements like time travel, other worlds, space, technology, and science. Popular sub-genres include:

  • Steampunk (features technology that blends both the retro and futuristic, as well as aesthetics inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery; often set in an alternative history of the Victorian era or the American "Wild West")
  • Apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic (features the collapse of Earth/another planet’s civilization)
  • Space opera (emphasizes space warfare, with the use of melodramatic, risk-taking space adventures, relationships, and chivalric romance, set mainly or entirely in outer space)
  • Science fantasy
  • Dystopian (usually involve some frightening aspect of the future, such as an oppressive government)



If you’re looking for something spooky and scary, this genre is for you. Think Jekyll and Hyde, think Stephen King! Horror is known for its frightening, often graphic, elements, as well as paranormal elements.

A popular sub-genre of horror is Gothic books, such as Brontë’s Wuthering Heights—very eerie and spooky vibes, more than just monsters, blood, and guts.



This one is pretty self-explanatory—historical books are primarily defined by their setting of sometime in the past. And, because there’s so much of history to mine, historical books are often richly detailed and full of interesting tidbits about the time period in which they are set. These books are often fictional stories, but based in a realistic (or semi-realistic) historical setting and context.

The Bridgerton and Outlander series are prime examples of this genre, as are many of Phillippa Gregory’s books, one of its more popular authors.


Literary Fiction

Literary fiction typically concentrates more on real-life issues. Unlike commercial fiction, which is usually plot-driven, this form of storytelling is driven by character development. It also often has a more complicated or convoluted story structure, using a more complex vocabulary.

Examples in the genre include The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Handmaid’s Tale by Maragret Atwood, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.


Why Is Genre Important?

Well, genre is important to different people for a variety of reasons!


For Readers

For readers, genre allows people to identify what type of books they like, allowing them to more easily find books with similar elements in the future. Genre also helps readers identify authors who primarily write in one genre/sub-genre, making it easier to branch out and try other authors who write in genres readers know they’ll enjoy. Readers like to know what to expect from their favourite authors, and genre allows them to maintain those expectations around what they know they can rely on when their favourite author puts out another book.


For Booksellers and Librarians

Similarly, booksellers and librarians use genre every day to help direct readers towards books they’re looking for, or new books that their reading public might enjoy. Books are categorized by genre for a reason—because it makes subjects, plots, and writing styles easier to find.


For Writers

If you’re a writer, then you know genre is important because it allows for a deeper, more detailed understanding of what your readers are looking for and how your book can be marketed. By knowing and being aware of what genre your book is/what genre you write in, you not only know what kind of readership you’ll attract, but you also know how to help potential readers identify your book as one they’d like to pick up.


For Editors

For editors (who may specialize in editing certain genres), genre helps them in their work as they polish and shape a book. For example, I often take on freelance projects of romance novels. One project I worked on had all the classic romance elements, except the most important one: a happy ending. This element being missing was important enough that when I spoke to the author, they agreed with the suggestion to rewrite the ending entirely to allow the protagonist to get that “happily ever after.”


Avoid Genre-Bending

Readers of a genre know what they expect to find in the genres they favour, whether it’s a romantic happy ending, dystopian elements, or outer space. Genre-bending is fine, but as a writer, you need to understand that when a romance lover picks up a book, there are things they are going to expect from the characters and/or plot. Remove those classic elements, and you risk readers (and editors and agents) not knowing how exactly to categorize your book.


Get Your Genre On!

So, whether you’re a reader or a writer (or both!), your knowledge of genres allows you to find books you’re more likely to enjoy, and to write books that readers will easily find and enjoy. Regardless of which genre you enjoy or write in, genre functions as an important tool for getting books into the hands of readers who will appreciate and love them.


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