What’s so important about knowing the genres of books?
Well, if you’re an author with a work in progress, you’ll want to know its genre to ensure your ideal readers find and read it.
List a science fiction novel as a paranormal romance, for example, and you’ll likely end up with a flurry of negative reviews. No one wants that.
Readers of specific book genres have expectations you’ll want to meet if you want them to enjoy your book and recommend it to others.
You also want readers to see your book’s cover and know it’s the genre they want.
So, knowing your book’s genre not only helps with marketing. It can make all the difference in your writing career.
What does your book genre tell you?
Once you know your book’s genre, you can write it knowing the following expectations your book should meet:
For example, if you’re writing YA fantasy, you’ll run afoul of your readers (and their parents) if your story includes a sex scene or graphic violence.
If you’re writing a cozy mystery, you don’t want your book’s cover to look like it belongs on a horror novel.
And if you’re writing fantasy, you’ll want to find a designer who specializes in that genre and knows how to create covers worthy of a Rick Riordan novel.
Unless you’re an experienced cover designer (like Derek Murphy of CreativIndie), DIY covers using stock photos will put your fantasy novel at a serious disadvantage.
30 Book Genres Explained
With that in mind, enjoy this list of 30 types of book genres with descriptions and an example (or two) for each. It’s not an exhaustive list; there are upwards of 40 genres — more if you count sub-genres and mixed genres.
But it’s enough to help you identify your book’s genre.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you’ll be prepared to meet genre expectations and market your book appropriately to reach your target audience and maximize sales.
Your readers will also appreciate your taking the time to learn what this post will teach you. And so will your book’s editor and cover designer.
List of Book Genres
- Fantasy — The fantasy genre involves world-building and characters who are supernatural, mythological, magical, or a combination of these. Examples: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and Circe by Madeline Miller
- Science Fiction — Similar to fantasy, this genre explores futuristic or technological themes and ideas to address scientific “what if” questions. Examples: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle
- Dystopian — Sometimes considered a subgenre of fantasy or of science fiction, this genre is usually set in a bleak future (near or distant) to explore cultural or social issues. Examples include Wool by Hugh Howey and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Adventure — Any novel that focuses on an adventure undertaken by the main character (with or without help) falls under the adventure genre. This genre can easily be combined with others. Example: White Fang by Jack London
- Romance — Any novel where the main storyline centers on a romantic relationship falls into this category, which has several subgenres. Examples include The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
- Detective & Mystery — One of the toughest genres to write, this one centers on a mystery and involves either a professional or amateur sleuth. Examples: Murder on the the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
- Horror — The goal of this genre is to scare your readers and keep them that way until the hero vanquishes the threat. Example: The Shining by Stephen King
- Thriller — This genre also has scary elements, but its main objective is to keep your reader in a state of suspense until the story’s resolution. Example: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- LGBTQ+ — Fiction with authentic LGBTQ+ representation falls into this category, which is sometimes considered a subgenre of contemporary fiction but can also be mixed with romance, fantasy, and other genres. Example: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
- Historical Fiction — This genre covers fiction set in a specific time period and providing historically accurate detail relevant to the period and its characters. Examples: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- Young Adult (YA) (13-17 yrs) — This is fiction for readers aged 13 to 17 years. Example: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
- Children’s Fiction — Fiction in this genre is written for kids aged up to 13 and is further divided into smaller subgenres. Example: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty.
- Memoir & Autobiography — Each of the books in this genre is a true account of the author’s own life. Memoirs are typically related to a specific time in the author’s life or to a specific theme of the author’s choosing. Example: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- Biography — Biographies are books written on someone other than the author — generally someone well known or someone whose life and or death can teach the world something worth learning. Example: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
- Cooking — In this genre, you’ll find books on every kind of cooking someone in the world took the time to write about, as well as cooking for different diets and nutritional needs. Example: Indian Instant Pot Cookbook by Urvashi Pitre
- Art & Photography — This genre includes books on artists of all kinds, as well as on each type of art and its history. Example: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography by Tony Northrup
- Self-Help / Personal Development — This genre is all about helping your reader realize their potential, develop their gifts, and live fulfilling lives. Example: Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport
- Motivational / Inspirational — This genre’s main purpose is to get you to do something, to inspire you, or to challenge your perspective. Example: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
- Health & Fitness — Here you’ll find books on both mental and physical health concerns as well as diets and weight loss. Example: Lies My Doctor Told Me by Ken D. Berry
- History — This genre focuses on a specific time period or covers a broad span of time, often describing specific historical characters. Example: Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Harari
- Crafts, Hobbies & Home — Look to this genre for topics related to creating a home and developing specific hobbies or crafts. Examples: The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker
- Families & Relationships — If it deals with family life, marriage, or any kind of interpersonal relationship, your book belongs in this genre. Example: The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
- Humor & Entertainment — Books in this genre are supposed to make you laugh or at least keep you entertained. Many also belong to the memoir genre. Example: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
- Business & Money — If you’re writing a nonfiction book on business topics, wealth building, or managing your money, it probably belongs to this genre. Example: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
- Law & Criminology — Books on the legal system, on laws, criminal justice, and related topics belong in this genre. Example: The New Jim Crow: Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- Politics & Social Sciences — Books in this genre discuss politics or issues related to one or more of the social sciences (psychology, sociology, social work, etc.). Example: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
- Religion & Spirituality — From personal guides to spiritual memoirs to histories, this genre covers religions of all kinds along with spiritual practices. Example: Runes for Beginners by Lisa Chamberlain
- Education & Teaching — Any book that proposes to teach the reader how to do something — or how to do it better — belongs to this genre. Example: Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution by Zak George and Dina Roth Port
- Travel — This genre includes travel guides and travel-heavy memoirs. Example: The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World by Lonely Planet
- True Crime — These often read like well-crafted crime fiction but are true stories that chronicle real crimes, typically with exacting detail. Examples: If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen
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Most Popular Book Genres
According to QueryTracker, of all the genres listed above, the top ten most popular fiction genres are the following:
- Young Adult (YA)
- Fantasy (including YA and Children’s)
- Literary Fiction
- Science Fiction
- Middle Grade
- Picture Book
And these are the top ten most popular nonfiction genres:
- Narrative/Creative Nonfiction)
- Cultural/Social Issues
- General Nonfiction
- Health & Fitness
If your book doesn’t belong in one of these top ten lists, don’t worry. Plenty of books that fit into other genres get published every year — traditionally or independently.
These lists indicate the genres most often submitted to literary agents as well as the genres most often requested by them.
If you know your book’s target audience is plenty big enough to justify your investment of time, energy, and other resources, it makes no difference whether your chosen genre is on the most popular list.
Use what you learn with us at AuthorityPub to write, launch, and market your book to bestseller status.
Now that you know how to identify your book’s genre (or genres), how will that influence your decisions regarding cover design, editing, and marketing tactics?
Where will you find more of the kind of readers who will love your book, so you can send them word when it launches?
Maybe you’ve already found some Facebook groups for your genre. Or maybe your reader following on Twitter is steadily growing, thanks to your use of targeted hashtags.
What could you do today to begin marketing your book, so you can whet the appetites of your genre’s biggest fans among your social media connections and email subscribers?
We keep abreast of indie publishing trends and tactics to help writers like you make a good living with their books.
Because it can be done. And if that’s your goal, I’ll do everything I can to help you get there.