A Writer’s Genre

One thing I never got a chance to talk about in my article on finding your brand is when you want to nail down the basic genre you should write in.

I know lots of writers (myself included) who would love to write in several different genres. Before I was published, I had to decide which genre to focus on, which genre I would want to break into publishing in.

It's not an easy decision, but I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101, that gives tips on how to pick your genre, as well as the reasoning behind why you need to pick one.

Tips for Novelists Trying to Determine a Genre

For novelists who write a variety of genres, here are a few tips for how they can nail down which one(s) to focus on.

While there are many published authors who write in several genres, for an unpublished author trying to break into the publishing industry, it’s good to find one genre to commit to for at least a few books.

Why Commit to a Genre?

This helps out the editor, who can slot the author into a genre niche within the publishing house’s lineup.

Most houses will not contract two authors whose novels are too similar. For example, a house wouldn’t contract two suspense novels that are too similar in tone and style.

However, houses do like to contract authors with different brands even if their genres are the same. For example, they might contract a suspense author who writes all female protagonists and another suspense author who writes all male protagonists. Or a house might contract one author who writes humorous women’s fiction and another author who writes serious women’s fiction.

However, if they contract an author and slot them into a spot on their lineup, they won’t contract that author’s next novel if it’s too different from the genre slot that author fills in that house.

Say you get contracted on a humorous women’s fiction novel, but then your next novel is a suspense. An editor will want you to produce several novels within the brand and genre of the first contracted manuscript, not to genre hop.

It’s important for you to define your genre and brand to make it easier on the editor who wants to contract you.

Pick a Major Genre.

This will take time and might even involve writing several manuscripts to determine which genre you like writing in. But choose a major genre you wouldn’t mind writing in for several books.

The major genres tend to be:
Contemporary romance
Contemporary fiction
Historical romance
Historical fiction
Science fiction
Women’s Fiction

Pick a Secondary Genre.

This secondary genre will help a writer further define their brand. For example, humorous women’s fiction versus serious women’s fiction, or legal thrillers versus international espionage thrillers.

Further defining your brand will also help you better describe your writing to an editor, and give that editor an idea of where you could be slotted in a publisher’s lineup.

Again, this might take time, but determine what secondary genre you wouldn’t mind writing for several books, because if you sell that first novel in that genre, your publisher will want more books in the same vein.

Give Your Genre a Unique Spin.

Here is where your writer’s brand sets you apart.

If you write humorous women’s fiction, how does your writing stand out from the other humorous women’s fiction novels on the shelves? If you write legal thrillers, how do your books stand out from other best-selling legal thrillers?

This will help an editor understand that you’re not the same as some other women’s fiction author in the publisher’s lineup, or that you’re not a John Grisham copycat. This will allow the editor to see that you have your own unique place to fill on the bookstore shelves, and in the house’s lineup.

And if you have a unique place to fill, you’re not in direct competition with a best-selling author already contracted with that publishing house. You are more likely to be considered than another writer whose manuscripts are too similar to what the house is already publishing.

Take Your Time.

Discovering a genre, sub-genre, and unique spin will take time. Don’t be discouraged. The more thoughtful tweaking you do to your brand—and, consequently, to your manuscripts—will make your writing more likely to be noticed by editors.


  1. So, say I wrote a humorous women's fiction novel--could I then write a serious women's fiction novel? This has been one of my biggest hurdles in sending my manuscripts out.

    I know too well that you must pick a genre.

    Who am I?? And what are my words doing to me??? It's so frustrating.I'm ready to explode.

  2. Crystal, I definitely think you could write serious and/or funny women's fiction--if you wanted to. That's the key, in my opinion. Both are under the larger umbrella genre of "women's fiction" so if you stick within that, you can write serious or funny, whatever floats your boat.



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