Posted in resources, writing advice

Know Your Genre: Guidelines for Authors

Genre is a little word with big impact. Knowing the right way to categorize your story gives you insight into what it takes to make readers choose it over others on the shelf.

There are dozens of genres out there. Each one has its own standards and guidelines that set it apart. The most popular fiction genres are:

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-fi
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Western
  • Dystopian
  • Contemporary

We can break each one down into countless subgenres. Check the link below for a more detailed list.

The Different Genres of Books (With Descriptions) | BookSummaryClub

Readers have set expectations for each genre’s length, tropes, and story structure. 

The length of a novel can be a deterrent for readers looking for a specific genre. A romance novel, for example, is usually 50 – 75,000 words. An epic fantasy, on the other hand, can easily be 100,000+. Writing a romance novel the length of Lord of the Rings can make readers raise their eyebrows or even pass on the book. While there is no hard and fast word count rule, keeping your story within the standard helps ensure your audience doesn’t turn away from it without at least cracking the spine.

Does anyone else remember the Twilight craze? Please say yes. I don’t want to feel old. This set off a massive trend of vampire and werewolf romance novels in all shapes and sizes. Knowing what is popular in your genre is essential to ensure it sells. If you are writing a shifter romance, but everyone is reading Christmas stories, it may sell poorly. That doesn’t mean you can’t write it. You may want to wait to hit the publish button or submit it to an agent at a different time.

Every genre has elements that define it. Romance novels have to have a happily-ever-after (HEA). If it does not have a HEA, it’s not a romance. End of story. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy because they (SPOILERS) die at the end. It is a romantic story, but it is not a romance because of how it ends. If I didn’t know that was how it ended going in and snatched it off of a romance shelf at the store, I would be ready to go on the warpath at the end. 

Genre is making a promise to your reader about what they can expect from your story.

6 Current Trends In Popular Fiction Genres in 2023 | Writer’s Relief – Writer’s Relief (

Knowing your genre and understanding how it works will go a long way in crafting a story your readers will love. It identifies your audience and gives you a roadmap to follow along the way. Do your research, and you will make your life that much easier.