Discussion Time (2/5): Genre Truth

How many times have you picked up a book because (beyond the fact that it looked interesting) it was in a particular genre you favor, only to read it and go “Uhm… yeah, that wasn’t a (xxxxx) book. What in the world were they thinking?”

One of my pet peeves is people thinking that just because a book contains a vampire or a werewolf, it belongs in the horror section.

Twilight (Twilight, #1)


This book does NOT belong in the horror section, people. It just does not. Why? There is no scary here. None. Not even a little bit. Zilch. Zip. NADA! Please, put this work of glittery brainlessness in the romance section where it belongs.





Now, I have no problems with cross-genre listings, either. But I do like to know upfront about them. It needs to indicated somewhere on the back if it does substantially cross genres.

Alice in Zombieland (White Rabbit Chronicles, #1)


The back of this book gives you no indication that its heavily on the side of smoochies. Now, given that it was written by someone I knew from romance novels, I had a feeling romance would play into it… but not a lot of people instantly recognize an author’s name. So, while I was prepared for a side of smoochies, I didn’t expect a solid half of the pages to be devoted to the romance aspect.  I have learned my lesson. I will always check out the Goodreads synopsis from now on. It would have warned me of the romance aspect.


Who decides if a book gets placed under a certain genre? Is it the author’s initial push to market it as such? Or does an editor or somebody step in and go “Oh yeah, this is definitely a (xxxx) type novel.” ?

I know there’s an age-old debate about fantasy versus sci-fi, and people can get incredibly technical in their classifications of it. So, that debate doesn’t really do anything for me. But what about..


You see that one often all grouped together, but each are a separate subgenre. Now, I know there can be an obvious difference between a Mystery and a Thriller… but what about between Suspense and Thriller? What’s the difference between those two to you?

…anyways, yeah, what are your true definitions of genres? What ticks you off as what you consider a common miscategorization?

Talk to me!










6 thoughts on “Discussion Time (2/5): Genre Truth

  1. Consider the category “novel.” It originally conveyed the idea of fiction that was realistic, one reason Hawthorne didn’t call some of his works novels, but romances (and he wasn’t talking smoochies, either). The whole idea of a fantasy work being a novel is an oxymoron. And yet now a novel is a fictional work long enough to be bound as one and only one volume. (And there go the three-volume Victorian novels, unless we consider them proto-trilogies.)

    Which is a long way of getting to the point that genres/categories are geared to expectations, but not necessarily yours or mine as of today. Take The-Book-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, which as you properly point out is not a horror work, except inadvertently by style. I suppose it was put in “Fiction” or “Young Adult” or even “Science fiction and fantasy” originally. Yet within a few years, the biggest book store chain had a new category: Teen Paranormal Romance. The book created a category! And think how weird that category is. Not a teen? Don’t read. Don’t like paranormal stuff? Don’t read. Don’t like romance? Don’t read. And yet, so far as I can tell, the category was thriving for quite some time. Might still be; my bookstore runs generally don’t make it to B&N.

    ARISIA, a Boston sci-fi/fantasy/etc. convention that meets in January had a panel this time around on sci-fi/fantasy that DOESN’T get classified as such, but is shelved and marketed as mainstream, which suggests that content is not the only feature publishers consider. “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” ended up in BOTH mainstream fiction and sci-fi/fantasy in my local book store. And the writer Christopher Moore, whose fantasies were classified as sci-fi/fantasy back in the days of “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” is now firmly shelved with mainstream novels, even if he’s also still carried by the local sci-fi/fantasy book store.

    Here’s a different test to think about content and marketing. Go to your local bookstore’s sci-fi/fantasy section, and just look at the covers that are visible. I’m willing to be that you can identify which sub-genre each belongs to just from the cover art, without even reading any text on the cover.

  2. I never know what to classify my one published work. It’s a little romance. It’s also a little historical. A little War novel. A little coming of age. And a little chick lit (finding yourself). There is no category for soup.

  3. This is a great post.

    I am in a couple different author forums, and one of the most common questions I see from other authors is “What genre is my book?” So, the fact is, some authors don’t even know where they fit in, especially if they have written some type of YA horror SF/F PR mashup.

    Other times, authors come up with a great premise to launch a story but soon realize it’s not enough to carry an entire novel. This results in what many authors refer to as a “saggy middle,” which is essentially a great premise and a great ending accompanied by the terrifying realization you have nothing in between.

    To fix flat food, cooks reach for salt. To fix flat stories, authors reach for romance. The fact is, an author can turn a 35,000 word novella into an 80,000 word novel just by adding romance, essentially forcing readers to plod through 45,000 words of what you call “smoochies” in order to discover the resolution to the initial interesting conflict.

    The other issue readers are up against is popularity. The fact is, no other genre sells more books than romance. Publishing houses have one goal: sell more books (and rightfully so), but that’s why you see so many traditionally published books favor strong elements of romance. If a book fails in its primary genre, publishing houses can always lean on romance readers to pickup the slack.

    This is the same reason indie books are slowly growing in popularity. They are the authors courageous enough to step out and try something new and unproven because there’s no publishing house or editor dragging them back onto the mainstream treadmill.

    1. Oooh, thank you for great input. I honestly hadn’t considered about romance selling more books than any other genre. Now that I think about it, it does make perfect sense. Well, I will continue to happily review indie authors 🙂 (as soon as I beat my TBR list into submission again!)

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