What Is a Genre in Publishing

Glossary > Genre 

đź’¬ Definition of Genre:

A genre refers to a category of literature that determines what an author writes and how they write it. Book genres describe the style, literary technique, tone, content, or formats.

Related questions about literary genres:

What are the main genres?

The main genres of literature can be divided into five broad categories:

  • Fiction. These are writings based on imaginary characters, events, and settings. This category can also be divided into five main fictional areas: fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, historical fiction, and modern fiction.
  • Nonfiction. This represents writings based on real people and events. It includes biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs.
  • Plays (drama). This is a genre meant especially for stage performances.
  • Poetry. This type of writing has a particular metric, rhythm, and sometimes rhymes.
  • Mythology (folk tales). This genre was initially part of oral literature and was used to pass on moral lessons on particular subjects.

How many book genres are there?

There is no agreed-upon number, but there are documents listing as many as fifty genre divisions, and if you also consider subgenres, there might be even more than 110. 

Amazon lists at the time we write this above 16.000 genre categories and subcategories. These matter because authors rely on a precise system in listing their writings to get the best possible match with their prospective audience's expectations.

Let's take a closer look at fiction, for instance. The main categories listed above would be fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, historical fiction, and modern fiction. But there are so many other subcategories we could include under fiction. For instance: magical realism, dystopian fiction, action and adventure, mystery, thriller, horror, suspense, contemporary fiction, women's fiction, LGBTQI fiction, short story, romance, and graphic novels.

What is the purpose of the genre?

There are certain expectations of how specific writing unfolds. These are precisely the reasons to place it under one category or another. We call them organizational patterns, and they are intended to organize the story. They also help the storyline become more clear for readers, allowing them to understand what they are reading.

The central genre division—fiction and nonfiction—immediately sets the tone of the reading. But genre categorization establishes expectations of reading takeaways.

What are the most trending 21st-century genres?

This is still a timeframe in progress, but there are obvious trending genres. Among them are graphic novels and manga, as well as the rise of hypertext. Some other genres that have become popular during this timeframe are auto-fiction, speculative fiction, and experimental fiction, which all force the limits of traditional writing norms, blending fiction and nonfiction.

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