Some novelists are lucky in that they write books that clearly fit into a genre. For those of us who don’t, we have to try to figure out how to market our books. I looked up ‘Genres’ online and found many sites giving lists of genres, along with descriptions/definitions. However, those lists and descriptions vary widely. Some websites list only nine genres, while others list up to thirty-five genres. Some sites list sub-genres, too. Even more confusing, the categories and definitions are sometimes very different.

To give you some examples, one site describes a mystery as: ‘A form of narration in which one or more elements remain unknown or unexplained until the end of the story.’ Another site describes a mystery as: ‘All mysteries focus on a crime, usually a murder.’ Yet another says the mystery genre is: ‘Fiction dealing with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets.’ And finally, one site says mysteries are: ‘Stories that detail the solution of a crime or other wrongdoing.’

The definition of mainstream fiction is even more confusing. One site says: ‘Mainstream genre is a general term used to describe both commercial and literary works that depict a daily reality familiar to most people.’ Another describes mainstream fiction as: ‘Mainstream fiction tells stories about people and their conflicts but with greater depth of characterization, background, etc. than the more narrowly focused genre novels.’ And finally, one site says: ‘Mainstream fiction blends genre fiction with techniques often unique to literary fiction.’

Some genres have a multitude of sub-genres to make it even more difficult or easy, depending on your perception. Romance sub-genres include historical/regency, contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and romantic suspense. Mystery sub-genres include spy, detective, and crime. I’m still not clear where chick lit and women’s fiction fits in. And then there’s the psychological novel which sounds like one of the mainstream novel definitions.

I suspect most readers don’t pay that much attention to the different categories, sub-genres, etc., but authors are told that they must figure out the category of their novel in order to sell it to a literary agent, publisher, or reader. What makes this task even more difficult, is that many novels are cross-genre, meaning they don’t fit neatly into one specific genre. That’s the problem I’m facing with my next two novels, Liars’ Games and Cobblestone. All along I thought Liars’ Games was a suspense or thriller. Now, I’m leaning more towards mainstream. Cobblestone is a paranormal mystery which isn’t even listed as a genre. Maybe I’ll create my own genre, or maybe I won’t worry about it.

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