Identifying my genre…

Ever tried fitting a square peg into a round hole?

Well, that’s how I feel when I try to categorise my book into a particular genre.

Obviously, I have to choose one primary category, and I understand I can then mix things up a little as far as the sub-genres are concerned, but there has to be one dominant category to start with.

This  decision will then determine where my book is placed on those glorious shelves within the book store – whether on-line or in an actual store (yeah, I know, but I can dream!)


The main thread of my story is one of vengeance, whereupon justice is delivered and good conquers evil.

However, this can be interpreted in many ways:

Mystery / Crime / Suspense / Thriller

At least that has reduced my choices down to just four, but this is where is gets more difficult. Time to concentrate!

These categories are also all closely linked, and there is an element of overlap in each of them (nobody said it would be easy!)

A good mystery novel will include an intellectual puzzle that needs to be resolved.


This genre requires the perpetrator to be brought to justice.  

The reader must not know who the bad guy is until the end.

But if I violate this rule (and I do), does this mean I am not writing a mystery – does it now become a thriller?

suspense copy

The suspense needs to build, and the ending should be shocking and unexpected.

This category works for me, but is it a dominant category? Are there really bookshelves for ‘suspense’ tales or are they generally placed into the thriller or mystery section. Is ‘suspense’  a sub-genre or can it stand on its own?

Well, I hope so, because my story is not a thriller either.


The terms thriller and suspense novel are used interchangeably in the industry. They  come in many varieties, including action-adventure, technothriller, legal thriller, war novel, and spy novel.

No, sorry, but that’s not me!


Decision time: SUSPENSE is a dominant category.

It is the most appropriate genre for my tale of revenge.

My sub-categories are MYSTERY and CRIME.

One other key factor in my decision making process is that  the thriller genre is very marketable and also  highly competitive. The bestseller lists are packed with books in this category,  so breaking in may not be easy for new novelists.

Whereas the mystery / crime genre, although also a strong choice,  gives a writer a lot of options, and an unknown novelist  still has a good shot at breaking into this category (or so I am told!)

That, definitely, works for me! 

Phew! – Glad that’s over…


2 thoughts on “Identifying my genre…

  1. We liked this post very much Lynne. It’s nice to know that we’re not the only one’s struggling with this issue. When we first finished our book, we began researching, as well as speaking to other writers, about how to categorize our book. And as you said, where it would go when being placed on a bookstores shelf. What was so frustrating, is that too many of the genres end up fitting our books description. I think a lot of authors fight with this one. I joined a discussion once on this very topic, and funny enough out of the six people talking, only one was confident in their selection. Years later and my daughter and I have picked the genre and sub-genre’s for our book, and have to say, feel pretty good about our final selection. I think it takes doing what you did here, just asking yourself questions, and using the process of elimination until you fit that square peg, into the right hole. Well done, on a topic that is very important in our field. Hope you don’t mind if I share this with our networking friends as I’m sure they’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting – it’s quite a dilemma – choosing a genre and it’s good to know that others share my frustration. Just when I think I’ve nailed it, then another possibility pops up and sends me down a different path! Feel free to share – much appreciated.

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