Made in America

Book Genres 101: What is genre?

Prospective authors may wonder – what genre is my book? What even is genre, and why does it matter? 


Genre is a term given to categories of books. The word is derived from French, meaning “like” or “type.” It is a label that describes what the book is about and how it is constructed. A genre label not only helps in marketing the book, but it helps readers know what they are getting into with a book. 

There are fiction and nonfiction genres: Fiction is a made up story, while nonfiction is a “real life” book. A book can’t be fiction and nonfiction at the same time. A book that is a novel, but based on a true story, is still fiction. 


Some examples of nonfiction genres are biographies, memoirs, and history. (For more about the difference between an autobiography, biography, and memoir, read this blog post!)


Some examples of fiction genres are romance, mystery, science fiction, children’s fiction, and fantasy.


Books of a genre will share certain characteristics and conventions. For example: romance novels will feature characters falling in love, science fiction will push the limits of our current scientific knowledge. The familiar characteristics are what made up the genre.

Sometimes, for fiction books especially, the story may not fit neatly into a genre. “Literary fiction” is sometimes the genre given to novels that are character-centered or otherwise don’t fall into a genre. There can be multiple genres – a book can be a fantasy romance, for example. 


Nonfiction books that don’t fit into another nonfiction genre are often simply categorized as “nonfiction.” 



We have a wide variety of genre categories at the Dorrance Bookstore. These genres are not to suggest that all books within the genres are the same, but to merely sort similar books with each other. This makes it easy for readers browsing the store to find what they are looking for.


Having a genre also helps with promotion and marketing of a book. For example, a true crime book and a children’s fiction book need to be handled differently – they are very different, and meant for very different audiences!

Dorrance Bookstore online homepage.

As for promoting your book, a genre helps you find your audience. If you have a book that is about a topic related to business, a business magazine or podcast might be a suitable partner for an interview. 


At the end of the day, the genre of your book is not a determining factor of quality, but is a signal to your audience. Books may be of the same genre, but each one is unique – just like yours!

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