As a reader, I usually classify books into simple categories: mystery, young adult, paranormal, and horror. In some cases, there’d be a crossover, but for the most part, these are the genres I generally read. If it’s a famous author, I generally just refer to the author’s name in lieu of genre. For example, if I say “I’m reading John Grisham,” it’s safe to assume I’m reading a legal thriller.
Then I decided to publish a series of YA books, which opened a whole new world of sub-genres. I’ve begun to realize there are a myriad of genres and classifications that aren’t as simple to classify: paranormal young adult, paranormal romance, paranormal romance young adult, paranormal mystery, etc. Okay, you get the idea.
It never occurred to me to consider the complexities of choosing the right genre, until it was time to classify my own books, as well as the consideration readers place when choosing a book to read.
Take my Travelers Series. Is it paranormal, sci-fi, or a mixture of both? Some readers say it isn’t paranormal because it doesn’t feature werewolves, vampires, or witches. This tells me that perhaps my books aren’t what some readers expect out of a YA paranormal. But in my mind, werewolves and vampires are supernatural, not paranormal. Is that an entirely different category? My main character possesses the power of telekinesis and astral projection. Isn’t that considered paranormal? Well, I’ve found it depends on who you ask. And sci-fi? Some may say it doesn’t meet the sci-fi standard…there aren’t any spaceships or aliens, so why classify it as such? But my series deals with the concept of alternate universes. So, for time being, I have it categorized as sci-fi and time-travel romance as there isn’t a ‘paranormal sci-fi’ category yet.
Now, let’s look at Charlaine Harris and her Southern Vampire Series. Is it a mystery, paranormal romance, or urban fantasy? I’ve seen her books described as all of the above. You have vampires, romance (Sookie always seems to have a different beau every other book it seems), and she’s always trying to solve some sort of mystery/crime, whether it be in the supernatural vampire world, or the human one she’s a part of. As for urban fantasy, well, there are vamps, shifters, werewolves, witches, demons, etc. and while it’s not technically set in a city (I’m not sure the fictional small town of Bon Temps counts), readers are lenient when it comes to classifying it as urban fantasy.
It’s a puzzling conundrum and writers, as well as readers, should take a moment to consider how a particular book is categorized. It could hurt the writer if a reader expects something other than what’s presented. Then again, readers could be pleasantly surprised to read a book they weren’t expecting.
What do you think about genre/sub-genres? Are there books that you think are miscategorized?