On Self-Publishing

Harper’s Harpings: Picking The Correct Genre


genre picking


I’ve seen an increase in genre abuse lately and it has got me thinking about the genres I pick for my books. When I say genre abuse I am talking about books labelled as the wrong genre, deliberately and unintentionally.

This morning on the UK Amazon Kindle eBooks there are 3,575,191 books available. When you click on eBooks there are 28 categories to choose from. They then filter down to sub genres and so on.

Arts & Photography (196,883) Biography & True Accounts (153,270) Business & Finance (217,403) Children’s eBooks (255,903) Comics & Graphic Novels (34,996) Computing (64,660) Crime, Thriller & Mystery (205,252) Education & Reference (230,097) Food & Drink (59,446) Gay & Lesbian (40,797) Health & Fitness (157,463) History (201,126) Home & Garden (74,034) Humour (99,058) Literature & Fiction (1,436,490) Nonfiction (2,003,002) Parenting & Families (91,644) Politics & Social Sciences (252,592) Professional & Technical (205,745) Religion & Spirituality (277,918) Romance (282,612) Science & Maths (178,029) Science Fiction & Fantasy (225,924) Self-Help & Counselling (214,222) Sport (59,644) Teen & Young Adult (144,223) Travel (62,522) eBooks in Foreign Language (894,892)


As an author, when you publish your book on Amazon you can choose two genres to feature your books. This is where the tricky part come in, which do you choose.


Romance novel, happy ever after, steamy but not explicit, but the hero is a ghost and that is the twist. The protagonists are in their thirties. Which genre are you going to pick?

From the list above we can eliminate quite a few and we are left with:

Literature & Fiction (1,436,490)

Romance (282,612)

So, Literature & Fiction has the following genres:

Action & Adventure (116,867) Anthologies & Literature Collections (24,455) British & Irish (20,132) Classics (52,934) Contemporary Fiction (268,684) Erotica (190,019) Essays & Correspondence (10,780) Genre Fiction (169,703) Historical Fiction (66,797) History & Criticism (43,169) Horror (66,294) Humour & Satire (39,881) Literary Fiction (79,266) Mythology & Folk Tales (26,190) Poetry & Drama (111,895) Religious & Inspirational Fiction (34,504) Short Stories (91,847) Women’s Fiction (66,837) World Literature (68,650)

The options are:

British & Irish (20,132) Contemporary Fiction (268,684) Literary Fiction (79,266) Women’s Fiction (66,837)

And, Romance has the following genres:

Action & Adventure (10,141) Collections & Anthologies (10,705) Contemporary (97,466) Fantasy (18,693) Gay Romance (16,800) Gothic (850) Historical Romance (31,198) Lesbian Romance (4,226) Military (5,329) New Adult (11,232) Paranormal (33,356) Religious (11,697) Romantic Comedy (16,709) Romantic Suspense (26,085) Science Fiction (6,383) Time Travel (2,853) Westerns (7,694)

The options are:

Contemporary (97,466) Paranormal (33,356)

The thing is though, you don’t want to give the plot away so you are left with:

Literature -> Contemporary Fiction

Romance -> Contemporary

But, what if your readers don’t like the fact that you haven’t labelled it paranormal and they hate paranormal but had you labelled it paranormal it would have given the game away? Tricky.

If it’s a blurred area for an author to plump for a genre, how is a reader supposed to find the books they want to read? It goes back to visibility, if a reader sees your book then you have half a chance. For your book to be seen you really need to be in the top 100 of your genre.

The flip side to picking a genre is picking one consciously. Here is where the genre abuse comes in. I have left the number of books in brackets on each genre to illustrate the competition any book has in that subject.

Writing a book in a genre that has fewer books in smart, I think I want to write a romantic western, it only has 7694 books in that category. That would be the smart thing to do. What isn’t smart is writing a book about one genre and then labelling it on another just to be seen. That is not smart and is transparent as a pane of glass. I think also there needs to be research done by the author to understand the difference between genres. The difference between Paranormal and Fantasy, understanding what is and is not erotic material and also the difference between what is NA and what is YA. One has an obligation to label erotica as erotic but also have an obligation to make sure if you are labelling it in the erotic arena that it is in fact erotic. Just because you’ve typed the word pussy doesn’t necessarily make it an erotic piece of work.

We as an indie community have a responsibility to make sure we are honest in our labelling where we can. There are ways and means that the ambiguity can be overcome because we are the author of the book. If the ghost situation that I talked about earlier is a real issue then there are ways you can write the blurb and book to let the readers know it is a supernatural book without giving the game away.

If you’re an author I would recommend you check out the genres as the reader sees them, the way I have copied above. I suspect a lot of authors look at the categories as they are presented on the KDP pages. It’s worth a try at least.

Something to think about?

Here is my first dilemma, I have written the Geary Brothers series. Book one is erotic romance, because of the journey the leading lady goes on, no getting away with that. Book two is steamy romance, with the twist it’s difficult to label that as erotica but it is certainly steamy. The third book has less steaminess because again of the journey the leading lady goes on. Part of the book is when she is 16. So the series doesn’t have a specific genre and book three is NA/YA/whatever people in their thirties/fifties genre is called. If people read book one will they be disappointed that there isn’t as much sex in 2 and then 3? These books are a series and can be read as a standalones, so I am not too worried, much.

Here is my second dilemma, I have written a trilogy where the leading lady’s age span a decade. Am I obliged to put it in New Adult because the story starts at age 21? I get messages asking me what the age of the protagonists are in my books. In the Geary series book one and two, they are in their thirties, in book three, as I mentioned, a third of the book is when they are in their mid teens, a third of the book is another couple in their thirties and then we have the young teens, in present day in their fifties. In the trilogy it spans the whole of her twenties.

As an author I find the genres category confusing but I research and research to get it correct. Tags, blurb and promo all help. To add confusion to the mix, each platform has a different set up. It prompts me to wonder now why there are 1.4m books lumped into Literature and Fiction. Is that laziness in category choosing, laziness in book writing or that the categories are too vague and open to abuse.

I could have written the Geary series as a historical romance, the story is not dependent on modern day events, I should have, I may have gotten more visibility. At the end of the day it is about visibility. You can have the most amazing story but if you are not seen then it won’t be read.

In this heady world of self publishing, does an author need to be smarter about what they write if they want to sell books?

Thanks for reading



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