Inside Scoop: Dish from the Literary Agent Intern

Oh, na, na, what’s my [genre]?8025427_1

by Cindy Francois

As I worked through this final post (my internship ends at the end of the month), whose topic – in case the title didn’t give it away – is knowing the genre of your book, I found myself overwhelmed by choices I’m certain did not exist a year ago (Nanopunk anyone?). While I’m sure my list is by no means exhaustive, I ended my search at 29 genres of fiction, with 67 subgenres between them. For those reasons – and because I’ve about 500 words to work with here – I decided to simply list the more visible of the fiction genres and subgenres; I hope you find the information useful. The list of course is merely a guideline, which you should adhere to conceptually but that in no way should hinder your writing. After all, a good story will always be retold; it is in the retelling that we seduce a new audience.

As you consider your novel for an agent’s review, remember that a main criterion for any reader is to be so immersed in the story that your novel is impossible to put down. At the risk of calling forth the narcissist in every writer, and irrespective of how subjective evaluations can be, how seductive is your novel? How often does a particular scene take you back, leaving you grinning like a possum on the A train while the old woman across the way glares at you? When was the last time you showed your writing to a friend who in the midst of reading uttered a sigh, or a giggle, or god forbid shushed you when you asked which part they were responding to? As I mentioned in my last post, YOU are your novel’s first sales agent, so absolutely find it the right representation. Knowing what you’re working with is half the battle.

Fiction Genres/Subgenres

  1. Absurdist fiction
  2. Adventure novel (including epic, imaginary voyage, lost world, and sea story)
  3. Chapter books (for intermediate readers aged 7-10)
  4. Christian fiction
  5. Comic novel (including black comedy, parody, romantic comedy, and satire)
  6. Erotic fiction
  7. Experimental fiction
  8. Fantasy (including comic fantasy, dark fantasy, contemporary fantasy, epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, historical fantasy, magic realism, medieval fantasy, mythic fantasy, paranormal fantasy/romance, superhero fantasy, sword and sorcery, and urban fantasy)
  9. GLBT fiction
  10. Historical fiction
  11. Literary fiction
  12. Middle Grade fiction (for readers 8-12 years old)
  13. Mystery (including amateur detective, cozy mystery, crime scene investigation, forensics, legal drama, medical mystery, political intrigue)
  14. New Adult fiction (main character is in their early 20s and dealing with new adult life issues, including leaving home, developing sexuality, and career moves)
  15. Picture book (text usually <1000 words accompanied by illustrations)
  16. Pulp fiction
  17. Religious fiction
  18. Romance (including contemporary, historical, paranormal)
  19. Saga
  20. Science Fiction (including alien invasion, alternate universe, dystopian, hard/soft science fiction, military, post-apocalyptic, punk, and scientific romance)
  21. Speculative fiction (including ghost stories, gothic fiction, horror, monster literature, and occult detective)
  22. Thriller (including crime, erotic, environmental, political, psychological)
  23. Tragedy
  24. Urban fiction
  25. Westerns
  26. Women’s fiction
  27. Young Adult Fiction (for readers 12-17+)

To close, I’d like to say a tremendous Thank You to Linda for these last months, including for the opportunity to connect with you all! I wish you the best of luck!

Cindy Francois

Cindy Francois

Cindy Francois interns for Linda Epstein (the eponymous blabbermouth).


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6 responses to “Inside Scoop: Dish from the Literary Agent Intern

  1. I wish you’d defined women’s fiction and LGBT fiction. It seems to me that women’s fiction CAN be Literary Women’s romance or something and the same for LGBT. Couldn’t that be LGBT comic literary? It seems to me that women’s and LGBT are such large labels. Why don’t we have men’s fiction? Men’s absurdist epic adventure?

    It seems to me that some of those categories speak to the intended audience and others to the type of story, but why should a book be limited in the audience; granted that some are, but why should every novel a woman might prefer to read over a man have to be women’s fiction? Are there other qualities that make it ONLY for women or mainly for that select audience.

    • Of course I agree with you. But you need a way to let me know who your intended audience is so I know how to pitch it to an editor and they know how to sell it to a sales team so the team can get it in a bookstore and the bookstore knows what shelf to put it on and people buying books have a general idea where they might find it. Genre labels aren’t meant to limit what you write or who you write for, but rather are just some of the tools we use to discuss what you’ve written.

  2. Good definition of speculative fiction, which had me stumped. I thought maybe it was the cool new term for science fiction and fantasy. Great list and thanks for putting it together.

    • Speculative fiction would also encompass some of the things that were included in the SF parentheses. It’s kind of fluid. For example, I have a client who writes “social science fiction” which I think of as speculative fiction. That is, speculation about how things could turn out if our society keeps going in the direction it’s going… which sometimes turns into dystopian, which could be described as either SF or speculative. Really what folks should do is pick the genre that best describes what they’ve written (without saying something like “it’s a literary historical GLBT Christian adventure science fiction story.”)

  3. Judy Ratto

    I enjoyed your posts. Good luck to you, Cindy.

  4. Absurdist fiction – I’d like to see a little of that genre! Is it something like the protagonist having a human head and giraffe body, and we need to take it seriously throughout? That’s just a guess. Next I’ll google it. 🙂