Books and genres

Books and genres - how to use them as writing guides

Every book has its genre - it wouldn't be one without it. Why is that so? Books are products of thought. And thinking means breaking new ground. Isn't the genre of a book like a well-trodden path? No, it's more like important route information. A via ferrata is not a highway, a romance novel is not a book of advice. So for books, genre is indispensable for orientation. In marketing, but also in the writing process. In this article, you'll learn what book genres are, which ones exist, and how you can use them in your writing.

What are book genres?

For books, the genre is a set of characteristics. These stand out and characterize the book. Without them, it would lack something. The characteristics make books of a genre similar. But still, each individual crime novel or autobiography is distinctive.

Book genres are rough blueprints. Design patterns. Simple recipes that you can modify however you like, as long as the basic ingredients remain. Genre in literature establishes in advance what the climaxes will be. A love story without two kissing for the first time? It isn't.

What is the purpose of dividing books by genre?

So book genres do exist. Books are similar. But why would you align your book with a genre? Isn't that boring?

Imagine you're having a big party. Your new book is coming out, which is reason enough. It's set in Tuscany, so the party theme is Italy. The food is fegato alla veneziana, caponata and ribollita. It's delicious. Not many people know about it north of the Alps. Your guests are looking at you funny. What, no pizza? Not even pasta salad?

Your visitors have expectations of an Italian party. Your potential readers have expectations of your book. More than that: they want to have some! They don't pick just any book just because the cover is cool. They choose a historical novel. Or a fantasy novel. Usually very specifically. And the Booksellers just the same.

The genre of books appeals to a target audience. Therefore also arrange Publishers and the book trade books by genre. In addition, book genres help the Authors themselves, because they provide a framework. When writing, you can then pay better attention to the content. So give your readers pizza!

What distinguishes book genres from each other in general?

If it is good to give a book a genre, we should take a closer look at the characteristics of book genres. Books and their genre can be distinguished from different angles.

A great bifurcation in the boughs of book genres is truth-telling. There are nonfiction books full of fact and narrative literature where something is made up. Then there's time: historical novels are set in a bygone era. Contemporary literature depicts the world we ourselves also experience. Science fiction a future one. The main character can also dictate a book's genre. If there's a Sherlock, it's a detective story. If someone's real life is told, a biography. Does the book have a mood running through it? Then it might be a romance novel or a Thriller.

The genre of books usually shapes the main plot in narratives. The decisive turning points of the story. Often there are traces of other book genres. But these tend to be in the background. A love story, for example, appears in many stories. But that does not make them romance novels, a genre of literature in its own right.

How can narrative books be organized by genre?

The long rows of shelves in bookstores suggest it: Books that thrive on suspense sell best. These are Thrillers and thrillers, horror stories also belong to this group. Historical novels and stories from other worlds (fantasy and science fiction) follow at some distance, but also romance and Bildungsroman. There are many other genres - niches, but they also find numerous female readers.

Crime, Thriller & Horror

Man dead, murderer searched in vain, but usually found in the end. That's how the detective story goes. A genre of literature that most people read at least once in a while. Sometimes a policeman searches, sometimes a private detective or an amateur. Imaginative plots with twists and atmosphere make for strong stories. It is also important that the reader can puzzle along well.

Thrillers are even more about Voltage. Because at the beginning, the main character is usually not yet dead, but her life is in danger. And this does not change until the end. The readers fever with.

Horror stories divide the reading public. Many give them a wide berth, but the fan base is large. Suspense is created by extreme emotions - especially fear and horror. The adventure novel also fits into this group of book genres: crime, thriller and horror.

Genre elements using the example of thriller

Historical novel

Books of the historical novel genre take readers to another time. They portray them realistically. Details in the book are as they actually were in the past. It is a different world, but a real one. The adventures or the life of a character from that time are told.

Fantasy and science fiction

If a book has the genre of fantasy or science fiction, it is set in a partly unreal world. Fantasy stories focus on fairy-tale characters or legendary figures. As in thrillers, their lives are usually threatened - or their entire world. This is often also a motif of science fiction. Here, however, it is about a future world. It is often portrayed believably with technical details.

Romance novel

The romance novel is a genre for books that makes you feel sorry for yourself. Because harmony from beginning to end would be boring. Lovers must court each other. Run into obstacles. Almost lose each other. But in the end there is usually the happy ending.

Other narrative genres

Books with a genre that doesn't fall under the ones just listed also sell well collectively. But each one of these book genres is more for aficionados. Examples include the social novel and the developmental novel. They spread out the problems and developments of a world or a character. In the family novel, this is similarly true of a clan. The travel novel accompanies a character to another place. The reader discovers it with her.

How to arrange informative books by genre?

Books that convey information differ according to the type of knowledge conveyed and the topic. The reference book presents a subject area accurately and objectively, opinions tend not to be included. Thus, this also includes reference books, scientific literature and textbooks. non-fiction are similar, but the author stands out more, takes a clear stand on the subject, wants to convince readers of her view. The informative book genres such as science and technology or contemporary history and politics, as well as guidebooks, are each divided into specialist and non-fiction books.

How to categorize informative books


Reference book


Biography and autobiography

Biography about Hitler

Autobiography of an actress

Science and technology

PhD thesis

"Bowels with Charm," "The Secret Life of Trees."

Contemporary history and politics

Analysis of the Brexit

thesis book of a politician


medical guide to childbirth

motivating guide to tidying up

Biography and autobiography

The book genres biography and autobiography both reflect the true life story of a person. In the autobiography, the person tells it himself. Or a ghostwriter does it on his behalf. An (auto)biography as a book of the genre non-fiction is more emotional than a technical book. An example is a book about a sportsman in which his career is enthusiastically recounted.

Science and technology

Dry? May be true for some, but one in four book readers often reach for these book genres. If you want to go into more depth on a topic, you need a book. Newspaper articles or texts on the Internet are then not enough. That is also the claim of the books of this genre. They should convey knowledge in detail and comprehensively, but understandably. Mostly they are technical books, especially in the case of scientific literature. A work about an admired car brand, for example, can also be a book of the non-fiction genre.

Contemporary history and politics

Titles from these book genres are read with similar frequency as books on technology and science. There is a wide variety: analyses of climate change. A look at social problems in the US. Proposals for a new economic system. Especially in the field of political books, technical and non-fiction books differ greatly. Where the author takes a personal stand, it is a non-fiction book. Only technical books meet scientific standards.


Books of the genre of advice are mostly non-fiction. So they are not strictly focused on facts. They are written rather loosely and are meant to motivate. Also entertain. Take the reader by the hand and show a way. But this also includes travel guides or cookbooks. An example of a reference book is a medically influenced book on how to stop smoking.

Other genres in non-fiction

In the colorful world of books, there are many that do not fit into all these categories. These are, for example, the travelogue, the puzzle book or the coloring book.

Subgenre and genre in literature

Each genre of books has its own subgenres. For example, thrillers have, among others, the subgenres of disaster and spy thriller. Such distinctions are not only about literary subtleties.

Because readers expect certain things in a disaster thriller, for example. Some characters have to be surprised by the disaster. However, someone sees it coming early and tries to save the others. Without these and other ingredients, the whole book probably won't work.

So subgenres each have their own conventions. As an author, you should fulfill them so as not to disappoint readers.

Genre crime novel with subgenres

How the genre is changing for books

The genre of books has evolved over time. Often it was unusually successful and novel works that became formative for books of a genre. Other authors then adopted particular features from them. But their stories were their very own.

"The Bourne Identity" is considered by many, for example, one of the first modern thrillers. The book sold very well and was filmed with great success. However, the author Robert Ludlum did not invent a new genre of literature. He took elements of the existing book genre thriller, modified them and added new ones. Thus he built in numerous surprises (plot twists). This had never been done before! His book became the model for many writers.

So book genres change. One emerges from the other. The public's taste determines which genre of literature is in vogue and continues to evolve. However, historical events can also have an influence. After the Second World War, "Trümmerliteratur" emerged in Germany. It dealt with the Nazi era and the war in a new, emphatically objective style. In doing so, however, it took over many things from American authors, such as Hemingway.

How to work with the genre in the book

So it's important that you pay attention to genre in your book. How do you go about it?

First determine the genre for the book, then write

Imagine writing a mystery novel set in the 14th century that centers on a love story involving aliens. Sounds inventive at first. But you're setting up a lot of different expectations. Can you really hold all the threads in your hand and guide them in an artful way? If your name is Mario Vargas Llosa and you already have the Nobel Prize in your pocket - no problem. Otherwise, it's advisable to limit yourself in terms of book genres.

So pick a genre - and pick it before you start writing! The genre of the books can also be determined by the subject matter. You may know the outline of the story you want to tell. But it can be written in many ways. Which one do you choose?

The writer Anne Weber told the life story of a French resistance fighter and met the old lady. She didn't want to offend her. She didn't want to claim to know her life. A biographical novel was therefore out of the question. So she invented a heroic epic, in the manner of Homer's Odyssey. A rare thing among book genres today. For this she was awarded the German Book Prize 2020.

Necessary elements of a book genre

You can find out what exactly is important for books of a genre in specialist literature on book genres. These are available for thrillers or scientific texts, for example. It's also always good for authors to learn a lot themselves. read. You should do that actively. So analyze classics or successful works in the book genre you want to write in. Why do they work? What are the defining characteristics? What can't be missing? Are there particular highlights throughout the book? It also helps to talk to other writers about books and their genre.

How to play with the genre in the book

As important as genre is for books, it doesn't offer a simple recipe for success for your book. Often books are particularly good when they contain a lot of the typical things of a book genre, but then deviate. That's what makes them special. That surprises the readers. A crime novel without a dead body and a murderer is unlikely to work. But maybe the death was faked - insurance fraud! Or maybe there were several perpetrators at the same time who knew nothing about each other. One took poison, the other the gun.

So the art of using a genre for books is in the right measure. You should include what is necessary for your genre of literature. But then you shouldn't stick to it slavishly. Instead, consider where a deviation might just be interesting. A practical case study (a digression) can break up a dry science book, for example. The genre of the books is a useful framework. But the content is still more important than this form.

Genre influences writing process


Genres are rough blueprints according to which books can be classified and differentiated. They correspond to the expectations of the reader, who deliberately chooses a romance novel, crime novel or historical novel. The taste of the reading public even determines how genres change over time. You should therefore determine your genre before you start writing so that you don't get bogged down with elements from a wide variety of genres. At the same time, a book is usually good when it not only uses typical elements of a genre, but also surprises the reader in terms of content or style.


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