Querying Tip: Know Your Genre

While ‘know your genre’ may seem like a really basic piece of advice, I read a lot of queries that either forget to mention or mix up the genre of the manuscript. The genre of your book should hopefully be established before you begin writing (or at least become obvious once you’ve started the writing process) and you need to make sure the agent you’re querying knows for certain what genre your book falls under. Here are some more things to keep in mind about genres and query letters:

Research your genre. Writing a science fiction book for middle graders? Read other books in that genre and see how your writing compares. Are you following the genre’s common guidelines? Does your book include the tropes that your readers will expect?

Write a genre that you know well. Don’t write a horror novel because you’ve heard through the grapevine that horror is a trend. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, your readers will be able to tell. So will agents – and that’s not going to get you an offer of representation or a publishing deal.

Include the genre in your query letter. Even if you give a (short and sweet) detailed summary of your story, the genre may not be clear. So specifically mention it. You don’t want an agent to be unsure about what type of book you’ve written. Your query might make your manuscript sound like a contemporary romance when really you’ve done so much world building that the book is technically a fantasy.

Studying genres is important for everyone in the publishing industry. Writers, agents, and editors monitor where books are shelved and how different genres need to be sold. There are different expected word counts, prevalent themes, and various character types expected for every genre. Know them well and be extra confident in the one that’s important to your manuscript.