Book Genres: List of Book Genres with Examples, Word Counts, & More

As a writer (or author) knowing the different book genres is vital to your overall knowledge as a professional, and for your book’s success.

Not only is labeling your genre correctly important but…

Not doing so can result in low book sales, negative book reviews on Amazon, and unsatisfied readers overall.

book genres

When you’re writing a book, the genre you write in is super important because it will dictate the different literary elements within your book.

Here’s a list of the different book genres:

NOTE: We cover what you need to know about selling in your specific genre in all of our Self-Publishing Programs. Learn more about it here

Knowing Your Book Genres is Important

As an author, it’s important to know the differences in genres so you’re well informed about what you’re writing.

Obviously, your audience may change from genre to genre.

Not only that, but the “rules” for writing also vary depending on which genre you write in, which means you’ll have to understand them in order to get it right.

How many book genres are there?

There are more book genres than you might think. In this blog post, we’ll cover 22 of them, however, there are upwards for 40 genres and even more if you count sub-genres for books.

For example, you can have a book that’s a dystopian fantasy novel.

Dystopian and fantasy can be genres on their own but if you have a dystopian story that involves magic, your book will then have two genres.

This is also important to keep in mind when you have subplots within a novel that might fall into a separate genre.

You’ll see this most often with romantic sub plots in broader genres like fantasy or sci-fi.

What are the main book genres?

There are such a large number of book genres that we can’t cover them all in this post, though we will cover 22 of them for you.

That being said, being familiar with the most common can help you identify which your book will fall under.

These are the main book genres:

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Westerns
  • Dystopian
  • Contemporary

Let’s go into more detail with these and nonfiction book genres as well.

List of Book Genres All Authors Should Know

If you’re looking to sharpen your knowledge as an author or are just trying to find which genre your book fits in specifically (perhaps to decide which Amazon categories to go after), we’ve got you covered.

Here are 22 book genres, both fiction and nonfiction, to help you understand which is which and how you should label your novel.

#1 – Fantasy

Fantasy encompasses a huge part of the book world. It’s one of the most popular book genres out there—a personal favorite of mine to read and write.

Fantasy is a genre that’s identified by the use of magic within it.

book genres

Overall, fantasy is the genre of possibility. You can write in a little magic, like Jenna Moreci’s The Savior’s Champion or you can write a book where magic is the forefront of the plot, like with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

To take this a step further, let’s look at the different categories within this genre that has more specific characteristics.

Young Adult Fantasy Genre:

Young adult is typically meant for readers between the ages of 13-17. However, adults enjoy this category of writing just as much as teens.

One thing to keep in mind when writing young adult fantasy is that the themes and messages within the literature will often revolve around teen-aged problems, like coming of age and exploration of identity.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000 words

Adult Fantasy Genre:

When you think of adult fantasy, think Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings versus Harry Potter or Children of Blood and Bone.

The main plots or themes in adult fantasy will likely revolve around more grown issues like the difference between right and wrong, death, adult relationships, and more.

Average word count for this book genre: 70,000 – 110,000

Epic Fantasy Genre:

An epic fantasy novel is characterizes by the overall lengthy and grandiose nature of its plot, characters, setting, or theme.

Books that tend to call into this book genre are Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, like we mentioned above. Most often, epic fantasies will also fall under fantasy adventures.

Average word count for this book genre: 100,000 – 200,000 +

#2 – Adventure

Writing a novel in the adventure category will require a trip, journey, or quest of some kind as the overall plot.

Your average adventure novel often focuses on both the character’s physical journey as well as the journey they go through as a person throughout the novel.

Average word count for this book genre: 90,000 – 130,000

Epic Adventure Genre:

As stated above for an epic fantasy, any genre that’s “epic” is characterized by the magnitude of the plot, character, or themes themselves.

An example of an epic adventure novel is Moby Dick, which stands at about 190,000 words and 720 pages long.

Average word count for this book genre: 120,000 – 200,000

#3 – Romance

Romance authors have one specific goal when it comes to their books: to make you fall in love with the characters just as much as the characters fall in love with each other.

In this book genre, the romance is the center point of the plot. The entire novel moves around the relationship, though other plot points may be present.

A classic example of a romance novel is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

When used as a sub plot:

Romance can also be used a subplot in many novels, and is, in fact, used quite often as a complementary element in books.

When romance is used as a sub plot, the main plot does not have to do with the relationship but rather, is something completely different. The romance simply adds to the plot in order to increase conflict or intrigue.

Average word count for this book genre: 70,000 – 100,000

#4 – Contemporary

This book genre is among the most popular, though most writers aren’t sure of what this category even is.

The contemporary book genre is simply books written in the current time period with most of the parts of the novel revolving around common issues in a character’s life.

But really, this genre is actually more of the absence of a genre. You may have heard this genre lumped in with others, like Contemporary Fantasy or Contemporary Romance.

The term is used to tell readers that this book takes place in current times, though it might cover other genres as well.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

#5 – Dystopian

This is a newer book genre that’s really been picking up popularity within the last 5 to 10 years.

Though many stories of this nature have been published prior, the term “dystopian” was recently coined to describe a book genre in which the current government or society has been destroyed and the book centers around the aftermath.

book genres dystopian

The dystopian genre can also be used as a secondary genre label in order to clarify the contents of the book, much like with contemporary.

For example, you can have a Dystopian Fantasy novel as well as a Dytopian Science Fiction novel.

Here are some examples of dystopian novels:

  • The Hunger Games
  • Young World
  • Handmaid’s Tale

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000

#6 – Mystery

We’ve all heard of the mystery book genres. It’s an extremely popular genre, and for a good reason.

This book genre is defined by the plot focusing on solving a mystery, most often with the mystery impacting the main character to the point where they’re the ones involved in solving it.

Many other genres can have mysteries within them (in fact, most do), but what makes a book specific to this genre is the fact that the mystery is the main plot and point of the book.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

#7 – Horror

Horror novels are characterized by the fact that the main plot revolves around something scary and terrifying.

Oftentimes, you can find that Horror and Thriller describe the same book, though we’ll touch more on why thrillers are not always horror novels in the next section.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

#8 – Thriller

If you’re writing a thriller novel, the book will focus around a high suspense and action-packed plot.

This book genre most often deals with danger and dread instead, with high emotional impact involving fear.

Here are some examples of popular thriller novels:

  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • The Woman in Cabin 10
  • The Shining
  • It

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000

book genres thriller

#9 – Paranormal

Paranormal books are characterized by including paranormal activity, like ghosts, clairvoyance, mediums, demons, vampires, and more.

The difference between fantasy and paranormal is the elements within. Paranormal doesn’t typically have magic like witches or fantasy-specific beings like unicorns, mermaids, and more.

But the paranormal book genre includes a current or real-life setting and is not often set in another world, like fantasy sometimes can be.

However, keep in mind that you can have a paranormal fantasy novel if your book covers both types of abnormal occurrences.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

#10 – Historical Fiction

This book genre is exactly as it sounds: a fictional story that takes place in the past.

Usually, historical fiction centers around known events or problems that take place in a time significantly prior to the present.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

#11 – Science Fiction

Sci-fi is among the most popular book genre there is. With movie adaptations like Star Wars and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this genre has exploded and is abundant in the book world.

Science fiction novels are those that take place in a futuristic society with advanced technology and occasionally otherworldly beings.

This is another genre that can add to another, like with Sci-Fi Fantasy, which would include a futuristic world with advanced technology and some sort of fantastical being or magic.

The word count for this novel genre can be extensive depending on the storyline.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

#12 – Memoir

On to the nonfiction writing portion of these book genres and first up is memoirs.

When writing a memoir, you’re essentially telling the reader about the most defining moments in your life that have led you to where you are and who you are today.

Memoirs differ from autobiographies in the sense that an autobiography is more of a timeline of your life, events, and accomplishments whereas a memoir is more of a collection of the most significant moments, pulled together by a theme or message you wish to share with readers.

Average word count for this book genre: 45,000 – 80,000

#13 – Cookbook

You already know what a cookbook is.

Cookbooks are those featuring recipes and directions for making the dishes correctly. Not only that, but many cookbooks features stories about why the dish was created and the inspiration behind it.

Average word count for this book genre: Cookbooks vary greatly and are more dependent on number of recipes instead of total words.

#14 – Art

This book genre encompasses several different types of books. However, all of them require the same thing: a focus on something art-related.

There are many ways a book can qualify to be in the art genre.

Here are a few ways your book would be a part of the art genre:

  • it covers art-facts
  • it teaches specific art methods
  • it discusses are in detail (art history)
  • art is a primary focus of the book

Average word count for this book genre: 10,000 – 60,000

#15 – Self-help / Personal Development

If you’re writing a book aimed to aid someone in their personal life, as well as lift them up to make positive change, it’s likely you’re writing in the self-help or personal development book genre.

Essentially, if your book helps others have a better life by empowering them, it will fall under this genre.

Keep in mind, this book genre is one that encompasses many other genres as well. You can have a health self-help book in additional to a relationship self-help.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#16 – Motivational

This book genre is on the rise significantly as of late. If you write in this genre, your book will center around empowering people to do whatever it is they’re struggling with.

Essentially, motivational books focus on problems that can prevent people from accomplishing their goals and dreams, and how to solve them.

Most often, motivational books can be lumped in with other book genres like health, fitness, business, and self-help.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#17 – Health

The health book genre is vast and covers a wide variety of different topics.

Your book will fall under this wide genre if it features anything health-related. This can be topics ranging from fitness, holistic healing, to more complex medical topics and in-depth coverage of different health conditions.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#18 – History

Any book covering historical facts of any kind would fall under this category. And since this is nonfiction, they all have to be accurate.

Many history books are much different than what you might have read in school. In fact, there are several books simply covering different events in history written in a more entertaining fashion versus a factional play-by-play textbook.

Those books still fall under this book category.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000

#19 – Travel

Whether you’re writing travel guides or an in-depth review of different travel destinations, this book genre will cover all of them.

Your book would also fall under this genre if you’re writing about travel-hacks or ways to travel for cheap or even free.

Average word count for this book genre: 20,000 – 50,000

#20 – Guide / How-to

There are so many guide books and how-tos out there that it’s fairly easy to know if your book fits this genre.

The way to know if your book falls in this genre is to think about the core purpose. Is your book written in order to show someone how to do something specific?

The biggest giveaway is in the book title. If your title features “how to…” then it’s in this genre!

Average word count for this book genre: 3,000 – 50,000

#21 – Families and Relationships

You can write a book about how to build a stronger familial foundation or a book about improving your relationship. Either way, those books would fall under this category.

Oftentimes, books in this genre will fall under a smaller, more specified genre as well, like family bonding or romantic relationships or even fostering friendships.

The relationships genre is not to be confused with the fiction romance genre.

Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 50,000

#22 – Humor

If you’ve ever read a joke book or a book revolving around a humorous endeavor of some sort, it falls under this book category.

Books in this genre are also often gag gifts or are meant to be facetious.

Average word count for this book genre: 10,000 – 50,000

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Bella Rose Pope

Bella Rose Pope is the Content Creation Specialist here at Self-Publishing School. While she's not whipping up content here, she's creating her own Youtube videos, fiction writing tips blog posts, hanging out with her dog, and eating something with cheese!Give her a follow: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube

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