There’s often a lot of angst from authors about which genre their books might fall into and how to categorize a book when pitching to agents and editors. Let me tell you a little secret. This is not critical to the rejection or acceptance of your book. In fact, it barely matters. The reason agents ask your genre is because it gives us perspective on the vision you have for your book. Think of it this way: if someone tells you about a new author and starts to describe the book, it helps you to know ahead of time whether this is a thriller, mystery, romance, fantasy, or young adult. It helps put the story into perspective and gives you a sense of place (for lack of a better word).
Far too often I’ve discussed a book with an author either over the phone, via email, or at a pitch session, and after explaining why the book didn’t work for me the author’s response was that in the future she was going to be sure to tell agents it was a different genre than what she first described. I hate to say it, but that’s not the problem. I did not reject the book because you told me it was a cozy mystery when in fact it would have better fit in the just plain mystery category. If the book was working I could have figured that out and simply recategorized it myself. In fact, recategorizing happens all the time. I wish I could count the number of times a mystery turned into a romance, a romantic suspense turned into contemporary romance, or women’s fiction turned into romance, all after the publisher bought the book. Okay, you’ll spot a trend there, but I swear the change to romance was coincidental in my writing.
So when all else fails simply pick a general genre—fiction, women’s fiction, romance, fantasy, etc. There’s no need to spend months agonizing over how to categorize your book. If it’s the right book it will find its home no matter which shelf it lands on.