Fiction genre analysis #1

Fiction genre analysis #1 

I’m honestly surprised I’ve never done precisely this before.  :) 

I’ve done some genre analysis, but not like this. 

My intuition has been that e-books rely more heavily on genre fiction than paperbooks (p-books).  Why?  People who buy genres can predict to some sense what the book is like…that’s sort of the point of genres.  There is less risk in publishing a genre book, and when you are working with a somewhat untested medium, that security is important.  

When working with a relatively unknown (or really unknown) author, genre works also allow an immediate possible market.  A vampire book by somebody of whom you’ve never heard is still a vampire book. 

So, I thought I’d break down the genres a bit to get a sense of what’s being offered.  I’ll also describe them: that may help you find books you enjoy. 

The first thing that might surprise you is that only a third of the titles in the Kindle store are labeled as fiction: 

Fiction (201435) vs Others (386593)

Fiction (201435) vs Others (386593)


The next thing I wanted to do was break down the genres.  This is based on the ones used by Amazon, and you may notice right away that the numbers don’t add up.  There is a simple reason for that: books may appear in more than one genre.  In fact, there is even a Genre Fiction category…all of the Action & Adventure books appear under that one, as well as in their own category. 

Fiction Titles by Genre

Genre Count Percentage
Genre Fiction  102,343 25.3%
Fiction Classics  55,217 13.7%
Contemporary Fiction  42,780 10.6%
Romance  29,842 7.4%
Mystery & Thrillers  23,740 5.9%
Children’s Fiction  19,456 4.8%
Action & Adventure  18,847 4.7%
Short Stories  15,872 3.9%
Literary Fiction  14,767 3.7%
Erotica  14,094 3.5%
Historical Fiction  13,376 3.3%
World Literature  11,214 2.8%
Science Fiction  10,111 2.5%
Fantasy  8,191 2.0%
Drama  7,081 1.8%
Horror  7,058 1.7%
Poetry  6,691 1.7%
Religious Fiction  3,578 0.9%
Comic Fiction  31 0.0%

As you can see, the Genre Fiction category does dominate. 

My next thing was to break that category down further:

Sub-genre Count
Romance  29,842
Mystery & Thrillers  23,740
Action & Adventure  18,847
Erotica  14,094
Historical  13,376
Science Fiction  10,111
Fantasy  8,191
Horror  7,058
Gay & Lesbian  4,032
Men’s Adventure  3,775
Anthologies  3,382
Westerns  2,664
War  2,109
Family Saga  2,069
Political  1,465
Comics & Graphic Novels  1,012
Movie Tie-Ins  1,008
Fairy Tales  373
Sports  279
Sea Adventures  7

Now, a lot of these categories have more of a breakdown in the literary world, but the Kindle store only breaks them down a little, at least in the browsing categories. 

It’s also key that the publisher assigns the categories, and I’ve got to tell you, a lot of them are not the way I would assign them (or, I venture to say, the way that most genre fans would assign them). 

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular of these anyway.  :) 


A romance novel generally focuses on the relationships between people.  Readers recognize a number of subcategories, including historical romances (which take place in the past) and the very popular paranormal romances (which have some supernatural element, such as vampires or werewolves). 

Romances are often in series: those may be shorter than typical mainstream novels.  The series feature continuing characters or families, and may be multi-generational.  

The most prominent award is the RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America. 

Mysteries & Thrillers 

Mysteries & thrillers generally involve a crime and the response to it.  In a traditional mystery, the reader is unaware of the solution to “whodunnit”, and follows along as someone solves it.  In a thriller, the reader often knows who the perpetrator is, and so do those pursuing the criminal.  

The most famous award is probably the Edgar, given by the Mystery Writers of America (and named for Edgar Allan Poe).  

Sub-genres include “hard-boiled” or “noir”, which generally deals with the seedy part of town.  

Action & Adventure 

Action & adventure novels often take the reader to an exotic location, and keep things moving.  While there may be a problem to solve, it usually isn’t a crime in the traditional sense.  

They usually have a larger-than-life hero and actions may speak louder than words. 


Erotica focuses on relationships of a sexual nature, or that are intended to arouse the reader. 

There can be some overlap with romance novels, but romances traditionally focus more on the relationships between the characters, while erotica may be more explicit and focus more on the physical act. 

Historical Fiction 

Historical fiction is set in a period prior to the reader’s own.  Technically, it should be prior to the author’s own, but there is a tendency to treat all 18th century (for example) as historical fiction. 

It is intended to invoke the feeling of the period and may or may not be historically accurate.  

There are a lot of types of historical fiction, including romances.  

A similar term is “period” fiction, which ties into a specific definable period. 

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror 

I’m glad the three of these were next to each other, because there is a lot of debate and overlap.  Some people (including me) group these together under (small “f”) fantasy.  The connecting element is that they involve something that is outside current consensus reality. 

Science fiction has several sub-genres, and again, lots of debate about definitions.  At its base, it is supposed to be based on science, but expand upon it.  For example, a science fiction novel might involve space travel.  However, where it becomes complicated is if the method of achieving that space travel might not be entirely scientific.  Is faster-than-light travel in a physical vehicle within the bounds of science?  

One clarification is that people may refer to “hard science fiction” as being more accurately based on science. 

Big “F” Fantasy involves unreality not based on science: fairies, vampires, that sort of thing. 

Horror is intended to invoke fear in the reader.  The term generally refers to “supernatural horror”.  However, it sometimes refers to “psychological horror”, in which the frightening character has no fantasy element.  The Phantom of the Opera is widely considered horror, but the basic story doesn’t involve anything supernatural. 

The Hugos and Nebulas are two of the big awards, but there are many others.  

Science fiction and fantasy are famous for their fans (or “fen”), who have conventions and dress up as the characters…and have been doing so since the 1930s.  

You’ll see a lot of the sub-genres listed: “space opera” (which take place at least partially in space, but don’t pay a lot of attention to the science, with “zap guns” and the like as common elements); urban fantasy (which takes place typically in a contemporary setting, but involves magic or other fantastical elements interacting with “mundane” elements; sword and sorcery, in which typically low tech warriors combat magic users; military science fiction; and so on. 

Gay & Lesbian 

This is a broad category featuring characters who aren’t heterosexual.  You may also see this referred to as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered).  

Men’s Adventure 

Men’s adventure novels certainly can be adventure novels.  The intended audience is male, and they typically involve guns and combat.  These are often in series, and sometimes long series.  Some people have drawn a parallel with romances. 


An anthology consists of short works by different authors, typically on the same theme.  They are common in science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but can be mainstream fiction as well.  For example, there might be an anthology of baseball short stories.  A book of short stories by the same author is more commonly referred to as a “collection”. 

I could keep going with the other categories, but I think I’ll stop there. 

I have to say, though: a category with seven titles in it seems a bit odd.  ;) 

I’ve tried to keep my definitions pretty much non-controversial (although I may hear about that Men’s Adventure/Romance parallel), but I’m happy to hear if you disagree.  :) 

See also this earlier post on literary awards. 

Tip of the Day: If you scroll to the bottom of a book’s product page, you can see category information (which may be much more detailed than the above categories), and then you can click on it to see similar categorized books. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

About these ads

2 Responses to “Fiction genre analysis #1”

  1. Gel Pen : Says:

    Phantom of the Opera is a classic and is one of the best plays ever.:~

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Gel!

      The Phantom of the Opera to which I referred is the original novel by Gaston Leroux, published in 1911. I’m guessing you may be referring to the Andrew Lloyd Webber adaptation. There are a lot of theatrical adaptations…I’ve seen another musical version I enjoyed. Webber’s play is definitely influential, and you’d find a lot of people who agree with you. You might find it interesting to read the inspiration, although they are very different.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,299 other followers

%d bloggers like this: