A genre question...

I'm pretty sure that I don't have any regular readers who are agents, but I'd love it if I did, because I have a question.

What genre is my book?

This isn't a question I ever thought I'd ask. The world of my book is a pre-industrial empire with a bit of magic thrown in: half-human, half-animal shape-shifters, the ability to speak with thoughts, etc.  So I've always considered it a fantasy.

But it's also a mystery. The main character has to solve a murder in order to gain her freedom. And that goal is what moves the plot forward.

The question came up in my mind because I entered  a "what's your hook?" contest on an agent website a while back.  The agents were very helpful and gave everyone feedback, even the ones they didn't request. My feedback was that the concept was interesting, but there seemed to be a lot going on in my summary. Was it a fantasy or a mystery?


Now I wonder if my query is too cluttered. Should I call it a fantasy, but focusing primarily on the murder-investigation part of the plot? Or should I continue to include the fantasy elements in the query itself? Or should I pitch it as mystery?

What do you think?


  1. There's not too much going on. I'd call it fantasy. A lot of fantasy involves solving a mystery--and the real mystery in your book is not who the killer is, but the protag's past. There are a lot of fantasy books out there, like that. If you want to send me your query, I can tell you whether or not it reflects the book I read. Of course, the book has changed since then...

  2. Definately as a Fantasy. I'm no editor but I would imagine if one read your draft thinking it was going to be a Mystery, the moment shape-shifting and magic came into the picture a big giant Question mark would appear about their brow.


  3. Yeah, I'll agree with the others in calling it Fantasy. In my (very limited) experience, mysteries usually stay in the contemporary realm, with maybe a touch of paranormal or fantasy.

    But your book sounds very cool either way. :) Good luck!

  4. Wow, thanks guys. This is very helpful! :)

  5. I think a good guide for classifying genre is that 90% of the time, it's not what happens that locks a piece into a genre. It's the setting, the tone. If the atmosphere is fantasy, fantasy fans are the ones who will be shopping for it.

  6. Yea, I'm with the others. Fantasy for sure. If you want, include "Pre-Industrial" Fantasy for good measure.

    But to keep it simple: Fantasy works for me. :D

  7. I too struggle with that question.

  8. Fantasy.

    Although, I'd def bring in the mystery plot in the query.

    Mine's a sci fi for teens that also heavily involved a murder mystery. I called it a YA sci fi--but I think it was the mystery part of the plot that helped distinguish it from others in the genre.

  9. I think it's a fantasy too. I've read that some agents/publishers like stories that combine genres. So I think it's good yours is a fantasy and mystery. I agree with Beth that you'd call it a fantasy but spotlight the mystery elements in the query as well.

  10. Thank you everyone for the great input! I have the best blog readers ever...

  11. Mysterious fantasy? Fantastical mystery? Fantamyst? OK, I'm just making stuff up. But you could call it a mystery driven fantasy, or a fantasy based mystery. But I'd err that setting and characters determine genre more than plot.

  12. I would totally buy a soda called Fantamyst! :)


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