Okay, to review and so no one is confused since I’ve had some truly strange comments in the past, including people who thought I was trying to dictate to you which points to hit: this review of genres and subgenres is not to teach you how to write them, so much as to help you classify what you’ve written, so you can publish it in the genre/subgenre that gets you most readers who won’t leave you nasty reviews saying “do you even read this sub-genre?”.
Now, here we are on slippery ground as with say “fantasy that’s not technically set in a bit city but is set in the present day. Is that urban fantasy or not?” Since Amazon doesn’t have a category for “modern day not urban fantasy” it’s tricky, because putting it in urban fantasy means a good part of the crowd who downloads it will be upset at you, because there’s no dangerous romance element etc. (And heaven help you if the paranormal romance crowd downloads it. They like their sex explicit.)
Everyone who reads fantasy knows what I mean when I say “heroic or quest” fantasy, but you know, Amazon doesn’t have a category for “like Tolkien.” Someone at Amazon doesn’t have a huge grasp on things, so they decided to just have historical fantasy, which frankly doesn’t even fit alternate history fantasy like Witchfinder, because their history is not parallel to ours. In fact, I’m fairly sure I put it under general fantasy which is stupid, because the “feel” is historical, so I need to go look and change it, but I don’t have access to the publishing computer today.
What you do for this is compensate by going into the key words and putting in things like Wizards, elves, dwarves.
Don’t btw take my word for the words to use, because I don’t have access to the publishing computer right now. No, wait, I found it. The closest they have is Sword and Sorcery, which if I remember was the 70s term for this. https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201216150
Note there’s really no sub-category or keywords for even things like Game of Thrones.
So, it’s hard to figure out how to make it so your book discoverable, but I’ll be honest, in these circumstances one often puts the name of the most distinguished/best known practitioner in the field as a key word. So you could put it in Sword and Sorcery and put in the key words as Tolkien. Or G R R Martin, if that’s what you actually sound like.
Anyway, quest fantasy: your group of heroes is looking for the McGuffin.
It has always amused me that quest fantasy is intrinsically similar to a subset of science fiction novels we don’t see much of today, but which were a favorite of mine growing up: colonization science fiction novels.
It has a lot of the same touchstones: it’s a group novel, with a set of personalities. There is often at least one romance (and for the love of heaven don’t list your novel as romance under fantasy, just because there’s a love interest and some romantic subplot. Remember romance means a genre, not romantic love.) Sometimes more than one. There is usually a traitor and a couple of red shirts. And there is a hidden prince, or in science fiction “the guy who survives against all odds.”
Now it’s been years since I read colonization novels, but I felt at the time that I could tell who would die and live within the first few chapters, and I often feel the same way with fantasy novels of this type. I don’t have the time to cover every cliche of the field, though if you’re an RPG player you probably know most of them.
The world these are set in is usually “vaguely tolkienesque.” Yeah, each one has variations, and some people are very creative, but there’s still some of the traditional races and struggles we met in Tolkien or in Norse Myth/Celtic Myth in general.
To compensate for what I don’t have time to cover, I highly recommend you buy and read Diana Wynne Jones “the tough guide to fantasy land”. It not only will give you the “if you have this, you should class it as” but also some of the things to avoid, such as bicycle horses or stew.
Anyway, it’s a quest and along the way your characters are tested, and some die or are judged unworthy, etc.
I’d distinguish heroic fantasy, which might have SOME elements of the Tolkien world, or might not. It might be an historical “feel” world with magic, but its creatures can come from completely different mythologies. It’s where I’d class G RR because it often involves clashes of civilizations in the face of an impending supernatural doom, etc.
Both of subgenres are very much “not of our world” and both hard to place in Amazon categories. (I have to ask Amanda S. Green how she classified Dagger of Elana.)
One recourse is to look at books that are like yours, see how they’re classified, then figure out how to achieve it. And no, I’m not that bright, either. It just now occurred to me I should do this with DWJ’s Chrestomancy and classify Witchfinder accordingly. Well, it’s a project for this weekend, hopefully.
Again, neither of these subgenres are my own preferred poison, either written or to read, but mention had to be made of them because they’re such a big part of the field.
Completely open if someone chooses to explain how they back engineered the sub-classification.