Before you can submit a query letter to an agent, you need to know what kind of fantasy you’ve written. Most literary agents are very specific with what they will consider and go as far as to break them down into subgenres. To make this process less confusing, I’ve broken down most of them so that you can save yourself from a hundred or so unnecessary, gut-retching rejection letters.
If your novel takes place on any other planet other than Earth then it is ALWAYS high fantasy. There is no wiggle room here. You could have elements of other subgenres, but the location of the novel always overrules everything else. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis is a great example because most of the story takes place in a different or parallel world.
Typically a series of books that revolve around a quest. Think sword fights, medieval weapons, and damsels in distress. Some people have coined Epic fantasy as Sword and Sorcery. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini is a very well known epic fantasy series.
This is usually when monstrous creatures play the heroes and the romantic element is small. Think vampires, werewolves, dragons, etc. Tithe by Holly Black is considered a dark fantasy because her faeries play good and evil roles.
The setting is an urban city and the story is taking place right now. The city is usually well known like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, London, etc. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare is considered an urban fantasy because it takes place in New York.
The story takes place in the future and the society is usually controlled and/or repressed in some way. Great examples of this subgenre include The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.
A popular setting for this subgenre has been Victorian London in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. The technology is steam or spring powered and made mostly of brass and copper. Think science and futuristic inventions. A great example for this subgenre is Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.
This is simply a romance with fantasy elements. They mostly take place in our modern day world and usually involve humans encountering other fantasy species. Think romance with vampires, werewolves, faeries, angels, etc. They also tend to feature human characters with some sort of psychic special ability. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White and the Immortal series by Alyson Noel are two great examples of this subgenre.
I hope this list has helped. Happy Writing.
Stacey O’Neale is a full-time writer and co-owner of the Young Adult Fantasy Guide. She’s had several articles and book reviews published, but spends most of her writing time on the revisions to her debut young adult fantasy novel. You can read her advice for aspiring writers on her blog The YA Fantasy Freak or you can follow her on Twitter.