Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Writing in Two Genres

Nancy J. Cohen


It’s not an easy path to follow to write in two separate genres. You have a different readership to satisfy. You have different reviewers to court. You have to promote to two entirely different audiences. And you have your own branding to consider. So why diversify from the original path you’ve chosen?

In my case, it was more a matter of career survival than choice. We didn’t have the publishing options present today when I made the switch from romance to mystery and back again to romance. If I wanted to keep my career alive, I had to write what would sell. Besides, I found that writing too many books in one genre makes me restless. I get the urge to do something totally different, and this switchover helps to keep my writing fresh. If I write so many mysteries in a row that I can’t come up with another single motive, then it’s time for a change.

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My mysteries are grounded, logical, easily researchable in my surroundings. In contrast, my romances might proceed in a logical manner but they include wild adventures, scenes of passion, and imaginative forays into scifi and fantasy realms. I can let loose in these novels in a manner that’s not possible in a modern day mystery.

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So how do you brand yourself when you write in different genres? By sticking to your core story. My readers know to expect fast-paced action, suspense, and mystery. There won’t be anything truly horrifying happening in my books or any favorite characters killed off. Humor is always a part of my books and so is romance. And I like to write a meaty story, not mere fluff. Even my romances have complex plots.

Is there hope for cross-readership? Of course there is, but I know my most vocal readers want me to write more mysteries. This feedback matters a great deal to me. So perhaps I’ll offer a second mystery series once I have time. The best part of publishing today is having options.

Even though some seasoned authors might advise you to stick to your brand and continue writing the same types of stories to build your readership, I say that once you have a few books under your belt, write the book of your heart. It’ll refresh you, lift your spirits, and diversify your repertoire. However, don’t lose sight of your loyal readers and continue to produce the stories they request. Be responsive and grateful for feedback. But above all, love what you write.

Do you feel it's best to stick to one genre to build your brand or to diversify?

18 comments:

  1. Nancy,
    I write mysteries, novels for kids, and the occasional romantic suspense. Maybe it's because I'm a Gemini, but I enjoy the change of pace and plotting requirements of the various three genres. Like you, I write under the same name -- my name -- for all my books. My only brand is that of creating intriguing stories for my readers, regardless of the genre and the age of my readers.

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    1. You're certainly versatile, Marilyn, as well as successful at what you do.

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  2. Writing more than one genre has its challenges. I'm venturing into a 3rd one now, after my thrillers & young adult books. The way I keep them all related, so my readers know what to expect from me, is my stories are mostly suspenseful crime fiction.

    The big thing isn't the writing as much as it is reinventing your promo platforms across social media & online. That can get expensive and time consuming, especially if an author has more than one pen name.

    What you've done, and spelled out here well, is your one name with a cohesive brand. That can work well. Thanks, Nancy.

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    1. I forgot to mention how my website deals with this split personality, but you reminded me Jordan. As an author, I brand myself as a Florida writer. Thus bright, tropical colors depict my brand. All of my mysteries take place in Florida, and my Drift Lords series has scenes there as well. I also have a logo that has a lipstick blot under a magnifying glass. We need to carry our brand across the board. In your case, you can highlight the suspense aspect.

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    2. Exactly. Crossing from adult books to YA has been challenging as a different market. Ways to use social media are different too, but it's been fun to learn new things. Something to think about. Your post generates ideas & things to consider.

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  3. One of the great benefits of self-publishing is that you can try new things and see what works, what you like, what readers like. And sometimes you can write just for the love of it.

    There really is something to feeding your own writer's soul, and now we have ways to do more of it.

    Carpe typem!

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    1. Yes, we certainly have many more options. Now it's possible to publish anything, once we get the proper editing, formatting, etc. Due process shouldn't be overlooked. A work still has to be the best it can be.

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  4. My existing works are all thrillers of a military/espionage bent. But after a chat with my agent I will likely be delving into a YA version of the current adult series. Additionally, I am considering taking a lot of the various characters I've developed right here at TKZ and make an attempt at a Pratchettesque sci-fi/comic/fantasy to see where that might go.

    Time of course is my enemy. Presently it takes me more than 18 months per book, don't know if I can keep up with the new series and get these others started as well. But...well...diving in any way.

    hope this floaty vest thing works

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    1. Sounds exciting, Basil. Time is the limiting factor. So is reader demand for "Write More, Write Faster." One has to stick to one's own pace without yielding to this pressure.

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  5. Multi-genre is my biggest fear, but that's actually the advice my agent gave me. She felt it would give her more options to work with. I felt like it gave me the freedom to tell more stories, but made marketing a nightmare. The common thread is strong family dynamics, but that's hardly something to build a platform on. It's been interesting...

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    1. I don't see why you can't build a platform on strong family dynamics. Look at Debbie Macomber's books based on a small town about relationships and now on TV as Cedar Cove.

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    2. But mine are all different people, different families, different towns. I have been working on the relationship angle, but it's slow going. (Of course, I have no way of knowing what the growth rate would be if I was a single-genre author, so I can't really say it's been a detriment, either.)

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    3. Readers love series. Maybe you should think about doing a continuity series. Different people, same town. Or one big extended family with secrets and surprises. You could even mix in different genre elements, as long as you have a linking factor.

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    4. One of my projects is a series, and I like the direction it's going. It still makes it hard to link the other genres in, though. Thanks for the advice. It's something to think about.

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  7. Currently, I write Romantic Suspense, but I'm looking forward to finishing a historical Regency so I found this article and the comments very interesting.

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    1. It'll be a different ballgame writing historicals instead of contemporary novels, but those are both still within the romance genre. Nonetheless, your marketing may have to be directed at different audiences.

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  8. I currently write and publish supernatural thrillers. When I started writing seriously for publication in 2006, it was in the light-hearted fantasy genre. That first series (two books written so far) is still dear to my heart and I have vowed that I will publish it one day. I am still debating using a different pen name though!

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