Monday, August 9, 2010

Writing More Than One Genre

QUESTION: My first novel was science fiction romance, and I'm trying to sell it right now, but I've got this great idea for an urban fantasy. Should I change genres?

First, are you reading both genres? If you're not reading a genre widely, you shouldn't be writing it. That clever idea may be a dead cliche, and you won't know it if you aren't reading what's being sold.

If you are reading both, here's the rest of the answer.

Realistically, most of us don't sell our first book or our second so trying out different genres will help you find your strengths as a writer as well as your weaknesses.

Having a second genre we're good at also leaves us less a victim of the shifts in trends. For example, many historical romance authors who couldn't write anything else lost their careers when the market shifted away from historicals.

From a professional perspective, the advantage of writing the second novel in a different genre or subgenre is that you can market both books at the same time to different editors. Selling a book is sloooooow.

However, the difficulty with being a published author who wanders genres is that you tend to lose fan base every time you switch, and you have the double effort of attracting new fans in that new genre.

Many editors and agents don't want an author who keeps flitting among genre because they are harder to sell successfully.

A successful author, these days, builds their fan base with each new book and builds their income by selling their new fans the back list. This is particularly true for those who write a series or who publish with small press and epublishers.

The authors who successfully write in different genres start in one genre, build a strong fan base with five to seven books then start a second kind of book. They do a book in each genre once a year.

As examples, think Charlaine Harris with her Sookie Stackhouse novels and her GRAVE series, Jim Butcher with DRESDEN FILES and his traditional fantasies, or Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle with her Arcane novels in the past, present, and far future.

These authors' book series aren't drastically different, either. Many readers are comfortable reading urban fantasy and straight fantasy, or contemporary paranormal mystery and urban fantasy with strong mystery elements so both types of books keep the same core fan base.

SCHEDULE NOTE: My apology that today's blog was late, but I'm dealing with a family emergency. Wednesday's link collection may be late, as well.

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