Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Multiple Genre Factor

For those of you writing multiple genres, I thought I’d share something bestselling author Allison Brennan told me. Pick one genre and go with it. That doesn’t mean you can’t eventually write another genre, but complications come up if you try to do more than one before you’re published.

-You may waste time writing in a genre that doesn’t actually suit your style, when you could focus on the one that does and get published.
-Acquiring an agent who’ll represent more than one genre can be a challenge. (See what agent Jessica Faust has to say on multiple genres.)
- There may be a long wait for your next contemporary romance to come out while you work on a historical (assuming you’re writing a book a year). Will your readers remember you by the time your next book in the genre they read comes out?
-You may have to keep track of two careers if you decide to write the second genre under a pen name. Imagine your publisher(s) expecting you to write more than one book per genre per year. Can you do it?
- Your publisher may not like the idea.

That’s what happened to Allison Brennan. She’d wanted to expand from her usual genre to paranormal. For years her publisher wouldn’t allow her to write anything but romantic suspense. After all, that’s what the publishing house bought and what made her famous. However, the editor has finally given her the okay as long as she produces two romantic suspense novels and one paranormal a year. Wow! That’s a lot of writing. I wonder if she’ll feel it’s worth it in the end.

It’s all about branding, folks. These days, getting published and staying published is difficult. Publishers are dropping midlist authors more than before. As much as I’d like to write paranormal romantic suspense (non-creature type), I think I’ll wait. Building my name as a dark romantic suspense writer is my priority at the moment.

What are your thoughts on the whole multiple genre subject?


  1. Wow! That is a lot of writing. But if one needs to write in more than one, then I think they should go for it--with their eyes open, of course. I think that writing in more than one genre presents its own difficulties, but publishing is simply a difficult business. Fortunately for me, I pretty much stick to one. :D

  2. This is true in other art expressions as well. An artist/painter friend of mine said she was told the same thing. To find her "brand", might be "trees" and paint only trees. She doesn't like that confinement. But, how do you make a name for yourself, be recognized for your "voice" without branding? Words to ponder. Excellent post. At first I thought, well, you're the mother of multiples, why not be a writer of multiple genres?

    I write YA historical fiction, and personal essays about life and parenting. A variety, but in different publishing worlds.

  3. I write what appeals to me and some of it falls into contemporary romance while others fall into women's fiction and chick lit. To me the three are very similar. But my chick lit would still be great of the romance was removed and my romance, obviously would not work if I took out the romantic stuff. From what I've learned so far, most agents that represent women's fiction also represent romance.

    I can see how this would be a problem for writers who want to be published in completely different genres.

  4. I stay within the confines of children's stories most of the time, but I have dabbled in picture books. Your post made me think about what I'd want to be writing in multiples.

  5. Interesting topic and you've made some very valid points to think about when starting a novel of a different genre. I guess I'll stick to contemporary fiction - at least for now.

  6. I have written a manuscript and dont believe it is multi-genre but it may qualify. I dont intend to write like that but if the writing satisfies multiple genres, great.

  7. Danyelle: Not only is that a lot of writing, but think of the editing and marketing she has to do during that year as well.

    Mary: That's interesting to hear other artists are going through the same thing.

    Stephanie: I think it really depends on your publisher. That's why I'm going to wait until I have one before I write anything other than dark romantic suspense.

    Catherine: Glad I made ya think about it. You never know what could come out of these types of discussions.

    Jane: Sounds like a good plan, Jane.

    Jenny: I wasn't talking about cross-genre, which is when you have more than one genre in a particular book. That's a whole other issue. Muliple genres is when you write more than one book. For example, you might write a historical for your first book and then YA for your second, maybe even a thriller for your third. I wish it was as simple as being a great story that'll sell no matter what because it's so great. Sure, that happens, but I've heard a lot of stories about wonderfully written books that don't sell simply because the publisher doesn't know how to market them.

    Lynnette Labelle

  8. Some very good thoughts here. I guess it depends on what the writer wants. If they want to publish and continue to publish maybe sticking to the one genre is better. If they are writing because they want to tell the stories inside of them, then they should go for it but be aware of some of the problems you have mentioned so that they can work at overcoming them.
    Thanks for sharing this post.

  9. Michael Stearns gave the same advice in a fabulous post on Upstart Crow.

  10. This is something I've really struggled with. I've written several posts on my multiple novel personality disorder. It's times like this that I'm grateful to be unpublished, because I'm still learning where my strengths lie, and I know that one of these days I'll find my niche. However, I'm only querying agents who represent a variety of books so that I can have the same agent for whatever I put out.

  11. Oh, I don't know. I think it all depends on where you are coming from as a writer. Epic/High Fantasy is a hard sell right now for a new author, whereas Urban Fantasy may be a better place to hedge my bets--good thing I have novels in both categories. I appreciate your post and agree that there are difficulties perhaps for an author who is already published, but for those who aren't, well, there may be some benefits. I write what I do because the stories don't give me much choice. My preference is Epic Fantasy, but lately other things have occurred to me. Issac Asimov, Stephen King and a myriad of others have bridged the gap just fine. I don't think we should cut ourselves short just because marketing might be hard or a publisher might be finicky. I realize this is a business, but it's a passion first and foremost and I don't think we should ever forget that.

    Great blog by the way!