Genre-Locked?

tangledSomeone in a Facebook group asked if they were stuck with one genre. They didn’t want to be; they wanted to write a little bit of everything. I could relate.

I remember moaning about that a few years back. My first release was a rodeo romance, the next a contemporary women’s fiction, and the one after, a conspiracy theory. Then I went back to the ranch and wrote another women’s fiction. The two rodeo/ranching/cowboy books do better than all the others combined. So, when someone asks me whether it’s best to remain in one genre, my answer is yes. It’s a business decision, not an artistic one.

But if you really want to branch out and write in other genres, here are some tips.

Go ahead and write what you want

This provides the most freedom and the least amount of return, especially if your genres are wildly different. We authors hang out together so much that we forget there are people out there who just want to read and aren’t particularly interested in the writing process. They have their preferred genres and some of them never read beyond those genres. If you start with a gritty mystery, then shift to sacchriny romance, they aren’t likely to follow you. Each book is on its own to grab a following. Oh, you’ll have your core of people who read everything you write because they know you and love you, but you’ll be slow to expand.

Brand yourself

This is something all of us should do a certain extent: become so well known as a person that we don’t need to worry about the products we put out. There are people, aside from outright celebrities, who have done this successfully. K.M. Weiland and Joanna Penn come to mind. They work tirelessly to provide information to other writers and have built up a reputation and following based on their work outside their publications.

If you have something you can capitalize on, some information, hobby, whatever, that others would find interesting, center on that. Edie Melson reaches out to military families. Because she has sent a loved one off to war, she knows what it’s like, and she knows how to encourage others facing the same experience. Periodically, she can toss out “Hey, I have a book releasing soon. You interested?” to tons of people who have grown to love her through her because of the service/encouragement she provides to them.

Develop a pseudonym

And I used “develop” on purpose. Unless you intend to let everyone know you and your pseudonym are the same person, you have to develop your alter-ego and gain a following for both of your selves. If you’re a type A personality, you can do this.

How far do you want to carry this idea? Do you want separate websites? Separate social media pages? Writers and friends and die-hard fans who investigate their faves like groupie subscribers to People Magazine will know the two names belong to you, but do you want to develop an illusion for the rest of your readers? Can you put out enough books per year to keep followers of each of your personas happy?

Have a common theme through similar genres

Give the Lady a Ride and The Final Ride are the only examples I can provide of my own work, and I’m not sure they count since they’re part of the Circle Bar Ranch series, but I’ll use them for now. One’s romance and the other is women’s fiction. They have in common ranch, rodeo, cowboys, and Texas. Readers who love these elements don’t care if the two books are different genres. The next one, Ride to the Altar will be a mystery of sorts. Since it’s in the same series, it should keep at least the readers the series has gathered so far.

Kathleen Y’Barbo writes romance, but some of it is historical and some is contemporary. Francine Rivers writes historical, contemporary, and contemporary women’s fiction. Her common thread is her actual genre: Christian fiction. Her faith is steeped and obvious in everything she writes. Pull out the thread of Christianity, and her story unravels.

Perhaps you’re a nut about airplanes and intend to use them in every novel. Why not? As long as they’re a commanding part of your setting, like the ranch is in mine, you can write historical, contemporary, mystery, romance—all of which could be centered on flying.

Keep your novels in one genre, but play in other avenues

Novels are only one way to get your stories out there. Magazines, contests, collections, all these can fulfill your need to write something other than your norm. My short story, Slider, is a pre-WWII historical pertaining to a baseball star who became a railroad tramp. It is published in Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction 2016 anthology, but it started out as a contest entry. Skydiving to Love is a plain ol’ contemporary romance, as are all the stories in The Bucket List Dare collection. My next release, Kayla’s Challenge (which comes out later this spring in the Coming Home collection) is a contemporary woman’s fiction, serving as the prequel to my next ranch/rodeo/cowboy romance series, Southern Challenge.

If you stay in one genre, are you locked forever?

Not necessarily, though some shifts are easier than others. For instance, someday I’d like to become a mystery writer. Mystery is my favorite genre, and I’ve tried to write it before but failed miserably. Still, I intend to try again.

So, here we go: right now, I write romance. I can toss a little mystery into the next romance novel I write making it a mystery-romance mashup; then the following novel could be a cozy mystery with no romance involved; then I’d follow with a regular mystery. Once I’ve done that, I could follow with suspense or thriller if I’d like.

I’d also like to try my hand at historical. Shifting from contemporary women’s fiction to historical women’s fiction is a matter of researching the era. Once I land in the genre I can write any historical piece I want.

I wouldn’t be locked in my new genre since I’ve already developed a readership in my old one. Some of those readers will follow me to mystery, but I can still write romance. In fact, I can write romance, mystery-romance, cozy mystery, and mystery, and be known in all of them, if I continue to produce a novel in each category, because I’ve developed a readership in each over time.

What do you write? What do you want to write? Can you find a natural progression from where you are to where you want to go? You can choose the slower route—progression—or you can follow any of the other avenues to becoming a multi-genre writer.

However, true wisdom is making the business decision to stay in one genre for a while. If you want to go the traditional route, it helps you get published. But if you’re going indie, then—believe me—it’s fun to watch those numbers climb when you stick to one genre and grow your reputation as a writer.

Whatever you decide, keep writing!

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in The Business, write tips, Writing, Writing Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Genre-Locked?

  1. Sally Shupe says:

    Love this post! I have written (I am not published yet however) three or four short stories that are a mix between Nancy Drew and Goosebumps. I wrote them when the kids were little. I’ve also written a few Christian romance stories. But the one I am most excited about? The one I am about to start. I love the SyFy abnormal animals movies. I’m going to try my hand at writing one. We’ll see what happens lol! When will Ride to the Altar be out?

    Like

    • Your short stories sound so fun! Maybe you should publish them, too!

      Ride to the Altar is supposed to come out in June, but I’m not betting on it unless things settle down a bit. As much as I preach about sitting down and writing, I haven’t done so yet. At least not on that one. After I finish the edits on Kayla’s Challenge, though, I hope to sequester myself every afternoon until Ride to the Altar is done!

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  2. If I like an author, I will generally read any book they publish regardless of the genre if I find the premise interesting. Then, I am an eclectic reader. 😉

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  3. Yeah, as you know, I’ve never bothered about genre. I write what I want, then figure out where it fits. It’s definitely not the best marketing approach in the world, but I’d rather be a happy writer than a rich one. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It works for you!

      Like

    • Kim Ralls says:

      I was always told “write the stories you want to read”. This has been my modus operandi ever since I started writing. My main genre is fantasy, but I have an idea for a romance story set in the real world. Do I keep it to myself because no one wants to read a

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      • Kim Ralls says:

        *whoops! Hit reply by accident*

        contemporary romance story written by someone who specialises in his own, made-up worlds?

        My answer is that if the story is strong enough, put it out and see what happens.

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        • Absolutely. Put it out there. Staying with one genre is a *business* decision. I believe you’ll find if you put out one romance, then return to your beloved fantasy, your romance won’t garner much attention. The sales won’t be as high as the books you write in the genre you’re better known for.

          For instance, John Grisham is very well known for his legal thrillers, but he also writes books that have nothing to do with the law, nor are they thrillers: Playing for Pizza, Skipping Christmas, etc. Those books don’t do as well as his legal thrillers, which are his bread and butter. He established himself as a thriller author before playing around in other genres.

          So it all depends on how you view your writing. If you write simply because you love to, then you’ll be fine. If you’re hoping to make a career of it, then the best *business* decision is to build up a readership, which will crank up sales, which will feed your bank account, *before* you delve into other genres. Does that make sense?

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          • Kim Ralls says:

            Makes perfect sense. I’m writing as someone who’s not had anything published yet, so in a way I’ve still got a licence to

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            • Kim Ralls says:

              *did it again!*
              experiment because I don’t have a readership that expects me to go one way or another (I don’t have a readership, full stop! 🙂 )

              That said, I do wonder about taking the Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks route with regards to writing in different genres. Yes, I love writing fantasy and working on my own imagined worlds, but sometimes it’s nice to come back to earth (if you’ll pardon the expression).

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  4. I straddle genres. Carefully but I straddle them.

    My Romance has a strong dose of Thriller in it and successfully drives the reader the same way a good Thriller does. It seems to have the right parts of both and allowed me to include things that normal Romance or Thriller would have tossed out the door as not part of the genre.

    My friend who writes Romance said “I don’t understand how you got away with those parts. They would hammer me into the ground if I did that.” Yeah, they would but they expect her to deliver what she writes: Romance.

    It’s a knife edge and you have to be careful when walking it. IF done right, you can pull in both genre readers. That book hit the mark. Hopefully on the next I will also.
    It worked well enough they nag for a sequel.

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    • Sounds like a successful mash-up. Romance follows a particular formula: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, happily-ever-after ending. Thrillers start with the event that kicks off the chase or hunt, alter course around mid-point, then skid into a gripping climax. If you start with the thriller, then thread in the romance, I can see how it could work.

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      • In my case, the first chapter is very short. It’s the serial killer and the event that may have made him one. The next is the MC meeting the love interest at the Sheriff’s office and while attracted thinking it isn’t going to work [but it is apparent they are both attracted to each other] After several chapters, the serial killer gets another short one. And then eventually weaves into the plot where he becomes part of what is happening. He’s following along side my two main characters for most of the book until just before the Climax where he is no longer shadowing them but part of the book. And it becomes does the Love Interest MC love the MC enough to save the MC.

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  5. Pingback: Genre-Locked? | Linda W. Yezak | Odd Sock Proofreading & Copyediting

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