"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Genre Surfing Acceptable?

Genre Surfing – Reading and/or writing in a variety of genres.
If you are like me you read in a variety of genres, perhaps even write in a variety of genres, but is it smart to publish in a wide range as well?
There is a difference of opinions on this topic. First, you have to assume you can even be published in all of those genres for the arguments to become a consideration. Some agents and publisher will tell you it is a strict “no-no” and to stick with one genre to build a fan base, otherwise you’ll lose them. Others will tell you the best way to build that fan base is with variety.
Recent questions I’ve been asked about genre surfing:

1) If the first manuscript you sell is a certain genre, can you then switch to another? Or, is that like being a debut author all over again?

2) How does your agent feel? Does he/she specialize in a particular genre? If so, is it acceptable to have more than one agent?

3) Would your agent/publisher prefer you stick to one genre or "what works?"

4) If you write in different genres, do you use different pen names/pseudonyms?

These questions are all vital so I open the floor for discussion.

Do you write in a variety of genres? If so, what have your experiences been? What are your thoughts on the subject?


Rob-bear said...

Hmmmm. Interesting question.
There might even be some of us who write both fiction and non-fiction. That's a fair spread.
If so, is there any difference in the questions?

Unknown said...

Provocative post. I've only been published in erotica, but I have other stories out there in a variety of genres. I write everything under my own name and intend to keep it that way. Writing what I want as inspiration and ideas strike me is very important. That may not be the soundest business advice for a writer, but there you go. I also prefer to keep my own name on everything for simplicity.

Benjamin Andrews said...

I agree that you need to build a fan base, but that doesn't have to stop a writer from pursuing multiple genres. It's possible genre surfing could detract from possible success in a jack-of-all -trades kind of way. Yet if you keep your hand in each market, you could also grow an enormous fan base. Like writers, readers aren't always into only one genre. You may not find success if you drop a book in ten different markets, or you might get lucky, or talent win out in the end, or however it happens. There are no guarantees in the writing game, and that's part of what makes it so exciting. You never know what is going to work for any given writer. Back on topic though, I guess it really comes down to how well you can write in each genre, and if you can find what you need in multiple markets simultaneously.

Wonderful post Sylvia!

shelly said...

I stick w/ my paranormal/creepy/humorous stuff that's what I do. Personally, I've tried to write inspirational but I flop at it. Guess I've got too much creepy in me.

For me, it's wise to stick with one genre. But anythings possible, right?

Halli Gomez said...

At the conference I attended this weekend I heard a similar question asked. The agent - specializing in children's books - said that she has clients that write in different genres, one of which writes stuff a little more racy and isn't appropriate for children. Her suggestion to him is that he have different websites and not to mention the different genres on the websites. Of course people will find out, but she just didn't want to have that link there.

Jenny Milchman said...

It just doesn't come up for me as the books I write really do seem to be united--my publisher is calling my first a literary thriller, literary suspense has also been used.

I think that if an author has a strong enough voice, the reader may be willing to follow--whether the publisher agrees that the reader will is another story.

I also think that using a pen name, at least while an author works to establish herself, can be a good strategy.

But basically I think readers are probably more open and flexible than marketing departments may have them.

Angela said...

I DO write in a variety of genres, but since I don't have an agent and have yet to officially publish anything, I don't have to worry about it.

Hey, I guess there are advantages to not having an agent.

Unknown said...

I don't write in "genres", and that sometimes makes it difficult for me to persuade people to read and review my book. Genres are too constricting, and often very hard to define.

Southpaw said...

Great topic. I would think it best if new author's stick to one genre until there fan base is solid - unless they use different pseudonyms.

Sylvia Ney said...

Thanks for the great comments all. My gut tells me to write what I want and either it will sell or it won't, but I know if you sign with a publisher or agent, they have their own set of stipulations. I'd really love to hear from one of them!

Collette said...

My honest opinion would be to base your decision on the genre you are planning to write for. If the genre's are not too different, you may just want to keep your name. However, if you're going from say romance to horror, you may want to use a pen name to distinguish yourself in the new genre. Does that make sense? LOL

Jessica Ferguson said...

Good question: Speaking as a reader, I don't follow my favorite authors just anywhere and everywhere. I have one who writes some pretty rough suspense, more graphic than I like to read but she's such a good storyteller, I can't resist picking up her mainstream books. She recently started writing more romancy stuff. I'm not interested. I don't have a problem with fiction writers writing nonfiction because most of us are going to have to write NF simply to promote our fiction. I would advise any writer to write from their heart and their gut. If we start focussing on 'the market' we're going to drive ouselves NUTS!

anthony stemke said...

Thank You for this very thought provoking post.
The writer writes what they feel they need to write, if the genres differ, the market will determine whether it is a good idea or not.
My spouse, the education tipster, wrote childrens books with an emphasis on learning activities but now is working on a historical fiction YA novel. It is a story she wants to tell. Perhaps a different publisher will be needed.
Regardless, I think the writer should pursue what they feel is the right thing.
Thank You.

Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep
Trouble on Earth Day
Author Kathy Stemke (my spouse)

KM Nalle said...

Sylvia - I say right what's in your heart at the moment. If it switches genres so be it. Keeps the words flowing and the creativity moving. Of course, I'm not published so I have the luxury of saying that.

Lorelei Bell said...

Thought provoking post, Sylvia.
I enjoy the fantasy the most, but there's so many sub-genres in this I just wonder if it makes any difference? I also know that if you are a big enough name it won't matter.

I'm considering doing something with mystery, but adding a paranormal touch with it--mainly because I just can't get away from the fantasy. I also want to do something in YA--but also with a fantasy touch. I'm not sure if I'm spreading myself thin, or if with being so varied and be better off having hit a wider audience. I don't know. all I do know is I write what's inside me at the time. Let fate take it.