The PROS and CONS of Being A Multi-Genre Author

This week’s guest author is Clare Marshall, who is here to talk about her three YA books with Faery Ink Press. Clare Marshall grew up in rural Nova Scotia with very little  television and dial up internet, and yet, she turned out okay. She has  a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology from the  University of King’s College, and is a graduate from Humber College’s  Creative Book Publishing Program. She is a full-time freelance editor,  book designer, and web manager. She enjoys publishing books through  her publishing imprint, Faery Ink Press. When she’s not writing, she  enjoys playing the fiddle and making silly noises at cats. If one of the cover catches your eyes, click on it, and you’ll get more information on it. 

~L.T. Getty

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The PROS and CONS of Being A Multi-Genre Author

I never really thought of myself as a multi-genre author. Not until I was interviewed by a book blogger on the Stars In Her Eyes blog tour, when she asked about the pros and cons of writing in multiple genres. Sure, I knew that my three books are in three different genres (Within: YA Supernatural thriller, The Violet Fox: YA Fantasy, and my newest, Stars In Her Eyes: YA Sci/Fi). But I guess I identified more with being a multi-genre publisher than a multi-genre author. Such are the perils of being both the author and the publisher of your work.

 So I thought about it, and here we are. Advantages and disadvantages of being a multi-genre author-publisher, coming right up.

PRO:

 1. Planting more seeds yields more crops

 This one is pretty obvious. Not only does writing more books increase your chance of a reader stumbling upon your work, but writing more books across more genres increases this chance even more. Science fiction fans might not appreciate my slow-building supernatural thriller Within. Those who like contemporary settings might not like my detailed, magical fantasy land of Marlenia in The Violet Fox. But a person from each of these interest-groups may like part of my work, and gaining readers is always a good thing.

CON:

 1. Spreading yourself too thin = not good for the brand.

 Science fiction and fantasy tends to go hand and hand. But fantasy and westerns? Science fiction and erotica? Yes, you could argue there are some great genre-crossers that successfully pull it off, but not everyone can be a winner. Because the typical fantasy fan but not be a western fan, writing/publishing books in these two genres can be tricky when it comes to promoting the books. You don’t want to alienate half of your audience in favour of a select few.

 A lot of authors use pseudonyms–thereby establishing different “brands”–to solve this problem. But this could also double your workload: two different websites, two different facebook pages, two different twitter accounts, if you really want to keep everything separate. This may only be the case if you’re writing in genres that could conflict/cause tension with your readers (a good example: writing for children & also writing erotica).

 Take a look at the notes for the books you’d like to write. How many of them fall into the same genre? How many would appeal to what demographic? If there are some that fall into different categories/demographics, decide how you want to handle these books and their marketing. Planning ahead might save you some headaches later.

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PRO:

 2. Flexibility with Setting

 I’m a human being. I like a million different things. If I don’t feel like working on my science fiction novella? Cool, let’s work on the fantasy epic today. I have the freedom to play in a variety of story playgrounds.

 Because I write in a couple of different genres–whether together in one book, or in separate books–I have the flexibility to create my own world (like I did in The Violet Fox), set a story in a town I know well (Within is set in Halifax, Nova Scotia), or create a fantastical but realistic town in a real province (I created a university run by aliens in Alberta for the Sparkstone series). If I only wrote contemporary fiction, I would be bound by a set of rules–for example, the book would have to be set in the present day, and probably in a real town, or a realistic, fictional town.

CON:

 2. Too much flexibility leads to stagnation, or abandonment

 If you’re an unfocused writer who throws in too many themes, too many settings, too much of Genre A with Genre B, too many characters with no personality and no chemistry, you may lose your reader. Or you yourself might grow bored/tired of the project. People like to know what genre they’re reading before they read it (see below), because there are certain expectations within every genre. Reading a fantasy book? There’s probably going to be a magic system. Science fiction? It might be set in space, involve time travel, explore humanity’s place in the universe, or be set in the future, etc. Romance? Two people will fall in and/or out of love and there might even be some sexy times.

 Related: if you can’t explain to me in less than five or ten seconds what your book is about–either through comparison to something else, or in a snappy one-liner, it’s going to be hard to sell this to your readers, or a publishing house.

 By branding yourself as a multi-genre author, you are opening many doors at once. And if you’re not disciplined with your writing schedule, and your publishing plans, and your marketing strategy, you might end up spinning in circles and not going through any doors.

PRO:

3. I can write cross-genre stories!

 I canz has a queen and her court on a moon base with zombie-creature attacks? Yes, I canz! (See my serial, Faces In The Mist (http://www.faeryinkpress.com/fiction/faces-in-the-mist)).

 If I want to write a time travelling story for teens, I can do that. My science fiction and fantasy readers will love that. Make it thrilling, and my horror/thriller fans might appreciate it too. Like I stated above, not all cross-genre combinations are winners, but they can spark the imagination of the reader.

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 CON:

3. Cross-genre books are hard to market

 Story time. My first book, Within, was an odd first book for Faery Ink Press to publish. It just barely fits with the spirit of Faery Ink Press. It’s not a science fiction novel, it’s not fantasy, and the horror/thriller part starts towards the middle. So when I started submitting the book to book bloggers and talking about it, I was pitching it as a supernatural, somewhat-fantastical thriller–but I was sending it to paranormal romance bloggers. Yes, there’s a romance that’s central to the plot, and it’s got a supernatural angle, but it’s a weird triangle that typical paranormal romance fans aren’t looking for.

 So when readers started posting their reviews, I got a lot of three stars, and quotes like, “Well, I didn’t not like it, it was well written, but I don’t think this is really my kind of story.” Three star reviews are actually the most useful to you because they are the reviews that give both the pros and cons about the book–and you can use this information to make your book marketing more productive.

 On the anniversary tour for Within, I got better reviews because I specifically stated in my request for reviews that a) The plot is slow to build b) the romance is atypical and c) the supernatural portion is subtle and more Stephen-King-esque and d) there are POVs that are teen and adult. Because I was more upfront about what the book was about, and who it might appeal to, it better attracted the right kind of readers to the work.

Conclusion:

 A lot of the problems with writing in multiple genres–or writing cross-genre stuff–lies in the marketing. If you don’t know how to explain to your potential readers what kind of stuff you write, you’re gonna have a hard time getting people to read your work. But I firmly believe that if you make a plan–recognize the challenges of what you’re getting into and come up with some solutions–you will have success. Will the success come easy? No. Publishing is an uphill battle. You have to fight everyday to make yourself noticed. Writing in multiple genres is just another layer in the never-ending struggle to be recognized for your work.

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