Blogger: Mary Keeley
This has been a puzzling week. Conversations with authors revealed that a few of them were brainstorming new book ideas in a different genre. Tremors in the industry or the feeling of being stuck may have precipitated an impulsive turn of direction, but what they need most is a dollop of genre glue.
Dollop. I like that word. It’s a friendly word for a reminder conversation about a writing career basic. I recall it wasn’t long ago that we blogged here about the importance of choosing the right genre for you and then sticking with it. But as I thought about why the urge might sprout in more than a few minds at this time, several rationales registered, which yielded understanding.
The genre in which the author writes is temporarily not in demand by publishers. For example, many publishers over acquired historical romance a couple of years ago, when it was the most popular genre in fiction. All of a sudden publishers stopped offering contracts on all but a few of the most outstanding books by authors they didn’t want to risk losing to another publisher.
The genre in which the author writes is out of cycle. A popular book in another genre tantalized readers as they became satiated with the current genre, and soon a migration begins to the next most popular genre. There are more layers involved, but you get the general idea. Consequently, mid-list and unpublished authors, on hold until the cycle comes full circle to their genre, are eager to publish and consider jumping to the current popular genre. Of course, by the time they have reinvented their voice and style, written and perfected their book in the new genre, the cycle has rotated yet again. When the cycle suddenly comes full circle to their original genre, the author doesn’t have a novel ready, and his or her followers and readers tire of waiting and move on to another author in that genre.
Happenings within the industry. Prompted by the recent announcement of Family Christian Stores filing Chapter 11, the authors I conversed with may have been thinking about changes that could make their work more marketable. Janet Grant’s blog post here and Dan Balow’s post here are both real and grounding responses to the FCS turn of events.
Readers first choose a genre they like to read, and then they choose books by authors whose stories and style they like or whose nonfiction approach to topics they resonate with in that genre. A client told me about author, Charles Finch. Because the client has enjoyed his Charles Lenox mystery series, purchase of his latest book, The Last Enchantments was automatic. The client hated the book and in reading its reviews discovered other Finch readers expressed similar reactions. Finch’s latest book is in a different genre and is written in a different style. No doubt he will lose a significant number of his faithful readers. This goes to show how difficult and widespread the consequences can be in switching genres, even for accomplished authors. Some authors have managed to do it, but the chance of success is slim. Remember when Michael Jordan switched from playing basketball to playing baseball? That didn’t work so well for him either, and he had some tarnish to wear off his glowing career when he returned to basketball.
Recommended remedy: Apply a dollop of genre glue while on hold and work hard to have a near-perfect manuscript ready when the demand and the cycle come around to your genre again.
Writers need to give due diligence in identifying the one genre your voice, style, interest, and passion fit best. This is difficult for some who have creative ideas for several genres. But practical business reasons, if no other, necessitate that authors choose to focus on one genre long-term and grow your audience by building relationships with readers. More and more, the size of a loyal following of book-buying readers makes the difference in whether or not a publication-ready manuscript gets a contract. The author’s agent or good critique partners, for those who aren’t yet agented, are his or her best friends when they remind the author switching genres means starting over.
How did you go about deciding which genre is right for you? Can you think of another author who wasn’t successful in switching genres? If you know about an author who did switch genres without serious repercussions, how did the author accomplish it and what was the publishing climate at the time?
Authors, apply a dollop of genre glue to stay the course in a time of industry upheaval. Click to Tweet.