Genre Hopping: A Pro/Con List
Writers spent a lot of time in their heads. This might seem like an obvious statement, but it is no less important. Because while lost in those thoughts, many different ideas surface for many different kinds of books. Now, maybe this isn't for all writers. Maybe you’re sci-fi author and every budding book idea takes place within your genre. But if you are anything like me, your ideas run the gamut. One morning I might wake up having dreamt about writing an epic fantasy novel. But by that same afternoon, the story of the contemporary woman stuck in a haunted house might be consuming my thoughts.Hopping genres can many times be viewed as a no-no. And we authors are faced with the challenge: do we follow our Muses wherever they may lead us? Or do we follow industry advice and stick to the genre our readers expect?
Now I think it's important to point out that this biased against genre hopping is fading more and more these days. It is way more acceptable now to write within new genres than it was before. I know that I as a reader will follow an author that I love into whatever worlds she or he wants to take me in. Especially in romance writing, I believe that genre hopping is less taboo.
In my short time as an author, I've bounced between writing paranormal romance, contemporary romance, erotic suspense, and soon adding to that lis—new adult. Granted, these are all still under the romance umbrella, but occasionally I've had to fight to keep using the same name for all of my books.
There are any number of reasons why an author would skip genres. For me, it was a matter of inspiration. Sometimes I just need a break from whatever world I've been writing in. For some authors, it might be a matter of diversifying, reaching new readers. For others, it may be a monetary choice. Whatever your reasons, there are pros and cons to each side.
Inspired Writing Yields Faster Results
This one’s pretty obvious. If you’re following your passion to tell a new sort of story and enjoying what you’re writing, chances are you’ll produce faster. And this inspired work may be your best writing yet.
Wider Reaching Readership
Switching from erotic suspense to new adult is a big jump, but it’s certain to bring in a wider, newer readership. Any time you branch out into a new genre, you are likely to engage and gain new readers. The key is keeping these new readers!
Much like a stock portfolio, diversifying your assets is always smart. Genres (especially in romance) ebb and flow in popularity. If you put all your eggs in one genre basket and then that genre hits a lull, sales might take a hit. But if you've diversified and have published books in different genres (or perhaps just have them finished and ready to submit to editors and agents), then you will have other potential income generators (maybe even in a genre that’s taking off!).
Keeping it Fresh
Creativity is a tool. And like any tool, you need to keep them sharpened, clean, and active so that they don’t rust out. By writing various genres, we are working out different areas of our brain and creativity. New ideas and new genres can keep us fresh and even enhance, influence, and inspire other stories.
Spreading Yourself Too Thin
By bouncing around too much, agents, publishers, readers, and industry folks might view you as flighty. Particularly if you’re not balancing the more strenuous writing schedule well and not meeting your deadlines.
Potential to Alienate Your Readers
I think this is one of my personal fears. So far, my readers have been amazing. They read the descriptions of the books I’m writing and if something’s not their cup of tea, they don’t (seem to) hold it against me. However, there is the potential for readers to pick up one of your books expecting a fast paced erotic thriller only to find a small town romance and be wildly disappointed—or even feel betrayed (particularly in romance when switching the heat levels of your sex scenes).
One easy work around for this is writing under a different name. Many, many authors choose this route when writing something vastly different than their known genre—JK Rowling, Nora Roberts, Sophia Kinsella, to name a few.
This one goes hand in hand with spreading yourself too thin. The thing about writing is, when you do it successfully, you should be creating more of a demand for your writing within that genre. And if you’re now writing in four different genres, especially if you write series genre like I do, you need to be able to sustain a schedule of delivery for each genre so not to lose or disappoint your loyal readers.
So, to wrap this all up, genre hopping is great for some people. I tend to be most productive when I’m writing two stories at once. But not everyone can do that. The key is to really keep readers in mind. If you have been writing erotica but you have a great idea for a young adult book? I still think you should write it…. but perhaps new branding or a new pseudonym is in order because of the age difference in readers.
Write on and enjoy! Maybe I’ll see you soon in Regency England or in a futuristic post-apocalyptic society soon!
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Katana Collins is lucky enough to love her day job almost as much as she loves writing. She splits her time evenly between photographing boudoir and newborn portraits and writing steamy romances in a variety of genres -- paranormal, contemporary, new adult and suspense.
She bounces between living in New York and Portland, Maine, with an ever-growing brood of rescue animals: a kind of mean cat, a very mellow chihuahua, and a very not mellow lab puppy... oh yeah, there's a husband somewhere in that mix, too. She can usually be found hunched over her laptop in a cafe, guzzling gallons of coffee, and wearing fabulous (albeit sometimes impractical) shoes.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @katanacollins