Monday, 16 January 2017

Why I fail to choose and stick to a genre

Beginner authors are commonly advised to choose a genre and stick to it, as part of building their brand. From a commercial point of view this makes excellent sense, as the readers grow to associate a name with a genre and know exactly what to expect (i.e., "Nicholas Sparks = romance in small Southern towns"). If I see the name "Dan Brown" or "Stephen King" on a new title in the bookstore, I'll pick up the book almost without a second glance at the blurb, because I already know pretty much what I'm getting.

However, I kind of defy this rule - not because I find branching out to be more profitable, but because  I feel limiting myself to only one genre would make me stagnate as a writer and, ultimately, become bored with my work. To me, writing is more than a way to make a living; it is my passion, creative outlet and favorite escape, and I need variety. It's like limiting myself to watching nothing but Jane Austen film adaptations; as much as I love the genre (and, really, I am almost embarrassed to admit how many times I've watched the 1995 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility), eventually I'd find myself longing for a contemporary romantic comedy, an Alejandro Amenabar film, or even some Game of Thrones.

While I have begun as, and still primarily consider myself, a fantasy author (Quest of the Messenger trilogy and my new Middle Grade novel, A Bride for the Beast), my upcoming novel, Wild Children, belongs to the dystopian survivalist genre with a dash of sci-fi. Yet another novel, The Greenlanders: A Tale of Sea and Steel (which I am currently editing) is a speculative Viking-era historical fiction. And my newest project, The Landlord, is a paranormal/historical book flitting between modern times and  the Regency era. 

Is it optimal? Is it wise from a marketability point of view? I'm not sure; but this is who I am, and this is how I write. The world is so wide and there are so many things to explore; for me, narrowing down my choices is nearly impossible.

For some useful insight on author branding when writing in multiple genres, check out this blog post:

"The first step is figuring out what exactly does all of your work have in common?  Do they have a common audience, common themes, etc?  I always ask my clients to list at least three things all their books have in common.   At first most of them say “nothing, they are all different.”  But when pressed, they can usually find many more common traits than just three."


  1. Agreed on the boredom factor, and that's a useful blog link. I still find author branding difficult, though. When reader feedback is low, it's hard to know how they see you.

  2. Rob, I find author branding difficult too, as it always seems like over-simplifying. It's like I'm several different personalities writing entirely different things!