Friday, August 3, 2012

Can an author write in more than one genre?

 One of my readers and blog followers asked me that question and it got me to thinking about a buzz word that's been going around the publishing industry the past few years. "Author Branding"   Ever since books have gone electronic and social medias have opened the door for more personal communication between an author and her readers, publishers have been scrambling to figure out the best way to market their author's books.  Gone are the days when a reader had to drive down to the local book store and scan the shelves for his or her next book to read. Now, all one has to do is go online to one of the numerous sites that list more books than any store could hold. Not only that but there are plenty of reviews from other customers, endorsements, and even links to the authors website, blog, facebook page, etc.. where a reader can have a one on one conversation with an author. It's truly amazing!

When I submitted my first novel in 2005, very few authors even had websites, let alone blogs. And Facebook and Twitter hadn't even been invented. Now seven years later, the web has exploded with more information than a person could use in a lifetime. And so many choices!!!  How could an author compete? How could an author get noticed among the burgeoning crowd?  Although branding had been around for years, it took on a whole new importance. Branding is simply what you think of when you hear an author's name. For instance, if you hear the name, Steven King, you might immediately think spooky, scarey, bloody, gruesome, weird.. right? If you hear the name John Grisham, you might think law or legal thrillers, Nicholas Sparks might invoke sentimental romances, etc.. you get the idea.   The theory was that if an author had a solid branding, they would draw more readers and sell more books.  However if they went outside of their "brand", it was akin to being a traitor to their readers.  Lets' face it, if you are familiar with an author and their type of stories, you know what to expect when you pick up one of their books, right?  So what if you picked up a Karen Kingsbury book and the story ended up being about vampires, you might be a little upset!
I know authors who have changed their names when they switched genres just so as to not disappoint their readers! I've heard of publishers that have turned down great stories just because it didn't fit the author's brand!  But is this branding really all that important?  For instance, my brand is swashbuckling romances anchored in faith. You pretty much know that when you read my books, they are historicals, they probably have at least one scene set on the sea, they usually have a sword fight or two, roguish heros, spunky heroines and a strong faith message.  But what if one day I wanted to write a contemporary suspense about a SWAT team? ( My brother is on a SWAT team so I have lots of great info at my fingertips!)  As long as the book is plainly described as a contemporary suspense, would my readers want to read it? 

I guess what I'm asking is, do you read a certain author just because of his or her "brand"  or do you read a certain author because you like her style of writing and her stories and you really don't care what she writes??   I'm dying to know your responses!


  1. Fri Aug 3rd,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Wow ... I am probably going to be of no help to you here ... allow me to explain. Personally, I read your books because of 'your brand' -- you write about swashbuckling romances anchored with a strong message of faith ... I love that ! But ... I also read your books because I love 'your style' of writing and the stories. However, that being said ... I do care 'what' you write about.
    "If" you were to come out with a SWAT team story (for example) ... I'd still probably buy it (again, because I love your 'style' of writing) ... but ... truly, it"s the "swashbuckling romance stories anchored in faith" that really intrigue and draw me in. I guess because it's from an era gone by, a time none of us grew up in, so there is a dreamy/romantic/exciting element about it all.
    "Could" you write about a SWAT team for instance, and "might" you want to reach an entirely new audience with it ... yes, absolutely. I am not doubting your capabilities and expanding your horizons at all. I'm just struggling with getting my little brained wrapped around an entirely 'new and modern' concept ... that's all.
    But truly MaryLu ... you are the author, we all love your novels, and you can write about any brand or style you want to !
    So that is why .... I said I'd probably be of no help in answering your question. Could only answer on just how 'I see it'.
    Thanks for sharing. Something to ponder on for sure. Very interesting.
    Have a great weekend everyone.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. P.S. -- that should read: " .... my little brain wrapped around ...." (above) ....

  3. I definitely reach for a book because
    of the writing, not the genre. I
    adore historical fiction, but I have
    read historical fiction authors whose
    style I don't personally enjoy.
    I believe an author can write in any
    genre, as long as they know what
    they're talking about!

  4. Thanks MaryLu! I love your writing. I love the whole pirates/romance/history ... :) But that's not what got me reading your books. I actually came across your name somewhere (I have no idea where now), and went to your blog. And that is where you hooked me. I was so impressed with what you wrote here - with your outward, open faith - so I decided to read a book of yours. Then another, then another ... :)

    If you wrote in another genre, I would read it. Mostly because I know that you would not hold back your faith and the truth of God. And that it would shine through the story in some way and make it great! I enjoy your writing style,and your stories immensely, and would look forward to anything you wrote! :)

  5. I am accustomed to an author having a certain "brand" but I would be willing to read other genres from that author if I enjoyed their writing. I don't know about a contemporary suspense about SWAT teams, though. ;) I would read it if you wrote it, though, MaryLu!

  6. I read certain authors because I like their styles of writing. For example, Colleen Coble has switched back and forth from Historical to Contemporary. Sure they all have a little suspense flair, but mostly it's her writing that grabs me.

    I would read contemporary books written by you. (would relish it!) I think that even more than the swashbuckling, your books each have a an almost supernatural feel to them. I'm pretty sure it's part of your heart and therefore would be there in the contemporary novels as well.

    In my opinion, I think that branding is the most important to develop a good readership base. Once you have established that (as you have), I say, "go for it".

    I'd bet most of your readers would follow you to another genre. And I would guess that you would also pick up readers from the contemporary genre who never read your historical books.

    You'll never really know, till you do it. :) Go for it!! :) And count me first on the list as a reader!!!

  7. Here's how I read. I'm a historical reader. I rarely read spec or contemporary, etc.

    I prefer my historical settings to be mainland USA, England, Australia and Ocean prior to 1920 and Medieval. That's what initially draws me to look.

    If I find that you are an excellent writer in a setting I picked up, if you came out later with a WWII novel, I'd buy it unless the back cover blurb was as boring as all get-out. If you were just a decent writer the odds go down some that I'll pick you up in a setting I'm not fond of, depends on if the back cover blurb is interesting.

    But if an excellent writer were to write a contemp or a spec, her premise has to be really interesting or a subject I like. If your contemp was a marriage of Convenience or your spec was medieval-like then you'd get me, but I would judge each new contemp/spec by the standard of "is it too interesting to ignore or has a subject I like" instead of whether I liked the previous contemporary you wrote. So, your excellent writing would give you the chance to win me over in a genre I don't even look at, but it doesn't mean I'll buy your every contemp.

    So I'd follow an excellent writer in whatever history setting they want, Rome, feudal Japan, Biblical, Alaska, Belize :) AFTER they caught me in a setting I like or the amazingly interesting sounding book in a setting I don't automatically pick up. But in other genres you have to win me over like a new reader each time.

    That's how it is with Francine Rivers for me. I read all her historicals, I know she's a good writer, but only one of her contemps has interested me enough to read it, but I actually read it because her name gave me reason to look at the blurb and was interested enough to give it a shot.

    So I think brand does earn you more loyalty, I also think moving around within your genre can work because your loyal followers will run with you and you can pick up new ones who will then run around with you. If you write outside your genre, I think you shouldn't expect your reader loyalty to run with you to a very high degree, you'll have to work to gain a new audience and therefore produce more for that new audience and either drop your old one or produce twice as much to satisfy both.

    That is, if the majority of readers read like me. :)

  8. Now if your reader was already a historical and contemporary reader normally, then you probably wouldn't have any troubles.

  9. I would SO read a book by you about a SWAT team! Some authors should stick to their genre, because I think the only reason they are writers is because they have studied up so much on the period (and if they went anywhere else in time/genre their writing would should it's true lack of talent)..... But I think YOU could write in just about any genre!! And you should....because (no flatter intended, just the honest truth in my opinion),your books would be awesome no matter what.

    p.s. but don't stop writing regency, because yours are the best of that era, and it's my favorite era! :)

  10. Lisa EichelbergerAugust 3, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    I would try a contemporary from you because I know you write great stories. I'm usually drawn to historicals, but if a favorite historical author, such as yourself, branched out I would probably give their new genre a try. Well, unless it was horror. It's really the beauty of an author's writing and their writing "voice" that I makes me follow them book after book.

    BTW, I still LOVE that mermaid story idea you mentioned awhile back!

  11. I don't pay much attention to an author's brand at all. I try an author's work because one individual book sounds interesting, and if I really enjoy it, I "trust" them enough to try their other stuff. For example, I read a lot of books by Frank Peretti and Francine Rivers, because even though they write across different genres, their personal style is consistant.

  12. If I like an author's work, I will look for books written by them no matter if it's a different genre. There's something about the author that has drawn me in, so I would be interested to see how they wrote different types of books.

  13. Good question. *scratching head*
    You know, when I first started reading Christian novels, I was hooked on Frank Peretti. His spiritual warfare stories intrigued me. His recent novel 'Illusion' threw me a bit. It is totally out of his "brand". I have to admit that while I was reading it, I was a bit disappointed. I read the whole novel, because I still love his writing, yet I felt 'cheated' because it wasn't what I expected from him.
    I am happy to say that Dee Henderson's newest novel 'Full Disclosure' is staying true to her style of writing.
    This being said, just because an author chooses to try something new, it doesn't mean they should be rejected. If you've enjoyed that author's writing thus far, you will be willing to give him/her the benefit of the doubt.
    MaryLu, if you wanted to go out on a limb with a totally different style, I would still read what you write. You've yet to disappoint. The only type of books I will not read, no matter who writes it, are books about vampires. Ted Dekker went there and even though I've read all of his novels, I refuse to read that one. I won't even give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.
    Don't know if I answered your question or not. LOL

  14. Wow, ladies!! This surely triggered some great discussion! It's a really interesting topic to us authors.. how our readers feel about books and genre and writing style.. etc.. and what would disappoint some of them and what do they expect?

    Thank you all for your thoughtful responses!! And for your wonderful encouragement to me! I really appreciate it. Sounds like some of you don't mind what genre you read as long as the writing is good and it's a great story.. others. may not venture to pick up a genre they don't care for.

    Right now I'm not sure about SWAT. I thought that since I had such a great resource at my fingertips I couldn't turn it down.. but the Lord has not given me a story. I still feel the pull of history and the sea. ANd yes.. that mermaid story is starting to surface. ;-)

    Keep the comments coming.. I love hearing everyone's opinions!

  15. I love reading different genres: Colleen Coble, Dee Henderson, and Linda Chaiken's suspense/mystery, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte's classics, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Ted Dekker's fantasy, and Traci Peterson, Siri Mitchell, Laura Frantz and of course,you for historical romance. Theres a whole lot more authors on my 'fav' list, but you get the idea.

    Branding limits the audience that the author could influence. Thats very important for a Christian author, who may be able to reach people who might otherwise never hear the gospel except through their books. I hope that you DO go ahead for that mermaid story idea. I think it would be a wonderful challenge for you, and of course a good read for me! :)

  16. " you read a certain author just because of his or her "brand" or do you read a certain author because you like her style of writing and her stories and you really don't care what she writes??"

    BOTH!! My first ever Christian story was "Blue Enchantress", and I love historicals, so I was naturally drawn to it. Once I got into your "style" of writing though, I knew what I could expect from you the author, in skill & content. (not necessarily setting)

    If you wrote a story about a SWAT team I'd grab it right away!

  17. I guess I am a little of both! I read books for the genre, and for the writing. I have my little bubble of genres that I enjoy, and I typically stick to it. However, once I am introduced to a certain author, and I like their work, I would probably read a menu that they wrote, just for the simple fact it was by them!

  18. Well. I have to say for myself I read a book if I know it will be good. I think the branding is important because it causes me to pick a book up, knowing whether that author is good or not at writing. I must say though that I would love it if you wrote a contemporary novel!! Just because you can write about an era really well doesn't limit you options to just that. I read a book because I am hoping to get something out of it. If it is about the early church, medieval era, or even contemporary, it still has potential and I would read it. You just have to look at the wide diversity of books on my personal bookshelf to know what I mean. No matter what you are known for, don't be scared to step out and try something different than what your readers will expect. Besides, you will attract a larger group of readers if you lengthen your horizon.

    Good luck :)

  19. Thanks, ladies!! I appreciate your opinions. I agree that if I wrote in another genre, it would attract new readers, which is a good thing, because I see my writing as a ministry and I want people to be impacted by my books... but some of my readers would be disappointed and I hate to do that. Wish I could write faster!! Then I could do both. But it seems Branding does play a big part in an authors likeability and audience.. so maybe my publisher wasn't so crazy after all! LOL.

  20. Write wherever God leads you then it will be annointed and good no matter what.
    I believe your talent God gave you will come through.
    jrs362 at hotmail dot com

  21. Hmmmm...I read in a variety of genres. This is a good question to think about though. I would definitely pick up a book of yours if you changed time periods or genres.

  22. What an interesting question. I haven't read the other comments so this is totally my opinion. I bought your first books because of the genre and because they seemed out of the ordinary mold. From then on, I was hooked by the style and stories, and now I would probably read anything that you wrote. However I do think we are creatures of habit and usually like a certain genre more than another. A friend of mine was always talking about Dean Koontz novels and I picked one up and just thought, "Creepy!" Personally I don't like contemporary romance very much (zzzzz) or typical Civil War stuff (it's been wrung out until there's very little that's original). So sometimes I do tend to shy away from certain authors because of their "usual brand." On the other hand, other authors change genres with almost every book they write, and I don't follow them closely because I never know what to expect. It may be most effective for you as an author to keep to the same broad genre but find unique twists all the time.

  23. Wow...I'm so lost for words.
    I'm a 57 year old woman who loves to watch really good movie's like your "Surrender the Heart". All my life I never "liked" reading books. But now, I can't put them down. I find myself trying to "hurry" thru my day just so I can sit and read.
    I can't wait till your "Veil of Pearls" come out.

  24. Thank you, SquiresJ and Julia!

    Diane, I agree.. it's not a good idea to keep switching genres. Readers have certain expectations from authors they like and too much switching can cause problems. Maybe just a slight switch now and then, ;-)

    Brenda, thank you for your kind words! I really appreciate that. And Veil of Pearls just released so you should be able to find a copy somewhere!

  25. This is my first time Blogging. (I am so excited!) Can an author write in more than one genre? Why not? Instead of "Author Branding" you are being "Author Pigeon Holed."

    Since you are not feeling led to write in a different genre, "As long as the book is plainly described as a contemporary suspense, would my readers want to read it?," must be a rhetorical question. Yes, most of your readers would read a different kind of story from you. The book A Texan's Honor by Shelley Shepard Gray was so good I looked up her other books. They were all Amish! Normally I don't read those kinds, but now I do.

    The Redemption was the first book I read of yours. Frankly, I only read it because my friend wouldn't stop talking about it. The first page hooked me. Your stories made me feel I was there swaying on the ships with the wind blowing through my hair. That is a talent! Thanks for widening my horizons. wink,wink I would get bored reading the same genre all the time. This mermaid thing that keeps getting mentioned has my attention already. LOL Hope you do something with it. :) What are you working on now??

    The bottom line is the authors I follow write great stories, period.

  26. Welcome to blogging, Diana!! It's fun! I love your term "author pigeon holed" made me laugh. I'm so blessed to have such loyal readers who would read anything I write. I love that! Thank you all so much!

    The mermaid book will definitely get written. Whether or not a publisher will publish it is another story. If I can't get a contract on it, I may just self-pub it.. so eventually, it will get out there!

    As far as what I'm working on now.. it's a new trilogy called Escape to Paradise about a group of Southerners who after the civil war sail away to Brazil to start a new Southern Utopia. Book 1, Forsaken Dreams comes out in Feb 2013! (Did I say 2013? That still sounds like something out of a Sci Fi movie.) LOL

  27. I just recently started branching out my reading genre--a little. My genre was: Christian fiction historical romance. I've now moved to Christian fiction romance (could be current day). I prefer historicals but I find I really enjoy modern day as well--especially if it's action-packed. I started branching out when I read Ronie Kendig's Discarded Heroes series. So good! Then I read Submerged by Dani now I also read books that take place in modern times but I refuse to read non-Christian books; unfortunately at school I don't have a say on this.
    If you wrote a modern book I would love it! I love your writing and think it would be cool if you branched out in your writing. It might help with readers who don't enjoy historicals. I would still hope it had a good ending, though. ;)
    -Rebekkah xD

  28. Rebekkah, I read mostly Historical Romance but I have to say that I've really enjoyed Ronie Kendig's military series! So, for me to switch the genre I read, the writing and story line has to be stupendous!

  29. I first pick up a book because I like the title or the picture on the cover. Then I read the back, and sometimes even the first couple of pages, to see if I like what it's about, and the style of writing. It doesn't really matter to me if it's a world famous author, one I've read and liked before, or one no one's heard of. It's the story and the writing style.

    BUT, that's not to say that I'll like any book written by a specific author. MaryLu, I do enjoy your writing so much and know that I would love anything written by you. But with some authors, I love some of their books and don't even like others, whether they're in the same genre or not! It's so weird...

    But as an example of someone who does different genres equally well, I love Gilbert Morris' novels. He has like a billion romantic historical fiction books, and any one I read I really like or even love. But I also LOVE his Dani Ross mysteries, which are set in modern New Orleans and are so very different from his other stuff.

    So for me, it's really by what the book is about and the style of writing, not who did the writing necessarily.

  30. Oh, I'll also read almost any genre... I don't usually like Amish ones because they tend to be about the same thing over and over (plus I live near Lancaster, PA and am so used to all of it lol.) And I won't read horror or really greusome crime stuff. And of course I wold never read the 50 Shades of Gray style. Yuck! Other than that... I like everything.

    (There's another example. I usually love Dee Henderson's books, but one of her novels was so dark and creepy that I could not read it. Haven't read any more of hers since then.)

    I hope I've made sense and answered your question! Lol.

  31. Thanks Sarah! Makes perfect sense. It's more story and setting for you than genre and author. :-)