Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Genre Jumping-Good or Bad?

Let's face the cold, hard facts. Writers want to be paid for their work. Most of us don't make a fortune doing what we do and few of us are lucky enough to be able to write full time. Many writers work day jobs, deal with family stuff and still manage to pound the keys every night in the vague hope that someday they might be able to make enough from writing to do it full time. With the accessability of ebook readers more and more are buying ebooks and loving them. One would think this would mean huge paychecks for writers out there but that's just not the case. New e-pubs are springing up every day and even most big New York publishing houses are getting into the act by releasing their titles in e-format along with traditional print.

So what happened to all that money we thought we'd make from this explosion? I figure the flooding of the market with ebooks is the culprit along with a sagging economy and other factors. This has been a topic of conversation on a number of loops lately with many writers wondering how to increase sales.

The discussion of 'genre jumping' is very interesting. Readers are loyal to particular authors knowing that when they pick up this writer's book they will get something specific. If you buy Nora Roberts you pretty much know you will get romantic suspense. Sherillyn Kenyon and JR Ward? You'll get paranormal. Readers have expectations. Let's face it. There is only one Nora and we aren't her. :-) We must build name recognition and a fan base and work hard doing it. I write paranormal/shifters and contemporary, almost all set in Texas. My readers expect that of me and I've been lucky to find a niche that works for me. The question is...if sales begin to slag in those genres is it the smart choice for a writer to go off the carefully plotted chart and write something totally different? Do readers get angry when their favorite writer of romantic suspense suddenly throws a paranormal into the mix?

Writing to market is seen as a big no no in many corners with the thought being loyal readers won't be quick to forgive such a thing. I tend to believe that if a reader likes my work, she'll buy whatever genre I choose to write unless she has a personal dislike of the genre. What do readers want from their favorite authors? A question for the ages. Do they want the safety and predictability of one particular thing or are they a little more adventurous than that? I tend to believe readers are adventurous. We all get in moods and search for particular things to fit. On rainy, chilly days I love to curl up with a regency set historical. Sunny, beach days call for something that makes me laugh and fits my 'sunny' mood. It varies from day to day.

In the end, I believe a writer should write the story that is currently whispering in her ear. Yes, I'll write out of my comfort zone. The book might not sell but still, it stretches me as a writer to do this from time to time. There are other times when I will write a genre that I don't particularly enjoy simply because I know the genre is a big seller. Why not? I like money and don't see it as a sell out to my art. I just don't. I mean, seriously, I'm not writing War And Peace. This isn't brain surgery. Experimentation keeps us creatively charged and that's a good thing.

As a writer, do you genre hop or do you stick with one genre? What about you as a reader? Does it make you angry to see your favorite paranormal author has suddenly whipped out a sassy, romantic comedy? Input requested.

21 comments:

Madison Scott said...

Good topic. I don't think its always a question of writing for the market, but writing the story that's asking to be written. I think a writer should be able to write what they feel. I get the other side of it, but I also dont think we should have to always write in a specific genre. I've never written a paranormal romance, but would love to one day. I've wanted to since the beginning. I just have to find the right story. I think it helps keep you fresh as a writer too.

Valerie Douglas aka V.J. Devereaux said...

I'm with Madison... I write the story that works. So far all my stories have been contemporary, but two were menages, one was a paranormal, and another romantic suspense. I don't want to get 'typecast' but I can see how that works for a lot of writers.
My readers know they'll get feisty heroines and strong heroes no matter what I write.
I know a friend writes two series, and some of her readers are sharply divided between the two.
As a reader, I'm the same, it's all a matter of taste.

Andrea I said...

As a reader, I don't care if a writer goes outside what they usually write. I read lots of genres and am open to change.

Teri Thackston said...

I think of my stories as independent children that must be given life. They're all different, with their unique quirks. Just as some children grow up to be detectives (romantic suspense), others grow up to be psychic mediums (paranormal). So I write in both genres, plus western romance (what little boy didn't want to be a cowboy when he grew up). My fans know they will get a good story, no matter what genre it is. At least I hope they feel that way.

anny cook said...

As you know, Regina, I'm all over the place. I write whatever is working at the moment and just pray I actually finish it.

And if my readers read it--then that's a bonus!

As a reader, I read all over the place with very few genres on my "won't read" list. So I guess that evens things out.

Fran Lee said...

If a writer sticks within the exact same genre, she may satisfy her fans who adore her books, but she will not necessarily satisfy her need to be creative.

Jolie Cain said...

I like reading different genres so I want to try writing different genres. And even writers like Nora Roberts switch genres occasionally. She has several paranormals that I really love. And truthfully, unless you have a whole lot of name recognition, most will buy because of the blurb and not the author.

Regina Carlysle said...

Me too, Madison. I understand the arguement about how readers expect a certain thing and get pissed when they don't get it but I also know that if I like an author I'll try other things by her and like them just as much.

Regina Carlysle said...

Valerie, I agree with that. After all our genre might change but our voice doesn't. I do an occasional menage and I know very well there are plenty of readers who don't enjoy them. I try to make sure they know ahead of time exactly what the book is.

Regina Carlysle said...

Hi Andrea! Me too. I think we all get in the MOOD for certain things and switch around.

Regina Carlysle said...

Me too, Teri. And as a writer I certainly don't want to write in a box. How boring. Still I wonder if some of us don't write genres sometimes just because they sell. Admittedly I do that sometimes but I will try to weave those in among the stuff I truly love to write.

Regina Carlysle said...

I know you do Anny and you do it right. Go where the spirit moves you and see what happens.

Regina Carlysle said...

You've definitely had some experience with that. Every book just can't be a carbon copy of the first. That might satisfy some readers but certainly not most. We would become so damn stale if we did that.

Regina Carlysle said...

Very true Jolie. Of course we all work hard on name recognition. And that's the rub, I think. We become known as a one who writes great vampires or whatever. So i think readers need to be really careful when they buy on name alone. Sometimes the author is going to veer off in another direction and there's no reason to be caught by surprise.

Paris said...

This is a good topic. The way I see it, I'm actually buying the author (voice, style) and not the genre. If I'm a fan, I read whatever they write.

With my own work, I have to write the story that wants to be written. If I try to do otherwise it's never pretty;-)

Connie Northrop said...

I have no problem with my authors genre jumping as long as the book lets you know what it is. A well written blurb on the back can do that. If the reader doesn't look I really think it's kind of their fault.

Anonymous said...

Ebooks bring me a lot of pleasure as a hobby but I never forget that the books are business. If my favorite eatery comes up with a new dish I don't get mad as long as my favorite dessert is prepared as I like it. If my favorite store in the mall starts selling smaller or larger sizes, I don't care, as long as I can find something that I like. So if an author wants to increase their income or gain some new fans by writing a different genre, why should I get upset? As long as the author continues to give me the same quality of work that drew me to them in the first place that is all I need. There are some genres I don't enjoy, regardless of who the author is, and nothing is going to change that However, there are also genres I am open to, but would never considering purchasing unless one of my favorite authors wrote it. I have had some of the best surprises that way, and who doesn't like a GOOD surprise? If the author has skills in that genre, then I say bring it on. VON

Melissa Bradley said...

Great discussion! I guess you could say I'm a fan of genre hopping because it keeps the creative juices going. I've written two paranormals, one contemporary and one nostalgic contemporary. My sales have skewed high for the paranormals, leaving the other two in the dust, but I'm okay with that. I write the story that's in my head because that is what is most important to me at the end of the day. When you're a good writer and stay true to your vision, I believe you'll get readers. It may be naive, but it's what is in my heart.

As a reader, I'm all over the place, too, because that's what keeps my interest. I've followed authors as they genre hopped and sometimes I haven't. It all depends on where they've gone and what I feel like reading at the moment.

jean hart stewart said...

YOu gotta write what you gotta write. To me it's as simple as that. Sometimes a book will just demand to be written, and I think they're the most satisfying to an author. Good blog, girl.

Kathy Kulig said...

I think it makes good business sense to stay focused on one area (to a degree), but a writer has to adapt to the market too. I write mostly erotic paranormal romance but I do write sexy contemporary and paranormal romances too. But hopefully my readers will know they'll always get a sexy, edgy story with a HEA.

Anne Rainey said...

I like contemporary. That's where I'm most comfortable and that's what readers expect from me. But, I'm not against trying a different genre. A good example is "A Diamond at Midnight", which is a vampire romance. And I'm currently working on another vampire romance. So, I DO enjoy stepping outside my comfort zone from time to time. :)

However, if I were going to do something like a series, and it was WAY different from my current stuff, I might decide to go with a different pen name, then link the two. In other words, if I suddenly decided to write mysteries, that's a whole different batch of readers, many of them do NOT read erotica. So, writing them under a differnet name would be a smart move.