Genre-Hopping and Author Branding

If you plan on genre-hopping, do you know how to brand yourself? Should you use one pen name or a different name for each genre or subgenre you write? How do you want readers to view you, as the writer who does a little bit of this and a little bit of that, or someone who has a focus (even if that focus is on more than one genre)? What’s the difference? Purpose. Are you writing in multiple genres because you haven’t found yourself, or does more than one genre fit your style? And if so, how do you convey this to your readers?

It’s all about marketing and branding. But how do you do that?

Brand Your Style: One way, is to brand your writing style, not your name or genre. For example, if you become known for being witty and sometimes snarky with your writing, that could translate to multiple genres. If readers recognize you as a dark writer, you should stick to genres that would fit that style like paranormal, urban fantasy, mystery, horror, thriller, and romantic suspense.

Pros: Readers who enjoy your style may feel that’s more important than genre choice. There would be a reduction in marketing costs, as you’d only need one website, one blog, and one brand to market.

Cons: There’s a possibility that you may dilute your brand to the point where readers won’t know what to expect. They might like your style, but not all readers enjoy all genres, so they may not follow you and your writing if you get too far from their personal taste.

Note: Many authors have successfully branded their styles rather than their genre: Linda Lael Miller, Julie Garwood, Roxanne St. Claire, and Karen Robards, for example. However, they had the benefit of their publisher’s support. In cases like this, the publisher would ensure the book covers for one genre doesn’t resemble the book covers for another. That way, it’s very obvious when the reader pulls a book off the shelf whether the story will be a historical romance or romantic suspense. The point is that you don’t want to catch the reader off guard if she has certain expectations in regards to your brand and what you write. Make it clear from the start that you write in multiple genres and how the reader can identify which is which.

Use Different Pen Names: Another way to approach this issue is to use a different pen name for a different genre. Nora Roberts does this when she writes as JD Robb. Rachel Lee and Sue Civil Brown are one and the same, as are Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick.

Pros: A reader won’t have to think twice about the genre of your book. She knows that Nora Roberts writes romance novels and JD Robb writes the “In Death” series. So, if the reader doesn’t like what JD Robb writes, she can stick with Nora Roberts novels.

Cons: You’ll have an increase in marketing and brand-building costs. You’ll now need a website for each pen name, possibly a blog, and all marketing tools like bookmarks, trading cards, pens, mugs, etc., will have to be done for each genre.

Note: If the genres are similar, you may be able to attract crossover readers. For example, if you write paranormal romances and romantic suspense, there’s a good chance readers will try both “versions of you”. The same would apply to young adult and new adult. However, historical romances and horror novels, for example, wouldn’t necessarily share the same audience. Crossover readers will help you build your overall sales. And who doesn’t want that?

Use a Similar Name: Take Nicole and Niki Burnham for example. She writes young adult novels under Niki Burnham and romance novels under Nicole Burnham. Meggin Cabot and Meg Cabot are the same author, too.

Pros: This method encourages readers to try both genres but not to expect the same from them. The difference between using a similar name and something completely different is that, in this case, the reader will probably recognize these names belong to the same author. If you use a different name, the reader may never know you write in another genre, unless you’ve done a good job with marketing. It may also be easier for the reader to recall both names, which would come in handy if she wants to read everything you write.

Cons: While the author may feel the reader shouldn’t expect the same type of read from both genres, having similar names could still mislead the reader into thinking the style may be the same. If your writing style is the same in both genres, there’s no need to worry.

Note: Regardless of which option you choose, agents and editors may be reluctant to work with you because THEY don’t know how to brand you. The way around this is to be sure of your brand, so you can sell them on it as well.

Do you write in multiple-genres? How do you handle the marketing for each genre?

Lynnette Labelle

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