Should Authors Write in Multiple Genres?

I’ve seen this question all over the web.

Agents write about it. Marketing specialists write about it. Writers write about it.

Honestly, it seems like the kind of question that has no answer. Or, a million answers, depending on how you look at it. Also, it’s controversial. In this blog post, I don’t intend to take sides. Rather, I want to show arguments I’ve seen for those against and in favor of multi-genre authors and would value your respectful opinions in the comments area below.

Let’s start with the basics. According to guest blogger Dan Blank at The Creative Penn, branding is basically “effectively understanding your own purpose, that of your audience, and the ways to connect the two.” He says branding is about “communication.” Cool, right? When an author has a specific brand, those who are drawn to that brand will more effectively communicate with that author, whether virtually or in real life.

In order to communicate with readers, authors must understand who they are and what their purpose is. Who do they represent? What images, themes, and emotions do they want to evoke with their writing, website, blog posts, social media posts, etc? Everything they do must emanate that brand.

So! To write multiple genres or not? That is the million-dollar question.

Some say no. If an author’s brand consists of contemporary romance, for example, readers could get confused if suddenly the author published a legal thriller or horror. Think about the implications of walking into an auto parts shop, expecting to find new spark plugs, and realizing they now sell carpet, too. And vegetables. And pet monkeys. A confusing picture, right? I’ve heard this argument before from publishers, agents, and writers alike. They say readers tend to stick with the genre they enjoy, trusting their favorite authors to deliver in those genres. If those authors suddenly publish something else, there’s a risk of betraying the trust they’ve built with their audience. Plus, there is the question of branding. Some believe it’s very hard, if not impossible, to really brand yourself if you have multiple genres under your belt.

Some say yes. Usually the arguments I’ve seen come with the caveat that an author should be established in one genre before hopping to another, but not always. People who approve of multi-genre authors still differ in opinion over ‘when’ an author should split into other areas. Many authors are prolific, and writing in multiple genres might be a way to earn extra income without violating contracts with their publishers (but it might not, so be careful and consult your agent and publisher before acting). It also might be a way to reach new readerships, regardless of whether the author is indie, trad-pubbed, or hybrid. (Remember that multiple genres means multiple audiences–some readers will follow an author to a new genre, but not everyone will, and marketing might have to increase.) And again, the question of branding. How does one carry a cohesive brand through multiple genres? Possibly through theme or Voice/style. For example, my tagline is “Romance that captures the heart,” which could potentially be used for either historical or contemporary romance. Or perhaps the genres are close to each other–such as historical and historical romance. Crossover audiences could possibly be larger in that instance.

I don’t profess to be an expert in the field of branding, and you may agree or disagree with the arguments listed above. Regardless of which direction you lean, however, branding is an important aspect of the conversation, and I think we can agree that every writer’s journey is unique and what doesn’t work for one might work for another.

Now I want to hear from YOU!

Is it possible to maintain a brand while writing in multiple genres?

Writers, have you been successful in branching out? Or do you find it best to stick with one genre?

Readers, do you follow your favorite authors into new genres? Why or why not?

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