Friday, March 27, 2009

Genre-Switching Debate


Rachelle Gardner's blog recently discussed switching genres.  She contends that you can’t be successful in publishing if you change genres.  She recommends specializing in one particular area.

I'm not sure that I agree.  I've read several authors who write under different names for different genres (Marion Chesney/M.C. Beaton is one).  Plus, I personally know authors that have left one genre for another and write under their own names.  If I'm a reader and I'm following a particular writer, I may be interested in switching genres to see how the author handles a different type of series. 

But the article raises a good point; it can help your career to focus your efforts on a particular area/genre.

Picking your genre:

First of all, you need to look at what you usually read.  Is your nightstand stacked with thrillers?  Or do you lean towards police procedurals and cozies?  I’m you’re more familiar with the plot structure of one particular mystery genre, that’s the one you’ll likely have an easier time writing.

Second, how much research are you willing to put into your book?  Be truthful with yourself: do you have a lot of hours to sink into ballistics and forensics research?  It's important for your information to be correct.  All mysteries require some degree of research--whether finding out how the structure of a small-town police station, or discovering how long it takes certain poisons to begin working.  If you sign yourself up for a Patricia Cornwell or P.D. James-style book, make sure you have enough time to devote to getting all your facts straight. 

Third, what's your comfort-level with writing graphic material?  If you're not comfortable lending your name to a book with excessive bloodshed, expletives, or lurid sex scenes, your discomfort will likely come through your writing to your readers. Choose a genre with content that's easier for you to successfully portray. 

Last weekend our guest blogger was J.A. Konrath.  He made a switch from humorous mysteries to dark thrillers---he did, however, use a pen name for the new series.  He didn’t want the readers who expected a funny read to accidentally end up with a frightening book like Afraid.  He has heavily cross-promoted the new series on his website, though, which has encouraged many readers who follow his lighter, more humorous books to try something different with an author they enjoy.  He may be experiencing the best of both worlds. 

Next blog, I’ll take a look at the clues and red herrings of another mystery and deconstruct what made it work.