I wrote about some of the challenges of writing in two different genres previously. But there are other hurdles beyond the writing phase. Like how do you market yourself as a two genre writer?
Branding is important in establishing a niche as a writer. But does the same author brand carry across multiple genres?
Traditionally, I would say no. Most authors I’ve spoken to keep genres separate with the use of pen names, even if they are very transparent pen names. It helps the reader quickly identify if a book is under an author’s mystery series or under her epic fantasy work. I do understand that. Especially for very disparate genres.
For example, Joanna Penn uses her full name for her non-fiction books. But for her thrillers, she uses J.F. Penn. You know it is her, but there is a separation. More than that, she has written that she does it because J.F. Penn fits a thriller more. There are, sadly, still misperceptions about the ability of a female author. And Joanna does sound like a pleasant name. She even goes so far as to use a black and white and not quite smiling photo of herself for the thriller books as her author image.
So if you use a different name, do you create a separate website based on genre? Some authors do, some don’t. You can find Joanna, and all of her books, under the Creative Penn. You can Nick Stephenson on three different sites depending on if you are looking for him, his thriller books, or his marketing series!
But is that all really necessary in today’s in depth internet age?
I took the ‘risk’ of launching not only my new dystopian series under my full name, but previously released a travel book under the same name I used for my epic fantasy series. Why? Because it is mine. 🙂
That and epic fantasy isn’t that different from dark fantasy/ dystopian, at least in theory. My two series couldn’t be much more different in tone and circumstances. But mostly I just am resistant to the idea of a second platform. Creating a brand as an author is difficult work! If I can build one based on quality writing/editing with strong action and characters, do I really want to start over just because I jump from epic fantasy to dark? No.
But what if I jumped from epic fantasy to thriller?
Hmmm… I’m actually serious about that to a degree. I have the idea of a thriller knocking about in my brain. I absolutely loved writing Friends of my Enemy – the language, action, tone, and characters. And the leap from dystopian to thriller isn’t very far. So maybe… down the road…
But do I want to launch a thriller under Autumn M. Birt? Would you take that seriously? Actually, would you? I’d love to know what perceptions the name Autumn brings, because it seems about as varied as the season (surprisingly including gender perception. I’ve met male Autumns before and have received correspondence addressed to Mr. Birt!).
Following Joanna’s lead, maybe A.M. Birt would work better? (If I ever write a romance, I’m definitely going with my middle name!) Maybe that would have been a better author name for my dystopian series – as if the black covers, bullet, and blood splatter doesn’t set the tone enough. lol! Again, in comes down to if ‘Autumn’ gives you warm fuzzy feelings or cold, bleak visions. Or if you even think about such things when looking for a book. I tend not to judge a novel by the author’s name… I don’t think I do but looking into how hard some authors work to market their writing, well it can be difficult to judge well-crafted but not obvious marketing (like a less happy author’s pic). It sets an overall tone. That is why it is called branding.
For the future, I’m completely undecided. But for now, I’m good with using Autumn M. Birt. I like that I’ve reorganized my books into genres on my website. Stumbling into my blog or site, you get the choice of Epic or Dark Fantasy and not the book or series titles. But I don’t know if adding a drop down menu for Thrillers would work as well as those. Perhaps I should make the thriller plot into steampunk? Or I should just get over my resistance and think about a second website?
Those sort of questions make me happy to just be writing epic fantasy this summer and easily over a year from releasing anything other than dark fantasy or epic. There is certainly the part of me (okay, it’s a VERY large part) that likes to challenge perceptions. I write strong female characters (and men too!), epic, dark, or future thrillers. If you care enough to hesitate that a woman wrote the book, you probably aren’t going to like my writing.
Huhn, maybe I’ll go with that. 😉
Putting my branding hat on, though I have not been involved in much book marketing, it all depends what the brand is. For instance, if the Author Name is the brand, then the genre of what the author produces is less important than the values of what they produce.
So, if you think the author only sells because they write Fantasy, then you may wish to invent a new brand for thriller. However, if the author is known as a “good writer” then you will not want to abandon that brand simply because the genre changes.
Building a brand and associating it with values, such as quality, good service, consistency, value and so on, is hard – you do not want to have to do it twice if you can help it. Especially if your audience/customer base might have huge overlaps in the market. A reader of fantasy might well read thrillers, historical fiction, war fiction, love stories – you want them to recognise you and say, “Hey, she is a great writer, I will try her new book.”
As I say, book marketing is not my world (yet), but my instinct is if you have spent a huge amount of time building up your brand, building yourself up, don’t throw all that hard work away. Use it.
I rather agree, CC, with what you say on building a brand being difficult. Doing it twice, or more, does seem to be a huge effort. And I guess that is why when author’s choose pen names for a different genre they are either so transparent as to make you wonder why they bothered (except for some sort of notation on a different genre) or because they are trying to leave a brand that has soured behind!
I know as a reader, I read multiple genres, so I agree. Assuming someone who is a fan won’t like a different story arc is a little silly. Unless there are real reasons two groups should never meet (oh the bad combination of genre writing possibilities that springs to mind!), why not just be one brand and one fan base?
Best of luck picking up the marketing side of things. It is a fun challenge some days… others I just want to write books. 🙂
I have been in advertising one way or another for 35 years, just not with books (a new mountain to climb), but one thing I think is important is that there is a huge difference if you have a large publishing house behind you – they have the money to test the market and analyse it to see if it is worthwhile building a new author brand or not.
I worked on a now famous coffee brand many, many years ago. The ad agency spent two years researching and refining the brand before they even invented the coffee – they researched the brand first, then made a product that fitted the conclusions.
When one is working independently, one does not have those kinds of resources or the spare cash, so that must be part of the calculation.
And sometimes it is a little more cunning that it seems – I know several marketing people who have been somewhat suspicious when a famous author working under a pen name is suddenly outed. Strange how their book sales increased…..
If it aint broke … 🙂
Lol! That is hilarious… and oddly suspicious. Amazing when things work out like that.
You should have the book marketing mountain scaled in no time. I’ve always cocked my head at the very well meant advice to research genres/books that are selling well and write something to fit that. It is GREAT advice (assuming everything hasn’t changed by the time you write the book, edit it, get the cover art done…), but to pull a good story idea out of nowhere because it might sell well. Hmmm… Guess I’m old fashioned in the creative sense that way. And, I admit, I write stories that I would love to read. It might not be the best way to do things in terms of marketing, but it makes me happy. 😀
I agree with you. I am taking the apparently idiotic approach of writing the book I want to read and hoping that there are similar fools out there with the same tastes.
But then, I am enjoying my read throughs, so that is alright: http://cchogan.com/the-joy-of-the-read-through/
And I am writing in two genres! (er, not in the same book).