Switching Genres

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Feb 28 2011

There’s always a lot of talk, especially among unpublished authors, about switching genres. Many of you are writing in multiple genres and want to continue doing so after you are published. Which inspired this question . . .

Is switching genres with each book a bad thing?

I currently have a Fantasy book finished (final re-editing, working on query perfection, etc.), but I started writing a chick-lit in the first half of the year. I also have some good ideas penned down for a sci-fi and a crime thriller. So, based on your post, should I be focusing on just one genre or continue with my whole “branch out and conquer the world” process? I am not working on all of these things at the same time, but still keeping the ideas for the future.

To some degree, yes, I think it’s a bad thing. Remember, once you decide to get published you are building a writing career and not just writing anymore, which means your goal is to find an audience. While you might find it fun to switch things up from book to book, most readers are fairly loyal to what they read. In other words, few fantasy readers will happily jump to chick lit with enthusiasm. Let’s face it, most readers read within a few specific genres. If your fantasy readers love your first book and look for your second, they might be very disappointed to discover how different it is. Most important, it might turn them off from picking up your third.

Most publishers want you publishing at least 9 months apart, so if you can have two different names and publish each name 9 months apart (writing a book every 4 to 5 months), then you can easily write in two genres. If, however, it takes you 9 months to write a book, you might want to stick with one genre, at least until you’re established.

As for writing prior to publication, I think it’s great to write in various genres and explore your strengths.


11 responses to “Switching Genres”

  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Just curious, what happens if after you've been established within one genre, you want to switch to another genre that your agent doesn't handle? Do you need to find a second agent or should you find an agent initially who agents both genres? Hope that makes sense.

  2. My last post was about this very thing. I also did a video with my agent and asked her the multiple-genre question. She basically said what you did: if you "hit" in a particular genre, you're going to be writing that for a while. It doesn't mean you can't write other things, but you definitely need to keep writing in genre #1.

    I rarely put links in comments, but in case anyone's interested:

    Genre post: https://debralschubert.blogspot.com/2011/02/genre-surfing.html

    Video interview:

  3. Avatar Lorenda says:

    Huh. That's the first I've heard about the 9 months between books "rule". I guess I need to pick up my pace… 🙂

  4. Avatar Kelly says:

    Very timely, as I was just having a discussion with a friend of mine about this.

    So let's say you're staying in fantasy. Is it alright to switch up the type of fantasy you write? High-fantasy to vampires, for example?

  5. Avatar Ian says:

    Why in the world would publishers want such a long interval between books even in the same genre? If readers like one book by the author, doesn't it make sense to release others as quickly as possible? And if they don't like it, get the non-seller off the shelf and put another one in its place.

    It seems to go against good business sense, especially in today's high-tech world, to force a slow-down of available new products.

  6. Avatar jfaust says:

    Anon 9:07: That is really a conversation between you and your agent. It would depend on the situation and the agent.

    Lorenda: There's no rule. When it comes to genre though, it's what publishers hope. If you can't write that fast don't. Your work will suffer and no one wants that.

    Kelly: It depends on so much, but that's really a conversation between you, your agent and your editor in terms of how different the books are and what your audience is hoping for.

    Ian: Delivering your books 9 months apart doesn't mean the publisher will publish them that far apart. If you can write great books every 2 months it's quite possible the publisher will publish them that way.

  7. Avatar Livia says:

    Thanks for the post Jessica! It's interesting that you say readers don't generally skip from genre to genre, because in my experience, I found that readers generally genre hop more easily than writers. I don't know any reader who only sticks to one genre. Most tend to have a preferred one or two, but also branch out occasionally. For example, I read a lot of fantasy, but I will branch out to the occasional chick lit, science fiction, and mystery. It seems like it would be much harder for a writer to take on the mindset and expectations of a new genre.

  8. Avatar Annerb says:

    I'm curious how this applies to young adult. I see many authors in that genre switching from urban fantasy to contemporary to dystopian. Does it apply differently because YA itself is a genre? And if I'm trying to break into that market, is it okay for me to write different subgenres if it's all YA? (In your opinion, of course.)

  9. Writers and musicians have a lot in common — there's always a genre (or in music, style) in which an artist excels. Rarely does one see a classically-trained musician leap into hard rock or world music (although it can and does happen — rarely) or vice versa. And attempting to master both simultaneously has the effect of making the final product less than pure.

    Similarly, I do believe that a writer's *true* inner voice will lend itself to a specific genre, which is typically defined by style. Mastering style and voice is the very definition of writing, to my mind; it requires intense effort and focus.

    And … two months? I would certainly question the quality of a m.s. hammered out in that short period of time. I might think that the writer was simply producing product. (Or that said writer had a stable of ghostwriters!)

    Melissa (ATX)
    (Signed, because WordPress is making my life miserable.)

  10. Avatar Becca says:

    I struggle with the same idea. I like writing in different genres, but I do think I'm stronger in one genre vs. the other. And as mentioned, once you're established you can write different genres under different pennames.

    Livia: I get what you're saying. I really love reading all types of genres. At any one time, I can read a good sci-fi as much as a chick-lit. However, I will say that as a reader, I do find I have expectations of an author when I pick up his/her books. I remember reading a good romance by an author and picked up another of her books only to be disappointed and turned off from really reading any of her other works.

  11. Avatar Alaina says:

    My novel is about a collage age student on a journey of self discovery. There are paranormal events, some sci fi components, romance, but ultimately it is about the main character finding herself and accepting all that she is. So here's my question, where would my story fit? I have tried representing it in different ways, but some agents suggest different catagories. I even had it classified as New Adult, but is that the best place? Any resources or help would be greatly appriciated. :-)My goal is to reach a larger audience, but if I classify my novel as New Adult, would these other components be okay as cross genres?