by Tamela Hancock Murray
An author recently posed a question to us through our question button (in the right column on the blog page). We like when authors do this, so please feel free to use the button!
While everyone’s situation is different, the elements of the question are relevant to many so I’m addressing those today.
I have a question about genre hopping. I have a non-fiction book geared for parents of teens that is going to be released by a traditional publishing house in the spring. I have written 100′s of articles , but this is my first book project. I also have worked on a historical fiction novel for middle school readers for about the last 7 years and am in the final edits, book cover design and all the other details that go with self publishing. It will also be released at the beginning of next year as well. I have a distinct marketing plan for both books that are separate from each other as to not cause genre confusion for readers.
What is the rule of thumb for staying within a single genre?
This author honed in on one question, but has asked many. If this author were a client, I would set aside a good block of time for a phone call to talk over the following:
1.) Your first allegiance is to your traditional publisher. Because you are usually under a contractual obligation to your traditional publisher. The terms of that agreement likely will include a non-compete clause that should be honored. Why? Because this is the publisher investing thousands of dollars in you in hopes of making your book a success. Even if the publisher didn’t pay an advance to you, professional editing, artwork, printing, marketing, etc. are not free to the publisher. In return, your obligation is to work with the publisher to ensure that book’s success. This means promoting that title over others you have in the works.
2.) Your books seem to be releasing too closely together. While keeping readers from becoming confused is commendable and desirable, the fact is, no author can commit 100% to marketing two books at once. See #1.
3.) Do you have the time, energy, and finances to be effective in marketing two disparate books, regardless of their planned release dates? For example, will you purchase and maintain two web sites? Two domains? Two blogs? Will you use different publicity pictures and materials for each book? How will you handle book signings? What about a speaking ministry?
4.) Your career appears to lack focus. Why is it a good idea to release a book you’ve been working on for seven years at this point in time, right on the heels on a book you have sold to a traditional publisher, one that you hope will make money and an impact on your readers?
5.) Self-publishing can be beneficial to authors, but timing needs to be strategic. The desire to get your name out there on as many titles as possible, with hopes of increasing income, is understandable. But since these two audiences have very little overlap, the titles won’t help each other sell. The question should also be raised as to whether the middle grade has even been marketed to traditional publishers. If not, why not?
6.) You appear to need a career plan. Are you hoping one of the books finds an audience and will plan to write and market your next book accordingly? Or is the seven-year project the fruition of a dream and more or less a lark? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on writing your followup book for the traditional publisher and build your brand that way, thereby maximizing your potential to gain an audience thanks to your connection with a traditional publisher? Or, if the self-published project is the book of your heart, why not take the path of a fiction author? See #4.
7.) And finally, the answer as to whether or not an author can or should hop genres is as varied as the number of authors. The answer needs to be customized to your career path. Factors such as how established an author is, where her audience lies, how her audience finds her, and her contract with her traditional publisher, are only a few aspects to consider. Yes, you have addressed the idea of separating genres and should keep from confusing your readers. However, the real question, is this idea workable?
1.) Which authors do you enjoy who hop genres?
2.) Do you feel it’s difficult as an author to divide your loyalties in genres, or seamless? Why?
3.) As a writer, do you want to hop genres? Why or why not?