Writing in Multiple Genres, Okay? Not Okay?

The “Your Questions Answered” Series


In a recent Q & A, Steve Laube talked about how writers will pitch different projects to him in the same meeting:  a novel, a nonfiction, a devotional, etc.  He said that writers need to decide “what they want to be when they grow up.”  I’d like some clarity on why writing in different genres is discouraged. 

As ideas come to me, some seem a good fit for a devotion, others for a worship drama, others for a longer work.  It seems that by focusing on only one area of writing, some potentially good ideas could be lost if they don’t fit in that area; or, by forcing an idea into something that isn’t a good fit, the result is a poorly developed piece of writing.

Steve Laube means that you want to build a consistent career based on becoming known for a particular type of writing. For example, a romantic-suspense author may be perfectly capable of writing other kinds of books. However, any author will work hard to develop an audience for romantic-suspense novels. For the author to branch out into, say, The Christian’s Guide to Budgeting, they’d have to interest a nonfiction editor in the project and show that they can bring a broad audience to their budgeting books. Some romantic-suspense readers might buy the author’s budgeting books, but probably not as many as you think. Those readers are looking for romantic-suspense novels, not necessarily budgeting books.

Let’s say the author manages to be successful with both types of books. They’d need to form two separate brands or identities even though they are the same person. The first author identity will be for romantic-suspense. The second will be as a money expert. Doing so could require extensive work to maintain different websites, to write and to publish different newsletters, to create varying social media interactions, and to cater to dissimilar audiences.  Not to mention, writing entirely different books and working with two sets of editors and two divergent marketing teams. I’m tired just thinking about all this extra work!

As for writing devotionals versus worship dramas, etc., my guess is that though these are dissimilar forms of writing, they fit within a unique scope; and there is audience overlap. Plus the author is not necessarily writing for publication. Going back to the money-expert example, I see the same money expert on television, writing books, and writing advice columns in magazines on the topic of–you guessed it–money. So you can take the same subject and write in different formats. So nothing is lost.

An author who’s determined to write across several genres for different audiences would do well to find an agent, so they can form a strategy together. And even then, the market and audience the author attracts will help determine the author’s ultimate path to success.

Your turn:

Do you write in more than one genre? Have you been successful in both?

What authors do you see as being successful in multiple genres?

For the entire series, click here: “Your Questions Answered.”

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