Crossing Genres As A Writer

Last week as I was trolling the latest reviews on my books on Goodreads, I came across one where someone had rated Forsaken By Shadow lower because of language they thought was inappropriate to a YA.  When I explained to her politely that it was most definitely NOT a YA, she kindly changed her rating.  I think I mentioned this on Sunday and there was at least one other person in comments–Stacey Wallace Benefiel–who had had similar problems.  The difference between me and Stacey is that she started in YA and has branched out into paranormal romance.  I currently have nothing BUT paranormal romance out, though with the release of Red that will no longer be the case.

The issue of how anybody could think that a book about late 20s early 30 something characters could possibly be a YA aside, it does bring up an issue that I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years.  How does an author who writes in multiple genres deal with that?

In traditional publishing, the prevailing wisdom has been all about branding.  An author name is typically branded to a particular kind of book, such that the reader should be aware, if I pick up a book by Sally Q. Writer, I am getting this kind of read.  There may be cases where there is a very public spinoff/pen name that everybody KNOWS is really this other person, but it’s branded so they know they’re getting a certain something else.  Great example of this is Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb.  Everybody knows that Robb is La Nora, but that it is her more futuristic series about Roarke and Dallas rather than the stand-alones or trilogies she has become so famous for.  Also Lilith Saintcrow and Lili St. Crow.  The diminutive form of her name is used for her YA stuff rather than the adult urban fantasy (though, frankly, both are equally gritty and fabulous…the only real difference is age of characters). Katie MacAlister and Katie Maxwell.  She picked a new last name for her YA stuff.  And she also writes paranormal mysteries as Kate Marsh.

There have been quite a few others of late who began in adult paranormal romance or urban fantasy and have come out with YA books.  Because, let’s face it, YA is hot.  Kelley Armstrong springs to mind.  She uses the same name for both.  I know I’ve read announcements about others, though I can’t remember who without additional caffeine.

Still others have totally separate pen names for each genre. Which I totally get if your two genres are, say, erotica and YA.  You definitely don’t want crossover there.  You’d have a lot of pissed off parents.

So what about among indie published authors? Certainly you have the same gamut here.  Joe Konrath writes his horror stuff as Jack Kilborn.  Everybody knows it’s him, but there’s that separate branding.  Stacey Wallace Benefiel, as mentioned above, has both adult and YA paranormal romance.  And then you have authors like Karen McQuestion who have a whole bunch of different genres under the umbrella of the same name.

I am thinking about this, not just because I absolutely have a number of YA paranormals kicking around in my brain in addition to my adult PR Mirus series, but because I have a lot of OTHER projects I want to work on as well. I have a more campy, chick lit paranormal series planned about a kitchen witch.  I also have a number of standalone contemporary romantic suspense novels based in Mississippi still floating around in my head.  Very different stuff.  Back when I planned to go traditional, I worried a lot about which one I should pick to work in because it is generally not encouraged to do multiple.  And I have a LOT of different interests.  Now that I’ve gone indie, I don’t have that restriction, and I can write whatever the heck I want.

Now I would hope that potential readers would actually notice the genre in which the books are housed on Amazon or their preferred purchase point, and that they would read the description that makes it obvious that they’re about to get a twisted serial killer instead of lots of romantic teenaged angst against a paranormal background.  I also routinely hope that people will check out the samples and figure out that my first two releases are novellas and not dock me rating points because the stories aren’t as long as they WANTED because they didn’t bother to read in the description that they didn’t buy a novel.  It is a fact of life that people are lazy and don’t do things that make sense.

In preparation for the possibility of needing other pen names, I have one or two picked out and snapped up all the blog and social media real estate associated with them.  Just in case.  But my personal inclination is that, well, I’ve devoted a great deal of time and effort to building my platform under this name and frankly, I’m not all that enthused by the prospect of doing it all over again for another name, even if I have this one to springboard off of.  So really, I’d rather have it all under one umbrella and hope that readers use their noggins and pay attention to what they’re buying.

But I want y’all’s opinion.  As writers.  As readers.  What do you prefer?  Why?  Weigh in.

28 thoughts on “Crossing Genres As A Writer

  1. The Talents were originally a good deal older than the kids I’m dealing with now. I’ve yet to get my timeline straight on what I want to do going forward. I do feel like some of these characters really are adults.

    Add that I’ve never been comfortable with the fact that, as YA, my books are listed under Children’s. I’m pretty sure the bulk of my readers are adults, and while I know I have teen readers, I think they’re reading adult fic in addition to YA.

    I’ve been considering, at some point, shifting the categorization of my books out of YA, since it’s within my power to do that, but I’m not sure. The early ones will qualify for and appeal to that niche, and it does help me. At least as long as I’m dealing with teen characters, my descriptions and physical books will probably carry some kind of parental advisory. How to handle the rest of it going forward, I dunno. I think I may go back to my original plan of bringing this teen series more or less to a conclusion, and then starting up again when these teens are years older. Try to make any future teen books into mini-series that can stand on their own.

    Notice how there’s no room in my brain now for writing something besides Talents.

  2. I’m attempting to do the “different name, but everyone knows it’s me” thing by using S.W. Benefiel for the non-YA PNR. I’m not sure it’s made any difference at the moment, but perhaps the more books I put out under both names, the easier it will be for people to catch on. I’ve got two out in both genres. I’ve also got a contemporary YA stand alone living in my head. I guess I’ll just have to put up warnings! LOL Danger! Danger! Not paranormal!
    I went with the similar sounding name because I didn’t want to have to build another platform from scratch. I’m thinking erotica might be the only genre where you’d want to have a completely different name, otherwise variations on a name seem (in theory) to work together.

    I’ll keep you posted. Right now Rebellion (adult PNR) has a review on it titled “Stacey Wallace Benefiel will make a great YA paranormal author someday.” All my warnings and name changes clearly didn’t reach that particular person. 🙂

  3. This has been on my mind a lot lately!

    I write in two genres. One is fiction (horror/urban fantasy/paranormal) and the other is non-fiction (alternative healing and topics that ‘could’ fall under the paranormal/psychic heading). Nonfiction and fiction are worlds apart – sort of, so there’s confusion in readers who, as you said, don’t take the time to read the descriptions or blurbs. The topics don’t, as you say, fit well under a single umbrella.

    I don’t want to be branded under the non-fiction. I do want to be branded under the fiction. The only way I see to take care of the problem is to take a pseudonym for the fiction and build on that. Luckily, I don’t have a huge web presence because I’ve only been learning the ropes since August. It won’t be a big deal to me to get a new domain and start fresh. In fact, once I made the decision to take on a pen name, I felt such relief that my creative muses finally came out to play again. This is good.

    For me, the pen name frees me up to start building a brand and all the rest. It isn’t about hiding my identity, it’s about the freedom to write in fiction and be known for that. That’s my dream. The non-fiction was just a sideline and a way for me to learn about independent publishing and, quite frankly, make a few bucks. I don’t want to be stuck writing non-fiction forever and, after two more books, I’m done there. So it seems logical for me to move to a pseudonym and start building a brand from there because I DO want to write many fiction books.

    Make sense?

  4. I’m working under three names, my own and two pen names for the three genres I’m writing in. Part of choosing to use pen names for other genres was that even though they’re both loosely connected to my real one, if I happen to fail miserably at either of those genres I think it will do less damage to my real name than if it was all under the same one. So part of it is protecting my “main brand”, if that makes any sense. I suppose if you don’t write “in public” as I do that’s probably not such an issue, but since I serialize my drafts (in all 3 genres) it seemed prudent. If one of the pen names does poorly in sales and I decide not to write under it anymore, it can just “disappear” with out too much fanfare. Or that’s my hope.

    I also like the organization in my own head that the pen names give me. Aside from the different cover & writing styles, it’s kind of like playing to each separate genre personality. When I’m writing as me, it’s romantic suspense (well, romantic adventure, really – considering rebranding that soon). When I’m working on my thriller, I’m Alex Westhaven, and when I’m writing erotica, I’m Trinity Marlow. Because my voice changes a little for each different genre, the names help me get in that particular mindset while writing – like playing a character, really (I work in all 3 genres in any given week).

    Some of my romance readers cross over to both of the other genres, some to one and not the other. It really does make it easier for readers to differentiate though, I think. I have social media accounts for each name, but am most active on my own, of course. And I have my own pub company that brings them all together as well.

    I like the separation, personally, even though it is more work to maintain the additional names.

    1. I absolutely thought about the issue of having other names in reserve in the event that my main one tanks. Thank God that hasn’t been an issue just yet. I’ve been really careful as I’ve built my genre to not wind up as an ABB (author behaving badly), and thankfully readers have responded well to my existing work. I know I absolutely intend to keep my YA paranormal under this name because a) I’ve already started promoting Red as such and b) I think there will be a LOT of crossover between the two in terms of audience. And for my kitchen witch series…I’m on the fence. I’ve spent an equal amount of time building my platform on my food blog with the eventual goal of using it to launch that series. Also under the name of Kait Nolan. But though it’s a different tone, it’s still paranormal, and still has that element of romance (even if it isn’t going to be the primary focus). The one area I might consider having a variation would be the romantic suspense because it would very definitely NOT be paranormal and would have a different tone than much of my other work. It’s all a long way off, but definitely something to consider.

      1. LaNora is also JD Robb, but that’s kind of because it’s not traditional romance that wraps up over the course of one or a few books. The style of the series is more Detective, with how we follow Eve for many, many books, and her romance life is just one of a number of subplots that enhance the story, in addition to the mystery of her background, stories surrounding Roark, Peabody’s romance, etc.

        However, under Nora Roberts, she HAS written a lot of different stuff. While she’s written a lot of straight romantic suspense without paranormal, trilogies Key, Hidden Star, Circle, Sign of Seven, and probably others had paranormal elements, and Circle was pretty vampiric. I’ve also read Nora that seemed a lot more general fic than romance, books like Public Secrets. The Chesapeake Bay Saga has a really different feel to me than Sanctuary. The sweetness of the Irish trilogy is completely removed from the brutal…well…evil of Divine Evil.

        Just sayin’. (That I have too much Nora in my library? No, never!)

        1. Yeah, and I’ve read every single one of the ones to which you referred… 😀 And I did actually think about that when I mentioned her, but I figured someone would say she’s an exception because she’s Nora. I’d love to do that someday.

  5. Ah. This is always a tough one.

    Disclaimer for me: I write M/M Erotic Romance first and foremost, so that’s the genre that K. Piet is branded for. I do have plans to branch out into non-erotic speculative fiction as well as Mystery and Horror, but those are a bit in the future still. I plan on releasing my non-erotic titles under a different name, though whether it will be a different permutation of my current writer name or a different one completely is still up in the air.

    Since you’re talking about branding not only between genres but between age groups, I personally think it’s important to brand a different name. It can still be close to your current writing name, but for Red and your other YA titles, I would definitely consider changing it up slightly so that readers will know just from the name what they’re being offered. I’m not sure how much erotic content is in your paranormal romance stories, but I think that’s the major point of contention here. As an author, it’s the erotic content that draws the line for me.

    As a reader, I’ll admit there are times when I wish authors would stick with the same name across the board. (The one that comes to mind instantly is Anne Rice with her different names for the books that were published outside the Vampire Chronicles.) Most of the time, however, I like knowing just from the name on the cover that the book I have will be the type I’m looking for. It saves me time.

    If I find an author I really love and decide I want to read more of their work, the last thing I want to do is have to wade through all their titles and have to pick out the one or two in a dozen that are the genre I’m interested in. Granted, this can be remedied on a personal website by organizing your titles into very obvious lists, but on third-party vendor websites, searching an author brings up everything without the nice lists (to my knowledge).

    I definitely understand both sides of the argument here, but ultimately, I’m pro separate names (even if they’re close like Kait Nolan and K.T. Nolan). You can always do the ‘writing as…’ sort of thing so both names are on the books for a little while (i.e. “Kait Nolan writing as K.T. Noland” or the like). ^_^ That would help ease the readers into knowing the new name for the new genre without having to start completely from scratch on your author platform.

    Hope I was a little helpful! Good luck deciding your course of action on this one!

  6. You can probably also do a lot with cover design in terms of waking the consumer up to the fact that hey! this is something different! It doesn’t always seem to work as well when you’re talking about distinguishing between two niches, like YA and adult PNR, but chick-lit, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance could carry the same name with very different looks, and you could brand each variety of your writing with a different look. You will get a fan who makes good on her promise to read everything you ever write who then finds herself disappointed that you chose to also write in a genre she doesn’t like, but that just goes to the whole you can’t please everyone all the time thing. I’m hoping that the longer we’re working and the more we put out there, the less we worry about that.

  7. For me as an unpublished author, this question has always been on my mind. I don’t just write epic fantasy. I write urban fantasy and science fiction. I may even try my hand at YA one of these days, though I doubt it. I just don’t think along those lines.

    I already have one pen name (Annikka Woods). I’m figuring that I’ll use my real name on the UF books and possibly another pen name for the sci fi…or a combination of the real and pen name (A.M. Woods for sci fi maybe). But that also poses a problem in keeping things straight in my head. It’ll all depend on how popular my book(s) become as well.

  8. You have to also consider that those people who don’t read the samples or description, also will never realize you have books under another name. You can’t help them.

    After reading both your books, I’m at the point where if you announce something new, I’m interested because it’s you. I’ll still find out what it’s about, but since I like your style, I assume it’ll be good. I’m sure I’m not the only reader thinking this.

    Since you’re known for Mirus right now, I’d continue building that up and in between start releasing your other ideas. Your core readers will be happy because they’re getting a fresh supply of Mirus and when something different comes out, it’s up to them to decide what to do. And it’s all in one nice neat little package.

    So far all of your ideas are paranormal. To me, that can easily fit under one name. Why does Kait Nolan have to be paranormal romance? Why not Kait Nolan, The ultimate paranormal author? On second thought, I’m using “ultimate” for my branding. You think up your own word.

    1. :snort:

      And to a point you’re absolutely right. Everything I am planning on working on in the immediate future is paranormal. It’s really the traditional romantic suspense that’s been on the backburner that I was thinking about when I wrote this.

      When I made the switch back to paranormal three years ago, I was so incredibly burnt out on the romantic suspense stuff, just because of my obsession with “getting it right” (which I just talked about yesterday: that I really lost the feel for the stories. Lately they’ve been sitting up and saying “Hey, remember me? I was a good idea once before you ditched me for that paranormal hussy.” Okay maybe they didn’t say hussy (it’s just a fun word to use), but either way, they’re popping back up. Last week, I reread the last one I started and fell back in love with it. I think I could pretty well pick up from exactly where I left off and finish it, with a few tweaks to the plot and outline. That was the original brand I was building. Murder and Magnolias–Mississippi-based romantic suspense. Obviously I’ve gone in another direction since then.

      Anyway, it’s something to consider.

      There is also the possibility of taking everything I’ve learned about branding and building a platform as a writer (mistakes and all), and seeing what I can do from scratch with a new name for that other stuff. But I can’t say I’m really EXCITED about that concept…

      I like Susan’s thought earlier, about really branding the covers. THAT I can absolutely do.

      1. Kelley Armstrong also has a non-paranormal series you may or may not know (Nadia Stafford) under her name, so your trad romantic suspense should be okay under Kait Nolan.

        And I liked Susan’s idea about the covers too. She’s a smarty pants.

  9. The author that comes to mind when it comes to multiple genres is Michael Crichton. I’ve never seen anyone write such varied works. Sexual harassment, science fiction, suspense…just a little bit of everything. So I don’t see why you can’t do it. I agree, though, that if you’re going to write both erotica and YA, you should definitely use different pen names. That could get nasty.

    1. Thankfully I’m clear on that front. I like writing YA because there’s no sex (at least not in mine). I hate trying to write sex. Gruesome, gory murder? Bring it on. Love scene? Help please!

      1. And I’m just exactly the opposite. Love scenes are my favorite. I have trouble with gruesome, gory murder. And I guess I’ll have to deal with that since I’m writing about an evil garden gnome. LOL.

          1. I actually thought of it last year when I was at a garden show of some sort, and there was this garden gnome that totally creeped me out. I can’t believe they’re making a movie about NICE garden gnomes. They just give me the creeps…just like that Burger King guy.

  10. No one has mentioned crossing the fiction/non-fiction line in genres yet. What’s the general opinion about that? Two names, one for each or can they be penned under one name. Example would be fiction urban fantasy and non-fiction alternative healing. Ideas? suggestions?

    1. My thoughts on that is that there’s really not AS much of an issue. People tend to notice when you cross from fiction into non-fiction, and I would think with most readers, there would be enough hesitation to actually see what is this non-fiction about and do I want to read it. I mean I guess it depends on what your two areas are. For somebody who’s writing in, say, technical manuals, I’m betting there won’t be a lot of cross-over in audiences with that person’s thrillers, KWIM?

      In your case…I guess it just depends on how you want to work it. Non-fiction requires a bit of a different type of platform, so you need to figure out your target audiences for both. If there’s crossover between them, then I see no reason not to put it under the same name to capitalize on that cross-over. If it’s wholly different, then it might make more sense to brand them each.

  11. Hooo-boy! I just finished Devil’s Eye and cannot wait to hear more from Sophie and Mick. I know you are a very busy person, but we have baited breath here and will be on the lookout!
    Thanks for your efforts and sharing.

  12. As an as yet unpublished author, I am just dabbling with different genres and haven’t even thought about using different names. So far I have an urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and YA novel in the works. I’m also looking to write epic fantasy, science fiction, horror (Zombies), thriller (like the Da Vinci Code), and time travel. I’m pushing my limits and trying to see what I like to write. It would be nice if I could eventually get everything published, but I don’t know that it is worth branding a different name for everything I write. If I did they would probably think I was schizophrenic or something!

  13. A perfect answer to a good question. I myself am a beginning Indie and I like a lot of different subjects. My first series is VERY multi-genre with action, adventure, conspiracy, sci-fi, and fantasy elements. However, I have another story idea that fits into Crime-Romance, and yet another that’s a coming of age vigilante tale. Even further I have an idea for a horror story! So yeah, being Indie…I pretty much don’t care. I just wanna write what I want to write like you.

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