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.