writing in multiple genres

Thanks to everyone who reassured me that posting about queries, publications, and including links to client posts still proves of interest. I plan to keep doing those. I just wanted some more to think on. So, also thanks to everyone who took the time to send an idea my way.

Seems like a lot of people want to write in multiple genres and/or for multiple publishers. My clients are no exception.

mizkit has written both fantasy and romance. She used a psuedonym for the latter (Cate Dermody). She is currently under contract to two houses for different subgenres of fantasy.
suricattus is writing for both fantasy and romance and using a psuedonym — all at one publisher.
matociquala has series being published by three different publishers and has also tossed in some small press publications.
jimbutcher has two series being published in the same genre by different imprints under the same publisher umbrella.
Patricia Rosemoor has a fantasy thriller (written as collaboration) scheduled to come out this year but also continues to write romantic suspense. She is not using a pseudonym.
Carol Culver writes YA under one name and romance under another at two different publishers.
Donna Ball has written traditional romance, paranormal fiction, cosy mystery, and women’s fiction, among other things, and used a wide variety of pseudonyms.

As you can see from these examples, every combination under the sun is in use on my client list. From an agent’s perspective, diversity can be a double-edged sword. Using a pseudonym, particularly for extremely opposite markets (I have someone who has written both inspirational fiction and pretty hot romance under different names) can be an advantage. If one market does worse than the other, the numbers are unlikely to cross-pollinate in a negative way. On the other hand, if both genres do well, using the same name could help widen your audience. Separate names means building more than one brand and having the energy to do so. It also means balancing deadlines. Your agent needs to be sure to keep all the editors involved informed on that fact, and also be sure that no one schedules conflicting publications either.

Should you do this? I recommend thinking about it carefully beforehand. Be sure you are the kind of writer/person who can pursue this, and that it’s what you truly want. Don’t just chase trends (they are so often gone before you catch them) or every idea that passes by. All in all, this has the potential to become a complicated balancing act. I’d recommend to anyone that they are very forthcoming with their agent and come up with a plan, whether that involves becoming established in one genre first and then branching out, or a multi-threaded approach with more than one publisher. And, most of all, listen to your agent on these topics. While I may be slightly biased in this respect, this is one of the things that an agent can give you important feedback on. They’ve likely already been there and done that and have acquired experience. It’s one of the things you’re paying for with that 15% after all.

3 responses to “writing in multiple genres

  1. Thanks — this advice expands nicely on the conversation we had at ThrillerFest.

  2. Thank you. It’s really good to see this sort of insight and examination. I’ve submitted everything (fantasy, science fiction, poetry) under my own name so far, but I’ve been considering a pseudonym for YA stuff, because I do seem to gravitate there, and it’s a very different market than adult stuff. For the record, I’m usually a silent reader here because I don’t often have anything to contribute to the conversation, but I am quite interested in following the posts and discussions.

  3. Pretty much all your topics interest me. Thanks for taking the time to do it. Thanks also for linking to Jim Butcher’s livejournal–I hadn’t realized he was on here and posting his thoughts on how he structures stories.

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