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Monday, October 17, 2011

Are You a Cross-Genre Writer?

One of the things that I find fledgling writers do when asked what genre they write in is to hem and haw and finally say, "It crosses genres." You don't find many published, (successful), novelists do that.

If you don't know your genre when you're pitching a publisher or agent, then you're likely to get a big fat rejection.

Why? Because they need to know where you fit into their line. Bookstores need to know how to sell you and where to place you on the bookshelf. I came across this youtube video which touches on the subject.


  1. This is a very good point. You can write different genres as a writer ... but each project needs to have a specific target.

    I'd also recommend on focusing on one genre first-- and then after you're known for your writing--working on something *slightly* different.

    I write historical, historical romance, contemporary, Amish, and I've touched on historical romantic suspense, but my core is historical, and even my contemporary stories have a historical tie. (And Amish reaches the historical readers, too.)

  2. I think a lot of writers hear about "audience," and so they look at their work in terms of "What is the widest possible audience?" when in reality the genre of a book is usually crystal-clear. Look at the big picture of your plot. Just because the lead characters end up hitched does not always mean it is a romance, and never mention that your novel has "elements" of some other genre.

    Remember that trying to bite off more than you can chew helps no one. Your book will be marketed under a specific genre to those specific people who read that genre. Think about book trailers, which usually mention the genre somewhere, or author bios. No cross-genre-ing there. Even in a bio only two or so genres are mentioned, even with the stack of books this author has written.

    On a side note... did anyone else cringe when that woman mentioned "generating buzz" by querying agents?

  3. I've been wondering about this myself and I'm not sure how much genre crossing is okay.
    For example, I know trying to mix paranormal romance and Amish romance would not work since the readers are so different but what about mixing dystopian and urban fantasy? The people who read Twilight seem to read Hunger Games so I'd assume the audience is close enough, thought I haven't read much urban fantasy because it's normally is pushing a viewpoint I dislike.
    I've seen successful mixes of fantasy and sci-fi before. (Artemis Fowl in the secular market and Dragons of Starlight in the Christian market)

  4. That's a good tip, I'd never thought of that before. I'm writing modern fantasy, and it's pretty solidly what it says on the tin. Fantasy set in modern day. Magic alongside cell phones. If Artemis Fowl could pull it off, then why not? :-)

  5. I love how some people label their genres...I saw one recently called "Clock Punk" instead of "Steampunk." I've written a historical fiction novel about Vikings, and I thought about categorizing it as "Iron Age Steamy Punk" just to fall into that ever-popular steampunk category... JUST KIDDING!

  6. Tricia, that's cool that you get to write in several genres. Most writers don't get away with that. We're always given the example of John Grisham's A Painted House not doing well because his audience was folks who knew and loved him for his legal thrillers. But, I think, while you may have better branding and ultimate sails in one market, for some, it's more important to them personally to write what they feel they must. How cool that you get to do both and I think you do well.

    When I started writing I was mixing supernatural suspense and women's fiction. Talk about a tough sell. I think it's good advice to ask others (close friends) what you seem to write best and give it a whirl. I didn't think I could write straight women's fiction and it turns out that's exactly what I should be writing.

    As far as mixing genres, if you want to sell, honestly, I'd avoid it in the beginning. If you're wanting to do romance and suspense, then romantic suspense is its own genre. You can deviate a bit and there's always someone who does their own wild thing and makes it. But for most of us, picking a genre we're most adept at and enjoy is going to be a good call. Modern fantasy is a great genre. See, you're crystal clear on what you write. That's what agents and publisher's want to see. I think sci-fi and fantasy blend well (though both are fairly tough sells so together, might make it even harder). Dystopian Urban fantasy I would think you could pick one genre or the other to call it and still be right.

    Big turn off when you hear an author say, "Well, I write women's fiction with a touch of suspense and fantasy." Pick a genre, is your best bet at selling. so, if you're writing that wildly across genres (as I was), something is likely amiss and you're still discovering what you're supposed to be writing.

    No, I didn't get to the part about querying agents to create buzz. Ha! Not the kind of buzz you probably want. :)

  7. Great discussion, Gina.

    I agree, writers need to know their genre, but it's something I've struggled with personally.

    I still don't know what my genre is and no one I've asked has given me an answer that resonates with me.

    When ROOMS was shopped in the fall of '06 most houses said, "Well, the guy can write, but where do we put it? It doesn't fit into any genre. Where would we put it?" (And ROOMS didn't sell for another year and a half.)

    It has romance, supernatural elements, some mystery, some suspense but it wasn't primarily any of those things.

    Same with BOOK OF DAYS and THE CHAIR.

    When people ask I say my novels are Supernatural Suspense, but that still feels like a square peg/round hole thing.

    To your point, it made it harder for me to break in. Now that I have it's not an issue, but it certainly was at the start


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