Genres and Audiences

I don’t write in one genre.  I wonder if this is a problem.

Obviously, it shouldn’t be a problem.  I like writing.  I like creating people and worlds and conflicts.  I like using those things to tell stories and I love crafting the words that bring those stories to life.  I believe in writing whatever the hell I want to write.

But writing across a smattering of genres isn’t exactly the best marketing strategy.  My web serial, The New Devil, is a supernatural adventure about demons and hellish creatures and telekinesis.  In a discomfitingly stark contrast, my novel The Weather Man is all about real-world dramas and post-high school romance.  It’s told in a blog format, taking place in a digital world quite different from the narrative setting for The New Devil.  If someone likes one of those two stories, it doesn’t mean they’ll be interested in another.

I’d like to think that the subject matter of my work shouldn’t matter.  After all, if my writing is gripping enough, a fan can enjoy anything I’ve written, regardless of the genre.  But I won’t kid myself.  Not only is that philosophy risky for even well-established authors, but my mastery of phrasing hasn’t quite achieved Oscar Wilde status just yet.  My prose isn’t jaw-dropping.  I mean, I think it’s pretty good and all, but I have yet to be hailed as the next Shakespeare.

Among the various writing projects I’m juggling are a tangled tale of time travel, a tragic extraterrestrial saga and a heavy-handed literary coming-of-age story.  If I finish and publish all of these, I’m taking a scattershot approach to my audience.  Maybe some people will really love one of my novels, but I might be nothing better than a one-hit-wonder to a whole lot of readers.  The scattershot approach doesn’t build a brand.

But if I try to pigeonhole myself into a particular genre, I think my writing will have a certain dishonesty to it.  If I write nothing but fantasy stories, my inevitable loss of passion will show through once I grow bored of the genre.  The quality of my work will suffer.  And how does that build a successful brand?

I don't really even like this book, but hey, it has some important concepts.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So I guess what I have to do is just keep writing what I want to write and hope that my readers will find some common elements among all my stories that make them worth reading.


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