Authors tend to write in one genre and, therefore, self-identify as a “mystery writer,” “romance writer,” or “memoirist,” for example. From a business standpoint, this can be effective in terms of your author branding, focusing your readership, and streamlining your marketing efforts. If you’re firmly in your genre groove and that’s where you want to stay, cool. That’s probably the best place to invest your time and energy.
But what happens if you’re not successfully selling your work in that genre—or your niche isn’t that popular? And what if you just feel like branching out and want to write in other genres?
Well, it turns out that if you’re willing to put in the extra time and energy, you can diversify what you write and potentially expand not only your audience reach but also your sales. There’s a large readership for advice and how-to nonfiction books, especially in the business markets. There’s also a thriving market for fiction series in different genres. But how do you tap into those markets? And what are the potential obstacles?
1. Do your research.
If you’re seriously contemplating writing outside your primary genre, you absolutely must investigate your new market. Familiarize yourself with other authors in the topic or genre, the bestsellers, and what readers are buying an enjoying. Start by exploring:
- What are the top sellers on Amazon and other booksellers?
- Is there something new or fresh you can add with your work, or is the topic/genre so oversaturated that your book would have a hard time getting noticed?
- What books are selling, and which ones aren’t? Can you tell why?
- Look at aspects of the book marketing package. Are there cover trends? How does the copy pull in readers? Do the popular authors have a large or small social media presence, and how are they managing it?
2. Draw upon your own professional (or even personal) background and experience.
If you’ve been working in your industry for a long period of time, or are a talented hobbyist in some area, explore writing a book that shares your valuable knowledge and experience with others. Focus on presenting the information in an easily digestible, detailed, and well-written guide to some aspect of your work or craft. Ask yourself:
- What do I know best about my field/industry/craft/hobby?
- What knowledge or experience sets me apart from other people in this community?
- How can I help make other people's work or life easier?
- Can this information also apply to other industries or areas of a reader’s life beyond the obvious one?
- If I were just starting out in this field, would I find this book valuable?
3. Target a popular audience or genre.
Another option is to explore the trends that are driving popular fiction sales. Contemporary romance, thrillers, YA, and middle-grade series are all lucrative options for those who write fiction.
- It’s best to write in a genre that you’ve already been reading. You'll not only understand this new market but know you enjoy it. (See below.)
- Write something you would want to read. If you’re not enjoying writing the book, the reader will know it. Plus, it will be a lot harder to finish the project and be enthusiastic about marketing it.
- If you’re already a fiction writer, consider transitioning to this new genre by writing a crossover work that will appeal to both your current readership and the new one. For example, if you’re a mystery or thriller writer and you’d like to try your hand at romance, start by writing a romantic suspense novel. It might feel like less of a stretch than jumping from whodunits to, say, Regency romance.
4. Think carefully before you use a pseudonym.
Many famous authors use a nom de plume when they change genres, and occasionally, indie authors do it too. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Usually, the best approach to marketing yourself as an author is to use a consistent byline. This keeps your author branding focused on you and not the genre you’re writing in.
The only time it makes solid sense to write under a pseudonym is if there is some danger of alienating or upsetting your audiences if your genres are too different. Obviously an author of children’s fiction won’t want to be writing erotic romances under the same name.
5. Don’t expect your fans to follow you.
Writing for a new genre means writing for a new audience. While you may be able to entice some of your current readers to follow you into your new genre, your best bet is to assume you’re starting over and begin wooing your new readers as soon as you can.
- Create mailing lists for each genre. This way you can keep track of who your readers are and target them specifically.
- Network with industry professionals in your new genre. While you may be established in one area, you’ll want to make sure you’re keeping up with publishers, agents, editors, and other authors in both genres.
- If it’s feasible (such as my example of writing romance and also suspense), consider writing some short crossover pieces (like stories or novellas) as a cheap (or free) read to entice your current readers to join you on your new adventure.
6. Write for YOU.
There are a lot of benefits to writing outside your genre, beyond the potential market for new readers and sales. For one, it can allow you to stretch your wings artistically and rethink the way you write and structure your books. It also keeps you from becoming restricted by one kind of book. But that desire to write in another genre must come from an authentic place. It’s all very well and good to decide that you’re going to write a romance because romance fiction sells well. But if you don’t love writing your romance novels, your readers certainly won’t enjoy reading them.
If you’ve ever been tempted to write outside your genre from a place a genuine curiosity and joy, consider this as your sign to experiment, and see what happens. Because as long as you remain true to your art and yourself (with a willingness to accept critical feedback, of course), you will always be proud of your book … no matter the sales numbers.
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.