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I currently have two books, both roughly the same length and at the same point in the editing/rewriting process, and while I would like to eventually publish them both, they are from two completely different genres. Book one is a middle-grade fantasy (with a somewhat similar feel to Diana Wynne Jones' work), while the other is more a work of literary fiction (no fantasy, normal world, for older/adult readers, about a disaster and the people impacted by it). And that's where the problem lies.

Although I would like both of them to be published, as an unpublished author I imagine it wouldn't be very realistic to try to get them both published at the same time, so I want to start with just one. However, assuming whichever one I go with is eventually published and does reasonably well, because the genres are so different will it make it more difficult to publish the second book?

If a book of one genre does well, will this make publishers less likely to accept something of a different genre by the same (new) author?

PS. I know that assuming that either of them would even get published, let alone do well, isn't exactly realistic, but this is more of a hypothetic worry than a real one at the moment.

  • I am commenting because I don't actually know the answer. My suggestion is to work on getting an agent or publisher for the first book you finish, or try for both at once if you finish them around the same time. Once one gets a contract, see what your agent/publisher thinks about the other one. Good luck! – Cyn Dec 20 '18 at 1:35
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Publishers will always prefer to publish books by authors who write all their books in the same or at least in related genres, because

an author is a brand

and the clearer a brand is defined the easier it is to market it.

You can think of this in terms of a store. If you want bread, you go to a bakery, because you know that bakeries sell bread. Over time, you test the bakeries next to you and find the ones that provide the quality you like, and from then on you will buy most of your bread from these bakeries.

Now imagine, that all the stores in your city would offer an ever changing range of products. If you wanted to buy bread, first you wouldn't know where to go to get it. You'd have to go from one shop to another until you found one that sold bread. And then you wouldn't know what quality that bread had. The chance that you would be disappointed would be very high.

So which system of buying bread do you prefer? The one where you had to waste countless hours each week finding your foods in different stores and would be disappointed by the quality about half the time? Or the one where you know where you can get what you want in the quality you want?

Most readers today prefer to buy books from known authors writing in familiar genres published in established imprints. Most readers prefer to know that they will get what they want to get.

Agent Rachelle Gardner writes in a blog post:

Can I write books in multiple genres and expect to build a successful publishing career?

No.

This is a marketing issue, first and foremost. If you want to publish books, attract a loyal readership, and have long-term success as an author, then you’ll need to pick a genre, do it well, and keep doing it over and over. Simple as that. All the arguing in the world and all the talent in the world is not going to change this reality.

You need to specialize, because a publisher can’t afford to try and reach a whole new audience with every single book. As an author, neither can you. If your first book is a historical romance and 25,000 people buy it and love it, you now have 25,000 historical romance readers eager for another book from you. If your second book is a contemporary suspense, you completely give up the audience you’ve already built (leaving them hanging, by the way) and you have to build a new audience from the ground up. How much sense does that make?

It’s simply not feasible, especially in today’s competitive market, to try and be a jack of all trades.

Brand is the single most important factor in a writer's success. For example, Megan Lindholm once explained in an interview that she chose to begin publishing under the pseudonym Robin Hobb because book sellers had stopped ordering books from a writer they expected to not sell well. Her brand had deteriorated and no matter how good her next book was, booksellers were unwilling to give it a chance under that brand name!

Of course there are exceptions where famous (!) authors expand to new and different genres, but they are exceptions. For the average author it is usually advisable to use different pseudonyms for different genres. Even J. K. Rowling chose to continue publishing her crime fiction under another name so as not to confuse the audience and water down her brand. Because not everyone who reads crime fiction likes Harry Potter and the name of Rowling might be a reason for some readers to not buy her non-Potter books.

4

It's very hard to get any book published. But it's much easier for an published author with a successful book in the same genre, because (1) there's hard evidence that this author can be successful with that kind of book and (2) fans of the first book will be hoping for more of the same. For the same reason, the publisher will try hard to get the author to stick to one genre, rather than hopping genres.

However, that same author can be published again in a different genre, if the new book is good enough. They just lose a lot (but not all) of the "published" bonus. It's almost, but not quite like starting all over as an unknown quantity. You're also running the real risk of angering existing fans. So you're best off picking a particular genre and sticking too it. But you're at least a little better off with the second book with a successful book under your belt, even in a different genre, than without it.

The plain truth is that most authors excel at one genre over another. But some authors are successful in multiple genres. Isaac Asimov, for instance, had a primary career as a SF great, and a secondary career as the author of multiple nonfiction bestsellers. It does also help if the genres are related --science fact and science fiction, for instance, or picture books and middle grade novels. That's not the case for you. But you do have one advantage as an unknown in non-overlapping genres --you can shop both books at the same time to different targets, and see which one hits.

2

This is why you get an agent; she knows lots of publishers and knows how to pitch different genres to the same publisher.

If she represented you for your first book and sold it, then she will almost certainly read your next book (and give you an honest assessment), and if it is good leave it to her to deal with the publisher(s), and which editors to contact within the publisher, and she will leverage your existing relationship with them as much as possible.

You can also publish under a pseudonym for the different genre; most agents and publishers want your name to become a brand within a genre, but if you can write two books a year in different genres they may be willing to publish them both under different names. (They will know your real name, though.)

0

Simple answer : Probably not.

The only real complication with writing in a different genre would be the fan-base confusion. Take George RR Martin for example, he has written books in fantasy, horror, science fiction etc... Publishers would see his name on these books, and be more likely to publish them, because hey, its GRRM here, take the easy sell. I understand that his name carries some weight, but the same principle would apply to smaller writers because writing is a different game than say music. If Taylor Swift came out and tried to do trap music, everyone would assume its awful, but writing is different, you're not limited to anything. However, if you write in fantasy for like 7 years, and do relatively well, everyone will assume you will always write in that genre, so to avoid confusion some writers use different pen names when they write different genres.

  • 2
    Fantasy, sci-fi and horror are all "speculative fiction". If G.R.R, Martin suddenly released a poetry book, I'd be surprised. – Galastel Dec 19 '18 at 15:25
  • @Galastel although those are all speculative fiction, they're still different. If you only know of G.R.R.M's fantasy books, then you hear he's releasing another book, and you get it and its horror, and you dont like horror, it would be confusing. Yes, in that specific instance, more research would solve this problem before it begins, but simply using a different pen name would solve any confusion before its even a problem. – M.Wallace Dec 19 '18 at 16:05
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Writers have faced this issue before. For example, I am a fan of the late Iain Banks. Some of his books are attributed to Iain M. Banks and some only to Iain Banks. As a fan, I know that when I see the middle initial I am more than likely going to read sci-fi set in the Culture.

Banks' first published book was about a serial killer and his second book was science fiction. So all, advice to the contrary, it can be done.

Others, especially prolific writers, will use a pen name. Stephen King does something similar. King has also released books under the name Richard Bachman.

The advice in some of these other answers that an author's name is their brand is not entirely wrong. It is, in fact, fairly accurate. However, this is a marketing issue, not a convincing the editors (or agents issue).

You will most likely want to pick one book, polish it to as close to perfection as you can get it and work on getting it published. Maybe it will be picked up, maybe it will not. If it does, and it does well, you will have an easier time convincing a publisher or agent that you have the chops to break a new market.

If the first book does not get traction with agents and publishers - well, you still have a second book to try with.

The chances are that once you have one book out, it is much easier to sell a second to about as many people (plus a few more) if it is similar. This is why Stephen King sells a lot of books - while he rarely writes sequels people know exactly what they are getting from him.

Sequels sell. That is just a fact. Thus it may be that whichever book you can get a contract for may tie you into writing a few more like it before you have the weight to push for the other.

Or maybe you really are very good at selling the first book and can be "discovered" with not one but two debut novels. That is effectively what you are looking at. Starting from scratch, twice. It can be done but it may be somewhere between a little more and exactly twice as much work. There is no reason not to try. It worked for Banks. Why not you?

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Rethink your question by putting yourself in the shoes of the publisher. How are you creating value for the publisher? To answer that, you'll need to put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Why should they buy your book? If you want agents, publishers, and customers, YOU MUST ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS BEFORE YOUR PEN INKS YOUR FIRST PAGE.

  • This is (arguably) good general advice, but it you would need to connect the dots a little more to make it specific to this question. – Chris Sunami Dec 20 '18 at 17:59
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    I'm not writing just to get published and attempt to make some money. I write because I enjoy it, so I'm really not going to worry about what publishers and customers want before I've gotten anything down on the page. I would rather write what I want to write and then see if it fits a market anywhere (at least now as a 100% unpublished writer). This is why I'm left with my current problem, but to be honest, I'd rather write what I enjoy and have this problem than write to the mantra of 'I must make a book that publishers want' – s.anne.w Dec 21 '18 at 5:51
  • It pains me to see writers spend years of their life writing something that no one wants. Heed my advice now or learn the lesson later. I absolutely know what I'm talking about. – BSalita Dec 21 '18 at 9:34
  • @BSalita You may know what you're talking about, but to be honest, I really don't care. It's my personal choice whether I decide to stick to writing what I like and 'fail' by 'wasting years of my life' or 'succeed' by pandering to others by writing what I very well may not like. I'd rather enjoy supposedly wasted time than loathe time spent writing what other people want. – s.anne.w Dec 27 '18 at 2:00
  • Can you not find compromise between writing with enjoyment and writing something valued? Great writers seem to do both. – BSalita Dec 28 '18 at 9:13

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