Monday, May 16, 2016

One Author. Two Genres.

with guest blogger Liz Johnson.

Do you ever feel like you have two different personalities? Or better yet, like you’re actually two different people?

I don’t generally feel that way. I’m just me. Living in Nashville. Working as a marketing manager during the day. Writing late into the night. But lately a few people (even some I’ve known online for years) have thought I’m two completely different individuals. 

Navy Seal Security

You see, for the last seven years I’ve been writing for Love Inspired Suspense. I’ve published eight books with LIS so far, including my latest, Navy SEAL Security. I love writing these fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat romances filled with danger, romance, and a heap of inspiration.

But then a few years ago I had a story idea that was decidedly not for LIS. It stemmed from a trip to Prince Edward Island (home of Anne of Green Gables) and the idea of a bed-and-breakfast in a small town on the north shore and two wounded hearts seeking peace and finding healing. That story developed into The Red Door Inn, my first contemporary romance, which released a couple months ago from Revell. It’s still Christian fiction. It’s still romance. But it’s not a suspense.

If you’re keeping count, that’s two genres. And I write both of them. But it can be a bit confusing to those not actually living my life.

Maybe it’s because I have a fairly common, rather generic name. Liz Johnson could be—and is—a number of people. (For the record I am not also a professional bowler nor do I write books on gardening.) But for whatever reason, I’ve had at least three people think that the Liz Johnson who writes for LIS is a different Liz than the author of The Red Door Inn. (One of those was Tina Radcliffe, who prompted the very idea for this blog post. Thanks for inviting me to share, Tina!)

I say all of that to introduce you to the topic of the day—writing in multiple genres.

It’s become pretty commonplace for authors to venture into multiple genres, especially with the ease of self-publishing.

But the multiple genre idea isn’t a new one. Authors like Nora Roberts have been doing it for 20 years—her first futuristic police procedural as J. D. Robb released in 1995. You might recognize some other authors and their pseudonyms for new genres. J. K. Rowling writing suspense as Robert Galbraith. Katie Ganshert writing YA as K. E. Ganshert. Siri Mitchell writing general market historicals as Iris Anthony.

But what about the authors who use the same name to write in multiple genres? In my experience there isn’t a perfect formula for maintaining recognition and building readership. But I have learned a few things as I continue writing romantic suspense and contemporary romance for the inspirational market.

First, some road bumps authors might hit—whether they keep their name or not.

1. Losing or confusing their audience. Authors spend years growing their readership, building relationships with the readers who love their work. But one book out of the norm could mean an author’s readers don’t want—or don’t know—to follow. For example, an author might write in a genre that her readers don’t want to read. Or it could just be confusion. I spent years connecting with book reviewers, but when The Red Door Inn released, one of my faithful LIS reviewers emailed me. Her note began, “I don’t know if you’re the same Liz Johnson who wrote The Red Door Inn . . .” We had a good chuckle out of that one, but I clearly hadn’t made the connection for her. No one likes being confused, and readers want to be faithful to authors they love.

2. Convoluting their brand. I’ve heard a lot of definitions for an author’s personal brand, but the one I like best is: what readers expect from your stories. An author’s brand is her signature. The way she uses humor or infuses faith into the storyline. But if an author who is known for light-hearted small-town cozy mysteries decides to suddenly take up heavy-handed dystopian novels and then sensual romances, readers won’t know what to expect when they see the author’s name.

3. Disappointing readers. The result of an overly convoluted brand is disappointed readers. Imagine a scenario where an author is known for writing sweet, inspirational romance novels set on a ranch in Idaho. Her readers know what to expect. And then the author decides to simultaneously write highly sensual romances set at the same Idaho ranch. Readers are expecting safe and sweet and get steamy and sultry. And for some readers that could be enough to turn them off from this author forever.

These are, perhaps, the most common hiccups an author could experience. But they don’t have to be your fate. Obviously I’m still learning (after all, I’m still confused for being two different authors), but I have picked up a few tips along the way.

1. Keep your marketing clear and tight. Your website, social media, and press releases should be straightforward in order to avoid confusion. If you have a books page on your website, make sure that you have subpages that clearly identify your genres. I love how Katie Ganshert does this on her website—identifying her inspirational and YA titles on separate pages.

2. Be upfront with your readers about what to expect. Jillian Hart does a great job at this. She writes in at least three different genres—inspirational romance, sweet romance, and sensual romances. Her marketing copy often identifies the type of book her readers can expect, so there’s no surprise. When she posts on social media about a sale on one of her books, she identifies what genre it falls into.

3. Be strategic about what you write. Again Jillian Hart is an excellent example. While her readers know she offers a variety of stories across the heat index, they always know they’ll get a strong romance filled with hope. She’s not asking readers to follow her from falling in love under Montana skies to true crime stories in Columbia. Asking readers to stay with her from one romance genre to another isn’t a stretch, and many will.

Lots of authors have success writing in multiple genres, so if it’s something that you’re considering, I encourage you to explore it. But do so thoughtfully. Consider your brand, marketing, and communication strategy. There’s no guarantee that you can avoid all confusion, but with some planning, you can keep the reader relationships you’ve invested in and continue to grow your audience.

So what’s your opinion on writing in different genres? Do you write in more than one genre? How do you juggle it? As a reader, are there authors you like to read who cross genres? Why or why not?

Liz Johnson: By day Liz Johnson works as a marketing manager, and she makes time to write late at night. Liz is the author of nine novels—including her first contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn (Prince Edward Island Dreams, book 1)—and a New York Times bestselling novella. She makes her home in Nashville, where she enjoys exploring local music, theater, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters. Connect with her at or



 The Red Door Inn

 Marie Carrington is broke, desperate, and hoping to find sanctuary on Prince Edward Island while decorating a renovated bed-and-breakfast. Seth Sloane moved three thousand miles to help restore his uncle's Victorian B and B--and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart. He wasn't expecting to have to babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just two months will take everything they've got—and they have to find a way to work together. In the process, they may find something infinitely sweeter than they ever imagined on this island of dreams.

Leave a comment today for an opportunity to win a copy of The Red Door Inn. Winner will be announced in the Weekend Edition!


Valri said...

LIZ!!!! Am I really the first one to comment??? YAHOOOOOOO!!! You know how much I love your books!!!! I've been reading your books from the very beginning! I don't care what genre you write, they are all fabulous! As soon as I found out you graduated from NAU in Flagstaff, you know I felt you were a kindred spirit since my daughter also graduated from there :) We "discussed" this many times :) I adore all your Navy Seal books and your other LIS books but whatever your write is awesome too. I would love to win your RED DOOR book. I've been wanting to read it so badly........Put me in the drawing!!!

So glad you've come to Seekerville. I love to see you anytime!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Liz or Lizs. HA!

I admit I am one of the confused ones. I had been a fan of your Love Inspired Suspense books and when your lovely Red Door Inn came out I thought, how strange to have two inspy authors with the same name. It did take me a while to figure it out. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. :)

I have several authors who I follow who write two or more subgenres. I admit to being a follower of some of those subgenres and not others. But that's a win win really. Because you can't please everyone but wow..this increases the odds of you hitting the target with someone.

And I love that we can do this as authors. What options we have today!!!

Trixi said...

Ok so I admit, I didn't make the connection either Liz! I have just purchased "Navy Seal Security" and just recently seen the book release for "The Red Door Inn", but never connected the same author to both books. But it's no surprise to you it sounds like as other readers think the same. *Now don't I feel silly*

As a reader, I don't know if I know of any authors who cross into different genres. Or at least haven't read any who have. Actually, I take that back...Dana Mentink writes for LIS and just recently released a contemporary story "Sit, Stay, Love" about a geriatric dog, washed up baseball player & unemployed substitute dog sitter. I think she did a marvelous job for both genres, but then again, I love her writing anyway. Us readers tend to be very loyal to our authors :-) And I think as long as they continue to write stories with their own style in tack, it doesn't matter to me what they choose to write!

Please tack my name to the red door for a chance to win your book Liz! The setting sounds perfect for an afternoon spent on Prince Edward Island :-)

Liz Ann said...

Tina, thank you again for inviting me to share! I'm so glad I could be here today!

Valri, I love our NAU connection! I think we're definitely kindred spirits. Anne Shirley would surely approve. :)

Trixi, you're certainly not alone in not connecting all of my books. I'm glad I got to set the record straight today. I love Dana's writing too, and her contemporary sounds great! I'll have to check that out. Thanks for stopping by!

Dawn Leonard said...

5th try - I hope this one goes through (my computer issues not Seekerville)
I have always liked your LIS books Liz but I did wonder if you could write a regular romance book as well. I was not disappointed with The Red Door Inn. I loved it! I can't wait for When Two Hearts Meet (The Red Door Inn's sequel) or future LIS books to be published. If I didn't follow you on Facebook, I don't know if I would have realized you were the same author. I'm very glad I did. I hope you will write many more books. All I ask is that you keep them contemporary as I can't seem to like historical romance very much.

Oddly enough, I was a fan of Nora Roberts before she started writing the JD Robb books and I probably read every one before the JD Robbs started. I am now a huge fan of the JD Robb books and rarely read the regular books that Nora writes. I haven't liked all the JD Robb books but I've read them.

The only other author I can think of who I read faithfully who has kind of switched genres is Ruth Logan Herne. I haven't read a book of hers that I didn't like. I did wonder when she ventured into cowboy books with Back in the Saddle but I loved that too. Not sure if her next book will have a cowboy or a police officer as the hero but I can't wait to read it.

I apologize if some of this makes no sense but it's my 5th try and I can't actually read what I'm typing at 1 am because of my computer issues. No drawing for me - I'd rather you share the beauty of The Red Door Inn with someone else.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Dawn Leonard!!! Lovely to see you in the Village.

And it makes perfect sense!!

Liz Johnson said...

Dawn--thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad you weren't disappointed with The Red Door Inn. :) I confess that I haven't read any J.D. Robb books, but I was working in a bookstore about the time Nora started writing as Robb, and I found it fascinating. I love that Ruth's books have kept you hooked across subgenre!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'd like to say for the record...that Navy Seal on your cover has got to be one of the finest looking men to ever grace the cover of a Love Inspired novel. You even got buff. No one gets buff.

Cindy W. said...

Hi Liz. As a reader, it doesn't matter what genre an author writes in, if I love their work I will read whatever genre their name it on. Irene Hannon is such an author, I love her suspense novels as well as the contemporary.

I would love to be in the drawing to win a copy of your book. Thank you for the chance.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Lara (Storm) Hitchcock said...

Liz, I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading any of your books, but The Red Door Inn sounds great! Please enter me for the draw.

As a reader, I'll read anything that doesn't have too much language and graphic detail. I started reading Christian romance for that very reason. In my opinion, a good story is a good story, though I can't think of many authors I've read who have spanned the gap. Maybe you'll be one of them ;-)

I can second the comment about Ruthy's books. I've only had the pleasure of reading two of them so far (More Than a Promise and Running on Empty) but I loved them both even though they had two very different feels, the latter more like a romantic suspense.

As writer, I can't say anything about readership since I'm not published, but I have ventured into a variety of genres including mystery/fantasy, sci-if, romantic suspense, and contemporary Christian romance. Maybe I'm still finding my genre, but again, a good story is a good story and I'm hoping to finish and improve them all with the hope of publication.

Thanks for your post. I added Red Door Inn to my Goodreads reading list. I look forward to reading your book soon!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Liz, I'm so glad to welcome you to Seekerville! I was chatting about this very thing last week, and it's music to my ears to hear your words...

I like a little diversity in my writing. It keeps me fresh. I love my markets, I love category romance (great books, not too long for busy folks and an amazing readership that I love!!!) and I love writing single titles, too. So I'm totally on board with this, and Tina's right. GREAT SUSPENSE COVER!!!!

And absolutely gorgeous cover for The Red Door Inn. Love it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dawn Leonard! It's so nice to see you over here!!! And thank you so much for your kind words, I will smile all day, just thinking of them! And Lara, thank you for jumping in with the "second"....

You guys rock. Totally.

I've always thought that teachers should be mandated to change grade levels about every 4 years. It's hard to not choose the "easy" route when you've got lesson plans all made, and when we're forced to make a change, we have to freshen our supply.

This isn't knocking teachers, it's kind of a parody on life. Change isn't generally easy, and we get nervous with risk, but Liz took a risk... and it got her a beautiful book!

Way to go, Liz!!!!

Bettie said...

Your new book sounds wonderful. Please enter me in the drawing.

I must admit that I usually purchase a book based on the fact that it's inspirational and what the back cover pitch says rather than who wrote it. Sorry about that to all you author promoters.

I do have a couple of Seekerville authors that I follow but most purchases don't happen that way.

Hey Ruthy, I redo my lesson plans all the time. Education practices change at high rates of speed these days and teachers have to keep adjusting and refining to keep up with expectations. Love you Ruthy. ..just couldn't resist responding.

Kate said...

This books sounds so good, and PEI is the perfect setting. Please enter me in the drawing!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Liz, congrats on your success in both genres! Agreeing with Tina about your Navy Seal cover. Oh my, he's a hero, for sure!

My next series from LIS will be Amish suspense. That's a bit of a change from my Military Investigations series. Wondering if I'll lose some of those readers. I hope not. Something to ponder.

Caryl Kane said...

LIZ, thank you for the interesting post. I enjoy reading Colleen Coble's stories.

Please enter me to win a copy of The Red Door Inn.

Jackie said...

Hi Liz,

Congratulations on your success with LIS and The Red Door Inn. It's a beautiful cover and sounds like a great story!

Thanks for encouraging us that we can write in more than one genre.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, LIZ! You graduated from NAU?!! I don't think I knew that. As an Arizona mountain country resident myself, how did you end up there?

Would you please share a bit about your writing schedule...and how you juggle writing the two genres?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Yes, Glynna. How she juggles two genres and a day job. Okay now here's an odd random thought. I actually thought Liz lived in Colorado and was surprised she's in Tennessee.

Kav said...

Well, I was one who DID connect the two Liz Johnsons. I had read your LIS so when Red Door Inn came out I thought, "Cool, Liz Johnson is writing contemporary romance now." And I love Red Door Inn -- Prince Edward Island, an Anne of Green Gables loving heroine and enough angst to keep my tummy in knots the whole read -- really, what's not to like?

I love my Christian fiction so while I'm happy to genre hop with favourite authors, I usually don't follow them outside of inspirational. Just too many wonderful Christian novels to choose from. But I'm a fan of multiple genres so I'm happy to hop from historical to contemporary to suspense to Amish...even dabble my toes in a speculative a time or two.

Let's see authors I have followed across genres. Lisa Carter from romantic suspense to Love Inspired contemporary. Colleen Coble from contemporary romantic suspense to historical romantic suspense. Margaret Daley from romantic suspense to contemporary. Shelley Shepard Gray from Amish contemporary to Western historical to historical suspense. wow, come to think of it, there are a lot of authors who are mixing genres. I could go on but I won't. :-)

Oh - and no need to enter me in the draw because I have Red Door Inn on my keeper shelf.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Liz,
I've read five of your LIS and have two more waiting to be read, so when I first starting seeing The Red Door Inn, the first thing I did was go to your amazon profile page and saw it was your book. I think a lot of readers make the connection this way.

I actually like when favorite authors are skilled enough to switch up their writing genres. After all, good writing is good writing. I switch my reading choices around anyway to keep it interesting, contemporary, historical, suspense, romantic comedy, etc.
*Ruthy does this well from LI to Indie to full length novels to historical and novellas too. I read all hers, because, well as I said, good writing is good writing.
*Tina also does this well from LI to romantic comedy.

So to answer your question, genre isn't so much the point for me as is a connection to the writer/writing. I will say I have seen an inspirational writer make the choice to move genres without informing the reader, then trying to use their name recognition to sell a general market book and being totally surprised at what I read. Your recommendation to inform a reader what to expect is exactly right.

I'm looking forward to reading The Red Door Inn. Prince Edward Island is on my bucket list and until I can actually visit there in person I'll content myself with reading about it. Please include me in the drawing, thank you, and thank you for sharing today, so interesting.

P.S. Tina's right on the Men of Valor cover, LIS is upping their game, love it!

Jill Weatherholt said...

I'm never disappointed when a favorite author juggles's more books to read. :)
Congratulations on your success, Liz. I love the cover of The Red Door Inn. Please enter me in the drawing...the story sounds wonderful.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well Tracey, thanks for the kind words :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Anyone notice how the pendulum is swinging back with long contemporary romance and women's fiction becoming hot hot hot once again. Of course we don't call it women's fiction. But that's what we are seeing.

Kathryn Albright said...

A very timely post for me as I am in the process of stretching my wings as a writer. I will make sure to check your website and the other two writers you mentioned to see how they did it. It is "freeing" to be able to write something a little different.

I have not read your LIS books, but I must say The Red Door Inn sounds like a great read.
All the best in your writing career!

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, Liz! As one Johnson to another, believe me, I understand the challenges of having such a common last name! So far, I'm only aware of one other author named Myra Johnson, and I think she writes for children and uses her middle initial. I'd always intended to include my maiden name in bylines, but somehow, when my first novel came out, they didn't get the message, so I am forever just "Myra Johnson" now.

Since I write both historical and contemporary romances, I'm not sure if that counts as multiple genres or just different angles on what is central to my writing: love stories about real people with real-life issues.

Marianne Barkman said...

I tend to follow my beloved authors into what ever genre they choose with a few exceptions...paranormal and time travel. Weird, I know when I love historical, which in a sense I'd time travel because I do the traveling!
I'm looking forward to reading THE RED DOOR INN.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville Kathryn Albright!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I've gone to search out favorite breakfast snacks for Prince Edward Island.

PEI Recipes

And brought back Apple Streusel Muffins!!

Now, I must ask Liz, what made you consider a vacay to PEI?

And I have already told her of my love for a musical group from that area. Great Big Sea. I've seen them three times in concert.

Myra Johnson said...

I hope you're right about that pendulum, TINA!

Renee McBride said...

Good morning, Liz!

My daughter was a state champion bowler and was compared to Liz Johnson during a television spot, so I'm familiar with the bowler. ;-)

Recently, I've begun promoting my work under a pseudonym with the tagline "Wholesome Romance for the Cowgirl at Heart". I'm trying to cover both inspirational and sweet markets with this tagline. But I've also written Western historical and have wondered if I should market those under my real name. I don't want to confuse the reader. I like to change up genres to stay excited about new projects.

I'm not published yet, but I'm building a brand with a website, blog, and social media that includes my wholesome Western theme. My historical series is on hold, so l can concentrate on contemporary. Do you think it's too confusing to write for both Love Inspired and Heartwarming at the same time?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Lots of Love Inspired authors write for different Harlequin lines. Lenora Worth and Patricia Johns write for two different lines. That's just one example.

Liz will be chiming in when she steps back during her lunch break...

So you get my opinion. I personally believe you need to get anchored in one line first. It takes a few books out to really get a feel for the line and how fast you write and the whole editing process.

You will have one editor no matter what lines you sell to at Harlequin.So in keeping with that remember that which ever line you sell to first, you will then submit to that editor for the other line. Make sense?

So I write for LI and my editor is Giselle Regus. If I want to write for Heartwarming, I will still submit to Giselle.

That said. There is always the exception to the rule.

I made the mistake of using my Russo name in 2013 when I released my sweet indies, as I didn't want to confuse readers. Readers are way savvy. (Except for the whole Liz thing. LOLOL. Kidding.)

Unless you are writing completely different, keep the same name and alert the reader to what the book is. So now I am going through the process of re editing those books and getting new covers and changing back to Radcliffe via Amazon.

Any other opinions published authors?

Tracey Hagwood said...

I checked out some the PEI recipes, yum.

I was also pondering the switching of genres in another way. There are dozens of writers who used to write for the general market who then switched to inspirational market. One example, Francine Rivers. I never read anything of hers until I read Redeeming Love, then went on to read more of her books. It wasn't until I read her testimony of her former life that I realized she used to write general market. I hope a lot of her former followers tracked her to her new writing and ended up turning to God. I'm believing it to be so.

What an awesome ministry writing with a Christian focus is. Thanks to all the Seekerville ladies, not only for hours of reading enjoyment, but for writing with an eternal perspective and representing Christ well :)

Laurie Wood said...

Hi Liz and everyone,

What about using a pen name for different heat levels - not that I write anything much beyond "warm", lol...does this just confuse your readers more? I'm thinking of an author I knew back in Toronto who uses one name for her contemporary stories and another for her historicals but she kept the same initials. She differentiates her two genres on her website.

Thank you, Tina, for that info about working for the same editor across Harlequin lines. I didn't know that was how it worked.

And thank you, Liz, for writing a Canadian story about our beloved young heroine Anne of Green Gables! I've never been to PEI (one of the few provinces I haven't visited yet) but it's definitely on our bucket list.



Liz Johnson said...

Glynna, I'm so happy to connect with another Arizonan! :) I grew up in Southwest Arizona (my family moved there when I was 10). NAU was a great fit for me, and I loved being in Flagstaff. :)

As for your question on juggling multiple genres, plus a day-job. I'm not exactly sure how I get it done. Lately it's been with a whole lot of prayer. At the moment I'm writing my third PEI book, doing final edits on the second, and first edits on my next Navy SEAL book. Basically, I just have to stay focused and keep moving forward. I make to-do lists and celebrate every little victory. :) It's a busy time for sure, but it's also extremely exciting.

Megan Brummer said...

I will read anything and everything by Jan Drexler! In fact, she's the one that converted me to a romance reader in the first place... I've always been more of a speculative fic type. But I love her Amish stories and I could not put down her Deadwood story - A Home for His Family. And now that I'm bumming around in Seekerville :), I've found so many wonderful authors. I second the Ruth Logan Herne from above, and now I can't wait to check out your books, Liz!

Thanks for sharing!

Liz Johnson said...

Tracey, great point about authors like Francine Rivers. Tamara Leigh is another who wrote for the general market and then felt like she needed to write for the inspirational market instead. I think there are probably a number of writers who have followed their faith into the inspirational market.

Tina Radcliffe said...

You know, Laurie Wood, different heat levels is a whole different ball game and I'm not sure I even want to address that. Every writer has to do what she feels is right for her, but yes, of course it is confusing as it send contradictory messages.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well, hail Jan Drexler for bringing you into the fold!!! LOL. Glad you are here Meg Brummer. Now that you've come to the dark side we aren't going to let you go!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Robin Lee Hatcher also used to write for the ABA and was very successful before switching to ACBA.

There are many extremely successful authors who write for ABA and still deliver God's message in imprints that are not "inspirational" Lisa Samson. Lisa Wingate did it for years. Elizabeth Camden.

Liz Johnson said...

Renee, I agree with Tina on your question about writing for LI and Heartwarming. Many authors do this and very successfully! And if you're writing for Love Inspired Romance and Heartwarming, I think your readers will stay with you. Where you might hit a bump (readers who might not want to follow you) is if you're writing suspense or historical and contemporary. But that just becomes an opportunity to reach new readers.

Pamela Tracy said...

I write for both LI and Heartwarming, and have no trouble except when I have contracts for both and not enough time LOL. But, I think that's the battle cry of every author. "I want more time!"

Heartwarmings are longer and do not have the faith element. My characters usually still attend church LOL

And, contrary to most, I have an editor for my LI (she's in New York) and an editor for my HW (she's in Canada).

I think with the availability of self publishing, authors are straying from what used to be "You have to stay true to brand" and writing across the lines. I had a suspense come out in December (HW) I had a straight contemporary (somewhat cowboy) in January (LI) this past April I had a small press cowboy and a re-release of a historical novella.

I do think, though, that when you're beginning, it's good to build a readership before diversifying. I've looked at all the names mentioned easier, and most wrote the same genre for at least three books if not five.

Good topic.

I also think Liz's new books sounds awesome.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I asked Pam to stop by and she answered our questions nicely. THANK YOU, PAM!!!

So do you think you are the exception to the rule with editorial, Pam? We've all been told that if you want to sub to another line send it to your current editor.

Very interesting.

Megan Brummer said...

Wow Tina... that's a bit ominous! But I think I'm ok with sticking around. Haha!

Jan Drexler said...

Meg, you are so sweet. Thanks for the shout-out. :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Liz!

Count me as one of those who didn't know you wrote in two different genres. I have The Red Door Inn on my TBR shelf, and I've pre-ordered the sequel - Where Two Hearts Meet (one of the perks of sharing a publisher - I saw your new title in the fall catalog). Ever since I read Anne of Green Gables, I've been a sucker for books set on PEI, so I had to try your series.

Thanks for the great tips on writing for multiple genres!

Vince said...

Hi Liz:

I just love marketing topics!

If you want a common name to be memorable and identifiable as yours, make it so.

Liz Z. Johnson

There is not likely to ever be a second author or anyone else with that name. Besides, Liz Z. is probably going to be pronounced in the reader's mind as "Lizzie": this would be highly memorable as well. (And if you don't like this one, select something else.)

Even different names can confuse a reader. I read books by Liz Fielding, Joy Fielding, and Helen Fielding. Can you tell me which one wrote "Bridget's Jones' Diary"? And who wrote her own version of the same "Bridget Jones' Diary" as a kind of inside joke? ("City Girl in Training").

I also found that in marketing multiple pen names are usually considered a bad idea. This is because multiple pen names cause the author to have to create separate career platforms from ground zero. Promotion is hard enough for one name. Besides a publisher's different lines can do most of the 'heavy lifting' reader expectations work for an author.

No reader is like to confuse a Love Inspired Christian Inspirational romance with a hot romance in the Blaze line. The covers alone should drive the wrong readers away from the inappropriate books.

This need to keep the same product in line with reader expectations is why these publishers have such strict guidelines. It is not to restrict the creativity of their authors but rather to protect the product line from failing to meet reader expectations. (Especially when they sell subscriptions to those same lines!)

Cover art can do an excellent job ,meeting reader expectations for Indy authors. Very often the cover art 'screams' to the reader what genre the book is in and what to expect from the novel.

Lawrence Block does a great job with the covers for his different type books.

For example:

His "The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes" looks just like the covers for the great John D. MacDonald Travis McGee "Color" series books.


Then in, "Sinner Man" the cover art screams that it is like a Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer, hard boiled detective mystery.

Sometimes, however, you really need a pen name as when you write Christian fiction and you also write highly erotic romances. If the Christian readers find out that you also write such sinful books, they might very well consider you a hypocrite and stop reading any of your books.

If not having a pen name would damage your career, then having a pen name is a very good idea.

Yes, please enter me in the drawing for a copy of "The Red Door Inn". I am a big fan of 'settings' and I'd really like to read a story set on Prince Edward Island.


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Such an insightful post, Liz! I love your tips and the reminder to be intentional about branching out into another brand. I have a question for you. As someone who's not published, I'm thinking it's probably good to establish myself in one genre for starters. Is this right? I've had the opportunity to write in a genre different from the one I've been focusing on, but I'm reluctant to do this before I am established in the genre I've been working in. Does this make sense? What are your thoughts on this? :)

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Liz, WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!! And isn't Revell THE BEST???

YOU ASKED: So what’s your opinion on writing in different genres?

I think it's great for both the authors and the readers because it broadens their scope by exposing both of them to different types of reading, which can never hurt.

YOU ASKED: Do you write in more than one genre?

After writing ten historical novels and three historical novellas, I switched to write a contemporary series and next I'll be switching to a Western series, but I didn't think it was necessary to differentiate between those genres on my website. But it sounds like you think I should have a different page on my website for my historicals and contemporaries? If so, would you include the Western trilogy under historicals?

YOU ASKED: How do you juggle it?

Right now, I just list all of my books on one tab titled BOOKS, but after this post, I'm seriously considering different tabs for each genre.

YOU ASKED: As a reader, are there authors you like to read who cross genres? Why or why not?

Mmmm ... good question, Liz! Most of the authors I love stick to one genre, but that could be straight contemporary or straight historical. But frankly, if I loved an author's style, I would read anything she or he wrote.


Liz Johnson said...

Jeanne, great question about establishing yourself in one genre before diving into another. It's a really tough question, especially not knowing the details. Here are a couple questions I'd ask myself if this was my decision to make. Am I passionate about the opportunity that is available now? Do I think that many of my readers would be interested in the available opportunity? Is it at all contradictory to the message/heart of the genre you want to write? Is there some natural overlap that you haven't considered?

And of course, what does my agent say? I didn't mention this in blog post, but if you have an agent, they should be the first call when you're thinking about expanding to new genres or subgenres. They should have a big-picture view of your career and know how to help you grow it.

I want to use an example that isn't really mine to share--so I'll try to be a little vague here. A friend of mine writes inspy romances, but she's not published in that yet. However, she received an offer to write a non-fiction prayer book based on her personal experience. This isn't necessarily the long-term career goal for her writing, but it was an opportunity to be published by a major publisher, get her name out there, and continue to build her platform. Prayer is an integral topic for Christians, so she found it to have some natural overlap with the audience who will be interested in her romances. This was a one-time project, so she hasn't given up her chosen genre, but she did gain some excellent experience and exposure.

On the flip side, if you're writing sweet romance but had an opportunity for a sci fi project and wanted to put out several of each at the same time, I think there's a lot of opportunity for confusion of your brand.

Without knowing the specifics of your situation, I'd say, prayerfully consider this opportunity that's available. You never know where it might lead. Good luck!

DebH said...

hi Liz
When an author I love crosses genres, I usually follow. It's the author's VOICE that I enjoy, and if they haven't lost it in the different genre - then I'm all in. I cannot think of a fave author in multiple genres that I don't enjoy. The Seekers are all very good at the multi-genre thing. I'll read anything by Mary, Ruthy, and Tina regardless of the genre. Of course, I just love any Seeker book - period.

I had a friend in an online writing club I belong to ask me if I was a "real" author because I have the same name as a New York Times best seller. She writes paranormal (witches and such). I'm not published yet, but I believe I'll be using a pen name because I really don't want to confuse anyone who may eventually actually want to read my work.

Please, please, please put me in for The Red Door Inn. That book sounds awesome!

Liz Johnson said...

Julie Lessman, great thoughts! Thanks for sharing. I've seen authors present their books on their websites in a number of different ways, but what works for me is to have a "books" page with all of my titles in order of release (newest first). Then I have separate pages that list by genre "contemporary", "romantic suspense", "novellas". I really liked this when I saw it on another author's website, as it was a gentle nudge that there were other genres I wasn't aware she wrote in.

I'm not a historical purist, so I might include the Westerns on your historical page, but I think it's entirely up to you. Readers don't have a set standard they're looking for when visiting an author's site. They're looking for something that's easy to navigate, clear, and concise. If you feel like your Western readers may be a slightly different audience (or brand new readers), then I think it would be great to give the new series it's own page.

Congrats on your new Westerns. Looking forward to them!

Liz Johnson said...

Vince, I loved your comment about the trouble with multiple pen names.

You said: I also found that in marketing multiple pen names are usually considered a bad idea. This is because multiple pen names cause the author to have to create separate career platforms from ground zero. Promotion is hard enough for one name. Besides a publisher's different lines can do most of the 'heavy lifting' reader expectations work for an author.

Great point! Using two different names can be like starting over in the platform department. Especially when using VERY different names. But the names can also be the brand. For example, Nora Roberts didn't hide that she was also J.D. Robb, but her readers know for sure what they'll get from each. The same with J.K. Rowling. She wanted to distinguish her new books from Harry Potter, so used the name Robert Galbraith. Sometimes it's worth it to make the separation. But for most of us, it's a lot of work to create two author personas.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well I hadn't thought of that. Rowling/Galbraith Robb/Roberts.

Excellent point there!

Laurie Wood said...

Tina Radcliffee and everyone,

I sincerely am sorry for my inappropriate question above. Please delete it. I've learned a tremendous amount from this blog and especially today's post.

Edwina said...

Excellent post! I have always enjoyed reading books by Nora Roberts. But I don't care for the JD Robb books at all. I don't think it has much to do with the name change as it does the genre.

Enjoyed the post, Liz!

Tina Radcliffe said...

That was so not an inappropriate question, Laurie. It was a delicate question. LOL. If you can't talk here then where can you talk? No worries. I simply didn't want to come off as knowing all the answers. God does that. And so well too!! He he.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Liz, can you tell us about the next book in the PEI series. When it releases? Is it connected to the first in another way besides location? How many books are planned for the series?

I won't lie, you have now made me want to change vacay destinations. I want to see PEI.

Jackie Smith said...

I have had The Red Door Inn on my wish list since I first heard of it....sounds like my kind of book! Thanks for your giveaway. Glad to read there will be a sequel, too.
Hope you will visit Seekerville again.

Janet Dean said...

LIZ, welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for your insightful post. Love the sound of The Red Door Inn. I'm amazed you write two genres and hold a day job. Are you a fast writer?

Jayne Ann Krentz also writes as Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick. Readers always figure out they're all the same person. Still, the name on the front eliminates having to read the back cover blurb to know which genre to expect.


Missy Tippens said...

Liz, welcome! We're glad you joined us and shared what you've learned about crossing genres. Thanks for your helpful tips!

Janet Dean said...

TINA, By getting all your books under Tina Radcliffe, your readers won't miss your indies.


Janet Dean said...

I don't want to mislead anyone. Jayne Ann doesn't write inspirational. I used her as an example because she's the only writer I know of who writes under three names. I'm always amazed at that productivity.


The Artist Librarian said...

Hey, we were just talking about this a bit last week! ^_^

As a reader, I don't mind when authors cross genres --they should be able to write what they want/inspires them, and if I take the time to read the blurb or summary and reads up on the author's online presence, I think there's usually enough info to figure out heat level/genre/market. If I really like an author, I'd probably read anything they wrote --for others, if it's not a genre or setting I really love, I may or may not take a chance on it ... it depends on how much I like the author. ;-)

The thing that confuses me sometimes is when authors choose to publish under a pen name ... I understand why, but personally, I don't really think it's needed.

Camy Tang writes contemporaries and contemporary romantic suspense under her name, but switched to a pen name (Camille Elliot) for her Regency novel. I enjoyed both!

Jill Williamson primarily writes YA: started with fantasy, then a kind of contemporary with a touch of scifi (dealing with cloning), went to spy themed action/adventure, then dystopian, and now is currently working on a more mature (adult/older teen) epic fantasy. She's never used a pen name, but she does classify all her work in the broader genre of "weird" or speculative fiction ...

P.S. - Thank you Seekerville family for all the kind congratulations last week! ^_^ My graduation ceremony was Saturday --now for the hard part (finding a permanent job), LOL. But I'm officially an Artist Librarian now. =P

Tina Radcliffe said...

WOOT!~! And you have always been an artist librarian to us. Prayers for the job hunt.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I agree with the Teenster. You've always been an Artist Librarian in Seekerville, and luckily we have that job OPEN, Jen!!!!

No pay, but chatting with us makes for a great benefit!

Are you going to stay on the Island? Or in some part of Hawaii?

Ruth Logan Herne said...


You can ask us stuff here. That's what we're here for.

I use my same name for all of my stuff because it's all "romance" and rated G and even though it crosses from category to single title and now historicals, I'm using my name. If I do a fantasy or crazy fun dystopian YA series, I'll go to initials or something because that's just a little more "out there"... but for anything in the romance arena, I use my name so everyone can find everything on the web.

Although I do know of a couple of authors who cross heat barriers with very different names and different websites, etc. I'm barely good at juggling ONE life... Two completely different personas would make me crazy.

Well. Crazier!!!!

Liz Johnson said...

Tina asked about the sequel to The Red Door Inn. Where Two Hearts Meet comes out in October and is set at the Red Door too. We get to catch up with Marie and Seth and Jack and Aretha, but the story centers around a minor character from the first book and a brand new one too. Here's a blurb:

In her kitchen at the Red Door Inn, executive chef Caden Holt is calm, collected, and competent. But when her boss asks her to show off their beautiful island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the inn, Caden is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen–and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful.

Journalist Adam Jacobs is on a forced sabbatical on Prince Edward Island. He’s also on assignment to uncover a story. Instead he’s falling in love with the island’s red shores and Caden’s sweets.

When Caden discovers Adam isn’t who she thought he was, she realizes that the article he’s writing could do more than ruin the inn’s chances for survival–it might also break her heart.

Caden is one of my favorite characters--I think because we have so much in common. Except for that cooking thing. She's brilliant at it. I'm a little less brilliant in the kitchen.

Book three in the series doesn't have a name yet--but it's scheduled to release in July of next year, and I'm writing it right now.

Deanne Patterson said...

Best of luck in your new writing genre. I have heard to many wonderful things about the book . Did I realize it was you who wrote it ? No, but I sure have been wanting to read it. In my opinion we as readers sometimes get used to our favorite authors writing in one genre and when they start writing in another genre it can get confusing for us. We ask ourselves can they make the smooth transition to another genre, will the words flow as smoothly as their other books ? I look forward to reading your new contemporary and it sounds to me like you've hit the nail on the head.

Pleas enter me for the book drawing for The Red Door Inn. Thank you.

Deanne P.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Lots to look forward to, Liz. Very exciting news!!

Liz Johnson said...

Janet, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You asked if I'm a fast writer. The answer is no. :) I'm an exceedingly slow writer. I'm also a very slow reader. But these contracts just lined up to make for a busy writing season. :)

Debby Giusti said...

AL! Congrats! You've worked hard. So proud of you!!! Keep us posted on the job search! Prayers for that perfect position!

Debby Giusti said...

Great conversation today. Did someone mention food?

I've brought chocolate chip cookies ... homemade and still warm. Enjoy!

Chill N said...

Interesting post, Liz. Years ago, I read a book by an author named Lee McElroy and was stunned by how much he wrote like Elmer Kelton. McElroy only had a few other books, and I liked those, too. But I kept wondering how he wrote so much like Elmer Kelton and got away with it. Yep ... Lee McElroy was one of Elmer Kelton's earlier pen names. I found out Kelton had a few other pen names, and had the fun of finding those books and reading them. I had no idea a writer would use different pen names in the same genre.

Had no idea you were both Liz's :-) Best wishes with your new genre!

Nancy C

Tina Radcliffe said...

Aha! Vindicated. Nancy (Chill N) didn't know either.

Elmer Kelton Lee McElroy. Western right? I recall shelving him at the library.

And that Atlanta Belle Mary Kay Andrews writes under that name and her real name. Not sure why.

Sandy Smith said...

Very interesting post, Liz. I know something about generic names. I was a Johnson and now I'm a Smith. It's harder to stand above the crowd that way! I have not been familiar with your books, but would probably have thought it was the same author. I would love to be in the drawing for your book.

Cara Lynn James said...

Liz, I like hearing about authors who write in more than one genre. I'd love to try it and maybe I will. Soon.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I think you already qualify, Cara. You started in contemporary and ended up selling in historical. Maybe it's time to pull some of those contemporary manuscripts out from under the bed. I have a few there myself that were written in other genres. A few YA and a romsuspense. I love to dabble.

Liz Johnson said...

Sandy, I think we should start a club of common names. :) I have another friend who went from Johnson to Smith as well.

I chose to use my common name because I'd been working in the industry for a few years, and I had many friends and contacts. I didn't want to confuse those connections by writing under a pen name.

Tanya Agler said...

Liz, I love the idea for your contemporary. I love Anne of Green Gables, and my husband often tells me that will be one place we visit someday.

As far as different genres, I think it's a little easier once you're published, but it totally depends on the author. For the past year, I've tried both inspirational and sweet contemporary, and I've made up my mind to focus on one after I'm done with my current WIP for the simple reason that my writing voice seems to fit one a whole lot better, but I admire writers who can write in different genres. Now that I've tried it and discovered how hard it is, I have newfound respect for those who do it so well. Congratulations on your success at romantic suspense and contemporary.

Chill N said...

Tina Radcliffe said...
Elmer Kelton Lee McElroy. Western right? I recall shelving him at the library.

Yep. Voted Best Western Author of All-Time by the Western Writers of America (among other honors).

You're shocked that I like Westerns, right? ;-)

Nancy C

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi , What a wonderful post. Thank you so much for joining us today in Seekerville. Sorry to be late but we were traveling. Hope you had as much fun as we have with you here.

I do write in different genres. I ind it keeps me fresh and not bored. Switching genres is fun. But you are so right. There are marketing issues to consider. I did like Nora Roberts and use a different name. There are advantages and disadvantages as you pointed out.

Thanks again for sharing.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks for spending the day with us. This was a fun topic and a fun chat. We wish you continued LIZ JOHNSON success!!

ohiohomeschool said...

Great post. I would love to win a copy of your book. Thanks for the chance.