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 www.LizJohnsonBooks.com or www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks.
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.
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