QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Genre Hopping - Should You Do It?

John Grisham does it. So do Tess Gerritsen and Orson Scott Card. What is it? Quite simply, genre hopping is when one author writes books in more than one genre.

When is it okay to genre hop?

Rumor has it that genre hopping is frowned upon in the publishing industry. This is not the case. In fact, there are two times in your career when genre hopping is encouraged.

  • One: Before you ever get published
According to the brilliant Ms. Jessica Faust of Bookends, “Part of the publishing process involves discovery—discovering your voice, which genres suit your voice best, and which genres you really have a passion for—and until you get that magic publishing contract in hand, there’s no one out there telling you what you can or cannot do. For the unpublished, you should use this point in your career as a time of exploration and growth. And you should have fun with it.”

  • Two: After you have successfully published multiple books in one genre
For an explanation, I’ll defer to the ever-popular Mr. Nathan Bransford: “Here's the best method: first you become hugely successful. It's really, really hard to break out in one genre. It takes mountains of time, effort, luck, perseverance, luck, effort, perseverance... time... The kings of genre fiction have worked for years to steadily build an audience (and a brand) within the same genre. You make it even harder for yourself when you splinter your time, attention, learning curve, and, eventually, your audience by jumping around to different genres. Genre hopping should really only be undertaken in close consultation with your agent and after a lot of soul searching.”

Are there exceptions?

Absolutely! The most notable being Children’s Literature. Of all audiences, this is the one with the most wiggle room. Take author Cynthia Jaynes Omolou, who writes picture books, YA, and everything in between.

I have this talk with my agent all the time, and her answer is "write what you love." -Cynthia Jaynes Omolou

Annnnnd if you want to get really sneaky…

You can use a pen name to write (and submit!) in more than one genre. I’ll talk about this more when I discuss pen names next week here on the blog. So be sure to leave me any questions/comments about your experiences with pen names so I can cover all the bases!

If you'd like a free download of this article, visit GoArticles and enter my name in an author search. Have a fantastic rest-of-the-week!

Suzette Saxton's idea of a perfect day includes a picnic lunch, laughing children, and her laptop. When she's not writing books for kids, Suzette can be found gardening, doing finish carpentry in her home, or walking in the canyon in which she lives.


Amanda Bonilla said...

As every QT article... great! I can't wait for the pen name article, it's something I've been tossing around for months.

Stina said...

There's a number of successful authors who have published books for both adults and kids (Rick Riordan and Ally Carter, for example). Because they're best-selling authors, there's an expectation, from their fans, that they have to publish a new book every year. Which means they have to write two books a year, plus have two book tours because to target audience is so different. Where do they find the energy?

Great article and love the froggie!

Unknown said...

This was a great article! They all are! Though I don't usually comment on them, I do enjoy them and find them really informative. I particularly like the leaping frog on this one though. ;)

I can't wait to hear more on pen names. With a name like mine, I think I could use one.

Tabitha said...

Great post! This is something I've been wondering about since I have plenty of stories I want to write for both YA and MG. Good to know there's at least one successful author writing all kinds of children's lit. :)

Suzette Saxton said...

Thanks, Mandy! Let me know if you have any specific pen name questions I can answer for you.

Stina, you are totally right - there are authors who manage to do it all, which reminded me of a quote from another post of Nathan Bransford's: "There are indeed authors who are able to branch out into multiple genres, who write wildly different types of books, and who are successful in different genres. These people also tend to eat coffee grounds for breakfast and mainline Red Bull." LOL! The rest of the post is here if anyone is interested: http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2009/01/questions-answered-kind-of.html

Janyece, I'm excited to share what I know about pen names, and I've polled published authors for their advice, so it should be informative. :)

Tabitha, I write for children as well and am so glad that there is some wiggle room in our genres. ;)

Thanks, everyone, for loving my froggie!

Tara Maya said...

I have pen name questions too.

Suzette Saxton said...

Yay, Tara! You can post them here in the comments, or you can email them to me. suzettesaxton@querytracker.net

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I can't wait for that pen name post! Now I don't have to do one. LOL. Because it was on my list, but I had no idea what I was going to say in it. :)

This is great information about genres. Thanks! I'm still trying to decide where my work fits.

Suzette Saxton said...

Oh good, Lady G. You are welcome to use my article in your blog if you'd like. I'll be sure to include a link for a free download!

Chas Hathaway said...

I have wondered about this for awhile. Since I am not yet published, and have projects from various genres, I wasn't sure if I should just pick my favorite or try all different things.

Great advice.

- Chas

Suzette Saxton said...

Great, Chas, I am glad this helped you!

Welcome, packey/Betty, you made my day. I'm so pleased that you left a comment. :)