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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Writing in Multiple-Genres

One of the coolest online friends I've met is author, Lauren Baratz-Logsted.  I met Lauren through a Yahoo group for YA writers.  She reached out to me because I had asked a question of a guest agent visiting the loop and she wanted to help me out.  Her willingness to assist a fellow writer touched me.  It's a rare thing to find someone who ascribes to and lives the "pay it forward" mentality.  

Were it not for Lauren, I might not have queried my project again.  I had parted ways with my agent and had pretty much written off getting this particular book published.  No matter how positive you are, sometimes this business gets to you.  Lauren's kind words and encouragement inspired me to throw my hat back in the query ring.  Within several weeks, I had received multiple offers from agents on the very project I had contemplated retiring. 

Because of this incident, I'm determined to emulate Lauren.  If...*cough* I mean when I become published, *knocks on wood* I want to be as positive and encouraging as my friend and guest blogger, Lauren Baratz Logsted, who was kind enough to address the topic of writing multiple genres.  Thanks again, Lauren.  

Juggling Genres: A Guest Post By Lauren Baratz-Logsted

My first novel was published in July 2003. By the end of 2009, I will have seen 15 books published with my name on the spine: five contemporary comedies for adults, The Thin Pink Line, Crossing the Line, A Little Change of Face, How Nancy Drew Saved My Life, Baby Needs a New Pair of Choos; one literary Victorian suspense novel, Vertigo; one anthology I edited and contributed to, This Is Chick-Lit; two serious YA novels, Angel’s Choice and Crazy Beautiful; one more humorous YA novel, Secrets of My Suburban Life; one tween novel, Me, In Between; and four books for younger readers, the first four in a projected nine-book series called The Sisters Eight, co-written with my husband Greg Logsted and our daughter Jackie. Plus assorted short stories, essays, blogging and guestblogging.

I realize the above is an awful lot of me-me-me, but please try to bear with me-me-me, for there is method to my-my-my madness.

There’s a nugget of publishing wisdom, usually spoken by certain agents, that goes something like, “Never try to sell meat in your fish market.” This ties into all the noise you hear about “branding” these days that states that new authors should try to establish a brand for themselves, becoming known for doing one thing and doing it well, so that consumers will come to regard the author as a reliable source for a particular form of entertainment.

I think this is fine if an author is 100% certain she will always want to write one kind of book and that this will satisfy her. And it’s fine if the branding plan does work out that way and you become Danielle Steel or Stephen King. But what if it doesn’t turn out that way, you are first published as one kind of author, having chosen that route because you thought it would be easiest, but now want to try other things? You know, even John Grisham got tired of writing legal thrillers all the time.

Here, then, are my reasons for diversifying to the degree I do (please keep in mind, I’m not trying to write a prescription for the rest of the writing world, merely myself):

1) I’m a complex human being, as are you all. This means that there’s not just one side of me: yes, I’m funny, at least people tell me that; yes, I’m serious; yes, I’m interested in time periods I’ve never lived in; yes, I’m in touch with my inner teen and younger. But I’m no one of these things to the exclusion of all others.

2) I like to explore a variety of themes and it’s impossible for all the themes in the world to be addressed in one format. Some themes are only suitable to Victorian erotic suspense while if you try to address the same themes in a book for younger readers, well, you get yourself arrested.

3) Writing in a wide range of fields and always adding to the range keeps me fresh. I never feel like I’m writing the same book over and over again because I never am.

4) Writing in a wide range of fields and being published in them means I get to go on living my dream, which is to be a full-time working writer. You see, the sad truth is that most publishing contracts broken down book by book don’t amount to a fortune. Why do you think so many literary novelists work at universities? Yes, I’m sure that some of them love to teach, but not all. And the same is true of commercial novelists, working in other professions to support their writing habits. If you can write in more than one area, though, and if you can attract various publishers who are interested in those different areas, then you can actually make a living wage in this insane business.

So that’s me: insane, working like crazy, and loving every minute of it. As for not selling meat in my fish market, well, I like to think of myself more as a supermarket, hopefully an upscale one, where readers learn to come for the variety of experience. And my fans bear this out, many of them buying whatever I write, be it Victorian erotic suspense or books for younger people. To those faithful readers, Lauren Baratz-Logsted does represent a brand, only not quite in the way that the publishing gurus would have you think a brand should be regarded.
Lauren Baratz-Logsted has already name-dropped all 15 of her books above, so she doesn’t need to do that again here. If, however, you are interested in reading more about her life and work, you can visit her at www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com or by just clicking here.  

We appreciate the time you spent on this post, Lauren, and hope you'll be our guest again in the future.  


Mary Lindsey writes paranormal fiction for children and adults. Prior to attending University of Houston Law School, she received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Drama.

Mary can also be found on her website.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for this. I've always heard that you should stick to one genre. But I'm liking how you've done it all. What a nice range. I just added a few to my reading list.

Have a great day.

Stina said...

Great post. Now I see the value of not backing yourself in the corner with one genre. Though right now, I'm pretty happy in my cozy little corner of YA paranormal, but maybe one day I'll grow tired of that and will be happy to expand my horizons . . . to contemporary YA. I know, not a huge leap, but it's a leap all the same. ;)

Unknown said...

Thanks for this post - you hear everywhere that you should only write for one age group/genre to build your name and I just can't make myself do it. I get inspired by so many different things and then write accordingly. It's wonderful to hear that someone published has had success in doing this. Congratulations on your 15 books! :)

Michelle McLean said...

Thanks Lauren! As someone who enjoys genre hopping myself, it's nice to know that it is possible to do this successfully. :D

Suzette Saxton said...

Bravo, Lauren! I can't wait to share your books with my 15yo, my 7yo, and my husband!

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Lauren is a fabulous writer. I can't wait for Crazy Beautiful to come out in September '09

Eric said...

Great post. This is something I've wondered about from time to time, so thank you for showing another perspective on the subject.

Joan Mora said...

Timely post! I've got submissions out in two genres right now (literary and chick-lit) and was starting to question my sanity. Thanks for the positive spin.

Pamela Hammonds said...

So many times authors will choose pennames when they jump genres. Nice to read a take from someone who chose not to. Thanks for the informative post.

ND_Green said...

This post is fabulous and timely. I just got a contract for an adult novel and was worried about trying to break into YA. This post has certainly brightened my day. I have less worries now. Thanks for this!

Sarah Jensen said...

How encouraging. I love to write different genres and love to read books from the same author who write so differently as well. I look forward to reading your work, Lauren.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

I'm *thrilled* that other writers have found value in my post here - thank you so much, everybody, and thanks to Mary for inviting me!

Crystal said...

I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this great post. I was wondering if I was the only one who questioned the whole hoopla about branding. Now I'm happy to see I'm not alone in my thinking. While my main focus is on my middle grade novel, I also want to do PB's, chapter books, and quite possibly YA. There ARE authors who do this successfully. Just look at Linda Sue Park, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Jacqueline Woodson, to name a few. And I'm so glad for Lauren's success. It's definitely inspiring!

Annie Louden said...

Thanks for this great post! I'm impressed with your publishing success and relieved that I don't have to worry about staying in one genre.

Rabid Fox said...

A great post, as has been previously stated ad nauseum. As an aspring author, I find myself drawn towards more than one genre. This kind of article really helps to put things in perspective. Thanks.