Genres, author focus, and reader expectations

Today’s article is as much a bleg for information and comment from our readers as it is my own perspective.  I hope we can get a discussion going that will benefit all of us, and possibly those outside our immediate circle as well.

If one writes in a particular genre, one is often “typecast” as “a science fiction author”, or “a fantasy author”, or “a romance author”, or whatever.  This can lead to complications when a writer wants to broaden his/her horizons and publish in other genres.  If one’s readership has been painstakingly built up in a particular genre, will they follow you to another, and buy your books in that one too?  In my experience, if they like your writing because of your style/quirks/weirdness/whatever, they will;  but if they’re genre-based readers who happen to like your work as representative of what they expect in that genre, not so much.  Other writers have reported a wide range of experiences when confronting that reality.  What have you found, both as a writer and as a reader?

For myself, switching genres has become a very important creative tool.  I know every writer is different in how they approach their work.  In my case, my muse/creative spirit/whatever can get very frustrated at times, and simply “lock up”.  I find myself unable to come up with anything worthwhile.  At times like that, I find it very handy to have another book on the back burner, in a completely different genre, that I can pick up and noodle at while my muse gets her ruffled feathers smoothed down and back into place.  I’ve now written in four genres over the past five years – science fiction, fantasy, Western and non-fiction memoir – plus a fifth, several decades ago and now long out of print.

(That creative frustration is how a number of my books have begun.  “War To The Knife” was my first “pantser” effort, because I’d locked up on the third volume of the Maxwell Saga, “Adapt and Overcome“, and couldn’t see a way forward.  In sheer frustration, I sat down one morning and started writing the first thing that came into my head.  Thirty days later, I’d completed the first volume of the Laredo War trilogy (the third and final volume of which is currently being written).  That was, of course, also military science fiction, the same genre as that in which I got my start:  but I built on that, and expanded my horizons.  My first Western, “Brings The Lightning“, came about in a similar fashion, and I’m now working on the third book in that Ames Archives series.)

Others write in multiple genres, not out of creative frustration, but because they have so much creative instinct that it’s hard for them to confine it within the walls of just one or two genres.  Our own Sarah Hoyt is a good example of this.  I have no idea how many genres she’s graced with her presence, but I’m sure it’s well over half a dozen by now.  I don’t even know how, precisely, to categorize some of her output.  For example, her recent collaboration with Kevin J. Anderson, “Uncharted” (for which they’ve just won a Dragon Awardcongratulations!), incorporates elements of history, fantasy, romance, horror and thriller, and probably a few others I haven’t thought of.  How does she do it?  I don’t know… but I enjoyed the result!  (The three “whiskey zombies” were a great touch.  I’ve never heard of alcohol as a factor in such things, but at least they were in high spirits, so to speak.)

I’ve been a little surprised by how possessive of their favorite writers some fans can become.  After I began to branch out from “pure” military science fiction, I actually received complaints from some readers, demanding to know when I was going to “stop wasting my time” on other genres and get back to delivering more of their favorite stuff.  I tried to be as polite as possible in replying, because I did (and do) value their support;  but why shouldn’t I try to spread my wings as an author, and try to succeed in more than one genre?  To me, that makes writing more interesting… but clearly, some readers differ.  As Brian Niemeier said in another context:

The author as brand is dead. Kindle whales–the voracious readers you need to drive your sales–aren’t primarily loyal to a publisher, or even an author. Instead, they constantly binge on books in their favorite genre. If your next book isn’t there waiting to sate readers’ hunger when they finish your last one, they won’t hesitate to move on to titles by other authors that will scratch their genre itch.

If one wants to write in multiple genres, one probably won’t be able to take such readers along for the ride.  Hopefully, they’ll still be waiting when one gets back to their genre with another book, further down the line – but I suppose that can’t be guaranteed.

I know we’ve discussed the subject before, but the market changes, and so do our perspectives and experiences:  so, let’s throw open the field to renewed discussion.  Writers – do you write cross-genre or in multiple genres?  If so, how have your experiences differed from mine?  Readers, do you read widely, or in a few chosen genres only?  What are your expectations of your favorite authors?  Will you follow them if they publish something in a genre you don’t normally read, or will you prefer to take a pass and wait for them to get back to where you’re waiting for them?

I think the discussion might be helpful to all of us.  Over to you!


  1. In my experience, yes, switching genres will definitely cost you readers. Unfortunately for me, I cannot stick to a single genre, not for more than two-three years at a time, so I’ll have to live with the results. My issues get compounded by the fact that I often mix two or more genres, which will turn off those who want their writers to stick to their tropes. So here are my experiences from 2014-2018:

    My first series was a weird mix of superhero and alternate history (with some horror elements). It sold okay for the first two years, but not exactly a livable wage (about 4,000 copies a year sold or “borrowed” as long as I released 2-3 books a year). The total size of that audience(based on the lowest selling book in the series) was around 3,000 people.

    Along the way, I tried writing a horror/action series with Lovecraftian undertones. That remains my lowest-selling series, and it seriously derailed my income in 2015. Only some 1,000 readers stuck with the series for the sequel.

    Next I did mil-sf (with horror undertones; unfortunately, therapy hasn’t worked and my mind still likes to take dark turns). Regardless, that turned me from a part-time to a full-time writer. The audience for that series has been over 10,000 strong. However, I did notice a drop-off as the horror undertones grew in the sequels. I wrapped up the story after five volumes, saved as much of the sales income as possible, and tried something else in 2018.

    Which brings me to my fantasy/steampunk. Based on the initial two months, that’s doing about as well as the superhero series, which is a big step back. Sales are good enough I’ll release a sequel in late 2019-2020, but since I have bills to pay, I’m going back to mil-sf. First out will be a follow-up series to the original mil-sf, followed by a completely different universe (still military science fiction but – shocker – with zero horror/weird elements in it), just to see how that does.

    So, it seems that about a thousand people will read anything with my name on it, but the big numbers are in mil-sf/space opera, and if I monkey around the tropes too much, I lose as much as 75% of the audience (the first novel moved 30K+ copies; the last one is at a bit over 10K; an alternative explanation is that my story failed to grab a lot of people, of course).

    tl;dr: switching genres will cost you; subverting genre expectations will cost you; mixing genres will cost you. If you are good and lucky, you can develop more than one core audience, but you’d better be prolific because each audience will demand at least one book a year (and 3-4 is the ideal). All IMHO and YMMV, of course. Hope that helps 🙂

    1. Sorry to say I haven’t read the Lovecraftian stuff….

      I suspect that’s you’re describing the line between horror and what used to be called “dark fantasy.”

      If you shoot the bad thing and it is immune to bullets, and you can’t use a gadget to kill it or get away, and it rips you apart and nobody ever avenges you, you are writing horror.

      If you shoot the bad thing and it dies, looking surprised; or if you can use a gadget or lead it into a trap, it’s dark fantasy, dark weird sf, kaiju sf, or Larry Correia’s Moneymaking Subgenre.

      Most people who read mil-sf have a fairly high tolerance for dark situations, but there has to be some kind of understandable, conquerable enemy. The fog of war has to blow away sometime. Nobody wants to read a gray Vietnam goo book. Certainly the main characters have to have some kind of sense of control and meaningful ability to make survival choices. Showing resourcefulness is also good.

      Now… the other tricky bit is that, even if you eventually show that the book is dark fantasy, the reader may have given up before then. So the conquerable thing and the competent-characters thing has to show up fairly early, and the author has to seem trustworthy about it.

      Some authors seem to possess and keep reader trust very easily, often because they have a fun or persuasive narrative style and voice. Others have to work at it through plot, characters, etc. Success at genre-switching sometimes seems ridiculously easy for “bad” writers who have that weird pageturner storytelling mojo but nothing else, while other really good writers struggle at it.

      So yeah, some of it is magic. But some of it could probably be calculated. (“How can I create a romance hero who is also a man’s man? How could I keep my dad reading this book?”)

      1. I’m still trying to decide what’s horror and what’s dark fantasy. What you’ve described above is more Urban Fantasy to me, though it can be horror if the monster is particularly chilling – a psychological element that generates real fear. A supernatural fantasy element moves things to a spiritual level, when done well, real good and evil.

        My favorite horror/dark fantasy kind of thing is: there’s something there, a monster of some kind, you slowly find out more about it, and the more you find out, the scarier it becomes, but also the stronger its hold on you grows, leading to a climax where you figure out the mystery and either just barely escape with your life or (much better) manage to fix the situation. (Lovecraft mostly does barely-escape-with-your-life, though once he does have someone run over Cthulhu with a boat.)

        As far as what I see listed on Amazon: dark fantasy seems to be mostly vampire romance. As opposed to Paranormal Romance, which seems to be a kickass heroine who either shoots the monster, or scr*ws it.

        1. At a LibertyCon panel on dark fantasy (held at the same time as one on Lovecraft – go figger), the argument was raised that horror means no hope, and that any one who survives does so either by accident, or through means dark and grim. Dark fantasy contains hope, and ends on an up-beat note. Not only do the Good Guys win, but they now have the key to defeating other eldrich wights and so on.

          There was also the suggestion that in horror/dark fantasy, the characters don’t know that magic exists and have to learn the hard way. In Urban Fantasy/PNR, magic is known, even if this particular flavor is new to the characters. YMMV.

          1. I wouldn’t mind that as an ultimate definition, but I’m not sure it holds for books/movies currently identified as horror – I read lots of those where the heroes survive and where there’s absolutely hope (even a suggestion of spiritual good), though YMMV about how upbeat the ending really is – it’s usually more, Whoa we survived, but we’re stronger for the experience. Same with a lot of the movies.

            I’ve read horror described as a genre as invoking the emotion of horror, which is not the same as fear, no matter which way it goes. An acquaintance who wrote horror short stories described it as a very moral genre – in the sense of where there’s evil, there must also be good. Certainly her stories fit that pattern – they weren’t rollicking jaunts, but they were absolutely hopeful. A lot of older Victorian horror/ghost stories fit that style (A Christmas Carol is a horror story, after all). But modern splatter horror – eh, not so much.

            Maybe horror needs sub-genres – hopeful at one end, everyone dies at the other. It would certainly help me avoid the “everyone dies” books.

        2. “As opposed to Paranormal Romance, which seems to be a kickass heroine who either shoots the monster, or scr*ws it.”

          Embrace the power of AND.

  2. Is there a large audience that seriously wants more than 6 books a year? I do, which is why I look for promising long series, having a good time catching up and then sometimes sour over slow production once I’m level with the author’s efforts.

    1. And Stephen King set up Richard Bachman because more than one book a year or so by the same author, even one putting up the numbers he did/does, was deemed too many. Funny how times change, isn’t it?

      1. Yup. Back when I got my start by writing lots and lots of historical romances very fast to cover the mortgage, I had to use three separate names for that very reason. (And yes, they were all pseudonyms. Look, if your real name were Ball, would you put it on the cover of that kind of book?)

    2. I like a long series. I deal with catching up to the author by reading something else, then circling back. I’ve got about 20 Star Force books to go (and, yes, I still don’t recommend them despite being on book 35) before I get back to Pam. I’m almost afraid to see what’s happened in the Kurtherian universe since I last caught up on that.

  3. I’ve got a bit of Eastern fantasy mixed in with a touch of Lovecraftian monsters (fthagen!) and a whole shitlocker full of standard science fiction… and romance. There’s even some parallel world in there.

    I filled up the big bowl with all the stuff I like and turned on the Kitchenaid, basically. I have no fricking idea what’s going to happen. But it will happen, working on covers now.

  4. I read very widely. These days, I am in principle willing to read even horror and romance. Which I used to exclude. I still have little interest in reading books written in the current day about current day politics. Though at the moment, I have little attention to spare, and am focusing more on specialized nonfiction.

    Writing? I do not know what the genre of the thing I am currently trying to plot /is/.

  5. I know that Lee Child has vowed to never write anything but Jack Reacher, but that seems a bit limiting. Me, so far I just write whatever I want. Maybe later I’ll start different streams under different names.

    1. That’s silly. He used to be a multi-genre collaborative thriller writer, and I doubt he’s stopped. (Might have a really rough publishing contract, though.) OTOH, his ROI with Jack Reacher seems to be pretty nice.

    2. I’m pretty sure the last half-dozen were written by someone else under his name. That, or the title character has had an unexplained personality shift while Child has adopted a new writing style…

  6. > they constantly binge on books in their favorite genre.

    James Blish had a sideline as a critic, usually under the pseudonym of “William Atheling.” He frequently whinged about how poorly written most SF was, and how publishers would buy and print it anyway, even when it would have been laughed out of proper literary circles.

    What Blish seemed blind to was that at the end of the chain there were customers, and those customers weren’t trading their money for literature. They were SF readers, and they wanted SF, and they were indifferent to literary merit as long as they got SF.

    Sort of amusing, considering Blish’s own efforts in the genre…

    The thing is, as a writer, your market isn’t “all readers.” Or “all science fiction readers.” Or even “all Western readers.” Even before e-books, most readers were selective. Now, they can select you right out if you don’t meet their expectations.

    As a reader myself, *I* do…

    “But I don’t want to keep writing the same stuff over and over!” Fine, but you’re going to have to break into a *different* market every time you jump genres or, often, subgenres.

    Of course, each time you can establish yourself in a different subfenre, you have broadened your customer base. Kevin Kelley’s “1000 True Fans” article is still relevent; but if you can produce enough as both a mil-SF and Western author, that’s *two* thousand true fans…

  7. I am a wanna-be writer, but this comment is purely from the me-as-a-reader-perspective. (LOL! because you have to actually… you know… write and publish a few things before crossing genre becomes a valid concern as a writer).

    As a reader, I have a few favorite authors that cross genre. One particular author, I’ll read anything he put out. He could lose his freakin mind tomorrow and decide to write children’s books where the characters are all vegetables, and I WOULD buy and read them. Period. Why? Because I’ve read enough of his work, and read enough of his other writings (blog, etc.) that I trust that if he’s taking his time to write it, he’ll make it awesome.

    For the others, it isn’t as automatic. It’s a calculation. How much do I like/dislike the genre (or think I will)? How much do I trust the author? Judging from previous books, do I think the author’s voice will resonate in the new genre? like imagine Sarah (since you brought her up) writing the example children’s vegetable stories…. well… actually, she might be able to pull that off now that I think about it…. See? Then, I buy or not depending on what my gut tells me.

    Just to put this comment in context, I’m a pretty wide reader. While I do have genre that I gravitate towards (or gravitate away from), genre isn’t as much of an automatic turn-on or turn-off as some people.

  8. Well I can’t say much about writing. As a reader though I have lots to say. I am big on fantasy and sci-fi genres. I do also read a lot of other genre’s as the mood strikes me. Some western, thrillers, historical fiction, classics, and non-fiction areas as well.
    If I find an author has dabbled in other areas I will check their other works. So I guess you can say I will follow good authors when they jump genres that I find them in.

  9. Difficult question, and I shall look forward to seeing other’s answers. Mine is limited by having only written in one genre: Mil-SF.

    One series with oversized power armour suits, which is my passion.

    The second series about oversized cybertanks, another passion.

    Rumour has it that I have another novel, which the pitchline is: Lovecraft meets the Professionals (British TV series), but not yet finished, and so I have no sales figures to share.

  10. I’ve been wondering about this very issue. I’ve finished the sixth (and probably last) book in the lighthearted fantasy series I’ve been writing, and am struggling with a new book that’s kind of a spin-off from that series. But it may be a while before that book jells, and meanwhile I’ve been polishing a stand-alone Regency romantic fantasy that’s quite different from the existing series and wondering whether to publish it at all. Would it simply annoy readers who are looking for more of the same, and is it worth taking that risk in the hope of finding new readers who like this sort of thing?

    I look forward to the reactions of the readers here, and to the insights of those with more indie publishing experience.

    1. You’ve just written a lighthearted fantasy series with strong romance elements. Your background includes tons of romance in all genres, as well as a romantic sf series, romantic historical fantasy, etc. You have a huge backlist.

      Why the heck wouldn’t you publish a Regency romantic fantasy?

      1. Regency is MONEY.

      2. Romantic fantasy is MONEY. The only drawback is the crowded Amazon category.

      3. People who read Regencies and romantic fantasy tend to read A LOT. Also steampunk fantasy readers do pretty well, and Regency is just really early steampunk.

      4. Prolific releasing of new material right after new material is MONEY.

      5. I really like Regency and fantasy, and I WANT TO GIVE YOU MY MONEY!

      1. 6. All those pre-programmed Patricia Wrede kids. Quietly, she is one of the most-read YA authors in the US, and most libraries still have her stuff in the children’s and YA section. For the last twenty years, there have been quite a few other books for young readers which also include Regency fantasy or Victorian fantasy, along with romance elements, and I think a lot of those now-adult readers are quietly looking for more of the same.

        1. 7. Any Regency fantasies that don’t make money are usually ones that purposefully avoid every likeable Regency feature, as well as every likeable fantasy feature. (And a lot of them still make money, by tricking libraries into buying their crap.)

          I am fairly sure that you’re not on some crazy SJW kick.

          That said, I think some Regency fantasies tend to be slowburning, because people aren’t sure of what they will get. I think that clear blurb/cover indications of subgenre and tone would help. (“Is this about Regency werewolves having lots of sex and killing spies, Regency servant girl witches working hard and making good, or funny Austen gentry elves illuminating the web of human relationships?”)

          1. Thanks for all the encouragement and suggestions! Working on blurb ideas now. Hmm… “This is about a Regency mermaid who lives on land because she’s addicted to three-volume romances and gets mixed up with Heyer gentry humans….”

  11. If I really like an author, I’ll buy anything he/she writes sight-unseen. I won’t even read the blurb because I don’t want anything to spoil my reading experience. I’ve had the experience of discovering it was Fantasy or Horror instead of Science Fiction, but rarely been disappointed. Good writers usually write good stuff.

    I’ve never picked up a book by an author I liked only to discover it wasn’t SFF at all though. If I knew that in advance, I’d probably pass on it, even it was a favorite author.

  12. I write cross genre, and although I started with mil-sci-fi (the Cat books and Colplatschki books), I have wandered. What is selling the best at the moment is urban-fantasy, both “straight” and the Russian-flavored stories, and historical fantasy. I have some readers who want anything I publish, and others who stick with a genre and ignore the others for the most part, although there is some nibbling.

    One thing that happens, with the exception of the Familiars books, is history. I cannot keep history out of my writing, either as a source of possible characters or events, or as a setting. Fantasy? Has history in it. Colplatschki? History all over it.

    1. Familiars is also a wee bit informed by your historical sense. a) the magic text books b) the origins of that obsidian knife.

  13. I shop for my reading matter by author. I’m looking for someone who can tell a story, has a decent command of the English language, and either has the knowledge or does the research to get the fiddly bits of whatever genre they’re writing in correct. And if you do message fiction it better be a message I’m willing to listen to, and whatever that might be you cannot let it get in the way of or substitute for good story telling.

  14. Heh. Took a quick look at what a few of my books sold in their first six months. Ouch! The numbers are not actually backing up my impressions. All SF/F, but many subgenres

    My main series is chugging along nicely–Parallel Earths with some genetically engineered “Magic.”

    But my recent Space Opera got half again as many sales, and the Time Travel book doubled the main series.

    My weird YA tanked, as did the YA fantasy.

    So I’ve got to say that, while a small portion of my readers will buy anything I write, by and large switching genres is going to cost you readers and money.

    Mind you, I’m not a big seller. I was thinking about trying Urban Fantasy to break into a different readership, but perhaps I should try more SO or TT.

  15. I can read Lovecraft but not Koontz. Somewhere in my head I hit a switch that turns on nightmares. I’m also done with literary.

    I’ll happily follow a writer between the rest of the genres as long as all the other parts are there-plot, characters . . . but I was going to read in that genre anyway, so I’m not particularly representative of genre readers. The fownside is that of course my favorite books by any one author end up being the not-big-sellers.

  16. Depends on the writer. Hoyt I generally pick up all her works. Robert Kroese who does farce of fantasy and scific. I love his fantasy farce. But I told him to no longer seen me a review copy of his scific farce because I hated them.

  17. Speaking as a reader (where I have far more experience than being a writer), Brian Niermeier was right in context, but not completely right all the time for all readers. There are a large number of genre fans who are looking for more stories in their favourite genre, and they’re willing to try any author as long as it’s in the right genre and the cover and blurb look promising. And if they like the story, they will be likely to pick up another in-genre book by you, when they notice it’s out. These readers are not going to hunt down and read your out-genre books, and when they run across your different-genre book, it may take month, years, or never before they try that one out.

    Every now and then, though, you’ll have a reader who loves your voice as a writer enough to want to read anything you’ve written. They go from genre-reader to Fan. For fans, author as a brand most certainly is not dead. I’m willing to bet quite a number of people tried Uncharted not because it was fantasy alt-history, but because it was Kevin J Anderson & Sarah Hoyt. Similarly, a bunch of people bought a Warmachine story not because they love tie-in game fiction for a game they have never played, but because it was written by Larry Correia.

    So yes, skipping to a different genre will set you back, because you’ll have no name recognition among the genre-readers until you release more stuff and it’s been out a while… and only your fans will follow over. (Even then, there are genre barriers. It’s very hard to get Romance fans to read SF, and hard to get SF fans to read Romance.)

    Short game vs Long Game… or writing as a career.

    Let’s talk about my love’s westerns. When he first released a western, it had much lower sales than his scifi, and almost all the sales were MilSF fans who were willing to cross genres. (You can see that in the also-boughts, and in the “I don’t normally read westerns, but..” reviews.) This meant the Amazon algorithm marketed his westerns to MilSF readers instead of Western readers, so discovery by genre-readers were slow.)

    Sales of the second were even lower, because the fans who don’t read Westerns bought the first one, discovered they didn’t care for the genre at all, and didn’t buy the second. (This is fairly standard fan behavior; some will discover they love westerns and start buying more by others. Some will only buy their favourite author in that genre, and some won’t buy any more.) So from a two-book standpoint, clearly switching to Westerns was a money-loser, right?

    But that’s a two-book, short-term standpoint. Peter’s writing as a career, which gives him another 15 years to find and grow his Western audience – and one thing we know about Westerns is that though small, the sales are steady, and not subject to the wild market fads and die-offs of other genres.

    Slowly, western genre readers are finding his Westerns, and reading them, recommending them to others. The also-boughts are being replaced by more books in genre, and while the sales aren’t near as high as his main genre, he only has two books out, and sales haven’t died. The more he publishes, the more likely he is to pick up fans in Western, who’ll buy and read (and recommend) everything he puts out in that genre. So I’m going to encourage him to keep publishing Westerns, even if they’re not his current bread and butter.

  18. I follow particular authors. I find them in my favorite genres, but when they go off and write a Western I read it and generally enjoy it.

    There are some authors that doesn’t work with. I tried J. K. Rowling’s other books and could barely finish. Just not my thing. And while I love J. D. Robb I can’t read Nora Roberts.

  19. I think that the whole ebook/Kindle marketplace hasn’t matured into its final form. People are binging and dumping authors because they can, and it’s new and exciting. But I think that the market may look quite different in ten years. However this is pure speculation on my part as a reader.
    As a writer what I discovered was how many people around me do not ever read a single book at all. Very depressing but also quite enlightening.
    Within limits what I like best is just good writing. For example, I personally loved the WSJ column on wine from years ago because it was fantastic writing, even though I do not drink wine. But I have a very sharp limit on how much scare I can put up with in a story no matter what the genre or how good the writing.

  20. I read based on genre although I’m more likely to give an author a chance in a different genre if I’ve enjoyed their other works.

  21. I tend to find new authors by reading genres I like, then read everything by any author I decide I like to read, regardless of official genre.

    I’m trying to take advantage of both cross genre and “fans” by writing the same style of stories with the same elements, but sometimes with series in different genres. So you can write a thriller/romance (more classical definitions, i.e. think Ludlum crossed with L’Amour) as a Mil SF, a near future technothriller, a western or a fantasy novel. Officially different genres, but if someone likes that type of story in one, they’re most likely going to like it in the others.

    My biggest issue is I’m (slowly) trying to finish two big related series in one genre (theoretically going to try a rapid release of 7 books in two series.. yeah, wish me luck) while just writing short stories and planning series in the others, but I’ll get to them eventually and I hope that when I do, many of the same fans will mostly crossover.

    Sort of how Drake writes Mil SF, but also Mil Fantasy and Mil Space Opera, or how Asimov would write some straight mystery, but mostly mystery disguised as SF, but broader than those examples.

    1. Admin note – the spam filter tried to eat your comment. I’ve distracted it with a fifteen-links-for-casino-slots comment and rescued yours to the broad light of reading day!

  22. Okay, let me see. As a reader, yes, I do follow writers. And when they switch genres, I’m usually happy to give it a try. But… they need to do a good job! For example, I’ve seen science fiction or fantasy writers who decided to do a mystery, or a thriller, and frankly, didn’t do a good job. Same thing often happens when some writer who has done a good job in another genre decides to try sf or fantasy. Sorry, but being a good writer in one genre does not automatically give you mastery in another genre. You’re going to have to read some, and learn the tropes. Then you can do a good job. That restart can be really difficult for a writer who has already established themselves in one genre. Oh, and you may have to carefully watch for the tendency to slip in the tropes from that old genre.

    Short version — I’ll try something by an author I like in a different genre, but they need to do a good job if they expect me to keep on reading them in that genre! Which is a lot harder than doing another in the same genre.

  23. And I’m looking at it as a reader who started when I could read everything published in the genre (as broadly defined).

    So I got into the habit of ignoring subgenre — as did the writers, in many cases. Sure, you had writers like Hal Clement, who only write hard SF. But you had writers like Poul Anderson (who, IMHO, is the finest writer the genre has ever seen) who wrote Tau Zero and Three Hearts and Three Lions. (And, if there are people who haven’t read them, they’re some of the finest Hard SF and High Fantasy ever written.)

    So, when I found (through various chains of recommendations) that an author new to me called Peter Grant could tell an interesting story about interesting characters in MilSF, then I was perfectly willing to try his first Western. And when I found out from that book that he could write a Western about interesting characters doing interesting things, it meant that I would buy his second Western.

    And when it turned out that an author I liked for her Hard Boiled Detective Regencies also wrote straight Romances,I read them, because I knew she could write (and Romance is well beyond anything I could have imagined myself reading).

    I’m happy to follow an author around genres (since I grew up ignoring subgenres anyhow).

    The genre I want to read is “Good Story”.

    1. I mostly follow authors. Find a good one and plow through everything I can find. Some of that goes back to junior high when I first discovered Heinlein then Norton browsing through the stacks. Secondary is genre. Baen has been breaking down my genre walls. I had one of Larry’s MHI books for months before finally cracking it open. Now I’m a big fan and followed him into other genres but still haven’t read Dead Six. I used to read tons of High Fantasy but burnt out when it got to formulaic for my taste. I’ve read nearly every this CJ Cherryh has written but just cannot get into her Fortress series. I’ll follow Ringo anywhere his muse drives him. So it really depends how big a FAN I am. I’ll read mediocre authors in my favorite genre but only follow my favorite authors across genres. Crossing genres usually happens when I’m desperate to get my next reading fix.

  24. I think it is very important for the author to be fair with his readers. I think of Jim Butcher’s note to readers that is in the back of the Dresden books. “Hey, I have written these other books, but they are quiet different”. The same with Larry Correia and his “son of the black sword” books.

    I think it is also owed to the reader to differentiate cover design and logos so that there is as little confusion as possible.

    The technique of the Stratemeyer techniques remain useful.

    1. I used to think that having a new pseudonym for each different genre was a bad idea, but I’m starting to think that it might be a good idea. The disadvantage of a reader searching and seeing only some of your work isn’t that great because fans will find you anyway if it’s not a *secret*.

      Though I’m still not completely convinced. It’s a complicated question.

  25. let’s see… historical fantasy, historical mystery, sci-fi, urban fantasy… are you counting the subgenres of SF? Also trying to figure out what genre my favorite short story by Sarah is…

  26. If an author I like writes something in another genre, I’m up for trying it out. It’s not a guarantee I’ll like it but it ups the odds. And some authors are so prolific their stuff is everywhere even though they may have a “main” genre they’re more known for. Also, I like short stories and it seems a lot of authors are willing to do a short story in another arena even if not a full novel.

    Peter’s done MilSF and Westerns, maybe it’s time to stretch into Romance? 😛

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