Recently I’ve heard quite a few writers concerned with genre-hopping. Many agents and publishers discourage it; if you want to write different stories, you write under different pen names. It keeps your fans compartmentalized – for example, the romance fans don’t have to read sci-fi they may dislike – but it’s harder to build that elusive platform, as you’re essentially building two (or more, depending on how many pen names you go with).
So, can you be successful as a genre-hopper? My publisher, Evolved Publishing, has no problem with it (they’re leniently awesome about a lot of other stuff too).
And in the past few months, I’ve come across a really good example: the band Imagine Dragons.
At first, I wasn’t big on them. “It’s Time” is a blatent rip-off of Sigur Rós’s “Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur,” a song I happen to love but most people have probably never heard. “It’s Time” is fun, hopeful, light. It’s played on most Top 40 radio stations.
And then I heard “Radioactive,” which is not really fun or hopeful or light. And it’s played almost exclusively on rock stations.
Intrigued, I got their album, Night Visions (and I highly recommend you do too). It’s a mix of light pop songs, dark rock songs, and some Caribbean steel drums that conjure up memories of the lobster from The Little Mermaid. And the mix is working, because their debut album has gone platinum in the US (1 million+ albums sold).
I think part of their success is their marketing approach: target pop people for the pop songs and rock people for the rock songs, each of whom will buy the whole album and probably enjoy it.
The lesson for writers, I guess, is that you need to cast a wide net. My novel, The Lone Wolf, is women’s fiction and I’ll market it towards women’s fiction writers, but chances are they’ll enjoy my other stories when they read them (or at least buy them). Readers who enjoy my darker short stories will buy the novel and appreciate some of the darker characters. I hope.
What’s your take on genre-hopping and marketing: good or bad? Why?