Figured I might as well poll the Vocalites
It’s a question that’s been bothering me a great deal recently.
To preface it, let me present two scenarios:
I, a reader, like this author. I read most books or pieces that they publish, regardless of genre. Horror? Action/adventure? Sci-Fi? Bring it on.
I, a reader, like this genre. I read a lot of horror, regardless of the author. Stephen King? Poe? Lovecraft? Bring it on.
Now, I know that most anyone on here is a writer and a reader, so this feels like a unique audience to pose this question to. So, without any more preamble:
As an author starting to gain some momentum, am I better off striving for a unity of genre or a wide portfolio of stories?
I really can’t decide, since there is a compelling argument for either approach:
Find Your Niche
I publish exclusively dark fiction and horror stories (what I consider my main genre). A reader who likes horror and likes one of my stories will then find a cornucopia of other spooky stories to satiate themselves without having to look all that far.
In this case, I would describe my niche as dark fiction set in lighthouses. It’s not everything I write. But it was, for a bit, the only thing I seemed to be able to publish. And I believe I have a higher frequency of this specific tale versus most other writers today. So, a niche.
Cast a Wide Net
I publish additional pieces outside the horror world: literary fiction, action/adventure, even a pirate story. For those who don’t like horror or dark fiction, there’s still something in my portfolio to reach them.
And that’s just what I’ve gotten in print. Don’t even get me started on the medley that’s now available on Vocal thanks to many challenges over the years.
Man, a lot of subheadings in this article.
Anyhow, I think a lot of conventional wisdom out there is to focus your scope on one genre and even sub-genre to attract and build a following. After all, the person who likes my pirate story would be disappointed to find that’s the only one at present. Perhaps ever.
Still, if they liked my writing style and enjoy other genres, then it could be a way to reach a reader I might not otherwise attract.
Like most parts of life, I realize that it’s likely not as black and white as I’ve posed here, and the best approach lies somewhere in the middle. Still, I think it’s worth choosing one approach as the main focus as I start to think a bit more strategically about the future of my writing brand.
Up to now, it’s been about exposure, damn the cost and damn the genre.
But I think it’s worth being a bit more methodical and strategic now that I have a decent backlist.
If you haven’t guessed yet, this isn’t an article that poses a question and then lands on one definitive answer.
That’s where you come in.
The Vocal Community Talks Back
I welcome any opinion you might have, whether it’s based on your experiences as a reader or as a writer. Maybe you’ve asked yourself the same question. Maybe you’ve chosen one of these directions and now can speak to that experience.
Or maybe you’ve found yourself reading across genres or seeking out works by specific authors.
Heck, maybe you can only speak to this question hypothetically. I’m not picky.
All of the debate I’ve presented up to now has ignored one stark reality: I write across genres. It’s part of what brings me joy, and the lessons I learn from an action/adventure piece can then be used to enrich a horror piece, for example. Say, a hand-to-hand struggle with a giant eel atop a lighthouse catwalk as lightning splits the sky.
Real ones will recognize the story I’m referencing ????
And that’s to say nothing about cross-genre pieces, like the horror-themed comedy story I’m currently drafting in a separate doc.
Plus, horror is HARD. It takes a lot of intention, language tactics, and fresh ideas to achieve the proper atmosphere. Horror movies have the benefit of video and audio to immerse and surprise the audience. Imagine reading a jump scare. No way it translates as well to paper.
I need to write in other genres to recharge the batteries.
So why waste your time with this question if I’m going to continue with the “cast a wide net” approach?
Well, Lamar, I’m glad you asked.
I may continue writing whatever idea catches my fancy, genre be damned, but I do plan to invest more time in the selected area of focus should I be convinced I need to double down on the central genre.
My hope is to blend a larger strategy with the reasons I keep coming back to my keyboard. That, and honor the time invested into ideating, drafting, editing, submitting, and, at long last, publishing by ensuring that the content delivered fits into the overall plan.
In other words, I want to go from…
So, please, help me build the plan and decide the next step of the journey.