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Thoughts on Genre Jumping by An Author Who’s Jumped

We recently read on one of the romance listservs that author Julie Moffett, whose time-travel release, Double-Edged Blade, had sold out on its first print run, had signed a new contract. Blade had followed two previous books, both historicals. She will be writing both historicals and time-travels in the future.

Because we know that some authors find it difficult to genre-jump, we asked Julie for her thoughts on the subject:

In the October issue of Romantic Times, best-selling romance author Patricia Potter wrote a very thoughtful article on genre jumping that started me thinking about my own writing career.

In case you are unfamiliar with the term “genre jumping”, it’s often described as an irrepressible creative need for an author to write books in a variety of different genres or sub-genres. Many authors do it. Some are successful; some are not. Some use pseudonyms when switching genres, some don’t.

Just for the record, I genre-jump. There, I’ve confessed. But has it helped or hurt my career? In my particular case, the jump was small. My first two books were straight historical romance. Then I made the jump to time-travel romance. Was I nervous that my readers wouldn’t follow me to the new romance sub-genre?

To tell you the truth, like many genre-jumpers, I hadn’t really thought about it until I read Ms. Potter’s article. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t. I didn’t use a pseudonym either. I just wrote a different kind of book, hoping I would bring my readers along to the new genre. To my delight, my time-travel completely sold out of its first printing.

Maybe it was just blind luck. Or maybe my mother’s publicity efforts (i.e. giving my books to everyone she has ever known, including my old boyfriends) worked. Whatever the case, I thank my lucky stars that my particular jump was successful.

I even received concrete benefits from the jump — a higher print run for my next book, a bigger advance, and a better slot. So, I survived the jump and actually benefited from it. Does it mean I should stick to writing time-travels?

Perhaps. Will I? Nope.

My next book is a straight historical. And the book after that is the sequel to the time travel. Aaggghhhh! I’m genre-jumping again. Does this mean I’m hopelessly afflicted?

Probably. But, thanks to Ms. Potter, at least I’m aware of the consequences. And make no mistake of it, the consequences can be severe. Big jumps — let’s say, from a sweet historical romance to a contemporary romantic intrigue — can be dangerous to your career if you don’t use a pseudonym. Your loyal readers will expect a certain type of story from you. If you are beloved for your light-hearted and sensitive portrayals of romantic relationships, then your readers may not appreciate a dramatic shift to a dark, horrifying novel about a serial killer stalking your heroine.

The bottom line is this — if you lose readers, you lose sales. Lower sales can have unfortunate consequences on your business relationship with your publishing house. Ouch, that can hurt.

But I’m ever the optimistic. I believe genre-jumping can be managed and even used to an author’s advantage, if done properly. In my opinion, small jumps using the same pen name is safe. Several Regency writers have successfully moved back and forth between the shorter traditional Regencies and longer historicals without using pseudonyms. The same is true of many historical romance writers who decided to write time-travels. Many authors of short contemporary intrigues have flourished by writing longer romantic suspense novels without a name change.

The direct benefits for authors are gaining new readers, improving sales records and being in a position to negotiate better contracts. And, of course, authors are able to stretch themselves creatively — a benefit for readers, writers and the industry as a whole.

However, bigger jumps require pseudonyms. Eileen Dreyer is a perfect example. She writes great mysteries under her own name, but uses a pen name (Kathleen Korbel) for her short contemporary romances. Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle) is another good example. Jayne can successfully write contemporary, historical and futuristic romance and isn’t stuck in the same old rut.

Hmmm .. definitely a plus.

So, what does this mean for my career in particular, given my tendency to genre-jump? Well, I suppose that if I ever decide to write that contemporary romantic intrigue for which I already have an outline, I’ll have to think of a good pseudonym.

Gee, I wonder if the name Nora Roberts is already taken?

Julie Moffett

You can e-mail Julie by clicking here.

Read an AAR Review of Julie Moffett’s Across a Moonswept Moor
Read an AAR Review of Julie Moffett’s A Double-Edged Blade
Read a LLB/TRR Review of Julie Moffett’s The Thorn and the Thistle