I am fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with many writers, established and aspiring, on a daily basis, and one of the questions I often hear from up-and-coming writers is on how to build an audience when they write about diverse topics. When you write in different genres, the key is to take extra care to develop your marketing plan and reach your target audience.
First of all, though your personal loves may have inspired you to write in disparate genres, say cooking and mystery writing, it’s important to realize that the goals of each audience are separate. Recipe hounds or cookbook readers are in search of clear, concise instructions and—perhaps, more importantly—the end result of good food. Readers of mystery novels want entertainment that not only whisks them away to a new place, but also stimulates their brains and sharpens their puzzling skills. These are two very different needs! So how do you reach each of them?
Because I believe that every author needs a blog, I recommend starting up a blog for each genre. If you’re writing about science and gardening, you quite likely need two different marketing plans, and two different blogs. I know it stinks, but you’re not alone.
It’s important to identify your target audience for each genre. You need to define who they are, and learn about what they care about, what their challenges are, and how you can serve them.
There are a couple of ways you can approach this:
1. Master one genre first. Once you’ve built an audience for your primary genre, you can then invite your readers along to check out books from your other genre. Just don’t expect all of them to join the ride. At this point, you will still need to build audience #2. But many authors have successfully crossed multiple genres. Anne Lamott comes to mind. Famous for Bird By Bird, an essential guide for writers, Lamott has also written several memoirs and religious books. She successfully crossed over into other genres after establishing her core audience first.
If you aren’t sure which genre to start with, pick the one you are most passionate about or that you’re most likely to want to own for the long-haul. Also, for entrepreneurial authors, you might choose the genre that best complements your business so that you can use your book as a tool to also grow your business.
2. Build both genres concurrently. If you’re truly passionate about more than one genre and want to launch both concurrently, then build separate websites and identities for each. You might even use a pen name if the genres are vastly different. Stephen King also writes as Richard Bachman. Nora Roberts writes as J.D. Robb. It’s not that uncommon. Without a pen name, if you try to establish yourself in two genres at once, you risk confusing people. If readers search for your name on Google or Amazon, will they find books on knitting and politics? That could get confusing so you need a plan.
3. See if your genres converge. I struggled with this multi-genre situation early on. I began by establishing myself with a small business audience, but then also began writing books for nonfiction authors. Eventually I realized that these two audiences often converge and cross over. So my approach is to maintain two different blogs (one for each genre), but to consolidate my social media efforts under one Twitter account, one Facebook page, etc. For me, this works because the two audiences are closely related, but unfortunately it won’t work for everyone.
The bottom line is that you need to develop a strategy, whether you use one of the above suggestions or create a hybrid solution all your own. Just be careful not to confuse people or to send out mixed messages.
How are you handling this issue? Please share in the comments below.