You Can Only Write in One Genre. Period. End of Story.

You can stop reading now. The message in the headline is my whole post and what I’ll conclude at the end.

For those of you curious as to why it’s impossible—keep reading.

Yes, I know this topic has been covered ad nauseam, but apparently we need to cover it one more time because I continue to see writers and authors trying to write in more than one genre.

Writers tell me frequently things like, “I really am a romance type, but I don’t want to shut the door on cozy mysteries so I’m going to do them too. Is that okay?” Or, “My passion is non-fiction, but I really want to publish novels as well so I’m working on both. Do you think editors and agents will mind?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. They’ll mind. Fiction or non-fiction. Not both. And if you choose fiction, you get to work in one genre. Only one. You must choose one direction or another.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been a marketing professional for more than 20 years. Let me assure you I’m not basing this statement on opinion only. But rather than get technical, let me give you a few illustrations to show you how this works.

A Few Changing Genres Examples 

• Let’s say your favorite radio station is KMPS, the number one country station in your city. You’ve tuned in a least a few minutes every day for the past five years. Then one day you tune in and the format has changed. It’s now Classic Rock. You’re not pleased. Even if you are a Classic Rock fan, this isn’t working for you. When you tune in to 94.1 you expect country. But the station says, sorry, Charlie, no tuna for you—it’s flounder now. You say sorry as well and never listen to the new station.

• Or imagine walking into your favorite sushi restaurant with a friend on Saturday night. They  bring you the menu and surprise, the only thing on it is steaks. Problem. You might like steak, but you weren’t expecting it at this restaurant. If you wanted steak you would have gone to your favorite steak house.

See, once you brand yourself into a reader’s mind, it is EXTREMELY difficult if not impossible to remove the first brand and put another on top of it. You think tattoo removal is impossible? Try re-branding yourself in another genre.

One more example and then I’ll let you start telling me I’m wrong and about the exceptions to my statement. (You can’t use John Grisham since A Painted House sold dismal numbers compared to his legal thrillers and only serves to prove my point.)

Once upon a time there was a man named James. James was a talented musician. Very talented. He joined three other very talented musicians. They made music. But as many bands do, they broke up.

So James started another band that dominated the charts with a slew of number one songs and they sold out massive arenas all over the world. He wrote theme songs for hit movies. Then he became a painter and displayed his paintings in prestigious galleries as well as continued to make music as a solo artist.

But even though his first success (his first band) happened more than 40 years ago, people STILL reference him by who he was in the first band—not by who he’s been for the past 40 years. It’s just dang hard to get that genre out of the brain and replace it with a new one.

(Gold stars to those of you who know I’m referring to James Paul McCartney who is still an “ex-Beatle” after all these years.)

James L. Rubart is the
best-selling, award winning author of four novels. Publishers Weekly says this about
his latest: ““Readers with high blood pressure or heart conditions be warned: [Soul’s
Gate] is a seriously heart-thumping and satisfying
read
that goes to the edge, jumps off, and “builds wings on the
way down.” During the day he runs Barefoot
Marketing which helps authors make more coin of the realm. He lives with his
amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and loves to dirt bike,
hike, golf, take photos, and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a
madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com