Writing in different genres. Only not.

Mouse

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I know we've had a thread here about using pen names when writing in different genres and I know lots of authors do this but...

A few questions/thoughts. As someone new looking for an agent/publisher, is it best to stick to one thing first and then move on later? Would you need two agents if, say, one of them was YA only and you wanted to write adult stuff?

I think I write fantasy about people and that's it. But unfortunately you have to break all these things down into genre and audience and whatnot which means I write YA fantasy, adult fantasy, adult contemp/paranormal and LGBT.

Both LGBT things I've written so far have exactly the same amount of fantasy in as (for those who've read it or know about it) TBM. But because TBM's two MCs are straight, I can call it fantasy. So an agent interested in TBM, for example, might have no interest in my other two.

I'm planning to use a pen name as well as my real name anyway, because of the different 'genres' but I'm just wondering whether I should focus mainly on one thing.

So I've got my YA trilogy (currently re-working the first one, which is with Simon & Schuster at the mo) which is proper fantasy fantasy. Medieval, swords and sorcery type.

Then I've got two adult contemp fantasies. TBM - which is about a woman who can see ghosts and a guy who absorbs emotion from anyone he touches. And my newish not-finished-yet WiP which is contemp. again, but slightly more fantasy as it has supernatural creatures in it... although my MC in that one is a lesbian so... gah!

Then my two LGBTs... one is a collab. It's set in our world but the fantasy element is that the characters have an artefact which can open a gateway to the otherworld - the land of the dead.
In my other one (contemp. again), both MCs are psychic, though their abilities are different.

So... you see? All fantasy. Only not.

(Most of my short stories are horror. I'm glad I've never wanted to write a horror novel!)
 

TheDustyZebra

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I think probably, as pointed out by the agent in the "dos and don't's" thread, it would not be a good idea to pitch yourself as a multi-genred writer initially. I can see her point, that it makes one wonder where your true passion lies. In the event that I finish the things I'm working on, I'll face the same problem -- YA/JF and adult mystery and SF shorts and erotica schlock and everything else make for strange bedfellows.

I assume that after you have an agent for the first thing, you would inquire if she would like to shop you out for this other type of thing, and if not, you'd need to find someone who would. That's what I have in the back of my mind for when the time comes. We could end up with a whole basketful of agents, but there are worse fates. :D
 

Mouse

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It's hard enough to find one agent! I'll just have to look for the ones who aren't too fussy. :D
 

Jo Zebedee

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I'm in a similar boat and have been advised to concentrate on the one I'm pitching. Having said that I pitch each differently - AC goes forward for big windows who seem to want trilogy models/classic stuff - Inish to agents with YA/crossover bent. So target it to each book and then, once you have that all-important call - which you will! -, then you can talk bout other stuff.
 

Glitch

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I think one agent would be easier. All your work looks to fall into the fantasy realm, regardless of the sub genre. If you can get a few of the same sub genre under your belt, I'm betting an agent would be receptive to the others :)
 

Warren_Paul

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I think an agent would step outside of the box if it was for the sake of getting another title from an already successful author they have previously published -- or they might pass you on to another agent in the same agency that specialises in that genre -- but while you are trying to make that first book a success, I suspect it would be best to be consistent in the genre you write.

Saying that, I don't think there is anything wrong with writing for multiple genres, but don't advertise that to them, concentrate on the book/genre you are trying to sell in that query letter. If you have a science fiction novel and a fantasy novel, and neither are published, I'd still try to sell them both, but once one of them sells, leave the other one be until you are sitting comfortable in the industry. By that time you will have an agent to ask who would be able to give more sound advice than we can.


So the short answer: I'd stick with one thing first.
 

Abernovo

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Bear in mind I'm not sure I know what I'm talking about, but I am in a similar position, in writing more than sf.

As above, I'd say go with the manuscript you're pitching at the time. When (not if, in your case) they get back to you, you can explain you have more than one string to your bow. Even if that agent does not represent your other genres, you might get a recommendation to another. Agents talk, I gather.

As you say, all your work has fantasy elements, so that might help.
 

Mouse

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Thanks guys.

I think one agent would be easier. All your work looks to fall into the fantasy realm, regardless of the sub genre. If you can get a few of the same sub genre under your belt, I'm betting an agent would be receptive to the others :)
This is kinda what I'm thinking. I think whatever I do will have fantasy elements in, so if I can get a few of each sub-genre done... (Must write faster!)
 

Ursa major

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Speaking of how this pans out for a successful SFF author....

Charles Stross has been writing a series of blogs, which he calls crib sheets, about the genesis of each of his various books, which include SF, space opera and fantasy of various types. He was, and is, trying to juggle the needs of his publisher and his desire to write different standalones and series.

(He has also written various blogs - mixed in with the above - about how he believes publishing works and where the industry may be going.)
 

reiver33

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I tend to hop genres (SF, UF, romance, Western) for the proverbial reason 'to see if I can'. I don't know if that illustrates a lack of resolve/commitment that agents that may put an agent off, as I haven't approached one.
 

Brian G Turner

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So far as I understand it, the problem with writing for different genres comes from the booksellers.

Competition for shelf space means the bookstore buyers need to think they can sell what they put up on it. When a name sells well in a genre, the book shops are happy to stock more from that name.

However, each genre is treated as having a different audience, which means someone selling books in one genre gives no guarantee of selling in a different genre.

Even fantasy and science fiction are treated as different genres.

So if a writer makes a point of saying they write for different genres, the danger is that this will be perceived as impractical and an agent made extra wary of taking such a person on.

While a change in genre can work, all the advice I've had from within the publishing industry is to focus on one genre and stick to it. If you're lucky and/or very successful, it becomes easier to expand into other genres later.

But a new writer looking to write different genres? No. If you are signed with a 2-3 book deal, it will be within that genre and this will almost certainly be stipulated in the contracted.

All IMO and so far as I'm aware. (I think this question came up in the John Jarrold thread).
 

Kissmequick

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Hmm

You can have LGBT characters and still be shelved/marketed as fantasy. In fact plenty of books do that. Contemp v second world...that's more a matter of branding than anything else, but I don't see why you can't do it (I've got a contemp UF and a second world fantasy on the go at the mo). Though it will depend on what the house you first published with wants to see next and/or if your contract allows you to sub a different sub genre elsewhere

Your issue with agents is in fact quite simple. Who do they have contacts with? For instance, my agent reps me for all my spec fic, but not for any romance, because he has no contacts in the romance world.

The same would probably apply to YA v adult -- if the agent has contacts in both spheres (or contacts that publish both spheres) then you'd only need the one agent. If not, then you have something in your contract with them specifying what they do and do not rep for you.

In other words, it's going to depend on your agent, your publishing house and your contracts. If you know, ahead of time, that you'll likely be writing in different sub genres, let your agent know. That way you and s/he can plan for it, even if that involves another agent for a different genre.

Basically, communicate.

ETA: That said, you are probably better off, at least initially, sticking to one. Until you've got a bit of a name, then perhaps branch out. Again, this is something to discuss with your agent and/or publisher.
 

Mouse

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You can have LGBT characters and still be shelved/marketed as fantasy.
I know - I actually have more gay characters in TBM than I do in the two I'm calling LGBT. My two are more romance, than fantasy, so I've been calling (one of them, at least) a romance even though it's got that little bit of fantasy in it.

I had an idea on my way home from work today for a YA LGBT fantasy too, but that'll have to wait.



Probably didn't make myself clear in the original post (I was rambling a bit) but I do know not to pitch several things to an agent at once. Not that daft just yet. ;)

So basically, it sounds like I carry on doing what I'm doing, send my YA to YA agents and my adult to adult ones and worry about the rest of it later. If it gets to a stage where I need to worry about it.
 

Ursa major

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Your only problem would be where both your YA and your adult work was offered representation, and both agents wanted to represent your other work.

Would that we all had such problems.... :)
 

Kissmequick

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I know - I actually have more gay characters in TBM than I do in the two I'm calling LGBT. My two are more romance, than fantasy, so I've been calling (one of them, at least) a romance even though it's got that little bit of fantasy in it.
Ahh I see.

Well, tbh most agents who rep/have great contacts within fantasy probably aren't going to have the same level with romance markets (though if you could find one that had both, you'd be set!) ETA: Then again, some fantasy is basically romance with fantasy elements...depends on where you think it falls.

Like I say, my agent doesn't rep my romance stuff, only my spec fic.

But it's basically going to be one of the things you'll want to discuss with the agent when they offer, before you sign your contract with them. You say what you've written, they say if it will fall under the umbrella of what they'll rep, go from there until you're both happy.

Actually, a lot of romance (certainly in the e-first/e-only market) is open to unagented subs. Plus, ofc, Harlequin (pretty sure you don't need an agent for any line). I've never had an agent for my romance. Depends what market you're going for though.And an agent can make you more/get you a better chance perhaps. But no agent isn't the bar it is in other genres
 

Phyrebrat

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Hi Mouse,
I sympathise with your dilemma - not because I suffer the same genre issues, or even that I write cross-genres - but because you are at the whims of a public perception issue.

Both LGBT things I've written so far have exactly the same amount of fantasy in as (for those who've read it or know about it) TBM. But because TBM's two MCs are straight, I can call it fantasy. So an agent interested in TBM, for example, might have no interest in my other two.

...

Then my two LGBTs... one is a collab. It's set in our world but the fantasy element is that the characters have an artefact which can open a gateway to the otherworld - the land of the dead.
In my other one (contemp. again), both MCs are psychic, though their abilities are different.

So... you see? All fantasy. Only not.
From what you said, I would be (all militant, like :D ) saying 'I write fantasy, man!' when people start throwing the LGBT label around. It always grates when just because a story has one or two gay ('queer' as I hear is the current vogue term*) protagonists, it gets marginalised or ghettoised into the LGBT category. I appreciate there are novels written specifically for that niche but you don't seem like you're targeting it, specifically.

I seem to recall you had one of your MCs change to gay from straight as you wrote so in the context of this discussion, it sort of highlights the odd bias that the market shows, inasmuch as the story would (possibly/probably) be marketed without the LGBT tag if the character hadn't evolved into one with a different sexual preference.

As KMQ says, I figure if the story is fantasy, then... well..it's fantasy ;)

What do you think?


pH

* haha 'vogue', no pun intended. I was teaching vogue today!
 

Mouse

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I would love to say 'I write fantasy, deal with it' but people like their little labels, unfortunately!
 

Warren_Paul

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Look into Lynn Flewelling. She is published through Bantam as a fantasy author. Her protagonists are gay.

Here is the cover letter than got her a two book contract:

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Address
Address


Dear (Agent/Editor’s Name):


I am seeking representation for my fantasy adventure novel, Luck In The Shadows, complete at 170,000 words. I am enclosing a synopsis and a sample chapter. The sequel, Stalking Darkness, is nearing completion and another free-standing book featuring the same characters is in outline form.

I love thieves and spies – those sneaky people who live by intuition, skill, and inside knowledge. In fantasy, however, they are often portrayed as dark, ruthless characters or relegated to second string roles, a la Falstaff, as useful or amusing foils for more conventional heroic types. Luck in the Shadows gives the rogues center stage.

Seregil is an experienced spy for hire with a murky past and noble connections; Alec is the talented but unworldly boy he rescues and takes on as apprentice. “I admit I’ve cut a purse or two in my time,” Seregil tells Alec soon after they meet, “and some of what I do could be called stealing, depending on who you ask. But try to imagine the challenge of overcoming incredible obstacles to accomplish a noble purpose. Think of traveling to lands where legends walk the streets in daylight and even the color of the sea is like nothing you’ve ever seen! I ask you again, would you be plain Alec of Kerry all your life, or would you see what lies beyond?” Alec goes, of course, and quickly plunges into danger, intrigue, and adventure as their relationship deepens into friendship. The interaction between these two forms the core of this character-driven series.

I’ve been writing professionally for ten years and am currently a freelance journalist. My articles appear regularly in the Bangor Daily News, Preview! Magazine, and Maine In Print. I’ve covered everything from software to psychics; my interview credits include Stephen King, Anne Rice, and William Kotzwinkle. Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Lynn Flewelling
Source: http://www.sfwa.org/2005/01/the-complete-nobodys-guide-to-query-letters/

I don't see any mention of "LGBT" in that letter. Of course things might have changed since she became a fantasy author. But if same sex romance was an issue, don't you think she would have mentioned it somewhere?
 
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