Many of you already know that I've sold a romantic suspense story to Steeple Hill's Love Inspired Suspense line when I'm already published in romantic chick lit.
Genre-hopping for writers is a hotly debated topic. And actually, before selling my romantic suspense, I would have advised writers to stick to one genre until they're better established.
What I didn't take into account was the publishing market's tightening of their belts in the past year.
Things to consider:
Some genres don't sell as well after a while.
For example, chick lit is no longer a "hot" seller because the market was glutted with it. There are still lots of readers who enjoy romantic, funny women's fiction (which is what chick lit is), but they've read too many single-girl-wants-a-man-and-can't-have-him-for-some-reason stories, and they want variety.
If your genre is on the downturn, it might be time to jump to another genre.
However, my suggestion is not to stray too far from your brand, even though you're switching genres.
My brand is Asian American romance. I wrote Asian American chick lit, and now I’m writing Asian American romantic suspense.
The genre is different, but the brand still carries over.
If your genre is doing well in the market, such as historical romances right now, then my suggestion is to stick with your genre for obvious reasons.
Don't just follow the trends.
If you decide you'd like to jump into historical romance simply because it's hot now, chances are that when you finish your new historical romance manuscript, the market will have changed.
Don't follow behind the trends. Instead, you want to try to swim ahead and catch the wave when it catches up to you.
For example, do you love writing speculative fiction? Then write it. The market could catch up to you eventually (how long it will take is another matter and another entire debate in the publishing industry).
Another example: When historical romances weren't selling well a few years ago, historical romance writers still continued to write them, and now that they're selling like hotcakes, those writers are prepared to ride the wave.
A better question to ask yourself is this: Can you tweak your (completed) manuscripts to be both visionary of the trends and yet one foot in the current trend? That's a more effective solution.
For example, make your speculative fiction manuscript more of a thriller with speculative elements.
Another example: make your chick lit more of a slightly comical, heartwarming women's fiction (with both married and single women, and deviating from the typical chick lit formula) and ride the women's fiction upswing right about now.
A last thought: write what you want to write. Don't write a genre just because it's trendy. Write what you enjoy writing, what you enjoy reading.
If you write something you're not really into, an editor/agent can really tell in your manuscript.
Try to stick with your brand.
I know, I know, I mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating.
Your brand is what makes you stand out from other writers writing in your genre.
I stood out from other chick lit writers because I wrote Asian characters. I still stand out in my new genre, romantic suspense, because I write Asian characters.
So refine your brand—spend lots of mental and emotional energy on it. It will carry you through genre changes and industry trends better than you realize. It's worth the time to figure out how you stand out from the crowd.
That will sell you to a publisher more than anything else, especially in the current market where it's so much harder for an unpublished writer to break in.
The simple fact is that there are more writers these days competing for a limited number of publishing slots, and you have to write better than ever—or stand out more—in order to get picked up.