*but then again too few NOT to mention*
I’ve been aware for some time that I don’t have a fandom as such – I have multiple fandoms. Some number of fans read everything I write that they can locate, no matter under which name, no matter what the subject matter. They will as cheerfully tuck into Darkship Thieves as into Plain Jane. This is the type of fan I am for say... Heinlein or Pratchett. A variant on these fans are the ones who buy everything I write, because they’re fans of the sf, their kids read the fantasy, their sister reads the mystery and their spouse likes the historicals.
These fans are not a problem, of course, except perhaps for their scarcity. (Well, that and I live in fear of writing certain things, like erotica because some of you – you know who you are – would read it, enjoy it, and send me witty comments. And helpful pictures drawn on the back of napkins.)
But then I have fans – rabid, vocal fans – who read only my mystery, or my science fiction. I don’t know any who read only my fantasy, though there might be some. For all I know I might have fans who read ONLY my vampires, which would be sad, because I have only published short stories with vampires.
The publishing industry’s view of this is that this means I should write/market/brand only one thing – I should make sure I’m known only for science fiction. Or mystery. Or...
I’ve never subscribed to this. (Oh, I could be dramatically wrong, I guess.) First, because as a reader I read everything, down to and including, in a pinch, the classifieds or the instructions to assemble a machine I don’t even own. I enjoy almost all fiction and a vast array of non fiction. If you ask me which of those is my passion, I’d have to say “all of them!”
I mean, I’ll confess and openly too that I’m a LITTLE more prone to enjoying science fiction than the other genres, but you wouldn’t know it from my buying decisions. A riveting mystery beats a hum-drum science fiction every time.
So I fail to see why, as a writer, I shouldn’t write everything I have riveting ideas for.
Second because as a writer I find that writing something different is often as good as a holiday. In fact, if you try to make me write only one thing, I probably would stop writing after two books. (I had a heck of a time finishing my third Shakespearean fantasy because at the time it looked like I was locked into “literary fantasy” the rest of my life. And my mind doesn’t like a mono-diet.)
Third because I don’t understand how my writing several different things – at least in the business model quase ante, where most of what you bought came from bookstore shelves – can “dilute” my market. Sure, some people will know me for science fiction, some for fantasy and some for mystery, but absent some sort of prejudice among readers (which I, at least, don’t have) I fail to see what difference this makes. For one, books will be shelved in different areas. So, for instance, my mystery readers will never even see the science fiction.
That was the idea at least. now with the turmoil brought on by ebook publishing I’ve made slight revisions.
I still want to write everything, except maybe men’s adventure, erotica and children’s books. (No, not together. EW. You’re sick.)
However if the market is going to be even fifty percent electronic and split among several distribution centers, one has to take in account that some of the sellers are spectacularly bad at giving descriptions and/or samples of the book.
I would hate for someone who loved Darkship Thieves to download No Will But His expecting science fiction. (Okay, this is a very naive reader. And for the gentleman in the back leering at me, NWBH is the fictionalized biography of Kathryn Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII. That was her chosen motto.)
So, this late in the game, I’m thinking I REALLY need to brand, so people addicted to one form of my fiction don’t accidentally stumble into another. At the same time, I’ll have to remain absolutely open about my misdeeds under various pen names – I already have them on my first page, but maybe I’ll add them here – so those rare, eclectic readers will find all of them. (Sarah’s names! Collect all four![Sarah A. Hoyt; Sarah D’Almeida; Elise Hyatt AND a one-off under the house name Laurien Gardner, though I’m right now negotiating to sell books under Sarah Marques – you decide which one is the fourth.)
(Of course, I’ll always keep in mind you people need your fix of already-started series, natch. In fact, I don’t think I’d have more than four series going at once because of how long I’d have to make the fans wait. And I swear I’ll try to continue the musketeers mysteries despite publishers – I’m negotiating to sell Death Of A Musketeer to NRP and if it sells well there will be more. PLEASE stop threatening to come over and make me write it.)
What do you think? Should I brand more specifically? Limit my wild flights of fancy that make me want to write stuff I never wrote before? Or – now that we’re less likely to be limited by what the gatekeepers will buy – just continue writing as much as I can and in what is pressing at the time? What is your opinion on this whole branding issue? Can a writer write too much for you? (I’d buy a Pratchett daily, if he could write them, but I might be weird.)