I'm going to talk about branding in this post, and I think I'm going to do another post talking about career writing, because in some ways this has also got me thinking about writing in general.
I've been thinking about branding a lot lately. Many people say that authors need to stick to one genre, at least while they're establishing their writing careers. It makes sense, right? Readers will maybe read a book by you and like the type of book it is, so they'll look for or expect more like that. Certain agents or publishers only take certain genres.
Knowing this doesn't stop me from writing the stories that come from my heart or the characters that rampage through my brain. Sometimes I stop and think, "What if no one wants to read story C because they've read story A and liked it, and C is so different?" I shrug and move on with whatever I'm writing.
I have two books already published, and they're different from each other. Restoration Book 1: Awakenings is YA inspirational fantasy. Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School) is contemporary YA.
If I'm looking at it from a looking-for-a-brand perspective, I can go okay, two novels of different genres isn't so bad, and they're both YA. And I consider that my publisher is going to continue publishing the Restoration series, so there will be more YA inspirational fantasy to add to my writing resume.
Then I look at the finished manuscripts sitting on my computer. I have, almost ready to go for publishing or submissions or whatever I decide to do with these, the silliest, most fun story I've ever written, and the darkest, most intense story I've ever written.
My Kingdom for a Newt is a YA fantasy book, a mishmash of fairy tales and magic and very lighthearted. It was wonderful to write, the release my brain needed from the intensity of other stories I was writing. I had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed the characters. They were some of the easiest ones I've ever written.
In contrast, I have two books, Rising 1: Resistance and Rising 2: Rebellion. This is one story, but it was so long I had to divide it into two books. This Rising duology is considered secular adult fiction. It's also speculative fiction—not quite fantasy, not quite science fiction, and not quite steampunk, but hints of each. It has been loads of fun trying to pinpoint a genre here. These two books have consumed my brain for almost two years. The first book is written, polished, edited, and ready to go, but I'm not doing anything with it until I have a draft of the second book done. (I'm almost halfway done with this draft.) In these two books, I have pushed myself out of my comfort zones, made myself cry—and let me tell you how weird this is; I never make myself cry with my own characters, even when I write painful, heartbreaking things. I have been to the point of such frustration with the characters so many times because they have been the most difficult ones I've ever written.
So I sit here and look at the wild differences between these books. The only similarities between them would be that they both have fantasy elements. I've gone back and forth deciding which one I would want to come out first. Would I want to release the Rising duology first? Would I want to release the Kingdom story first, since it's quick and easy and lighthearted, and the last book I released was rather lighthearted? But if I do that, people might be in for a shock if I released the Rising books following that and people go, "Who are you and what did you do with the lighthearted author?"
I love writing stories that address deep character issues. Sometimes these character issues come out in lighthearted ways, and sometimes it comes out in very intense ways.
And I have no idea what stories might come in the future.
Maybe I'm never going to be the writer with a brand. Maybe I'm going to spend the rest of my life writing whatever story and characters come to mind and maybe some readers will like some books and some will like others. Maybe I won't be popular or gain as many readers if I don't have a very specific set of books.
So now I ask you all: Do you have a brand when you write? Do you want one? Do you read authors who write in several genres, or do you prefer to read authors who write only one thing? I'm very, very interested to know what all of you have to say on the subject.