Author Platforms, Pen Names, and Writing in Multiple Genres

As many of you might know about me, I not only love reading many different kinds of stories, I enjoy writing in more than one genre too. But this kind of variety (indecision?) can be a double-edged sword–while fun, it makes selling and marketing your books a lot more tricky. The tried and true plan of cranking out one book after another to please your readers won’t happen if you keep switching genres, because there really isn’t as much crossover in readership as one would hope.

I have plot bunnies living in the backyard for all types of stories–historical romance, science thrillers a la Michael Crichton, dystopias–and I honestly hope someday to give most of them a try. But writing and editing a great book takes a lot of time, and querying/ publishing/ selling takes even longer. So for right now, I’m focusing on the two genres in which I have completed manuscripts–YA fantasy and Christian romance (*sigh* I have a romantic suspense and a short contemporary, so technically that’s two romance genres). But that still leaves with me a bit of a problem. How do I build a readership in two wildly different genres?

Let’s flash back to October 2016. It was my first writers’ conference–the Breathe conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan–a little less overwhelming for a newbie like me than a big national conference would have been. Not only did I get to meet some wonderful writers, there were also plenty of great sessions on the writing life.

The Saturday afternoon plenary session was on “building an author platform.” Like a train platform? I had no idea what to expect. My experience with branding didn’t extend any further than watching Superbowl ads for Doritos and Gillette shaving cream. And my idea of a platform was more like the proverbial wooden soapbox than anything else.

Turns out I wasn’t so far off. An author platform is the virtual equivalent of a soapbox. It encompasses your online presence as a writer–your website, book sale pages, and social media sites you participate in (Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, etc.). The purpose is to reach your readers with your message or voice (what makes you unique)–that’s where an author brand comes in.

What’s an author brand, you may be wondering? The idea is simple–just like Frito-Lay does with Doritos, a writer wants to create a quick, effective way for a potential consumer (in this case, the reader) to see what unique product (your content or books) you have to offer.

When you see the Doritos brand, you know what to expect. Crunchy corn triangles that will leave orange powder on your fingers. In the same way, if you create an author brand that reflects who you are and what your content will be like, and then keep it consistent between all your online sites, readers will always know what to expect

How do you create and communicate with a brand? Is it just a logo or a tagline? A logo and tagline may be pieces of your brand, but they’re not all of it. Essentially your brand is the visual sum of everything you present. The colors and images you use, the fonts, the tagline, your written content, logo, author photo–all of it works together to present a message about you. 

There’s no way, of course, to summarize yourself as a person in an author brand. But you can focus on one (true!) facet of who you are and present that to your audience. Usually this message will be tailored to what you write and who your readers are. Stephen King’s brand is very different from Nora Robert’s, but in each case readers know what to expect.

Which brings us to the burning question I had in October of 2016 as I listened to the talk on platform…What if you write in more than one genre? How could I tailor my brand to fit such disparate genres as fantasy and romance? No doubt there’s some overlap in readership (after all, clearly I like both–someone else must too!), but what about all the other readers who were only looking for one or the other?

I wanted this question answered badly enough that I whipped out my brand new smartphone and found the blue app with the little white bird. Questions had to be asked using Twitter and some weird thing called a hashtag (I told you I was a newb!). Hastily I created an account using whatever handle Twitter assigned and shot off my question. “How do you create a brand when you write in multiple genres?”

The funny thing is, now I don’t even remember what they told me. Probably something like, pick one genre or find a common denominator. And that Twitter account lies unused, collecting virtual dust. But that talk did launch me out into the public world of writing.

When I got home, I chose my pen name (everyone messes up my real last name) and created a website, blog, Facebook page, and new Twitter account. I tried to coordinate and tailor my images and content around what I love about writing–threads that link all my work together (the common denominator), like my love of adventure, romance, virtue, hope, wonder, and truth.

I still debated for a long time about the second genre. Should I create a second pen name, brand, website, and social media pages? That’s what several other traditionally published authors had done. Would it help my chances of success in querying? (Still don’t know the answer to that one, by the way.) I had the second website designed and ready to go, perfectly suited to a romance audience…but since I could barely keep up with one blog and Twitter account, how could I possibly handle two? And my Twitter account now has over 3000 followers. How was I going to start over again at zero with another one?

I mulled over this problem during the many late nights with my newborn over Christmas. And I realized, if I felt this uneasy about it, that probably meant it was a bad idea. Other writers seemed to think with the growth of indie publishing, multiple brands for more than one genre was becoming obsolete. I could still use my other pen name for my romances, just to differentiate them from the fantasy books, but the best option seemed to be do link everything under one author brand.

What is it, as writers, that we have to sell? The easy answer is books–but when you don’t have any published books yet, what is there? What do I have to offer that no one else does? It’s pretty simple, really–just myself. My own way of thinking, viewing the world, and crafting my words. No one else has my voice, and no one else has yours. So if my author brand reflects a little bit of me, then readers will know what they’ll find in my books (ahem, once there are books…).

Feel free to browse my website and see how I’ve decided to create my brand. I kept the same look and feel as when it was fantasy-only, but I’ve added in a new page for my romance books and tweaked the header images. I’m especially pleased that I was able to use some of my own pictures in the headers in addition to stock images.

Brands are fluid, rather like people–I know mine will change over time as I grow as a writer. But for now, I’m happy with how my site has turned out. And I’m way less stressed about maintaining only one author brand/ platform.

How about you? Where are you at in creating your platform and brand? And if you write in more than one genre, how are you handling it? Drop me a comment and share!

 

Image credit: Pexels.com, CC0 license.

2 thoughts on “Author Platforms, Pen Names, and Writing in Multiple Genres

  1. What a great post! I struggle with this as well. I mostly write fantasy, but often want to branch out (and do) into other areas; horror, romance, surrealism…but it does seem like I might be shooting myself in the foot if I don’t have a particular brand.

    I did this with blogging as well, going through a dozen themes, titles, brands, until I finally hit upon the only thing that connected them; me. My current brand and author platform is based on who I am, INFJ, Multipod, Nerd; and so everything I write will be branded off of that. I hope it’s a good way to start!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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