I wanted to speak on a topic today that you rarely see spoken about. To many authors, genre-specific publishers are a blessing. Genre-specific are publishers that specialize in certain genres. For example, Harlequin specializes in romance. There are also publishers that specialize in mysteries, erotica, street lit, etc.
Genre-specific publishers most likely can help their authors sell books easier than the average publisher because they are quite knowledgeable in the genre they publish. They know the specific market and how to reach readers. They most likely have close relationships with genre-specific reviewers and publicity outlets that can deliver promotion for their authors.
While being with a publisher that has a built-in customer base for a certain genre can be rewarding for a lot of authors, it can also be a detriment if an author decides they would like to switch from one genre to another and their current publisher does not publish the other genre.
What sparked me writing about this was a friend of mine who recently decided to switch genres. In her current genre, she worked with genre-specific publishers. Well, she is proof that authors don’t always know where their hearts will be as time goes on. You might start your career writing in one genre, and a few years later you’re so sickened by the genre you never wanna write it again. Now, if you’re with a publisher that publishes all types of genres, it’s no big deal. But if you’ve been publishing with a genre-specific publisher for your entire career, your journey will have to start all over again. Not only will you have to find another publisher, but you’ll have to find new fans. Especially if the genre you switch to is not a genre your current fans tend to read.
Man it’s tough for an author isn’t it? Yep but that’s why I am here to help. Below I list the pros and cons of being with a genre-specific publisher. I hope this gives insight to those who are deciding what type of publisher to look into.
Now I’m not saying every book by a genre-specific publisher will be a bestseller, but authors with these types of houses have a better chance of guaranteed sales because if it’s one thing a genre-specific publisher can do, it’s sell books to the right audience.
Once again this ties into guaranteed sales. Most genre-specific publishers have the advantage of auto-buy customers. These are customers who buy or checkout almost every book the publisher publishes, not necessarily because of the author, but because of the customer’s familiarity with the publishing house. This is one of the main reasons that Harlequin has been the king of romance for decades, and still is. Harlequin has a huge, loyal fan base and this can cause a book to soar.
Being with a genre-specific publisher makes it easier for a new author to build their brand. Why? Because associating with a publisher that only publishes certain genres makes it clear what the author’s personal brand stands for, and readers will not be confused.
Genre-specific pubs know how to get the word out to the right readers. It’s not how you promote, but who you promote to. You can promote to one hundred people that will never read your books, or ten that will. Which would make more sense? Promotion is to get people who are sincerely interested in your books to buy them. Also, with a genre-specific publisher, authors have more effective cross promotion opportunities. They can promote with other authors from their house and since they have the same audience, it’s a win-win situation.
Authors Can’t Stray:
When you’re with a publisher that only publishes a certain genre, you do not have freedom to write in other genres with that same house. You’d either have to find another publisher or self-publish. So if you decide to be with a genre-specific house, it’s best to know all expectations and weigh pros and cons ahead of time. As I explained about my friend above, a writer’s interests could do a one-eighty without warning.
Note: Most authors use a pen name when writing different genres and this is not an easy task. When you use a pen name you start from the bottom again to build up an audience. Most likely your existing fans will not come along for the ride. See more about reader loyalty below.
You Develop a One-Note Fan base:
There are many people that read different genres, but there are many who do not. If you’ve built a following of readers who are obsessed with your current genre, don’t expect those people to follow you if you switch. You might not even be able to get them to follow you if you stick with the same genre, yet leave your current publisher. This is the downside of the customer auto-buy. Many customers of genre-specific houses buy books because of the house, not the author.
For example, I love Historical romance and I’ve gotten many from Harlequin. Out of probably over a hundred I’ve read, I could probably tell you the names of three of the authors. Why? To be honest I didn’t care to know the names of the authors. Sorry but I didn’t pay a lick of attention. All I knew was they were Historicals and I am obsessed with Historicals, I trust Harlequin to give me quality, so I scooped up the books. No disrespect to the authors of course, but this is true for me. A lot of readers are like me. We trust a publisher for delivering quality so we’d check out almost anything it publishes. So while auto-buy customers might be an easy way to build a base, there is a huge chance that these “fans” were not really your fans at all.
You Run Out of Things to Write:
Many genre-specific publishers have content guidelines for what they accept. As time goes on this might stifle your creativity. Some authors work well when guided on how to write and what to write. There’s nothing wrong with that. But some authors require more freedom or they’ll develop a block. You should understand the type of writer you are. It doesn’t matter how much you love a genre, you might end up scrambling for ideas or become creatively dead because you’re tired of the genre.
Deciding on what types of publishers you wanna work with is never easy. Of course, they gotta accept you to, but you still need to know your expectations and how things work. Remember, no situation is absent of cons no matter what it is. But as long as you know the cons before going in, you should be just fine.
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