Sunday, March 29, 2009

Building A Better Genre

Thanks to “Building a Better Author” at Romancing The Blog, author Lori Devoti shares her expectation that her favorite authors stay within their chosen genre, as well as her expectations about what she wants her favorite authors to write within their chosen genre.

Write the same book, but different…Then there is the different part. If I love the dark and sexy, I expect that always. If it is a tortured hero that drew me to you, I want another one, and another one after that. But I don’t want the same book–so you better think of some way to twist around that plot and characters while still giving me the core book I desire.

Here’s the rest of the set-up:

At NINC last fall Lou Aronica spoke on what makes publishers choose an author to push. And one of the big things he said was doing something well that makes you stand out AND doing that thing over and over. Being consistent.

There’s no denying the benefits when it comes to author consistency and branding. But Ms. Devoti’s post made me realize that when it comes to science fiction romance, I’d embrace a variety of style/plot/characters from the authors who write it. Putting aside the issue of authors switching genres altogether, how essential is strict, publisher-enforced consistency for a burgeoning subgenre that could zing in about a million different directions at once?

Within science fiction romance, I expect authors to write whatever books they want. Apart from a clearly established series, or a set of books set within the same universe, if an author wants to follow her space opera adventure with a cyberpunk romance, I say go for it! Don’t hold back—play with different types of heroes, heroines, and secondary characters with each subsequent book. I expect variety as well as the unexpected, both within the stories and with each author’s new release. Perhaps it’s my SF roots showing, but it never occurred to me that authors should write anything other than what their muse dictates, even if that means a completely different type of story each time.

With agents as gatekeepers and publishers focused on the bestseller lists, I’m not surprised to hear about ideas for SFR novels that may never see the light of day if the authors are dependent upon the mainstream print publisher model for release and distribution. Neither, however, are trees in endless supply at the rate we’re going, so costs are also going to make many books prohibitive to produce, especially for niche markets.

“What makes publishers choose an author to push…” is a very informative statement, and I’m not debating the importance of consistency, or the reality of career survival…well, okay, I kinda am! But here’s the thing: As digital book sales increase and more ebooks become available over the next few decades, I’m wondering to what extent it will hold true that authors should largely stick to one type of plot/character/setting within a genre. In other words, traveling the route that Lori Devoti describes.

Multimedia venues will increase the opportunities for authors to make their books visible and personally connect with readers. Given that, will epublishers assume the same role of “pushing” an author as their mainstream print brethren? Do they do that now?

Do epublishers expect their authors to follow a model of consistency? Or is it optional? Regardless of the answer, does the need for them to follow that model hold equally true? Because if not, that bodes well for SFR authors who want to experiment with different SF subgenres, or venture into non-Western culture romance models, for instance.

Authors, don’t worry about writing every type of SFR novel under the sun. If the writing, plot and characters are consistently strong, the readers will come. Personally, I feel that just because an author writes a book with a dark, angst-ridden hero I enjoy, it doesn’t mean I’ll turn up my nose if the next hero is a goody-two shoes. In fact, I think I’d prefer it if each hero/heroine weren’t cut from the same cloth.

Is that another kind of branding—to deliver the unexpected, consistently?

Joyfully yours,