Genre Hopping

Netscher, Caspar - The Man Writing a Letter - ...

Netscher, Caspar – The Man Writing a Letter – 17th c (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In writing, the topic of exploring genres generates many opinions. On one side, the traditional views advice us to pick a genre and stick with it, while other less conventional views encourage exploration of various genres, until you settle on one. Other writers believe that you should write what you want, when you want. I think it all depends on your long-term goals as a writer.

What you want to achieve down the road, and how you view your writing career in the future will determine many of the decisions you make today about your writing. Most aspiring authors who are serious about writing as a career, are mindful of it, from the beginning. No one picks a pen and paper one day and says, “I am going to be a writer.”  At least I hope not. There is some thinking or dreaming, a desire that turns into research about the topic, consideration, learning, and planning. Whether you prepare early in life and follow that road after high school, or whether you know the path but other life circumstances take you away from it, there is always a process that brings you back to decide, research, learn, and plan. For example, someone who wants to take advantage of the technology and writing venues of today to make quick money will bypass the process, and self-publish in a haste whatever they want just to make a quick buck. If not profitable, the person will abandon the endeavor. I wanted to make this distinction because how a serious writer approaches his/her career is very different from how a person who wants to publish a few books to make quick money does it. This shows in the writing, the reader can tell.

The first thing a serious writer will consider, besides publishing traditionally or self-publish, is what genre(s) appeal to her/him. Most likely, the aspiring author will read and learn about those genres, and mentally make a decision to write or not write in that genre. Most likely, we write what appeals to us. Then the aspiring writer considers the dilemma of publishing – traditional versus self-publishing. Most likely, that will lead to learning and researching before deciding. If the writer wants to follow the traditional path of publishing, he/she will stick with a genre for a while. Many times, will change pen names to write another genre. A writer who decides to self-publish will stick to a genre in the beginning but might end up writing in other genres that interest him/her. The pressure of traditional publishing is off as far as selecting another pen name for different genres, so the writer makes a decision about this in a way that works best for her/him.  The goal is a long-term writing career, so there is no need to make quick decisions or judgements as far as following genres, trends, because the goal is not quick money but establishing his career path and growing in it.

Genre hopping without a plan/goal in my opinion is risky for a writer, especially if the writer has not decided yet if traditional publishing is what he/she really wants. A few successful self-published authors have gone back to the traditional model once they have been discovered and offered contracts. However, the reason they were discovered is because they managed to write successful books in a particular genre, and they grew in it, resulting in a decent amount of readers. Now, these authors have the freedom to publish traditionally, and self-publish on the side, depending on their contracts. On the other side, many known best-selling authors who published traditionally, are abandoning this model, and are self-publishing. The issue of genre matters whether you are starting out or have written for a long time. It does not matter so much if you are not serious about a long-term writing career, since the goal is to follow the trends and make money. Don’t get me wrong, serious writers want to make a living too, but they hold their craft at a different standard. The craft becomes priority, not the money. Watch the interviews of best-selling authors who have been writing for some time, and you will see that most of them did not set out to write to make money; they did it because they had a passion for it.

Consider your long-term goals as a writer at the same time that you are considering genre hopping.


What’s in a Name?

Spanish Language Wikipedia logo

Spanish Language Wikipedia logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Short answer – Nothing and everything.

Why? Naming something, whether a character, selecting your author name, or naming a website … unfortunately gives an impression to the person who happens to read it – positive or negative, maybe even neutral. Some authors opt for using a pen name because their names are not “suitable” for the genre they are writing, or because they prefer not to use the real name.  As an example, I will use my own. When you read my author name (Maria Antonia Diaz), you may (or not) assume that I write in Spanish, when I don’t; so far inspiration has come in English, but that doesn’t mean anything because one day, I may sit down and write a novel in Spanish (translations do not count here). Perception of a name depends on many factors – personal, cultural, social … you get the idea. Fame adds another layer. As an example, I will mention J.K. Rowling (famous) and her recent pen name of Robert Galbraith (not famous, at least until he became J.K. Rowling and the book started selling hot, hot, hot).

Recently, I was reading about the importance of obtaining the .com for your author name if available, and how to forgo another domain (.net, .org …) if it was already taken. The reason given is that people are conditioned to search for a .com first, and the mind makes an association with that first name (the .com owner). In addition, people will land on the .com first, and it may not be to your best interest if the association with the already taken domain is not a positive one, especially after so much work and dedication crafting your path. The author’s opinion was that it was better to obtain a .com by tweaking your name, or by choosing some important point/feature from one of your novels to drive attention to your work. This was when panic hit. I realized that I had never bother to see if a .com was available for my author name. After so many years of research and work, how this simple point escaped my attention? If I was so serious about my path as a writer, how something so basic eluded me? The answer to that had to do with how I viewed my two work-related domains, as an intricate part of me, the author. That was the wrong answer. Why? Because readers don’t make that connection, I do.  You can guess what happened next.

I found out that the .com was available, and I grabbed it. In addition, I decided to build a separate website as an author. It is in the making. I could have done that from the beginning, but Inkspeare was the name for this blog, and it is how it developed. Changing the name of it at this point, would be a mistake. This takes me once more, to the importance of thinking your author name and its developement, not only well, but separate from your other online personas/entities. You might view yourself as one and only one, but this is only your perception, and not necessarily translates into the reader’s perception. As far as readers concern, they don’t care about your other jobs, sites, or online entities; they just don’t make that connection that you have internalized.

If you are contemplating a career as a writer, a long and serious one, think about separating the author from your other online personas that do not relate to you as an author, and which readers will not make a connection with, because in reality, it does not pertain to your name as an author.  In the long run, it will be easier for you, and less confusing for the readers. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have many readers now because you are setting the foundation for your future as an author.

So what’s in a name? Nothing and everything.

Building Your Brand – Author Nameplate Design

Yesterday, I set on a mission – to create an author logo/nameplate for my book covers. This may be a bit unconventional, but I wanted to create a cohesive way to identify my author name with future book covers. I’ve noticed that most authors, except  a few, use a free style when it comes to have their names printed on a book cover.  I never understood this, and while I agree that a book’s title is more important and the first thing you notice, besides the art cover, I like the idea of matching an author’s name to a style/logo that you can recognize.  I’ve noticed that Nicholas Sparks has a cohesive flow to his name on the covers of the books, and just by catching a glimpse at one of his covers, I already recognize the image and associate it with his work.  He is one of the few that I’ve noticed doing this, although not in all his books.  If you check out a few book covers from different authors you will see what I mean.

I came up with a nameplate that I will include in future book covers. I had fun designing it and think that it fits my personality as well as the essence of my stories – that author’s persona that leaks throughout the story. I will not include it in Moonlit Valley, since the cover is already set to go – a scene from the book. However, since I am planning to write for the long run, it will become part of my brand. To me, branding is important, as it becomes as essence, with time.

For authors, branding includes many things besides a pen name, but I think that details are important, even when you are a first time author trying to build your brand slowly, which is what I am trying to do now.  I have thought about many examples of branding from well-known authors and will use two examples to illustrate my point.  When you think of branding, you can visualize Stephen King, (who is the king) and see how he has built his brand around his name.  Or, you can think of J.K. Rowling and see how she built her brand around the Harry Potter series.  For her, publishing another book outside the series, got her harsh criticism because her brand grew and developed around this character.  On the other hand, Mr. King may publish anything he wants, and his name becomes stronger.  I am not sure if you follow my point, but what I mean is that branding for authors goes beyond the product.  This got me thinking about creating a way in which I can start building an author’s brand as I continue in my writing journey – a lifetime journey.

Here is the design I came up with, and so far, I think that I am happy with it.  I like it because it is different and simple enough that it will not compete with other details going on the cover – it can cohabit, but at the same time, starts building visual recognition – over time, that is.  I believe that it is never too early to start building your brand.

Design by Maria Antonia Diaz

Design by Maria Antonia Diaz

Have you thought of branding your pen name/author’s name?  What do you think, as far as creating name recognition in future publications?

Announcing a Few Changes to Inkspeare

This is just a quick post to let you know that I have rearranged the site a bit and added a section at the top tabs – NOVELS.  Here, you will find announcements and updates about these projects, as well as release date – as soon as it is available, and other information …  Also, I will keep you posted via regular posts.

I added a FB link to the right of this blog, where you can link to my FB author page, if you would like to friend me.  If you Tweet, you can friend me there as well.

In addition, you may notice that under Inkspeare, I added my author name. I opted out of a pen name for a single reason, and this is thanks to a comment that was made by Indi author Cliff Burns on one of my older posts –Writer’s Wisdom 17, Pen Names – he commented,

“I have a real aversion to pen names/pseudonyms. I’m aware that some very fine writers have employed them but I want my real name on everything I write (including postings on the internet, I never hide behind safe anonymity).
Any book or writing project I would resist putting my name on probably isn’t worth publishing. I take responsibility for what I release and when it’s bad, I’ll to take my fair share of blame…”

Until I read that comment, I had considered the possibility of writing under a pen name that might sound a bit more “sophisticated.”  I have to say that Mr. Burns’ comment opened my eyes on this topic, and I thank him for this.  Therefore, I am using my real name as my author name – Maria Antonia Diaz.

Writers hand with pen

Writers hand with pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writer’s Wisdom 17

Pen Names

A pen name is as significant as an author’s style.  Wether you use a pen name or your own name, it will identify you with your genre.  Some authors write under different pen names for different genres.  A good example of this is Jayne Ann Krentz, who also writes under the pen names of Jayne Castle, and Amanda Quick.  Some of her books are:  Running Hot (Jayne Ann Krentz), Dark Light (Jayne Castle), and The Perfect Poison (Amanda Quick).

Another good example is Lori Foster or L.L. Foster.  Some of her work:  Servant The Kindred (L.L. Foster) and Jude’s Law (Lori Foster).  In 2007 she launched a new urban fantasy series under the name of L.L. Foster (her darker pen name).

These are good examples of best-selling authors, using different pen names for different genres.  Some authors will stick with a genre and a pen name, others will shake things up between genres and pen names.