I have two stories. One is a space adventure masquerading as science fiction, dealing with aliens, monotonous space travel, kidnapping, and interplanetary ecological activism. (It’s not as interesting as it sounds, trust me.) The other is a mystery/thriller/SF/fantasy revolving around death, drugs, madness, and a doomsday clock. (A lot better than it sounds.)
The first one, Glitch, was written over the summer of 09 and is far more lighthearted than the second one, Blue Star; but in some respects Star is the superior work. They’re both good, but as an author, which one do I debut with?
First impressions are everything. This is especially true for continuing works—series in particular, but writers as well. Most writers tend to have a niche, one genre that they’re good at and stick with. This is great for marketing, because the audiences of those particular genres will find those authors and read their work and, more importantly, stick with it. Your loyal army of fans.
This can be great, fantastic, the best—if you have a niche, a genre, a place to snuggle in and let your readers chase you down. For genre-hopping authors, however, it’s not such a great thing. This is why Stephen King wrote romance novels under a pseudonym. (What, you didn’t know that?)
Do I start chronologically, with my more lighthearted tale of kidnapping in space, and alarm readers who pick up Star expecting more of the same, or do I begin with my admittedly better but far darker story of a hunt for a serialkiller and let down readers who picked up Glitch hoping for another tale of intrigue? If you can’t stay consistent for your fanbase, you might not end up having a very big one.
Readers like more of the same. It’s why people have favorite authors; so that they can follow that name, pick up a book, and get what they want and, admittedly, expect. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t experiment. Personally, I believe that exploring genres helps one grow as a writer. But if you plan on genre hopping, like I do, maybe you should use a pseudonym or be ready for your readers to be confused or betrayed when they pick up your romance novel after reading your horror one.