The email started with all sorts of thanks, which I gratefully accepted, since it's frankly all I'm going to get except the occasional [too occasional] chocolate gift. And then it went on:
"But to the point: the reason I'm mailing you is because I have a question. It developed after reading your most recent post (A True Story of a Stuggling Writer), though I've had it for as long as I've been writing; I guess I just never thought of asking. If it's a ridiculously stupid question, then I'm really sorry, but nevertheless:Course it didn't get me crabbity. It takes a lot more than that.
In your post, you said: BS is serious about her writing, as she should be. The fact that she crosses genres tells me so - she just loves to write and is doing it from the heart.
So let's say a published writer has three works in progress, and each is a different genre. One is horror, one is contemporary romance, the other is fantasy. And each is completely different from the last.
My question is, would a publisher be willing to publish all these stories by the same author? Aren't authors usually encouraged to write under a single genre. I'm thinking of most of the famous authors I know. Like Meg Cabot, for example, has written a multitude of books, but they all contain romance. Would it be possible for an author to go from complete romance to complete fantasy? Like jumping from Pride and Prejudice to Lord of the Rings?
Again, I'm sorry if this is an insanely weird question. Hopefully it won't get you crabbity."
Firstly, let me say that although I write for teenagers, my books very much cross genres - YA fiction includes the same genres as adult fiction. So, I have written historical, futuristic, psychological and crime thrillers, light-hearted (though that was for younger kids) and adventure. And let's not even go down the Thomas the bloody Tank Engine route. Or track.
So, on that basis it would appear not to matter. But before I go on let me say that sometimes even then (as in, even granted that I'm reasonably doing okayish with my skittery bumble-bee approach) it doesn't feel particularly sensible. The disadvantages are that someone who likes my historical fiction may be surprised not to like my other stuff and then decide not to try my next book. Now, this must not be a problem because my publishers seem to be equally happy whatever I produce, so I just say nothing and keep my fingers crossed. I rather like the fact that no one knows what I'm going to do next, but it may not be fabulous for my sales.
BUT, for adult writers it's a lot harder. When adult writers cross genres, they tend to do it after being successful in one genre, and / or may use two different names. Think of Iain Banks / Iain M Banks [not much disguise there, Iain...], and John Banville /Benjamin Black.
In view of that, it would be very inadvisable for an unpublished author to offer three simultaneous different genres. If the writing is utterly stupendous in all three, the publisher / agent may be interested, but no more so than if it was stupendous in just one: they still must build a brand / name for you and this can't practically be done in three different markets, because that's what it is. Even though many / most readers read in different genres, as an intended market each group is discrete. That's discrete, not discreet, before you become confused.
The fact that you write exuberantly and passionately is great and will stand you in good stead but you should, in my view, decide which is your most sellable one, and go with that. Then, when that's contracted, hit 'em with something else. They are most likely to say, "Hang on, we need to build you as hot-shot crime writer, first - give us a chance." But you can still do that other writing later, perhaps under a different name, perhaps for a different publisher. But possibly same agent.
Ah, I hear you say, you said "possibly the same agent". So, can't I hit the agent with all three to start with? I'd suggest not, not until you've hooked her / him with the brilliant saleability of one of your books. You could say that you've got two other books written which you'd be happy for her to see. But major on one.
Any input from anyone? Anyone disagree? Of course, there will be exceptions but exceptions don't prove rules: they are just very irritating exceptions. I hate exceptions. They are untidy.