In the virtual conference I’ve been attending, there were some sessions where that “find your lane and stay in it” concept came up, and then there was a Zoom roundtable discussion for the authors who, like me, completely freaked out at the very idea.
One idea that came out of the discussion was that there are different ways to find a lane. There is the narrow subgenre idea, where you’re known for something like writing sweet contemporary western romances with wounded cowboy heroes, but then there’s also more of a personal brand concept, where an author is known for delivering a particular mood or feeling that carries over through multiple subgenres.
When you look at it that way, that’s more or less what I’ve been doing all along. I made a decision when Enchanted, Inc. got a lot of YA crossover readership and was recommended as an adult book for teen readers that everything I wrote would fit into that category. Even if I’m not writing about teen characters and am not writing books that would be shelved in YA, I want my books to be teen-safe (which means they’re things parents of teens would be okay with teens reading — I know teens certainly don’t limit their reading to things their parents would want them to read). That’s within reason, since my adult books are adult books. I once got an e-mail from a reader angry that she couldn’t read one of my books with her 8-year-old daughter because the language was so bad (I think the word “bitch” came up), and I replied that I was sorry she felt that way, but the book was published for adults and wasn’t meant for 8-year-olds. Still, what I aim for is something that a teen, her cool aunt, her mom, and her grandmother could all read together in a family book club. It’s something you could put on broadcast TV with no editing.
The other thing I think is part of my brand is that my books are mostly fun. Some are more humorous than others, but even the books I don’t write as comedy should make you smile sometimes. I’m not going to drag my characters through horrible torture and lots of angst. You’ll feel good when you’re done reading one of my books.
Those two things are mostly just me being me. But to narrow it down further, I’ve decided to stick with things that have some kind of fantasy element to them. I occasionally come up with ideas that aren’t fantasy, but I think that would risk going too far afield. The people who would read, say, a non-fantasy romantic comedy are much less likely to want to read the rest of my work, while a lot of the fantasy readers wouldn’t cross over to read a non-fantasy book. I’m trying to write things I could imagine most of my readers being interested. There may be some series that some readers are less interested in, since you can’t please everyone all the time, but the idea is to keep things so that the bulk of my readers would at least be willing to give everything I write a try.
So, basically, my lane is fun fantasy books you wouldn’t mind sharing with your daughter or your mom. (I do have male readers, but my readership is so predominantly female that this is where I’m focusing.) I could narrow it further to adorkable wizards and spunky heroines, but that might be limiting myself too much. I may not be narrowed to a subgenre, but that just means people can find me from multiple angles, and if they like what they read, they’ll start searching for me rather than looking in genre categories.
How does this ring to you, my readers? Does this fit with why you look for books like mine, or were you drawn by something more specific?