Life as a Genre Hopper

Isn’t this a cute graphic? I love this sort of bookish tests. Nevertheless, this one isn’t really right for me, since the answer to the question in the picture above is “I’m all of them”. The truth is I can’t define myself as a reader with only one genre, or a couple of genres, because I read everything that is appealing to me. I’m a genre hopper and I’ll  tell you how it is to live and read as one.

Let’s start with the perks of being a genre hopper:

You rarely feel bored or disappointed. Because you’re constantly trying new things, you’re not reading the same base-plot associated with certain genres and sub-genres. I talked about a book’s secret formula not too long ago, and genre hopping works like a charm against the feeling of reading the same story over and over again.

Getting out of your comfort zone. This doesn’t work for everyone. While I love to get out of my personal comfort zone as a reader, others may find this stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I like my comfort reads (I’ll tell you about them some day), but most of all I love a challenge. Most of my favourite books were found because I’m always ready to read something that I never tried before or will challenge me in one way or another. I like it because I feel that I’m allowing myself to grow as a reader and a person (because I also believe that each book we read teach us something new).

You will find some precious gems. Yes, this is true and one of the most surprising things for me when I started genre hopping several years ago. The first genre I loved was epic fantasy, so all the books I wanted to read next were part of that genre. Eventually, I ran out of books to read and was possessed by an irrational fear that my life as a reader would come to an end, (at the time I was a teenager in a country that needed to wait several years for a book to be translated and published, good economical waves and publishers inclined to publish some new titles per year). I strongly refused to let it happen, so I tried YA chic-lit (or romance) and was mesmerized because, to be honest with you, I loved it. I started to live book after book as an adventurous treasure hunter, looking for the next gem to add to my collection of discoveries. And what a feeling that is, to discover a new look to love and be utterly surprised by it. One that you say “Gosh! I would never thought that this would be so amazing!”

Now, the cons:

It’s hard to keep up. If you like to read almost every genre (and are a slow reader), you must agree with me that it’s incredibly hard to keep up with every new release, plus the genre classics, plus the books in between and friends recommendations. It’s impossible! My wishlist is gigantic, my TBR pile is now under the “no comments” label and I feel desperate (and frustrated, sometimes). Which takes me to cons #2.

Being an easy target. Yes!! I feel desperate because everything appeals to me. Well, not everything because I am a little bit selective with the books I read sometimes. Let me put it this way: some of you may only read YA and, therefore, only have to struggle with YA’s that are screaming from the shelves demanding that you take them home and read them. Now try to put yourself in my shoes. You step inside a book shrine, (library, bookstore, even charity shops with that corner for books), and the YA groupies start crying for your attention… But wait! It’s not just the YA, the historical romance group is also calling for you, and the crime novels, and the chic-lit, and the fantasy novels, and the paranormal romance novels, and the smutty books, and the urban fantasies, and the classics, and the dramas, and the realistic fiction, and the horror books…even the mangas and graphic novels!! I mean, just take a moment to consider this and tell me how would that feel. I’m the perfect target for the clever genre marketeers of all the publishing houses, since I can’t really resist them very well. 

Costs. Well, after reading cons #2 you don’t really need to tell me how costs are an issue. Let’s just say that being a genre hopper doesn’t do any good to my bookaholic disorder.

As a result of my life as a genre hopper, and my increasingly lack of time to read as much as I once did, I’ve become a more selective reader. Because I can’t read it all, I try to select only what I think to be “the very best” of each genre, or the hyped books. while I still discover new precious books and challenge myself, I’m starting to lose the hidden gems that are not hyped or mainstreamed. That makes me a little sad. but hey, that’s something we all struggle with, whether we stick to only one genre or not.

Overall, I think genre hopping is a rewarding experience for a reader. I can’t see myself sticking to one or two genres anymore, and I’m happy with my life as a reader as it is, despite all the cons.

However, I’ll now put my reader self to rest for a while and let my publisher grad self talk. Genre hopping isn’t so good for authors, publishers, and even bloggers. Why? Brand image and target market. When you look at things with a business perspective you have to be very objective. The book is no longer a treasure. It’s a product. Not a product like denim jeans or canned tuna  since it as a whole immaterial and even spiritual dimension we have to consider. Nevertheless, in the end of the day, it’s a product we need to sell and to do it we need to have a target market in mind and position our product in that specific market.

If you’re an author, you’ll get many advisers saying that you must keep to a genre and explore it. That way, you’ll already have a target market in mind and, with time, you’ll have the opportunity to develop a brand image associated with that genre that might make it easier for readers to find you. Of course, you can and should write about everything you want in any genre you want. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at J. K. Rowling (it’s the author that pops in my mind at the moment). She is a genre hopper author. She wrote the Harry Potter series (fantasy), The Casual Vacancy (contemporary fiction) and now The Cuckoo’s Calling (crime), under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. From what I could gather, The Casual Vacancy had some trouble because readers associated her with a specific image and brand (HP series). Might be that’s the reason why she felt the need to write her crime novel under a pseudonym. Because, no matter if we like it or not, in business brand image matters to most. The same happened with Nora Roberts, who released her crime series under the pseudonym J. D. Robb.

You may also notice that the smaller publishing houses tend to focus their offer in one genre, or a couple of genres that “fit” well with each other. Why? Same reason I told you before and because it is easier and more clever to explore a specific market than shoot everywhere and hope to get something to take home. Keep in mind that in publisher’s case we’re investing not only time and creative effort, but also a considerable amount of money to make a book work (at least, it should be so, always).

Now, enough of me talking. Let’s hear it from you. Are you a genre hopper? Which genres do you read? Which is your favourite genre? What was your result on the little test above? 😉 Do you agree with my perks and cons? Do you have a point to add? Do you think that genre hopping might be a disadvantage to authors, publishers or bloggers? Share your thoughts with me. 🙂