Who Are You?

Imagine for a moment that you have been invited to a costume party especially for authors.

You must dress in a costume that reflects the kind of writing you do. If you write in more than one genre, your costume must incorporate some element from each genre.

The game is that readers who attend will try to divine who you are from looking at your costume.

The more genres in which you write, the more elaborate your costume becomes; which may mean it will be harder for readers to guess your identity. That’s not how you win in this game, though. You win by being recognizable.

It’s entirely possible to end up with a costume that consists of a cowboy hat, wetsuit, trench coat, bustier, a bandolier filled with dog biscuits, and a clown nose. What does that say?

I’m not advocating that authors become genre slaves, but I do think we have to recognize that writing in different milieus does ratchet up the difficulty in establishing and marketing yourself as a brand.

We’re working in a new paradigm. Few of the rules that governed the old world of publishing apply to the new. The fact that I am unaware of any multi-genre superstars doesn’t mean there isn’t one, or can’t be one. Whether it is possible is one thing.Whether it is wise to do so is another question altogether.

But it may not be that everyone who writes in multiple genres is looking for equal success in all those fields of endeavor. Some of us are merely casting about, looking for what works and exercising our writing muscles as we go.

Protestations aside that “we must go where our muse takes us,” if you happen to write a wildly successful zombie novel, you are likely to tell your muse to shut the hell up while you write another.

It is fun to test ourselves in multiple arenas, but we tend to play to our strengths. To do so, we have to first find our strengths. That means trying different things. Sometimes, we may find our strength does not repose in the areas we’d prefer.

The evidence suggests Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to get out of his Conan/Terminator rut to be a comedic actor. He tried. That is not where his strength lies. Seriously. But he tried and hopefully he has learned something from that experience.

Back to the costume party. I realize my costume has become pretty confusing. I have a lab coat, Groucho glasses, and a raven sitting on my shoulder. My published writing (so far) consists of some fringe science, humor, and some dark suspense.

It is about to get worse. I’m about to add a Fabio wig and a purse dog. Soon there will be a biohazard suit. I’ll also be adding some gore-spatter to my outfit.

Part of all this is about writing what I feel like writing, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a big part of it is also that I am still searching for the best niche.

So, what about you? Tell me about your costume.

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

23 thoughts on “Who Are You?”

  1. This is fun.
    I would wear a cocktail dress, sky-high heels, vampire teeth and very pale make-up, red lipstick, carry an ornately decorated goblet (vampire cocktails), and a Venetian mask. Oh, and the lolite necklace with the armadillo charm
    Great post.

  2. I would be one of those wearing a cowboy hat, or else an ’empress hat’ from the 1870s, the smallish ones where one brim curls up and the whole hat is relatively triangular. I would also carry either a derringer or a dagger concealed up my sleeve. And that’s because nearly all my stories to date are set in that post American Civil War decade, and the ones that aren’t … well that’s the other part of the costume: a classic space-opera unisex outfit, with jodhpurs, a pocketful of transponders/gps chips so I can be located by my allies at need, a leather vest and poet’s shirt, with those flowing sleeves, y’ know? That’s because I want to write space opera and am working on one or two now, and I have always loved writing poetry, too.

  3. I’m totally with you on this one. The genre picking is hard when your interest are varied. Part of me would like to offer a short story for free on my website, but all my short stories (which tend to center on themes of motherhood) are completely different from my novel-length fiction (thrillers). You want your audience to enjoy your writing, but they need a sense of who you are,first. I think readers are more likely to branch out with you if you’ve established a maine niche, first.

  4. Hi,
    hmmm. Since my newest novel, “Halley and Me,” (winner of the Grassic Short Novel Award) is set in 1959…. saddle shoes, white sox, a sweater set, knotted scarf hanging down on the sweaters, pleated plaid skirt, glitter-framed glasses and a pony tail.
    sandy gardner
    [email protected]

  5. A doctor’s white lab coat with a journalist’s pen and pad, a baseball cap and possibly some chic sunglasses, closed-toe high-heel shoes and a knee-length pencil skirt, a v-neck button-up blouse, and no overt jewelry.

  6. What about Daphne du Maurier with “Rebecca” a romance, murder mystery, “The Glass-Blowers” historical fiction in the French revolution, “The Birds” everyone knows that one, “The House on the Strand” a time-travel and my favorite, etc.? Although, I agree that one genre is easier on the readers. Otherwise it might be opening a can of peaches and finding beans instead.

  7. Oh my, with 16 titles out and another 3 on the way, in a wide variety of genres, this is quite the conundrum. I guess I’d have to start with the Sig Sauer 9mm and a walking stick for my Special Agent Night suspense novels, Groucho glasses for Bad Book’s satire, a trench coat for the gum shoe in Odd & Odder, of course I’d have to have Mr. Pish’s likeness along, a camera, a compass, a tweed professor’s cap for all the non-fiction titles, and some oak leaves pinned to the outside somewhere. That doesn’t sound very attractive.

  8. Writing urban fantasy brings a special set of costuming problems: I’d either have to go with boring (lawyer-type suit and heels) or figure out how to shapeshift.

  9. Hmm, well, mine would have combat boots, various weapons, some long, softly pointed ears, an Armani suit, and for the romance part, I haven’t a clue!

  10. Confusing, maybe, but oh what a party. I wanna be there.

    Mine would be pretty boring so far – a simple rustic gown, sandals, rope belt and some embroidery around the edges. I’d have to wear a wig, too, as my hair’s too short. Damn, itchy.

    It’s a good question to ask ourselves, though, as writers, whether we are writing to our strengths or spreading ourselves too thin.

  11. Oh I think a left handed, or ballack dagger, a composite bow, talismans, and a sturdy cloak. I would most likely take on male apparel to allow me to fight unencumbered.

  12. Large red nose, brightly coloured suit and huge shoes. Oh yes, and an orange wig. I am a bit of a clown, you know, and I write humour. What else could I wear?

  13. I say that I’d be hiding in a trench coat for the spy novel I never published, a synthetic fur coat on top for Siberian’s icy storms, a sword and a lance to fight the enemy about to take my land in Granada, and a psychiatrist’s neutral expression on my face for my nonfiction book about marriage. These are the masks we cloak ourselves in to hide our identity. But it’s a lot of fun!

  14. A chic outfit of capris and pretty shirt to match and/or a suit or gorgeous gown with sparkling jewelry, hair pulled back with tendrils dangling, and a determined look on my face.

  15. Excellent article as per usual, Steve, and I totally understand what you are saying. Stephen King is virtually a literary superstar because of his horror genre classics, but I much prefer his books that are not of that genre. So, pick a genre that is popular and, that you have a knack for, become a superstar in that genre, and write whatever the hell you like as well! Great plan, look out Hollywood here I come.

    I think that, so far, I’d be attired in a leather jacket, red beret and kilt, with a camouflaged face, carrying a claymore, sniper rifle, boomerang and a 9mm Glock.

  16. I love dress-up parties! What to wear? A summery-dress worn with no shoes and a top hat with an Eagle feather in the band, a tattoo of two snakes entwined on my wrist, and a Raven on my shoulder.

    Writing within one genre (box) makes sense from a marketing point of view (that sound of money is so tempting) but does not soothe the creative-beast that sits on many writers backs. An artist needs to experiment, push boundaries, think & express, try new things, lead explorations, put humanity under the microscope – and many writers are creative people. Boxes are counter-productive to the creative process.

    I think that its ok to write across several genres, or be an alchemist and adapt/combine/alter, as long as: 1) you don’t drift too far; 2) you have established a distinct style that travels with you; 3) even if just experimenting, you still only publish works of quality; and 4) in your marketing, you respect potential readers by making it clear that each book is different.

  17. Mmmm… I’d have go dressed as Mr Spock from Startrek and accessorize with bat fangs and wings. That should do it. 🙂

  18. I reckon I’d be wearing a beat-up cavalry hat, a tweed jacket with lots of pockets and elbow patches, with a wide leather belt, affixed to which would be a scimitar on the left and a laser pistol on the right.

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