Firstly, thanks to Luther for letting me guest post today. We’ve been friends for going on two years thanks to Twitter, and I hope we get to meet in person sooner rather than later.
Now, how about some “Messing with a good thing.”
When I told a friend of mine that I was writing The Man of Cloud 9, and how it wasn’t for the same audience as my series, The Yellow Hoods, he shook his head.
Phil has written a lot of books, and a few of his books have sold over 100,000 copies. He’s traditionally published for the most part, though he has some indie things, like an anthology with a few other authors, which has sold ‘only’ about 30,000 copies or so. Compared to him, when it comes to sales, I’m still thinking about writing.
So when I told him that I was writing a science-fiction novel that didn’t have any young characters, that it was ‘classic science-fiction’, he asked me, “Why? You already have an audience. You’re at an early point in your writing career, you should build that, not divide it.”
Since April 2014, I’ve released four novels and a novelette in my steampunk-meets-fairy tale world. The layered style of writing has been a hit with kids 9-15 and adults (usually over age 28). I’ve been building up my newsletter, and sharing goodies there that give me a very high open rate. So why-why-why-why, why would I not just keep feeding that group? Well, from my perspective, I sort of am.
I don’t want to be known as only “The Steampunk Fairy Tale Guy.” I want to be known as “A Great YA author.” An author you can trust for a great read that won’t leave you feeling like an emotional train-wreck, or bring graphic violence or sex into the story. I’ll bring you right up to the border of YA, I’ll make reference to things, I’ll infer things, but there’s a line that I won’t cross. I’ll be the ‘mature adult’ author who stepped over the line to YA, rather than someone who writes children’s stories with an edge or two.
Along this line of thinking, I started writing The Wizard Killer
several months ago. It’s a serial that I publish every week (while it’s in preview, i.e. unedited and unrevised). It’s gritty and intense, a very different feel from The Yellow Hoods. And when my daughter, who’s 11, read it and loved it, it reinforced the idea for me that I can tell a great tale while still within the realm of “YA.”
So when I wrote The Man of Cloud 9, I wanted to bring to the table my life in technology, my experience in Silicon Valley and with startups, I wanted to tell a tale that a fourteen-year-old me would probably love to get into, and the thirty-year-old me would have been able to connect with. As for my younger audience? Well, they have Book 5 of The Yellow Hoods that’ll be coming out at the end of the year.
This all said, my friend had a really good point. I could end up with people buying the book for their kid, without reading the back, without seeing the recommended age we put on it, and the kid hates the book and the parent never buys another Adam Dreece book again. It is a risk. Also, people could look at the back of the book, not like it and decide not to give any of my other books a passing glance. But there’s an upside I’m willing to risk it for.
Suppose for a minute that I release The Man of Cloud 9 and it is a run-away success. Suppose I discover that I wasn’t meant to be known as the “Steampunk-Fairy tale guy,” but rather as an author of science-fiction? Would that be terrible? Nope.
And what if the adult audience that I’ve already built up loves the book and feels that this was for them? Something that reinforces their support and love of my work even more, by allowing them to have a different take on it, similar to how different Wizard Killer is?
As authors, we shouldn’t just write things in all sorts of genres and leave the burden to the reader to feel like there’s a dozen different people writing under the same name. In my case, I’m being consistent with my writing style, with my view on people and humanity, and how I capture the story, it’s just a more mature story than the other series I write. And guess what? That’s what a brand is about. You have different product lines (Cloud 9, Wizard Killer, The Yellow Hoods) but they are all unified by some base characteristics: Great stories, solid female characters, no real swears (what do I look like, a flaring pargo? Yig.), etc.
Will the experiment in branching out work? Sure. How much? That’s yet to be seen.
Adam Dreece is an indie author and speaker. He’s one of the founders of ADZO Publishing, and has 4 novels in his series The Yellow Hoods, and has been published by Sudden Insight in its anthology, Paw for a Tale. His serial, The Wizard Killer, and blog posts can be found at AdamDreece.com. He’s also very engaged on Twitter @AdamDreece and on Facebook AdamDreeceAuthor.