Branding or Breaking the Mould?

Branding – we all know how important it is. It establishes a product clearly in your mind. In terms of novel writing, it ensures a reader who enjoyed your first book will know what they’re getting when they buy your second book too – a different story perhaps but one rooted firmly in the same genre, be that romance, crime, horror or historical. There’s a lot of competition out there and branding, well, it helps to get you noticed. So, bearing that in mind, what have I done? I’ll tell you what I’ve done. I’ve laughed in the face of branding and here’s the book covers to prove it….

6372b-runawayyear_coverHaunting of Highdown Hall Cover MEDIUM WEB










The book on the left (my debut) – The Runaway Year – is a romance set in North Cornwall, it’s sassy, it’s sexy, it’s packed to the rafters with feisty heroines, but it’s romance – no doubt about it. The book on the right – Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall – is a paranormal mystery, exploring the forces of good and evil and which of them is the most relentless.  There’s nothing across the two books, apart from my name, to even suggest they came from the same author. Branding be damned.

So,why did I do it? Why not stick to one or the other? I know authors do write across genres, Edgar Allen Poe, H G Wells, James Patterson, John Grisham and the late, great Iain Banks are but a few examples. but most do it when they’ve established themselves in an initial genre or write one genre under one name, the other under a pseudonym. I, however, find myself doing it from the very beginning and not bothering to change my name at all (although I have to say, I did toy with the handle Octavia LeNoir for PS1 for about a millisecond). A bold move? I like to think so. The two books are very different, there’s no getting away from it and, in terms of Psychic Surveys, they are only going to get darker. However, similarities remain. The characters are down-to-earth, strong-minded and likeable, location is of the utmost importance and they have the same galloping pace throughout.

I don’t read in one genre – romance and paranormal I love in equal measures – so it stands to reason I won’t write in one genre either (at least to me). I also believe in writing from the heart and, after The Runaway Year, it was The Haunting of Highdown Hall that flowed. What’s a girl to do? I can’t argue with the muse for whom I am a mere conduit. I also think we live in a brave new world. Nowadays, the sky’s the limit, anything is possible and we, as individuals, are becoming more and more aware of that fact, more likely to step away from the norm, to try something new. Again, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just going with the flow here.

So, what’s next on the agenda? Well, the sequel to The Runaway Year – The Runaway Ex – is currently with Omnific Publishing and I should hear back soon regarding edits. My fourth novel, a paranormal mystery/romance entitled Jessamin(e) is also back from beta-readers with some great and encouraging comments. I’m incorporating the changes they’ve suggested and then I’ll submit. After that, it’s the sequel to Psychic Surveys One I need to be cracking on with, and then possibly a spin-off from The Runaways, incorporating two very interesting characters and a tricky relationship dynamic. It may be that I’ll settle into one genre in the future, but right now, that doesn’t look likely.

I don’t know of any other author doing what I’m doing (not of the top of my head anyway) but if you do, please let me know – I’d love to know. Meanwhile, I’ll carry on doing what my heart tells me, alternating between the light and the dark…

The Haunting of Highdown Hall – available 30th April from Amazon. Add to your TBR on Goodreads.

The Runaway Year – available from Amazon UK and Amazon US. Add to your TBR on Goodreads.

I’m on Facebook and Twitter also (but then, who isn’t?!)


20 thoughts on “Branding or Breaking the Mould?

  1. Shani Struthers…Well said.
    I think the world has lost its spontaneity and is driven by greed, ‘Branding’ is just another word for ‘Playing safe’. Its dull and predictable. Unless you push yourself into an area which may not be comfortable or a sure hit you will never produce anything new and exciting. If you want to be remembered in history you have to be the creator of the new not the flower of the established.

  2. Hi Loo, that’s my view on it – I will still write romance and there’s branding as such going on as a sequel to TRY and to Psychic Surveys in the offing, but there’ll be unusual, standalone books too. Jessamin(e) for instance – it’s a paranormal mystery/romance – actually straddling genres and that, is the way it’s going to stay!

  3. We were discussing this very topic yesterday, saying how limiting the market is for authors, who are encouraged to fit in a niche and stick to it. I suppose we could cite JK Rowling as an example of someone who has moved away from her Harry Potter Brand and tried other genres (contemporary fiction, crime…), but that happened after seven books and a lot of success, so she is still a brand in many ways, only it’s her name rather than the genre she writes. Writers of so called “literary fiction” also often move from genre to genre… in fact many books in this category don’t fit in any particular genre and so are put under this big umbrella, becoming a “genre” themselves. I have written Contemporary Fiction (I don’t like to call it Women’s Fiction, though I suppose I could be put in that bracket) but now I’m trying Historical Fiction instead, because it’s what interests me at the moment. Like you, I like to have the freedom to move where my interest and inspiration take me. Well done!

  4. There are no rules in publishing except to write from the heart. That’s the only thing that counts in the end. I’ve been in this business 30 years and seen a gazillion changes, but that’s the one constant: Write with passion. All the rest is a combination of luck, timing, and the vagaries of the marketplace. Who writes a novel about a woman who gets her kicks from light bondage and expects it to be a bestseller?

    • Eileen, I agree – if you write from the heart it shows. That is, indeed, the one constant, And if you happen to get lucky – well, that’s just the icing on the cake. In this business, you have to love what you do and believe in it absolutely.

  5. Interesting post, ringing bells for me too, Shani. I’ve been writing for 40 years. I write some westerns as Ross Morton and some as Nik Morton, I write crime as Nik Morton, fantasy as Morton Faulkner (co-written), romance, ghost, thriller as Nik Morton, erotica as Robin Moreton. Certainly, I’m leaning towards sticking with the one name for ‘branding’ reasons – that is, the Nik Morton brand. Write what you love to read is my credo.

    • Exactly Nik, and I suppose I am branding in a way – the Runaway brand and the Psychic Surveys brand (although Jessamin(e) is a stand alone. The thing is, they’re two very different brands and it remains to be seen if they attract two very different audiences or a mix of both. At the moment, it seems the readers of my first romantic novel are looking forward to the paranormal too!

      • That’s what I’d dearly love, is for my readers to trust me to tell a good story, of any genre. Sadly, some readers won’t switch; ‘I don’t like westerns’ is a comment I’ve heard often, yet a good western will have all the ingredients of any other good genre book. Of course some readers of crime novels prefer cozy to gritty…

  6. Totally agree with the ‘write from the heart’ comments above. That’s the great thing about e-publishing, you can do just that – write the novel YOU want to write. But it is also important to keep the reader in mind as they will be taking the journey with you. My third novel will be in the same genre as my first two, but who knows where the muse will lead me in the future. Two great cover, Shani, I’ve started looking for cover #3 already. It might feature a man in a kilt . . . just saying.

    • Thanks for reblogging Lizzie! Yes, you do need to bear in mind your readers but I hope that my readers, like me, love more than one genre. It’ll be interesting to see! Looking forward to novel No.3 Lizzie – men in kilts? Bring it on! xxx

  7. Reblogged this on New Romantics 4 and commented:
    Here at the New Romantics 4 we follow our hearts when it comes to writing our novels. But our readers are never forgotten, or left behind.

  8. I too write across the genres. Kids’ stuff and novels for grownups. Ghost stories, fantasy, women’s fiction you name it, I like to give it a try. Up to now I’ve been convinced I’d have to use a variety of different pen names, now I’m not so sure. So go for it Shani and keep us up to date with how it works out for you.

    • Thanks dragonmis, I considered using a pen name but decided against it in the end – time will tell if that’s the right choice. So far, so good though – those who have read my first novel seem more than happy to read the second although it’s a different genre. It’s certainly going to be an interesting ride and I will blog about it in the future for sure! Thanks for popping by.

  9. Aha, interesting topic! What Ron and I have found, with our flash fiction (via Friday Fictioneers), Writers’ Circle and other spontaneous stories, and the novels, is that, like you, we are merely conduits for the words and we write what is right in that moment.

    I also think that readers buy an author’s work because they feel a connection with her words and/or her phrasing and style. That may differ a little across genres but I feel the fundamental essence of the author is carried through. And that’s what I connect with.

    I look forward to seeing how this all plays out for you. I’m excited about the Haunting of Highdown Hall, as paranormal is one of my “other” genres as well. Good luck, Shani! 🙂

    • Absolutely re the conduit thing Jo. After The Runaway Year, it was Psychic Surveys that wanted to be written. After Psychic Surveys, I wrote the sequel to TRY, after that (over Christmas) I wrote Jessamin(e) – a paranormal with romance and mystery in equal measures – a book that sort of bridges the gap between the first two if you like. They just came out in that order and I go with the flow. Back to Psychic Surveys now though, book 2 needs to be written. Let’s hope the Muse is happy with that! Lol!

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