Monday, 9 August 2021

How Do Genre Butterflies Focus Their Marketing? — Susan J Bruce

Photo by Karina Vorozheeva on Unsplash

I’m one of several authors in the Christian Writers’ Downunder group who are self-confessed genre butterflies—or genre rebels. I use the latter if I'm in an edgier mood 😎. I’ve written about this before in Confessions of a Genre Butterfly, but I wanted to revisit this subject today as it's relevant to me right now. 

How do I market two books—one coming soon and the other next year—when the audience for each of those books is different? Can this ever work?

I’ve been revamping my website as I prepare to release my debut young adult (YA) novel, Running Scared, in the next few weeks. [Bear with me if you head over there and get the 'coming soon' page. I'm having trouble with a couple of settings—it should be sorted soon so check back later.]

I wrote the first draft of Running Scared several years ago as part of my creative writing Masters degree. It’s had lots of nibbles from publishers over the years but hasn’t quite sold. I like this book and I’m proud of it. It’s a good story and deserves to be out there. In 2018, it won the Omega Writers Caleb award for an unpublished manuscript, but for the last year it’s been languishing—hidden from the world—on my computer’s hard drive. I've now decided to embrace indie publishing and send Running Scared out into the world.

There is no problem in publishing a book like this. The difficulty is marketing it when my work in progress (WIP), Dead Again, is a very different book.

Running Scared is contemporary YA, deals with social issues, and contains suspense, first love, and lots of domestic drama. While the romance is sweet, and the story imbibes a significant amount of hope, the circumstances have an edge. It's a story of courage and overcoming that will keep you on the edge of your seat rather than make you feel cosy and warm on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  

In contrast, my current WIP, Dead Again, is a lazy Sunday afternoon read. It’s a light-hearted amateur-sleuth mystery with a romantic subplot, for grownups. The characters change and overcome, but offbeat humour is mixed with the mystery and more poignant character moments. 

The above isn’t the final cover for Dead Again. It's a concept I created to help me write the book. But it should give you the general vibe. Since putting it together, I've added a cat to the story so she'll need to somewhere on my final cover 🐈. I'm only about a fifth of the way through the draft but I'm enjoying the challenge. 

With a mystery, you need to create the backstory of the murder, then weave it through the narrative in a way that brings the assailant to justice by the end of the book. You must give enough clues to give the reader a chance to work out whodunit, while hiding the identity of the murderer. Can I do this? I’ll give it a good go. If it doesn’t work, I’ll turn it into a romantic suspense 😁. Flexibility is one of the benefits of indie publishing! The point is, right now I feel like writing on the lighter end of the literary scale. 

I think this is partly because of Covid—and because I spent much of last year doing some intense non-fiction ghostwriting. Right now, I’m up for fun-filled murder and mayhem! I will write YA again—I have a couple of ideas simmering—but for now I’m craving the escapism of my amateur-sleuth mystery series. 

But. And it’s a big BUT. How do we market ourselves as authors, create an author brand, when our first and second books are for different audiences and have a different tone? 

The purest wisdom is to not mix different genres and age groups under one author's name. An eclectic range of books can create confusion among readers on distribution platforms like Amazon. Amazon remembers what books we like to read and suggests others we might like in the ‘also bought’ section of their website. In today’s digital world, authors and publishers must fight for every bit of visibility they can get. We need the right book being shown to the right reader! 

And then there's the mailing list and the website. My site has a mystery and suspense focus which can cover both novels, but how do I create a mailing list that attracts both sorts of readers? Should I create separate newsletters?

I have some non-fiction book ideas too. How do I handle that?

It’s tricky, isn’t it? 

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Would it be better to create a new pen name and another website? 

The problem is that each new site means more work, not just in building the site but in maintaining it and using it as a hub for marketing and social media. I’m not keeping up with social media as it is. And I do other things—animal art and author services such as editing and proofreading. I really should have a separate site for those too, but there is no way I could manage four sites.

There is no perfect solution to my problem—other than not publishing Running Scared—and waiting until Dead Again comes out next year. But I think this novel deserves its time in the light and if it inspires just one teenager to have hope when they're in a dark place, it will be worth it. And I do want to write more YA—just not right now. 

My decision? 

  • I’m  going to publish Running Scared as Susan J Bruce and start building my mailing list with some freebies focused on that book. 
  • Once that’s sorted, I’ll add another segment to my mailing list and offer a short story sampler that isn’t just YA focused. People can click on one or the other (maybe both?). I'll also send this out to my existing list.
  • At this stage I’m also going to publish the mystery series under Susan J Bruce. I’ve seen authors successfully combine all sorts of books and services on one site, so it’s possible. Scottish author, Wendy H Jones, is a Christian who writes for the mainstream. Wendy has adult non-fiction, YA, crime, humour, and children’s books all on the one site, under the one name. She tells her readers she’s ‘got them covered from the cradle to the grave’. As I wrote this article I came across three different blogs that said the main consumers of YA books are adult women. So maybe Wendy’s onto something. Get the mother to buy her daughter the YA book (the mother will read it first of course) and at the same time she can pick up an amateur-sleuth mystery for herself. If Wendy can do this, why can’t I? It’s worth a try 😀.
  • When I get time (ha!), I’m going to create a separate portfolio site for my art and possibly another for author services, but I’m going to keep life as simple as I can and run most things from the hub of my main author site. This may change in the future depending on how my creative business evolves, but it feels like the best way to keep myself sane for now.

This may not be the perfect solution and the marketing purists will groan, but it's the best I can do for now. I'm still early in my writing career and my book writing direction could change a couple of times before I find my groove. It would be different if I had ten books out and they were all different genres. That's fine if your writing is a hobby but not if you want it to be a key focus within your creative business.

What about you? Are you a rebel genre butterfly? If so how do you market your books? How do you bring focus to your website and mailing lists? What solutions have you found? Please let me know in the comments below. And feel free to leave a link to your website so everyone can see your awesome genius at work 😃.

Susan J Bruce, aka Sue Jeffrey, spent her childhood reading, drawing, and collecting stray animals. Now she’s grown up, she does the same kinds of things. Susan worked for many years as a veterinarian, and now writes stories filled with mystery, suspense, heart and hope. Susan also loves to paint animals. Susan won the ‘Short’ section of the inaugural Stories of Life writing competition and won the 'Unpublished Manuscript' section of the 2018 Caleb prize. Susan is the editor of'If They Could Talk: Bible Stories Told By the Animals' (Morning Star Publishing) and her stories and poems have appeared in multiple anthologies. Her e-book, 'Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story' is available on You can check out some of Susan’s art work on her website


  1. I feel your pain. I don’t think any author who is led by the Spirit will confine themselves to one genre. God is much more creative than that! May He bless you on your publishing endeavors.

    1. Thanks Jo. I agree with you. Out infinitely creative God is our father. We are made in his image. That's such an awesome truth.

  2. Enjoyed your blog, thanks Sue. I remember the first time I wrote a novel that was not biographical. I had to fill in a form for the publisher. When I came to 'Genre' I had no idea what to put . My novel was a mixture of suspense, romance, and dealing with issues. I've settled on something bland and all-encompassing for most of my novels now (most equals about three) - 'Women's Fiction'. Then I have to decide whether it's really Christian fiction or not. Sigh!

    1. Thanks, Jeanette. Running Scared is like that but for teenagers. The overarching genre is contemporary YA but it has those sub elements. Mine isn't 'Christian Fiction' but it's faith inspired.

  3. The challenge is real! Thanks for sharing your process and strategy, Sue. May your marketing montage elicit a menagerie of hungry readers.

    1. Thanks Mazzy. May you find a volley of voracious readers too :D.

  4. I've been dealing with the same issue for slightly different reasons. I'm self-publishing my first picture book written for the mainstream market and I'm hoping to get it into schools by running workshops for kids.
    If anyone googled me though they'd probably be led to my other webpage - describing my church speaking and singing ministry - which has been around a bit longer.
    I was a bit nervous that schools would see that page and then be reluctant to invite me because of possible proselytising (which of course I wouldn't be doing).
    In the end, I decided I'd just have to take that risk. My business is in my name, so people are still going to find me and it's easier to not try to be someone other than who I am. and

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  6. Susan, I found your blog very interesting, thanks for letting us know what you are working on. I wanted to reply, but struggle with the same problem, and wasn’t sure how to. There are warnings in writing and marketing courses about ‘genre butterflies’. I can understand why this is so. It requires much effort, time, extra websites and finance to diversify and could be confusing to the readers.
    Despite that, I’ve listened to podcasts of successful ‘genre rebels’ and it is working for them. It has been said all writers have an underlying message in their writing—even novelists. Perhaps it is that message which will unify our offerings and make our writing help change the world.
    Today I read a post on Facebook that suddenly made it more worthwhile … for me, and hopefully will encourage you. It was written by Elizabeth Cummings and posted on two secular Children’s Book Council of Australia - Eastern Suburbs branch and the Northern Suburbs branch Facebook pages. Surprisingly it was paragraphs long, so I won’t quote it all, but here’s an extract. I hope you will indulge me as you read it with our topic of ‘genre butterfly’ in mind.
    Quote: Jean’s passion for seeking out the good has led her to explore themes of recovery, love and; in her submission to our anthology; the benefits of reading as well as the possibility of redemption. Redemption one could be considered Jean's overarching theme in her work as she creates narratives about healing from drug addiction, hosts a faith-based website focused on self-improvement, called; Living a Better Life. This no-cost website is for those who are struggling with emotional issues and addictions.
    Jean aims to write books and content to inspire and take her readers to the path of well-being and a better life. She has a degree in Science, and has been a teacher/teacher-librarian for over 30 years and is a trained Drug Education teacher. She writes fiction, nonfiction and blogs, and is the award-winning author of The Craving, which won the 2020 CALEB Award for unpublished YA novels. She has also co-authored The Happiness Code: How Small Habits Will Change Your Life Starting Today, with Ray Brehm, which is an Amazon best-seller in multiple categories.

    Explanation of a reference in the above quote: I had one of my Fang adventure stories published in the CBCA Anthology.

    Perhaps the message is that we take the path that we believe God is leading us on–after much prayer and advice, of course, and see what happens. And don’t expect it to be uncomplicated! Yes, you may need more than one website and author name. Also, do you have a passion or theme that is overriding all of your writing that will unify it? Readers who are searching, and attracted to that theme may be happy to read your writing, no matter what genre.