Author Branding: a sometimes “Mysterious” concept for Crime Writers ~ Donna Carrick

Donna CarrickFrom cryptic tales to cozies, from classic mysteries to thrillers, the scope of our beloved “Crime” genre is being magnified even as I write this entry.

The growing list includes: True Crime; Antiquities; Paranormal; Gumshoe; Literary Thrillers; Classic Mystery; Cozies; Romantic Capers; Comedic Crime… and many more that escape me at the time of this writing.

While it is wonderful to see our genre expand in this way, it does present many Crime authors with a minor dilemna: Where, oh where, do our stories and novels fit within this ever-shifting framework?

And does the answer to this question even matter?

It may be tempting to disregard the finer points that define our “Author Brands”. However, when we approach the question from a reader’s point of view, the distinctions become relevent.

Readers, when they enjoy our work, tend to be deeply loyal, returning time and again to a favoured author. They love to revisit characters, catch up with “old friends” and discuss the merits of a series with other bibliophiles.

As a life-long avid reader, I know this to be true.

In fact, some readers are so tied to their favourite styles, that many well-known authors choose to write under multiple names, in order to avoid reader-confusion.

For example, renowned Vampire author Anne Rice also pens under the names of Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure. By doing so, she ensures that her loyal Vampire readers do not inadvertently pick up a copy of something…well…steamier.

So yes, in my opinion, “branding” does matter, even within the confines of our own Crime genre.

Here’s a challenge, and please feel free to leave your answers in the comment section below: As a writer, how would you define your personal “sub-genre”?
(I’ll begin by classifying all 3 of my published novels as “Literary Thrillers”.)

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13 Responses to Author Branding: a sometimes “Mysterious” concept for Crime Writers ~ Donna Carrick

  1. That’s a tough question. Few books today can be pigeon-holed easily.

    My first book (Janelle’s Time) is an adult historical romance, but also has some paranormal elements to it. So, do I call it an ‘adult historical paranormal romance’? It’s not all that much paranormal, plus I’ve never seen that as a choice when asked for my genre.

    However, my soon-to-be-released second book (Moria’s Time) doesn’t fall into a genre so easily. Between us, my editor and I made up a new genre by borrowing from the movies. It’s still an adult book, but not nearly as much so as Janelle’s Time is, so we’re calling it an ‘R-rated Historical Romance.’ The problem is that, like the first book, it also has the same paranormal elements to it.

    The major difference between the 2 books is the age of the main character at the time the book starts – Richard and Janelle (Janelle’s Time) are adults, whereas, their daughter, Moria (Moria’s Time), is an infant. In fact, all of the ‘R-rating’ in Moria’s Time is attributable to Richard and Janelle.

  2. cathyastolfo says:

    I too, struggled to define or categorize my novels. Lately I have been adopting the term “literary mystery”. I borrowed and pieced together my definition from various websites. “A literary mystery has an unfolding plot, but it may be somewhat secondary to the characters. The vocabulary may be more extensive than common. When the story ends, readers feel they’ve learned not just the fate of the characters, but something about the human condition.” I thought that described my Emily Taylor Mysteries perfectly. My latest novel, Sweet Karoline, is that, but is also a psychological suspense, which I define as containing a “sense that something is lurking underneath the written word; the narrator may be unreliable and we’re not sure who’s good, bad, or insane.” Some people call it a “genre orphan”. Joyce Saricks says, “These are books that play with our minds, create a frisson of unease, blend the creepiness generated by the Horror genre with the tension inherent in Suspense. These are stories that appeal to a range of readers – and filmmakers – and don’t fit easily in any related genre into which we try to slot them.” Love that!

  3. That’s easy for me: Comic Capers! The Goddaughter is comedy first and foremost, and The Goddaughter’s Revenge (coming Oct 1 from Orca books) is classic heist fiction.

    The biggest challenge with capers and heists is you are writing from the point of view of the person pulling off the heist…usually a guy or gal on the wrong side of the law. But you have to make your readers care about your protagonist and want them to win. It’s a tricky dilemma and one of the reasons I think you don’t see many books of this sort published. It’s hard to pull off.

  4. Sid Matheson says:

    Wow! Nice one. I’m not sure a writer should be defined by a genre or sub-genre. Might I suggest though that Mystery be the genre and Crime the sub-genre. I am eager to join the contest, so I will state that I am a writer of Creative Non-fiction, first and foremost, but I like the idea of writing about life-after-death and that thread is perhaps the most common of all my works. I have been pegged as a science-fiction writer, but I am not so sure that is true!

  5. I really hate that crime writing has been fragmented into arbitrary categories and none of them make any sense anyway. There are few books written that completely fit the descriptions and there are many books written that aren’t slotted into the crime writing genre that nonetheless contain many elements of crime fiction. A good story is a good story and readers who like a particular author will read the book even if it’s a little different from previous works. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with challenging your audience.
    That said, my stuff (for fairly obvious reasons) is classified as historical mystery – suspense – Canadian.

    • Thanks for your comment, Janet, and thanks for joining us here at Mesdames of Mayhem! We’ve found that, even within our small group, the categories and sub-categories are many. It’s tough squeezing ourselves into all those “square holes”… Heh heh

  6. To date I have been writing non fiction. I am currently venturing beyond my comfort zone and co-authoring a classic murder mystery. Hopefully I will do it justice.

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