|1st edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Recently there have been some author bloggers who have wondered how their image and book sales might be impacted if they changed genres. For example I recall one author who had been writing romance who was considering writing something in a fantasy genre. Some of those who responded to her post indicated that they had done so with no appreciable impact while others said they had toyed with the idea of a genre switch but were concerned about how well it would be accepted by their usual audience. How devastating can change be from an economic perspective?
J.K. Rowling jumped from the most successful kid lit series of all time to risk a foray into adult literature and she didn't do too badly with that change. It remains to be seen if she will hold her adult audience. The creator of the James Bond adult series didn't do too badly when he switched to children's literature when he published Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Many authors have made the leap from one genre to something completely different with no adverse effect on their careers. Good writing is not dependent on the genre being written.
There are undoubtedly many examples that you can come up with of writers who went off of their normal path to publish something that was rejected by the general public. One that I ran across was McKenzie Devlin who jumped from romance to zombies with an outcome of what she calls "experimental failure". As Devlin states on her blog, "...the moral of the story isn’t to stop experimenting, just be ultra careful with switching genres if you have established readers that love you."
Genre hopping has been fairly common in the music industry. Some of you might recall when Bob Dylan switched from his acoustic folk style to having an electrified rock band backing him up. Many fans were outraged, but in the end as we know Dylan's career became even bigger. Likewise I can think of a number of artists who pulled the old switcheroo on the public with great success. For example the Bee Gees went from vocal harmony pop to disco, Fleetwood Mac turned their backs on their blues roots to record mainstream pop rock, and Kenny Rogers moved on from the psychedelic rock that brought him to the public eye to record country music. In all of these cases the genre change made these acts more successful than they had previously been.
Changing horses sometimes hasn't gone over so well with an artist's fans. In my upcoming Battle of the Bands post (coming tomorrow Saturday November 15th), one of the featured artists, a singer with a long respected career, recorded an album in 1969 that was somewhat different than all of his previously recordings. Everything from the album packaging to the way the tracks were recorded was a change for this artist.
Though in actuality the artist's sound was not really all that different than his usual work, it was apparently enough to turn off the usual buyers of his product. Or was it merely the perception of change? It could even have been a matter of the timing of the release since this artist was probably losing his fan base due to age or even the events of that year. Most likely there was a combination of factors that caused the album to either get lost in all of the other releases at the time or to be avoided by a public who weren't ready for a new approach from this artist.
Please visit my post tomorrow for the Battle of the Bands post that will look at a good song by a good artist from an album most people don't even know exists. You can listen and give us your opinions.
Do you avoid an author's newer works if they are a drastic change from previous ones? Can you think of an author or other artist who changed genres with negative consequences? Any guesses about the song I'll be using in the Battle of the Bands post or the artist and album?