When you come up with a great idea for a non-fiction book or booklet, you may jump ahead in your thoughts to big paydays resulting from a multitude of sales. But, there is one question you must ask yourself before you proceed. Do you really want to be thought of as an expert in this area?
You Are What You Write
When you write an article, book or booklet, or even a blog that is based on a non-fiction topic, you will become known by the public, and more specifically your market, as an expert in the subject which you wrote about. This is not something to take lightly, as it will affect you for years to come. In the eyes of your market, you will always be associated with the subject on which you wrote.
Being a non-fiction writer is very much like being an actor. You've undoubtedly heard of actors who work in one genre, such as comedy, trying to cross over into another genre, such as drama, and failing to get role after role because casting directors are concerned that these actors will not be able to pull off a different kind of role and make it believable. And, even if they are able to act in another genre, there is a very good chance the show will flop because the public, their fans, may not accept them in the new role. Therefore, the actor often ends up staying in the genre in which they started. This is known as type casting.
Authors Are Type Cast Too
As an author, you will also be type cast, not by acting in shows, but by what you write. If you write a cookbook and it does very well, your public will expect another cookbook from you which is similar to the first one you wrote. They will be looking for an extension, much in the same way that movie fans hope for a sequel. So, if you created a dessert cookbook, your next one might be a holiday dessert cookbook, which your fans will eat up because they loved your first one. The second one is new, but not so completely different that your fans will have to be concerned about the content.
Using the cookbook example again, imagine you have created a cookbook for women who want to lose weight. Your first cookbook might offer recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. What more could your public possibly want? There's no more to write, right? Wrong! Your public, if they like your cookbook, will want more of the same! They will want more breakfast recipes, more lunch recipes, more dinner recipes, and so on, and you can give this to them in a second book or in several books to create an entire series – each book containing far more recipes than the original.
What Happens When An Authors Strays From Their Genre
If, however, you wrote that first cookbook and your fans wanted another one, and you changed genres and decided to write about dogs, you would lose your fan base. To them, you're the cooking expert. They do not care about dogs. They wanted another cookbook from you. Now, you have to prove to dog owners that you're a dog expert, and that will be difficult because they'll discover that you first wrote a cookbook. You will have to establish trust with the dog owners and get them to see that you really do know your stuff when it comes to dogs. You'll be starting over, from scratch, trying to establish your credibility.
Your Fans Sustain You – Treat Them Well
When you come up with an idea you would like to write about, be sure it is something you want to be known for. Your market, your public, your fans will see you as the expert in that area for a very long time. If you change genres and go in a different direction, you will disappoint your fans. It's not impossible to change directions. Some authors have done it. But, those who have succeeded usually found that they had too little of a fan base to begin with. In other words, their market was not large enough to sustain them. In that case, they had no other choice.
Your market or fans will sustain you as long as you have enough of them. Give them what they want, and they'll buy from you again and again.