If you had asked me two months ago, I would have told you that authors worry too much about branding. That what readers want more than a brand name is a good book. But something happened in December that changed my mind. I read two books I absolutely loved. Still do--I'll probably re-read them. They're that good. I was pretty sure the writer was going to become my new favorite author. She released a third book in December and I waited for it's midnight release and bought it. It was NA where the others had been marketed as YA, but her other books were about college kids too. So I didn't think anything about it. And boy, did I regret that not just because the book was so disturbing to read either(although it was). But because the next time this author who I was coming to love releases a book, I won't be able to buy it. There will be a voice in the back of my mind saying, "What if it's like the last one?" The problem wasn't the jump from YA to NA (and ironically, I think all these books are mislabeled). The first two books were sweet and beautiful. I'm pretty sure the third was basically erotica. For reasons I'm not going to go into, I don't see anything to be gained from reading/writing erotica, but there is a strong market for it. If a a writer thinks it's in their best interest to write erotica, it's none of my concern. But I wish she would have used a pen name. Because the next time she releases a sweet love story, I'd like to be able to grab it on day one. I won't though. I'll wait until I see a review from someone I really trust. Someone who only reviews PG-13 books. If it's positive, I'll buy the book, otherwise I won't.
Lesson learned. Branding is more important than Beth thought. What I've taken away from this, and what I hope other people do too, is that if you're going to do a huge genre shift use a pen name. I know it sucks to be debut all over again, and not be able to rely on your platform, but in the long run it's probably better than alienating your audience. And if you're not going to produce multiple books in the new genre, ask yourself if it really needs to be published. How does publishing it work into your long term goals.