There is a lot of focus out there on creating a brand for yourself. This includes a number of components--your website, your voice, your blog, how you present yourself, etc. (Sierra has talked about this recently.) This also includes your genre.
If you write chick lit, you're probably not going to have a website with storm clouds and ominous music. If you write dark paranormal, you better not have pictures of rainbows and puppies with a pink color scheme. Wait...on second thought...NO ONE should have that theme, I don't care the genre.
But if you go through all this trouble to brand yourself before you're published, does this mean you're locking yourself into one genre? I know nothing is physically holding you back from changing themes and images at any time, but it almost acts as part of the mental box we put ourselves in. (I'm a YA Writer, I'm a suspense writer.)
I understand that in order to build readership once you get published, it's important to establish yourself in one genre before venturing into something else. But, before we're published, we don't have that monkey on our back. We can write whatever the heck we want--and some say it's good to do so.
When we're first starting, we're not always sure of our voice or where it fits best. Instead, we usually just jump into writing what we love to read. My first book was a darker YA paranormal because at the time that's what I was reading most. But then I realized what I liked most about writing that book was the romance part. And I knew if I changed to writing an adult romance for the next book, I wouldn't have to worry about those pesky restrictions about how sexy the book could be, lol.
So that's what I did. And it was even more fun for me to write. Now I'm finishing up an erotic romance--still under the romance genre, but a different market and tone. Writing each has been a different challenge, but I've enjoyed flexing my writing muscles and testing out the different areas. And I think hopping around genres has really helped me from getting in a rut or from having my stories/characters bleed into one another.
So I encourage you to not lock yourself into one box. Sometimes the best palate cleanser after finishing one book is writing something in totally new area for the next one. You might discover your niche is something completely different from what you originally thought.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Do you stick to one genre? If so, are you ever tempted to write something else? Where do you think your voice could work besides the genre you're writing in? If you have tried others, what genres have you experimented with?