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Writing And Publishing Across Multiple Genres: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross And Sacha Black

Writing and Publishing Across Multiple Genres: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross and Sacha Black

As Joanna Penn is in New Zealand this month, Sacha Black is stepping in to discuss planning an integrated publishing business across multiple genres with ALLi Director Orna Ross. Sacha will pose one of the questions Orna is most often asked: How does she manage to write and publish across the three macro-genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry while also running ALLi? This episode will explore the creative planning method Orna uses to integrate not three genres and four brands across two businesses: one for-profit and one nonprofit.

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Watch the Video: Writing and Publishing Across Multiple Genres

On the Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast: How does Orna Ross write and publish across multiple genres while also running ALLi? In this episode, Orna and @sacha_black explore the creative planning method. Share on X

Show Notes

About the Hosts

Joanna Penn writes nonfiction for authors and is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F.Penn. She’s also an award-winning podcaster, creative entrepreneur, and international professional speaker.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website:  http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcripts: Writing and Publishing Across Multiple Genres

Sacha Black: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations Advanced podcast. I'm Sacha Black. I'm not Joanna Penn, surprising probably everybody, and I am joined by Orna Ross. Hello, Orna.

Orna Ross: Hello, not Joanna Penn, welcome back.

Sacha Black: I know! So, today is a special show because Joanna is away, and so I am stepping into some very big, amazing shoes and having the honour of getting to talk to you all about cross genre work as an author/business owner/writer/publisher.

How did you come to write across so many different genres?

Sacha Black:  So, I wondered if you wanted to start talking about this by looking at your journey, what was your journey, how did you come to work across so many different genres, and businesses as well?

Orna Ross: Yeah, okay. So, I think it happened for me, like it happens for a lot of people who find themselves in creative careers, in that you don't really plan it. It emerges and you begin to plan later. You don't plan from the start, kind of thing. So, I always knew I wanted to write a novel, but I never thought I could. I just didn't give myself permission for many years, because I think I was overawed by the Irish literary tradition and the poets and things we had done at school, and all of that usual kind of stuff.

But I did want to write and so I became a journalist, a features journalist, which was brilliant training for later. Then I got in more into the book business. I published non-fiction books. I worked as a literary agent. I ran a writing school. All these kinds of ancillary things around writing while writing myself. Eventually did the novel, eventually got that published. That didn't work out all that well, as people have definitely heard that story before, if they've listened before, and then fell into self-publishing my own books and so, that was the best move, without a doubt, of my writing life and changed everything and made a lot more possible. Everything became more fluid and easier once self-publishing books became possible, and I gave myself permission to enjoy it.

Sacha Black: But you don't just write in one genre, because you write historical fiction, poetry, non-fiction with ALLi as well. So, how did that happen?

Orna Ross: Yeah, that's I wanted to talk about this today because it's the question that I get, that question you just asked, how did that happen, and also how do you fit it all in? I just get asked that question over and over and over again. So, I wanted to talk about the real practicalities of that.

I suppose each of those genres grew out of different parts of my writing life. So, part of it is that I have been writing for a long time, so the non-fiction for ALLi, which is very much how-to non-fiction for a very specific group, self-publishing authors, that grows out of my teaching and journalism background combined. So, as well as some of the things that I mentioned earlier, I also taught a culture and creativity course at UCD in Dublin, and that's where I developed a real interest in creativity and the creative process and how it works and how it happens. So, I was able to see the difference between the creative process at work in writing and how it works in publishing. So, it's the same process, but it works very differently in each thing that we apply it to. So, I was able to see that quite clearly because of that experience.

The fiction was, as I said, I always wanted to do it. So, it was a creative intention that I always carried, and I had been disappointed with my trade publishing experience. So, that was the first thing I did, was take my rights back from them and publish fiction, and I thought at that time I would full-time write fiction; that was my intention when I started that. But of course, quickly started ALLi, so the non-fiction came in.

Poetry, I had written poetry when I was very young in school, like most people pouring the old heart out into the notebooks, but I had stopped writing poetry for many years until a very close friend died far too young during the AIDS thing of the 1980s, which absolutely devastated me, and I started writing poetry again and I haven't stopped since. So yeah, they all just came out of just different aspects of me, I suppose.

Sacha Black: Oh, I love it. I find it so interesting how these things come around. I think the longer we are in this industry as well, we're all so multi-passionate, most of us anyway, that we do find these other niches or aspects of ourselves that we haven't explored.

Anyway, let's talk about you.

Orna Ross: That is the first thing that I do want to say actually, as tips for those who are listening, is that sense, if you have something that you want to do, but you don't have time right now, don't decide that you're not doing it, just that you're going to do it later and just shelve it, because writing is a long life and things unfold in strange and mysterious ways, and if you're meant to do it, it will happen.

I do very firmly believe that if you have a real desire to do something, you are supposed to do it and you will find a way, the way we'll find you. You don't always have to be the one that pushes it, but it may not be right at a particular time, it doesn't mean it will never happen. So, you know, at any one time, I write across three genres, but today I can only write in one. So, at any one time, you're just working on the one you're working on, and there's always time to get to the others in time.

What are some of the biggest challenges of writing and publishing across multiple genres?

Sacha Black: Absolutely, baby steps everywhere and you eventually get to the finish line. Okay. What are some of the biggest challenges that you've faced in managing to write and publish across multiple genres, and any tips or advice for overcoming them?

Orna Ross: Yes, so I think it is the same things that all authors suffer from, but multiplied by however many genres you're writing in. It doesn't even have to be cross genre to feel it. It's the big overwhelm, and you don't have to be writing across multiple genres to feel that. You can feel it if you're writing across multiple series, or indeed you can feel it just on one book.

So, overwhelm is a constant occupational hazard for authors, and the problem with overwhelm is that it stops flow. If you can't see your way, it doesn't matter if you can only see a little bit of the way, but when you are overwhelmed, depending on the degree of overwhelm, you can be completely stopped, or worse, you can be working very hard on something that's absolutely either has little or low use.

So, the first thing is always the self-care. The first thing is always the step away from the desk.

Sacha Black: I feel attacked.

Orna Ross: I'm not looking at anyone except myself.

The first step though seriously, is perspective. It's the perspective to see what is actually the most important thing to do and what has to go, because very quickly in this business, because it's all so amazing and fabulous and we love it all, very quickly you get to that point where you are overwhelmed and it's our own fault.

We just want to do this, and we want to do that, and we want to do the other, and life at the moment is just firing all these amazing creative goodies at us, and we wouldn't be human if we didn't get excited and jump up and down with some of them. But in terms of, it's fine if you just want to play and that's absolutely fine, but I wanted to make my living as a writer. I always wanted that from my early twenties, and when you want that, it's a different thing.

So, the first step is self-care, creative rest, which we're really bad at, and that's resting the mind. So, however that happens for you. We were talking earlier, and I was saying, and I've said many times before, I literally couldn't function without meditation.

So, if people ask me, what is the one thing that allows you to do everything? I say, meditation. Because the resting of the mind gives that perspective and gives calm that carries through the day and through the week. So, that creative play in the form of some physical activity that takes you away from the desk, that's number one.

I'm always talking about these things, but because they are foundational, they are absolutely important. Then when you get that sense of perspective, you can actually begin to prioritize.

The other thing that I think is really key is balance. So, people talk a lot about prioritizing, but they don't talk enough about balancing out the different aspects of how we work.

So yes, there's across the three genre, but then on a book there is the seven processes that you need to put the book through in order to get it up and out there and selling to your readers, and there are the three different hats that you need to wear as you go about your business; the maker, the manager, the marketer, and then there is the creative work and rest and play that makes it happen.

So, integration is really important, but in order to integrate first, you have to separate everything out and that was the challenge for me. I was chasing myself around, I was chasing my tail basically. I was getting things done, but I was pretty exhausted, and I was never quite sure that I was working on, I had this not very nice feeling that, am I working on the right thing? Is this actually the most productive thing for me to be doing? Is this the most profitable thing for me to be doing?

So, it was really necessary for me, I'm extremely intuitive and my inclination is to just follow my intuition, but I had to, if I wanted to keep doing all the things I was doing and to write across these genres, I had to be more structured in my planning.

So, I've chosen six challenges that I think are the most significant, and obviously each author meets different challenges depending on their own personality, their own work processes, their own conditions and situations, whether they're still working an alternative job and so on. But no matter where you are, these things are going to come up for you, these six things, and that is firstly that you've got to target different audiences.

Secondly, issues around branding and author identity, maintaining quality within each of the genre, managing reader expectations, balancing the time and stuff, which we discuss around the planning process, because obviously genre variety and time affect each other, and then building genre specific expertise.

So, just to talk a little bit more about each of those six things and some solutions, or solutions that have either worked for me or I have seen work for other people.

So, first of all, targeting different audiences, each of your genre as a fiction, non-fiction, poetry writer, or if you're just a multi-genre person writing in quite different genres, each of them attracts its own distinct readership, and that readership has its own unique preferences and expectations. So, reaching and managing those multiple targets can be a bit challenging, and it's really worthwhile to sit down and actively work out separate marketing strategies in particular for each of the genre, and probably separate writing strategies as well.

So, with marketing, get genre specific promotional channels. So, if you write highly literary stuff, don't do what everybody else does and just put it out to the mainstream, actually actively seek out literary websites and forums, social media groups that are focused on that arena, build up a relevant mailing list of people who are interested in that.

So, first of all, spend the time to really understand what the reader wants, and then tailor your marketing materials to appeal to each specific audience. And again, with the writing, you may need to tailor how you write to that genre. So, as I was saying earlier, how I write poetry is completely different to how I write fiction.

Secondly, branding and author identity. So, you've got these different things going on and establishing a consistent author brand across these different things can be challenging. Readers will meet you first in one genre, they won't associate you with anything else, they may very much associate you with that, and then when they come across something else, you want them to cross over if possible. So, the solution really is to understand that the thing that links the different genre is you. So, creating a cohesive author brand that encompasses everything for you. So, for me, the one word that covers everything that I do, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, is creative.

So, I just use that. It's very unfashionable, a lot of the colours and branding and things that I use, particularly across my GoCreative! Stuff, but there is a consistent branding element across the whole thing so that none of it jars against each other. So, take a look at your, if you've got publishing logos, your colours, your typography on your book covers, your website, your social media, what is the one thing that links all of those together, and how do you communicate that quality visually and in your aesthetic, while at the same time communicating that, hey, you're really versatile, you've got a really broad creative range. This is a really good thing, you can take this reader on a very exciting journey, and that's the kind of thing you're trying to get across.

In my experience, in my own personal experience, painful personal experience, and in my experience of watching other people, this takes a bit of time just getting that branding and author identity right across a multi-genre.

Take the time to think about it because you can do a lot of busy work putting stuff out there that, that gives a fractured, incoherent feel, and the reader just turns away. You'll never know they turned away, and you'll never know why, but it's really important for all authors, but particularly that you really have to think about it even more carefully. It's very unlikely to just come instinctively, to make the reader comfortable, to lead them in, to hold their hand, to bring them into your world or worlds. Give that a decent amount of thought, time, you know, go away, it's fun, go away to the countryside, go down by the sea, go to a lovely cafe and work on this stuff, and know this is a very key and core part of what you do.

Number three, maintaining genre specific quality. Each genre has its own conventions, its own expectations, its own techniques. Making sure that your work meets the quality standards across three or more genre is more demanding, and that's just a fact. So, you need over time to study and immerse yourself in each genre that you write.

You possibly will already be reading widely within each of these genres, but if you're not, it's time you started. You need to pay attention to the specific nuances and techniques that each genre employs, and it can help, if you're finding this challenging, it can really help to get some beta readers or writing groups who specialize, or reader groups indeed, who are in embedded in a genre and talk to them about this stuff, and listen to what's going on in their social groups of the kinds of things that they're saying to each other, and looking specifically for emotion words. What are they feeling when they engage with this genre?

Isolating the core emotion that's at the heart of your genre and niche is a real milestone for every author-publisher. Also, hire genre specific editors wherever you can and take their guidance. Ask them questions, draw on their experience in your genre, and make sure that the work adheres to that genre's expectations.

You as a reader probably read widely across genre. When you pick up a science fiction novel, you are expecting a different experience to when you pick up a book of inspirational poetry, or a how-to manual on how to put down a new garden. Your brain very easily cycles across those three, and then the job is for you as a writer to be able to cycle across those three, and not be doing the gardening stuff when you should be writing the poetry or immersing yourself in the science fiction. Really different things, and you will need to find your way to separate them out so that you become an expert in all of them.

Number four then is linked to the branding thing I mentioned earlier, but I kept it quite separate because it deserves its own attention, managing your reader expectations. So, there may be readers who say they have preconceived notions or preferences, and those notions or preferences might not align with your work in other genres.

So this, for example, is one reason why I used to do a lot of op-ed opinion stuff in political arenas, particularly feminism, gender studies, that kind of stuff. I stopped doing that work because it would clash with the general broad church, how-to approach of the non-fiction work for ALLi, in particular and, but for author publishers generally, who don't need to know your opinions, they've got opinions of their own, and if they have strong opinions that are different to yours, that can actually impact on your ability for your books to reach them.

So, clearly communicating, obviously as we've said so many times already, clearly communicating the nature of each book's genre, providing very accurate genre categorizations, specific content warnings, trigger warnings and things if you need to do that.

Making sure that people understand, I separate, my poetry is on Instagram, my fiction is on Facebook, segmenting your mailing lists, having separate newsletters for each genre, allowing your readers to subscribe based on what they are interested in only.

So, on my website, on my homepage, there is a signup form which allows people to sign up for everything I do, but it also breaks down then into fiction or poetry.

I only have fiction and poetry on my author website. I keep all the how-to, non-fiction, anything to do with publishing, anything to do with author marketing, book marketing, branding, anything like that, that authors are interested in as opposed to readers, I have a whole separate website for that, a whole separate organization that's a non-profit.

My other work is for-profit. It's all very clearly segmented, and it took time to sort all that out in my head years ago, but once it's done, it's completely done, and then the more you are embedding yourself in your own work, it's just looking after itself.

Those different parts of your brain strengthen so that when you're in that zone, you're completely in that zone, and then you come out and you refresh yourself by diving into your other zones.

Number five is balancing writing time, and obviously the variety of work that you have to write, and focusing specifically here on the writing, because obviously nothing else happens if the writing doesn't happen.

This one is always challenging. It never stops being challenging, and if you're juggling different writing projects, in particular, at the same time while trying to maintain a consistent publishing schedule as well, no doubt, not easy.

So, you need a writing schedule that allocates specific time for each genre. You need to know what you're supposed to be doing when you sit down to write. You should never be sitting down to write wondering, what am I writing today, because that's just an absolute creative drain of time and energy.

So, your time scheduling is really important, and when you are a multi-genre writer, your time scheduling has to take in large time buckets, like maybe five years. Where you're thinking over those five years, I will produce across these genres to an excellent level and succeed in reaching readers in each of those genres.

So, this isn't something you're going to be able to do in a few weeks, so forget about it. You need to really sit down and think about your work in terms of long term. Every author does, I believe. I think the sooner also start to think long-term instead of the next book, the better; it works far better in the end.

But anyway, create a writing schedule that allocates specific time for each genre.

So, for me, for example, from now until October, it's mainly about the fiction. Poetry is just one poem a week at the moment, fitted in around other things, and ALLi books are being upgraded rather than producing a new one at the moment because that's easier to fit in when the fiction comes up front.

After that, a new ALLi book will come up front and with the fiction, I will be editing rather than producing words and so on. I know how it works for me, because I've been doing it now for a long time. You need to experiment and explore and find out how it works for you.

You need deadlines. Deadlines are your friend. You need to get happy and comfortable with deadlines. They can work really well for you if you employ them in a creative way, and sometimes setting up a hard deadline for yourself by creating a market demand, making something, promising something, can work. Sometimes you'll fall flat on your face, and it won't work, but it's worth trying and seeing, does that work for you?

One of the things that's great here, we talk a lot about the challenges of balancing that time is that alternating between genre gives you great variety in your work and can actually prevent burnout for you because you're being refreshed, different parts of you are being refreshed by the different kinds of work, but that will only happen if you set realistic creative intentions for yourself, and then from that, realistic goals for yourself.

You are clearly somebody who wants to do everything, otherwise you wouldn't be a multi-genre author in the first place. So, that's what you've got to be careful about.

You can do anything you want, that is the wonder of self-publishing, but you can't do everything you want. Once you understand that core principle, that is a core principle of author publishing generally, then you can find that you can get in there and be mindful of your own bandwidth without compromising the quality of your work.

Then finally, back to that genre specific expertise. Becoming knowledgeable in multiple genres means staying up to date with each of those genres, the trends that are unfolding in those specific genres.

That can be time consuming and demanding when you're trying to write and publish, but you must continuously invest in learning and researching to stay abreast of what's going on.

Go to conferences and workshops, even if you are very introverted, it doesn't matter, so are loads of other people there. Lurk in the background if you want to, just watch what's going on, get involved as much as you can, join writing associations. Please join ALLi if you're not a member already, we really can't help.

But join your genre-specific writing association also and engage; engage in whatever way you're comfortable with. Social media is fantastic. We hear all the bad sides of it, but for authors it is brilliant. It's social connection without having to be too social, you get to control it with words and so on. You're a word expert, so find a medium that you are comfortable with and only do that, and engage with online communities that are focused on your genre. You must connect with other authors and readers in the genre to keep nourished, as much as anything, to gain insights, and to build relationships that often blossom into friendships.

Do you need a plan to write across multiple genres?

Sacha Black: Do you think that's a stage that everybody gets to? That we all need to get to that point where actually the business requires that structure in order for us to still be able to do the creative aspect?

Orna Ross: If you're writing across three genres, yes, I think so. It's my sense, or else if you are naturally a good planner who just does it without thinking about it.

So, I don't think, Joanna, for example, we've talked about this before, I don't think she has a very structured planning process like I do.

I mean, I have charts that I specially made up, and it's a really important support structure to me that I sit down in a certain way each week and each month and each day, and do certain things to make sure they happen. She does those more automatically because by nature she's a better planner than I am.

So, I think it's that sort of counterintuitive thing, that the more intuitive you tend to operate in life, possibly the more you need a planning system, but I don't think anybody could write across three genres without doing some planning, particularly around marketing.

But also, I think all the kinds of planning things that you resist, the outlining and everything people talk about, are you a pantser or a plotter? You think of yourself as a pantser, but you need some plotting. So, it's about finding that balance for yourself, and it's the same with the planning or just following your intuition. It's finding that unique kind of place of balance for you that's the challenge.

Sacha Black: And you do have a very distinct planning process. So, this is a great segue to go into that. Can you talk about how you plan creatively? What is that method that you're using, and how does that help you to manage all of the different aspects of your work?

Orna Ross: So, like I said, I created these planners that actually it was really important for me that they plan my rest, and my play was planned; that was the single biggest thing. That was the most important thing about them.

So, I was very good at planning work, I was not good at planning a rest and play. So, things happened in a much more ad hoc way.

Social events would happen, my family and friends and all of that, and that's one kind of thing, but I'm talking about actual structured, creative rest, creative play; rest and play that's done in order to feed flow. So, I needed to have planners that accounted for that because if I didn't, I just ended up each day without it happening.

I also needed to put in a money day, twice a month, because if I didn't, I ignored money too much, and look at how I was managing money and processes and things, and making sure that I was putting profit in the right place, and looking at return on investment, and all of that kind of thing that doesn't come naturally to me. I needed to put that into a plan to make sure that it would happen. Paying myself first, getting the money out of the business account over into the tax account, personal account, all those kinds of things. If I didn't plan for that, it didn't happen, and so it was just key principles like that.

So, it's really simple. It's not like it's complex. An actual planning expert would probably look at them and laugh, but they work for me, and I think they work, I know they work, for other authors who are like me and are faced with the same sorts of challenges.

They don't work for everybody, and people have to find their own way, I think. But yeah, I think they were the key things, and then understanding basic principles, like doing what's important rather than what's urgent first. I have to do certain tasks at the beginning of the day, otherwise I find, even though they're the things I most want to do, I find I don't do them. That kind of stuff.

So, knowing what your top task is at all times. So, each day knowing, if I finish the day with this done, I'll be happy if I get other things done as well.

The thing about the planning that's most important for me, and the reason that I use this method and have stayed with it, is I feel good when I do this, and when it slips away from me, I start to not feel so good again.

Again, I feel that busy mind coming on, and it just takes the enjoyment away, and the whole reason I wanted to be a writer was to have fun and not to be in a horrible job. So, I want to make sure I'm the boss of me and that I give myself a good time.

Sacha Black: Do you talk about this in Creative Self-Publishing? I'm just wondering if we have a book or resource that we can point people to as well.

Orna Ross: Yes, I do. I do a few things around it. So, the second edition of Creative Self-Publishing has a planning section in it, and that's available to all ALLi members in eBook form.

Out of that came planners, which are now, for the second edition, being upgraded; monthly and quarterly planners which have daily plans built into them.

Then I do a monthly, for planning patrons, do a monthly planning workshop where we together fill out the plans for the month to come, and we do some deep dive sessions then into the issues that are arising for people.

So, these are workshops, they're not webinars, they're not about giving information over, though that does happen, but it's a sort of a side issue, the information that we exchange as a group of working indie authors, the point of them is to plan and to get a plan for the coming month.

How does the approach to writing, publishing and marketing differ across different genres?

Sacha Black: Awesome. Okay. So, how does your approach to writing, publishing and marketing differ across the different genres that you work in?

Orna Ross: Yeah. So, this is nine questions.

Sacha Black: I know, sorry.

Let's start with writing, how does writing differ across the three genres?

Orna Ross: Okay. So yeah, it is quite different actually. So, writing fiction, I have to get up early in the morning and go straight into writing or editing, or writing and editing, the novels. So, that's the first one. I work in 90-minute bursts and try to get two of those in per day.

Poetry happens. So, just an idea or something will come, and the poem arrives, and I just need to grab it. Now it doesn't arrive intact always, very occasionally a short one will arrive fully formed, and I don't have to do anything except maybe tweak a word or two here and there, but that doesn't happen very often. But it arrives first of all, then I play with it, and that's a much easier thing because it's short form. It's so much easier to do short form, and the same with the non-fiction and blog posts are relatively easy. They can be written in the cracks between doing other things.

So, I consciously try with non-fiction to just do one first draft and then one final draft, and that's it. I rarely do more than two drafts with non-fiction, but with fiction, I draft and redraft. And poetry, I play a lot with different things.

So, non-fiction tends to be more collaborative as well. So, I work with you on some non-fiction, and I work with some other authors on some of the books. So yeah, it's a much more collaborative process.

I couldn't imagine, I don't know how people write novels together; I couldn't even write a chapter with somebody else, the fiction, I don't think.

Memo to self, I should probably do that sometime and challenge myself.

Anyway, yeah, it's quite different. I find writing fiction hard, but it's the thing that gives me most satisfaction when it's done, but it's the one that I have to really protect. I think the others would happen, either because they're being drawn out of me, people need the work to be done, and so I get a deadline and I have to do it. Or the poetry, I just play with it, and it's fun.

But fiction, I have to protect it. I have to draw a box and make sure it gets done, because it's much easier to do other things and I need to be very protective of that time and space.

Sacha Black: Are you consistent, or are you writing fiction every day, or are you doing it in blocks of time?

Because I find that once I start a project, I will go hard until it's finished, but then it could be a month before I pick up the pen again. So, literally, I need to start, but I'm finding it much easier to do other things. So, I'm feeling attacked again.

Orna Ross: Well, everyone's different, that's the major thing to say. These are just things that have happened along the way for me that might be of benefit to others, but yeah, I have to be very consistent.

So, I write fiction very slowly because I really treat it almost like poetry, each sentence gets a lot of work and so it takes a long time for me to write a novel. So, yeah, I'm very consistent and I just try and get those. If I don't get the hours done in the morning, that's it then until the next day, because there's so many other things that go on in my working day, and in my family life and social life and stuff, that I know that I won't. I'm quite tightly scheduled with plenty of air around it. I don't feel oppressed or dominated by a timetable or whatever, but I don't have a lot of just, I schedule even downtime, time that has nothing in it, even that gets kind of scheduled. So yeah, I am pretty consistent.

Sacha Black: Okay. So, let's move on to publishing then. How does publishing differ or not differ across the different genres?

Orna Ross: Yeah. So publishing, I think we're separating out production and marketing, is that right?

Sacha Black: Yeah. So, my last question was going to be, how does marketing differ? So, take it however you prefer.

Orna Ross: Yeah. No, that's fine. So, book production then, for the three, that's the one that's the most similar. That doesn't really alter all that much across the three genres. I put my books together in a similar way.

I do want to start creating more bespoke, special books, particularly around poetry. There is a market for that, I know, and I would also really enjoy doing that.

I've done one before, one special edition, which I crowdfunded back in 2015. So, I'm actually going to do a Crowdfunder again later this year. I want to do more bespoke print, but I haven't. So, up to now it's been the same process across the three.

The only difference being for audiobooks that I do my own poetry. I wouldn't dream of narrating my own fiction or non-fiction, it would exhaust me to even think of it. So yeah, the production is the one that's most the same.

Then the marketing, there are similarities but differences. So, the similarities are that I am a content marketer and I rely on attraction. So, rather than, don't do a lot of sales chasing stuff but it does vary a little bit across.

I do unusual things in my publishing as well. So, while I am on all the platforms, it's mostly about bringing people back to my own core stuff, and I've done licensing of books and stuff like that. So, I don't operate in exactly the same way.

For some of that pitching influencers is pretty important. By influencers, I mean literary influencers, like librarians or organizations, or it could be anybody, but people who have access to the readers that I'm trying to attract. So, that has happened to some degree with the non-fiction and also a little bit with poetry, but not with the fiction, historical fiction, which tends to be more what we think of as the usual indie marketing structure, which is more around selling the digital audiobooks, and eBooks, and print on demand.

So, it varies in that sort of way. I think understanding, from a marketing perspective, the most important thing is not about the fact that you're in these three different macro genres, because again, it's reasonably similar. It's more about understanding whether you are a craft publisher, or a volume publisher, or an engagement publisher, and that can vary across the three genres.

So, engagement, for me, I would be more of an engagement publisher for poetry than I am for, I would be more craft based, publishing now I'm talking about rather than writing craft, more craft based for the fiction.

So, the important thing, I think, to recognize is what makes somebody buy. When you're looking across the three genres, what makes somebody buy a poetry book is not the same as what makes somebody buy a how-to book about publishing, and that's the most important thing to understand, and that's then going to change how you set up your marketing.

So, the structure of what I actually do for each of those books is not that different, aside from the exceptions that I gave there a few moments ago, but the content and the way in which you might reach out to readers. So, for example, for my poetry publishing, most people who read poetry also like to write it. So, one of the things I do is I have a fortnightly contest on Instagram where I invite other poets to submit their work, and engagement is a really important part of what I do as a poet, because I really believe that every poet needs a community and needs to either build that for themselves or needs to find it.

And I know every writer needs a community in every genre. So, there's nothing exceptional about that, but there's something particular in the way that poets relate to each other that becomes possible because of the short form. It's almost, as we write poems to each other, we're communicating through the poetry, and there is very little communication outside of that needed because we've connected at that level. So, that makes poetry quite different.

So, the important question as a multi-genre author, the important question to ask is, what does a person who buys a book in this genre, and also in this part of the genre, what are they looking for from me and how can I set that up, how to attract them and to bring them over to me?

What does a typical day look like for an author writing across multiple genres?

Sacha Black: So, how does this work in practice then, because I know you've talked a lot about structure, and this is also one of those impossible questions for a multi-passionate kind of entrepreneur creative, but what does a typical day look like?

How do you fit in the writing, the publishing, and ALLi work?

Orna Ross: By dividing the day into three, essentially, writing, publishing, and ALLi work. So, it's quite simple, really, at the end of the day.

Sacha Black: I mean, that does sound very simple. There's me making it complex in my head.

Orna Ross: It's simple and it flows, as I said, if those practices are in place, and if those practices are not in place, it can feel harried and overstretched.

Essentially, it's all about time blocking and giving myself the space then that's needed to absorb, and I think one of the advantages I have is my great age. I've been around for a long time, I've been doing this for a long time, and I've learned what works for me and what doesn't work for me.

And I think that is the single most important thing as a multi-genre author, everything that's important for every author becomes intensified because you're doing it across the genre, so it becomes more extreme. So, we all need to learn what we need to let go, and you very quickly, as you get into this business, you very quickly come to a point where you're going to be letting go of something you really love.

It's very easy to echo stuff you don't love, but letting go of the things you really like.

Sacha Black: Oh, stop it. I feel attacked again.

Orna Ross: There's a reason you're doing this show, perhaps?

Sacha Black: Okay, are there any resources, or apps, or tools, or any activities that you find particularly useful when managing your workload, your planning, like conserving that energy, avoiding burnout?

Orna Ross: Yeah, so Insight Timer is my go-to for various kinds of meditation. People that work for me. Yoga Nidra, a particular form of meditation that's really good for creative sparking and manifestation techniques, I'm a sucker for all of those, and they have all really helped me in various ways along the way. So, that is my sort of go-to app for the creative rest kind of things.

On the creative play side, this is very vague, and everybody needs to do it in their own way, but I think we are crazy if we overlook the value of music as a way to get us into the right mood, to do whatever task it is we're trying to do. So, we all have the mind that resists and we all have the part that really wants to do the thing, and music is my best friend for that. So, if I'm feeling resistant, I just need to turn something on, and it changes the mood. So, it's not an app and it's been around forever, but I'm just amazed when I meet people who don't draw on that resource.

Sacha Black: One of my favourite apps is Shazam, which I use constantly. That's probably one of my most used apps, and every book has a playlist because it's like the tone and the mood and the feel. So, that one is definitely, I do that for sure.

Orna Ross: Yeah, I love that. And also, I think as well as using it to help you get into the frame of mind of the book, also getting into the frame of mind to work or to rest. So, music, again, Insight Timer has an amazing collection of music that is specifically about getting your brain waves in the right place for creativity or for other task-based stuff. So, there's a lot of really interesting research coming out showing how sound affects the brain, and how we can use that to our advantage as creatives.

It takes a few seconds to just remind yourself to do this and to switch, and you can just empower yourself hugely by doing some of these simple things.

Sacha Black: Okay, perfect. Any last words to listeners who would like to be able to write in multiple genres, but maybe have been disheartened in the past?

Orna Ross: I would say, do it. I would say, do it. My experience of writing in multiple genres is that I write more because I write in different genre, and that they feed into each other in a most interesting way. So, do it sequentially, as I spoke about at the beginning. You can say, okay, I'll get good at this one first, and then I'll add in another one. Or throw yourself in at the deep end and do them all at once but know that it will take longer for each one to come to fruition.

The most important thing as a multi-genre author is to realize that you are the brand. So, you are going to have to go across, and so there is going to have to be an integration, but also to know that takes time. So, you can't fulfil your wish to be a multi-genre author overnight. You just simply can't, so don't be pushing and harassing and harrying yourself. Take your time, and you'll need to find a way to support yourself to be able to do that along the way.

But in the end, you may have achieved more, faster, but it won't have felt like that.

Sacha Black: Yeah, amazing! Thank you so much. I guess that was my last question, so I think that brings us to the end of the interview.

Orna Ross: Perfect timing. Thank you for asking all the questions.

Sacha Black: You're very welcome. It was very interesting and it's heartening to hear that it is possible.

Orna Ross: Oh, it's possible. It's always possible.

Sacha Black: Well, I won't be here next time. It will be back to the marvellous Joanna. So, thank you for having me.

Orna Ross: Thanks Sacha, thank you so much. Thank you everyone for being here. Happy writing and publishing. Bye, bye.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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