How do I write in multiple genres? That is among the questions answered on our #AskALLi Member Q&A hosted by Michael La Ronn, author of science fiction and fantasy novels as well as author self-help books; and ALLi Director, author, and poet Orna Ross.
Other questions include:
- How can I find a reputable translator?
- What is the best way to get free editorial reviews for my book?
- When setting up an account at a retailer like Amazon, should I use my real name or a pen name identity?
- In my historical crime fiction series, should I use the metric or imperial system in my descriptions? Which one will most engage readers?
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Watch the Q&A: Write In Multiple Genres and MoreHow do I write in multiple genres? That is among the questions answered on the #AskALLi Member Q&A with @OrnaRoss and @MichaelLaRonn. Click To Tweet
About the Hosts
Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.
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: Write In Multiple Genres and More
Orna Ross: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors' Member Q&A. I'm here with Michael La Ronn. Hi, Michael.
Michael La Ronn: Hi Orna. Happy May.
Orna Ross: Yes, here we are in May already. We always seem to say already.
We are here, as ever, to answer our member questions about self-publishing issues. They can be about making the book, selling the book, writing the book, hiring editors, anything. Any questions that you have about self-publishing, somebody else needs to hear the answers to as well, and that's the idea of this public session which we do once a month, where our members send in our questions, but anybody can listen in to the answers and learn from their experience.
So, Michael is the man with the questions.
How can I get free editorial reviews for my book?
Michael La Ronn: All right. Our first question is from Elaine, and her question is, what are some ways to get free editorial reviews of my forthcoming childhood memoir – I'll just leave it at that. What are some ways to get free editorial reviews?
Orna Ross: Okay. So, I'll cover the basics, and then I'm sure you'll have a few other ideas.
So, it is possible to get free editorial reviews, but it means that you have to spend time rather than money, and it is definitely time that's well spent if you are not already set up in that way. So, the number one people that you want to get editorial reviews from are your existing readers, if you've already published, or your ideal readers, if this is your first outing.
So, how you actually work the basics of this is that you need to set up a signup form on your website to collect email addresses, and you need to put a link to that sign up form everywhere your reader might meet you; online, on your social accounts, in the back of your book, and so on and so forth. Wherever you have a presence out there in the world, people should be able to get easily to that sign up form.
And then when you are ready, some weeks before publication, you can write to these readers and ask them if they would like a review copy, and a number of them will be delighted to receive a review copy from you. An ARC as it's called, Advanced Review Copy, for review.
And on the day of publication, you get their agreement, basically, that on the day of publication, they will put out reviews for you.
So, that is the reader-review end, and then for editorial reviews, what you need to do is you need to pitch magazines, book bloggers, and other influencers in your, again, in your ideal area, and if you have been publishing for a while, you're going to know more about this than if it's your first time out.
And essentially, you need to present them with your book. You need an advance review, sort of package, which tells them the title, gives them to the book cover, gives them a short bio about you, and tells them what the book is about. And there are people who will set up these reviews, and these blog tours, or podcast tours, or whatever, depending on the genre that your book is in.
There are people who will set this up for a fee. If you're going to set it up for yourself, you need to be prepared to put in the time and the effort. But putting together the basics, which is your signup form for your reader reviews and your pack, you know, your information pack about you, about your book and so on, that is basic time that is really well spent.
So, Michael, I know we have other ideas about how to get free editorial reviews?
Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Editorial reviews are, you know, it's one of the things I personally don't chase, because I think there's still some stigma against self-publishing with the editorial review piece. So, if you're trying to get reviews from reputable magazines or critics, and things like that, I just think that your time would be better spent reaching readers, like you detailed, Orna.
So, reaching out to readers who would potentially want to read your book, one, you'll have a higher success rate. Two, you'll probably get better reviews to begin with.
But, yeah, there's, there's lots of services out there that can help you with this. The one that comes to mind that I'm actually currently using is BookSirens. They're one of our partner members, and basically, they will put your book in front of their audience and then you pay for every reader that downloads the book. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to review it, but if people download it then you can at least get some information or get the book out to them. And BookSirens does a really good job of giving you data and information about the people who are reading your books.
They're not the only ones by any means, but there are several of these services out there that can help you with that, and that's where I would recommend people start. But I would also recommend that people have low expectations. I've used many of these services over the last 10 years or so, and you always go into it with, oh, I'm going to get a thousand reviews or a hundred reviews from this, and you may only get a few. But a few is better than none.
Orna Ross: Yeah, and I think, you know, you asked about editorial reviews, we're both talking about reader reviews. So, take from that what you will, but if you are absolutely determined to get editorial reviews, you can, but it is a time-consuming exercise.
You can, if you've written a really good book in your genre, but you have to understand that the amount of editorial space for reviews in the sorts of publications that make a reader go, oh, that's a good review from the New York Times, The Guardian, you know, those kind of, the space there is very limited, and it is very difficult for an indie author to get in. It's very difficult for a trade published author to get in, the space is really limited, and the big publishers have big budgets, which allows them to pay PR people who have relationships already. So, a lot of those slots are already allocated for many months in advance. So, that's the kind of territory you are going into.
Some of your readers may be writers in your genre, and you can take another author in your genre, particularly one who's well-known, a quote from them can go into the editorial review section on your Amazon page, that may be an approach to look at. And yeah, the other place is book bloggers. So, they are readers in your genre who enjoy reading and essentially read and review for pleasure, and you can find them.
A good way to source who might be good for you on an editorial review front would be to look at your comparable authors and look at their editorial reviews and see who's doing their editorial reviews and see if you can kind of replicate what they are doing in a way. That's a perfectly acceptable thing to do, it's an indie author practice, it's an everyone in business practice, to look at what your competitors, and although we're not highly competitive as authors because actually our comparable authors are our friends more than our competition as such, it can be a useful thing to shadow somebody who's doing what you want to do and begin to imitate them and begin to make connections with the people who like what they do, because chances are, they'll like what you do too if the quality is there.
How can I get my self-published book into bookstores?
Michael La Ronn: Exactly. All right. Next question is from Paul. I'll paraphrase his question here. In spite of a professional approach with a press release and other information to his local Waterstones, they still refuse to stock his novel. First question is why, and second question is there more he can do to get his book into not just Waterstones but just bookstores in general?
Orna Ross: It's very similar to the last question, you know, there is more you can do, but is it the best use of your time, energy and so on?
So, the reason that Waterstones are saying no to your novel is the same reason as the New York Times is saying no to reviewing your book, they don't have the space for you. They already have made commitments to other publishers with whom they have a pre-existing relationship, and they probably know that they wouldn't sell your novel.
If they thought they would sell your novel, they would say yes, but it's extremely difficult to sell fiction by an unknown author, extremely challenging. So, they understand that if they were to bring your book in and put it on their shelf, that would make you feel good, but it wouldn't necessarily result in a sale. They don't think it would. If they thought it would result in a sale, they would take it on. So, that's the reason they're not taking it on. They could be wrong, but that is their right. It's their business, they get to decide who they put on their shelves. So, they tend to go for the safer bets, which is somebody who has come through the trade publishing system of curation, of having probably an agent, definitely having a trade publisher, some editor thinks the book is worthwhile, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
They don't have time to read the books of every indie author who calls in because, you know, you are you with your book, but they get lots of those calls, probably every single day. So, you need to kind of look at it from their point of view.
Having said all of that, and kind of raining on your parade, it is possible, but you need to put a lot of time in, and as we said at the beginning, is that the best use of your time? If you are determined, I really would advise you to read our guide by Debbie Young, How to Get Your Self-Published Book into Bookstores. It's very good on helping you to understand the limitations and the structures within which the book retailer has to operate themselves.
And also, is it worth your while, because you will receive a very, very low margin from a sale of your book in Waterstones or any other physical book outlet. And if you are using print on demand, which I presume you are, you are going to find that the margins just don't work out, you won't make any money on the books.
So, you have to ask yourself why you want to do it, and what is your definition of success? If your definition of success is to see your book in Waterstones and nothing else will do you, then by all means, go for it. If you're actually trying to set up as a working indie author and earn your living from your writing, then we would strongly recommend that you concentrate on eBooks first of all, and possibly audiobooks as a secondary digital audio. And then, and only then, begin to think about physical books in physical bookstores.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, you said it well. So much friction comes from trying to impress people that just aren't interested in working with indies, you know, and I think, Orna, you said it really well, that it's just a matter of business, and there's just going to be a lot of booksellers that just aren't going to take your book. And even those that do, you may not sell any.
So, I don't know. I was having a conversation with an author not that long ago, in my family actually, an aspiring author, and the funny thing was that it was a print-first mentality, and I had to kind of explain, you really want to be focused on the eBook first. So, it's an educational, it's a learning thing. And ultimately the choice is yours, and yeah, just see what happens, but where most people are getting success is through eBooks, and then once you have some more success, maybe the bookstore becomes a better option.
Orna Ross: Exactly, you can show them proof of your success and then they begin to think, oh, maybe this person can actually sell some books through the store, because they want to sell books, so do you, but they've got all sorts of constraints. A print-first mentality is a great way to describe it, and it's a very, very common thing in authors, and it's completely understandable because most of us grow up reading print in school, and at libraries, everywhere. We tend to meet print first and we tend to think of that as the way, you know, that's what a book is and an eBook is kind of secondary to that, and a digital audiobook isn't even reading at all, some people feel. So, there are a lot of preconceptions like that, that you need to examine as an indie author when you start out. And the thing to do is to bear in mind that, as time is kind of moving on, people are introduced to eBooks now at a younger age, and so they're not going to be thinking about it that way.
And from the point of view of being a successful indie author, what you need to do is do what's easiest and fastest and cheapest at first, and then become very good at that and get that to a stage where it is as automated and as kind of evergreen a process for you as possible, and then bring in the more complicated stuff, and print books through bookstores is the most complicated form of publishing there is. And even when you succeed, I had a semi-successful print book a long time ago, long before digital self-publishing was a thing, and I gave it up because the administration was punishing; invoicing and returns and all of that, it's a very complex, very challenging business model. There is a reason why so many bookstores go to the wall. It's really difficult for them, as well as us. So, yeah.
Anyway, if you're determined, have a look at, How to Get Your Book into Bookstores by Debbie Young. If you're an ALLi member, as you are, it's free to download in the member zone.
How can I create a translation of my book into another language?
Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from member Garita, and the question is, I want to create a translation in German. What is the best way to go about doing that?
Orna Ross: There are two kinds of tried and tested options. One is to actually hire a translator yourself or use a service which will find a translator for you, translate the book, upload it onto the platforms in Germany, Amazon particularly, and try and market your book in German.
Now, obviously if you are a German speaker those kinds of things become easier. If you're not, it's difficult. It's not difficult to hire a translator, it can be difficult to check the translation and make sure that it actually works and is a good translation for your readers, that can be a challenge.
But the thing that's really challenging is marketing in another language, in another country, how you're going to kind of get around that. So, some indie authors use the translator also as their marketing person. So, they translate their tweets, and they basically take their English marketing set up and translate it over into German and run that for them. All of these are expensive options.
Another way is to sell your rights to a German publisher who will actually give you a small amount. When I say sell your rights, license your German language rights, to a German publisher for an advance on royalties.
You have to have sold a certain amount in English before that becomes a real option for you, but once you can prove that you have sold significantly in English, and to be honest, you shouldn't be thinking about translation until you have, but once you can show them that, then you will find that German language publishers may well be interested if you choose the right publisher that's publishing in the right genre, and so on.
So, lots of research to do whichever way you go. But certainly, the licensing of rights is the easier way, but there isn't as much financial potential. But the other way is lots and lots of time and lots of effort with potentially more income in the end, but you've got a lot of big challenges to crack.
Michael La Ronn: Yep, I agree. I don't have anything else to offer on that one.
What are some tips for authors writing in multiple genres?
Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from Shelley. I would like some advice for authors who write in multiple genres. I will never be the kind of author who can write in one genre over and over again. What are some tips?
Orna Ross: Okay. Well, you're talking to the right person here, to the right people here, because we both suffer from the same affliction. I wish I could be that author that just settled into a nice groove and enjoyed myself so much in there that I didn't need to go out and create another groove, but anyway, there we go.
So, my tips are separate things out as much as you possibly can, particularly if you're writing in non-fiction and fiction, which again, both Michael and I do.
So, I'm Orna A Ross on my nonfiction. Michael is ML Ronn nonfiction, if I'm getting that right? Yeah, and reasons for that are because on the Amazon store and other platforms, your also-boughts start getting what's called polluted if your genre are all over the place. So, a person bought your novel and then, you know, they're getting recommendations for self-publishing guides, in my case, for example, which is where I was for a long time. Everything went out under one brand name, it's relatively recently that I changed that. So, that would be my number one tip, would be segregate them. And segregate the funnels, you know, get a really good email manager, I use ConvertKit but most of them do this pretty well, most of the good one. Segregate how your reader arrives to you and the funnel that you bring them through. So, you should have different autoresponders for the different genre, don't talk to your fiction readers about your poetry or your nonfiction, and vice versa, or your fantasy readers about your steamy romance, or whatever it might be. Keep them separate. Separate branding, separate colours probably, separate design all of that.
It can all get a bit unwieldy, which is why it's great if you don't have to do these things, but you will confuse your reader and sell nothing if everything is all in a mishmash. So, that would be my primary tip, is do the work. If you insist on being that kind of writer and that's where you get your kicks and that's what you enjoy, then do the work to separate it out.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, no, that's good. The question that has always guided me as a serial genre hopper is, how do I get the right books to the right readers at the right time? And if you ask that question in all areas of your creation, your distribution, your marketing, that will help you.
So, I have three pen names. I have Michael La Ronn, which is my main pen name, where I write fiction under. I've ML Ronn, which is my non-fiction pen name, and then I have a poetry pen name. And a few years ago, I launched another pen name for fiction, and I said I was going to put all my urban fantasy under it, and that ended up being a mistake. And I'm not saying that people shouldn't do pen names, but the reason it ended up being a mistake was because I had separated my audience too much.
So, it's almost like you have to find a happy balance. Like for me, for all my fiction, what I try to do is, like Orna said, is I have one kind of unified brand that all of my Michael La Ronn titles appear under, for the most part I've gotten most of them switched over. And it's, you know, my name really big letters at the top and then the title of the book on the bottom. For my science fiction and fantasy, I'll alternate the fonts. So, for sci-fi, I'll use more sci-fi-ish fonts, for fantasy I'll use more fantasy fonts. So, that within a few seconds of looking at the cover, you kind of know right away, okay, this is a fantasy title. Oh, okay, this is an urban fantasy title. Oh, okay, this is a science fiction title. And you want to be able to cultivate that.
And then when you have people on your website you want to be able to cultivate that as well. So, make it easy for them to find what they're looking for. It's not a problem when you have one or two books, it really becomes a problem when you have like 80.
And so, how do you get the right book to the right reader at the right time? I know some people are like, well, I only have one or two books, and that's fine, but if you keep doing this it just pays to start thinking about that now. There's just so much I wish I would've done in the beginning of my career that I didn't do.
So, branding is a key. How you organize your website is also vitally important. So, if you write science fiction and fantasy, do you have a tab for science fiction and a tab for fantasy on the website that people can get to and see really, really easily? You know, just little things that you can do to help readers along, I think makes a big difference in the long run.
So, I just encourage people to think about how do you get the right books to the right readers at the right time? And that'll help guide you.
Orna Ross: That's a great guiding question, no doubt. And I really liked what you said also about getting the balance right. So, for me, when I was thinking about it, when I was doing this separation, which is a few years ago now, I was thinking about separating fiction and poetry, but in the end, I actually kept the Orna Ross name for fiction and poetry because there's some crossover. It's not huge, but there are some crossovers because the kind of people who like to read my novels, some of them, a small subsection of them, also like to read poetry and vice-versa. So, I kept Orna Ross for what I think of in my head as my literary work. And then, Orna A ross for anything that's how-to, helpful nonfiction, that kind of thing.
So yeah, it is definitely a balance. And yes, guiding people through, so when people go to my shop there's the overall category of fiction and poetry. So, you make that decision first of all, then you jump into the different series under the different headings. And I think, again, it's a bit like the questioner who was asking the earlier question about bookstores, why won't they do it?
We need to put ourselves in the feet of the people we want to do whatever we want them to do, and in this case, it's Michael's guiding question, I think it's brilliant in terms of putting yourself in the readers, and science fiction and fantasy is a good example. There's crossover there, a lot of people who read one read the other, but if you're writing something completely different, a completely different other genre, then you might make a different decision, and it's going to be different for every author. So, yeah, play around with it a bit. And if you have an existing fan base, even survey them on it a bit, and just get a sense, start thinking about it from the reader's perspective, rather than just from your own perspective.
Can I create an Amazon account that’s just for my author business?
Michael La Ronn: Agree. Okay. Next question is Marie. When first selling on Amazon, would you recommend setting up a new account for your author identity separate from your personal account?
Orna Ross: I would. I mean, I don't have that, it drives me nuts. I would but, yeah, it's not necessary, but just for me, it would make my life easier just with the way things have turned out.
Michael La Ronn: So, just to clarify, you have basically set it up through your personal account? Or how do you have it set up?
Orna Ross: So, what happened was, again, it's one of these situations where I had to backtrack it. So, I had just set up my basic email address and then using that email address, I began to publish books as well.
So, when I'm making a purchase and I was publishing books, it was all getting too much. Now at that point, I was just, I shouldn't say just, but at that point I was a freelance sole trader operator. Subsequently there was a business account, then there are two business accounts because there's also obviously ALLi as well.
So, I'm just saying that from the start, I wish I had kept it separate. So, I'll have a personal account where I make my purchases and do my other things, and my publishing addresses is something separate, which I had to do it, I had to reverse engineer it.
Michael La Ronn: Okay, because I was always under the impression that you could only have one Amazon account, and that was regardless, I don't know, can you create an Amazon account in the name of your business?
Orna Ross: Yes, because it's a separate legal entity.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah. So, yeah, if you can do that, that's probably the better way to do it. Another way to think about it is through estate management too, you know, being able to hand it down to the next person who's going to take over your affairs. It's easier to do that with a business account, most likely, than it is to do with a personal account.
Orna Ross: Yes, that's a good point actually.
Michael La Ronn: But this is actually a pretty complex thing, because Amazon is, and we're not just singling out Amazon it's because the questioner asked about Amazon, but there's just some weird things with Amazon that make it difficult sometimes to plan for the future. Google's kind of the same way, I mean a lot of the companies are kind of like that. So, there's a lot to think about, a lot to consider, but if you can maintain that separation, as Orna said, in the beginning, it makes a lot of sense.
If you can't, it's not the end of the world.
Orna Ross: Exactly. It's not the end of the world. It's a slight inconvenience, that's all. Yeah.
Should I use historically correct details when writing historical fiction?
Michael La Ronn: Yep. Okay, next question is from John. I'm writing a historical crime fiction set in Australia before the metric system. So, I didn't know this, but the question is, is it standard to use the measurement system of the times i.e., miles and yards?
Orna Ross: Yes. Miles and yards, shillings, and pounds and all of that?
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, if it's a period piece, you probably want to do that. Otherwise, it would be kind of weird, but he was just thinking, oh, this might add some more complexity to the story for people who don't know the metric system.
Orna Ross: Yes, and people don't necessarily understand what is a shilling, you know, I'm sure young people don't have to learn what shillings and pounds and all of that, or yards and miles, are, but I think it's the same rule as for any historical fiction, you know, the reader is used to that and it's part of the colour and atmosphere of the period, and if you put today's stuff in there, you're going to get, the history buffs are going to be on like lightening saying, “back in 1872, they would've said yards and miles, they wouldn't be saying kilometres” or whatever. The reader is forgiving of the odd thing that they don't quite understand. If they get the general sense of colour, they prefer that.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. Putting the wrong metrics or, you know, if you put meters in there when it should be yards or vice versa, you will definitely attract bad reviews if you do that, because it'll make it look like you didn't do your homework. So, I would agree.
That goes for that, it also goes for slang, you know, making sure you're careful about any words that you use that people wouldn't have used during that period. Clothing, landmarks, so the appearance of certain buildings; sometimes people are super specific, and they will catch you on those little details.
So, you've got to be super careful and really, really check and double-check, and even consider looking into having a fact checker help you with some of that stuff; someone who's got a lot of knowledge about that period or about a particular subject are, just to help you catch some of those moments where readers will be pulled out of a story.
Orna Ross: Absolutely. I honestly think there is a band of historical fiction readers who just read historical fiction to catch you out and write their email or give you the review that tells you where you went wrong.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it's a tough genre to do research for, for sure. That's why I write contemporary stuff.
Where can ALLi members find the IngramSpark discount code?
Michael La Ronn: All right. One more question. We'll just end with a perennial question that we get all the time, Orna, where can members find their IngramSpark discount code?
Orna Ross: Okay members, your IngramSpark code is on the same page as all your other discount codes. You'll find it under discounts and deals in the member zone. So, you have to log in and then you navigate to the discounts and deals page in your profile, and there it is among the others.
Michael La Ronn: All right. Well, I think we're at time.
Orna Ross: Okay, that's great. So, thank you so much. We'll have somebody else here next month, Michael is unavailable and I'm not sure who that will be yet, but we will be back, same time next month, with more member questions answered for you.
So, if you're a member, please do send your questions through. Again, you'll find the place to do that in the member zone. I think it's allianceindependentauthors.org/member-qa
We'll be here next time. In the meantime, if you need a more urgent answer to your question and it's not one for public airing, you can, of course, as always just email the member desk at [email protected].
So, until next time, happy writing and happy publishing.
Michael La Ronn: Alright, take care everybody.
Orna Ross: Bye, bye now.