Today we’re happy to welcome Anne O’Connell, an author currently juggling fiction and nonfiction writing, which, as you know, is near and dear to our Bookshelf Muse hearts. Authors are often advised not to switch genres—to find something you’re good at or passionate about and stick with it. But the truth is that for many of us, passion isn’t confined to a certain kind of story. We need to be able to write (and sell) the stories that interest us, whatever genre they happen to be. But how do we do it successfully? Luckily, Anne is here to talk about her tips on doing just that…
On this, the occasion of the launch of my first novel, I pondered briefly on whether or not I’ll be giving up the other writing I do… not a chance! Mental Pause is my first novel but my first book was @home in Dubai, a nonfiction book published traditionally by Summertime Publishing, and my second was a self-published e-book about doing your own PR. I enjoyed writing them all equally.
I consider my specialized skill to be simply…. writing. Do some writers have a particular niche they focus on? Most do and many ‘experts’ warn not to switch about, as it makes it difficult to market your services. That’s probably the biggest downside to switching genres. For authors with a following, it can alienate your readers. But sometimes you just need a change, right? If you plan on juggling genres, just promise that you’ll be back. It’ll be part of your messaging. If you’re traditionally published you might have a battle on your hands with your publisher, though. That’s when you might consider turning to self-publishing.
For me, I need the variety. After spending days on end writing web copy for a client, my eyes tend to glaze over and my mind wanders. Sometimes the screen even gets blurry. It’s amazing how invigorating it is to switch gears to a work of fiction. It’s almost as energizing as a brisk walk on the beach.
Switching genres may have its ups and downs but that doesn’t mean it’s not doable. Here are some successful methods for writing across genres:
- Look for inspiration to spark an idea (for business writing or nonfiction, it usually comes from a client brief or an area of expertise; for my novel it came from a night sweat).
- Write a synopsis of the idea. Just get it all down… it’s what I call a mental dump.
- Determine the target market for any type of writing before you get too far into it because that will dictate some of your language use and the level of writing.
- Write an outline. For business writing it’s usually pretty sewn-up before I write the bulk of the piece; for nonfiction it starts with a fairly complete chapter outline. But my novel evolved as I wrote it, from a loose idea and a bunch of scenes from my initial mad ramblings of a peri-menopausal woman that I had dumped into a document. I know some authors need to start with a more prescribed outline but your personality will guide you here. The important thing is to just write.
- Do the background research, which is equally as important for both. For nonfiction, it lends credibility and for fiction, believability.
Tempering the Confusion
If you decide to write multiple genres, be ready to manage a complex communications strategy. I’m in the midst of fine-tuning mine to make sure that it speaks to both my copy writing clientele as well as readers of my novel (hopefully many more to come). The novelist persona is very new so I’m gently introducing that side of me, while maintaining the ‘bread and butter’ of my copy writing side.
- I have redesigned my website that I’ve had for more than five years. I’ve made it softer and changed the focus from hard-core business to more of a personal feel. Most of my clients are in the service or consulting industries and are therefore more people centric, so it works well.
- I’ve added a books tab and am creating landing pages for my books (for @Home in Dubai it actually links to a whole different website).
- I have a website builder package that includes unlimited pages so I can add books as I write them. I create and manage my own websites using Go Daddy, which makes it easier and cheaper. I also use the same service for my email database and distribution as well as my online bookshop.
- I have a presence on Facebook, which I’ve been building for five years. I have a personal profile, which I keep for family and friends as well as several pages, one for me as a writer/author and a page for each book. There is some overlap but I try to post fresh content on each so those who are on all of the pages don’t get annoyed.
- I have chosen to only have one Twitter account (@annethewriter). I rotate tweets between all my endeavours, including my volunteer work. I gamble that there’s enough commonality among my Tweeps that if I post a Tweet about my book launch, it’s not going to turn off my current or potential copy writing clients, fellow expats or social media buffs who are following.
- I have two blogs, one for general writing and one for my novel. I think blog subscribers are less forgiving if you switch gears on them too much. I know I’m walking a fine line with that and probably need to streamline my writing blog a bit more.
- Like my website, my LinkedIn profile combines it all with a headline that reads, ‘Freelance Writer, Social Media Consultant and Author’ and sports the same photo that I have on the website. My status updates rotate in a similar way to my Twitter posts but are not duplicated.
- I’ve just started playing around with Pinterest so don’t quite have a handle on it yet but do have my book covers pinned (in different categories) as well as images that link to my blogs on writing and social media.
These are the strategies I’m using where I’ve combined all of my genres, but there are those that are specific to promoting my copy writing services, nonfiction book or launch of my debut novel as well. For example, the blog tour for my novel was totally different from the blog tour I did for @Home in Dubai. Book reviewers do focus on particular genres so once you have a list built, if you’re switching genres, you probably won’t be able to use much of it again.
When it all comes down to it, you’ve got to do what makes you happy, and for the time being, juggling genres is what does it for me.
Thank you, Anne! It seems to me that while writing different genres can be a challenge, it’s the selling different genres that can be a bigger headache. I agree with Anne, that you have to vary your marketing techniques and be prepared to do some extra work in the social networking arena if you want to have success in multiple areas. I’d love to hear more thoughts on this topic. Musers, what techniques have you used to write or market for different genres? What successful methods have you seen others use?
Anne has been working as a freelance copywriter, writing coach and consultant since 2007, specializing in social media, marketing, corporate communications and public relations. She is a regular contributor to Global Living Magazine and Expat Focus. In between clients she squeezes in time for her newly found passion – writing fiction. She and her husband have a passion for travel as well and that adventurous spirit has taken them all over the world. Anne grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has a bachelor of public relations from Mount St. Vincent University. She is the author of @Home in Dubai… Getting Connected Online and on the Ground, 10 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign – a Do-it-Yourself Guide for Authors and Mental Pause, her first novel.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.