Publishing : Australia vs Overseas… and the pandemic

Will I be able to afford to buy my favorite new release post-pandemic?

Does the U.S. economy have a monopoly on publishing economy? What do forecasters say for writers in America and Australian the face of the pandemic? Are our futures safe?

With today’s reach via the internet, authors can reach international markets with e-book sales easily; and shipping costs may impact sales for hardback or paperback copies, but that too can be circumvented by stocking large online resellers, or subscribing to print-on-demand services. If you are self-published, you have complete control of these revenue streams, but for traditionally published there is a quagmire of International law around sales and distribution that your publisher handles. Measured with a sharp eye on cost/benefit analysis whether your book will perform well in certain regions. It’s all a very intricate web of research, finance, legal rights, and marketing. So does it make sense for Australian writers to court American publishers for their debut with a traditional publisher considering USA has a double the market share compared to their home country?

It’s an interesting topic that gives me a headache if I think too much about it – because of all the moving parts. I know some published authors here in Australia mention that it’s hard to break into the U.S. market because they’re viewed as sub-par (depending who you talk to) and compared to Australian authors who have signed in the States and performed really well in all markets. Much of the information I’ve garnered is anecdotal, but it is from working writers, published authors, so there has to be a grain of truth to the snub Australian authors face when trying to break into overseas traditionally published markets. Or it may simply be that you are a big fish from a small pond entering the ocean… you are lost in a fierce amount of competition in turbulent currents with little or no experience on how to navigate those riptides. You not only have to have skill in writing, but a great team with connections on your side to catch the tide in your favor.

Okay enough with the sea analogies.

Given that the U.S. market share is the largest in the globe, (followed closely by China) there is potential to earn the most income from breaking into that market. So comparing authors (of any nationality) published in America to those of their Australian counterparts is like pulling up to a Mercedes Benz at the traffic lights and find your sitting on a scooter. Same amount of work went into the finished product, but you just didn’t have access to the market (and subsequently, the funds.) The average Australian author earns an average salary of A$13,000 (US$10,007) compared to an average author from the USA – US$51,170 (AU$66,473). That’s a huge difference in ratio of income to market share! What has me alarmed is that an updated figure for Australian Authors earnings after the impact of the pandemic reported by Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas and Charlotte Wood (when discussing the Federal Arts Package) recently have estimated the average income at as low as $AU 3,000 ($US2,319). No matter which way you look at it, the average Aussie writer is living WELL below the poverty line if they rely on this medium for their sole income. Despite the larger challenges, it’s looking like breaking into the American market is highly lucrative and worth the risk.

That research further shows that “among 33 OECD countries, Australia ranked 26th in the level of investment in arts and culture from all three tiers of government. The OECD average was 1.11% of GDP compared with Australia’s 0.77%.” So not only are Australians earning near the lowest income from writing in developed countries, it is also investing even less in supporting and developing this sector. I see incentives from writing groups here in Australia, and read great content getting published, but it honestly does not get enough hype and marketing overseas… we have such incredible talent, but when I look at market studies and government support for the industry, it makes me want to pack a suitcase and relocate to the States.

Many of the papers and studies I’ve been reading pre- and post-Covi-19 pandemic paint a fluctuating economy. Bookstores closing, yet book sales rising… it’s all very confusing. I feel it’s more like luck guiding our careers. Take a punt and cross your fingers to hope for the best. But above all be consistent and don’t give up… stay in the fight until you get your break.

So, putting aside all the technical jargon, let’s ask readers these questions:

  • Do you care about the nationality of an author when you buy their book?
  • Do you intentionally seek out foreign published works when looking to pick up a new book or rely on advertising materials or suggestions from the likes of Goodreads and Amazon?
  • Do bloggers or friends help you decide on your next purchase?
  • How much does cost come into play when you buy a book?

Because, honestly, the global market would not be sustainable if consumer behavior changed. If American readers branched out of regional sales in the publishing industry – and they can afford to because the cost price would be negligible – it would open doors for a truly global market. But does that mean the average U.S. reader holds the future of the global market in their reading choices? What do you think?

Personally, every time I buy a new hardback or paperback in Australia, I’m looking at needing to spend on average $AU25.00 ($US19.50) no matter what the country of origin. If I purchase online or instore… that puts buying physical books into the category of a luxury item when comparing it to the unemployment benefits we receive in this country. Just to put it in perspective. Obviously there are cheaper options, like waiting for a sale, buying second hand, borrowing from the library, or purchasing an e-book copy. But it means as a reader, my access to the market is limited. As an avid reader (and writer) that depresses me.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Wildcard’ (#2 Warcross) by Marie Lu

This takes gaming to a whole new level.

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 402

From Goodreads:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

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There was certainly more action and espionage in ‘Wildcard’ than in ‘Warcross.’ Where ‘Warcross’ is about Emika fitting in, ‘Wildcard’ is about how isolated she really is. The only person she can trust is herself. Her world is deconstructed and it’s up to her to piece it back together.

Even though I enjoyed the story, and there is plenty going on in the plot, I wasn’t as engaged with Emika’s plight as I was in ‘Warcross.’ Which is unusual considering it’s in my favourite genre and Marie Lu managed to up the stakes on all counts with this sequel. I’m thinking it has something to do with Lu’s writing style… a more succinct and descriptive construction may have kept my interest? I put this novel down a number of times… or maybe I was just having a “moment?” I will re-read this duology at a later date and investigate this issue further. But for now I’m attributing this phenomena to Lu’s writing style. Which is nothing in judgement of ‘Wildcard’ as it’s subjective and down to personal tastes.

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleEmika was a fun protagonist. She is resourceful and street savvy. Though we don’t get as much of the secondary characters from the debut, this novel deals with only a few core characters in her orbit.

There are a lot of unexpected twists in the plot, and maybe a few of them did not have the gravitas I was expecting. It is certainly unique but did not entirely resonate with me. But I could definitely see this working really well on the small screen as a television series. The pacing is great, there is a lot of action and interesting characters.

The overall tone of this duology is predictable – we want to see Emika triumph over Hideo and an evil corporation… though this is deconstructed fairly quickly – and though the theme is resolved – it is achieved in an unexpected way. So while we get the closure we need, it eventuates in a different form.

I’d recommend this for those who like light science fiction and YA, it is similar to novels like ‘Ready Player One’ and ‘Armada’ with the use of virtual reality, technology, evil corporations vying for control, and the protagonist as a part of a rebellion to even the status quo.

A fun read with a mix of futuristic technology and the implications of their presence on society, but I think I wanted a little more sophistication with the writing. A good solid read for the genre and demographic it is targeted towards.

Overall feeling: Good, but… meh

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Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Building Your Book Launch For $0 Investment

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Is it possible to market your novel for free? Let’s take a closer look…

It boils down to this: The more time you put into your book launch, the more successful it will be. But does your time cost money? Not really, unless you are taking time off work.

But still, you have to get creative and put in a lot of man (or woman) hours. It’s all about building a platform, a following, making connections, and getting the word out. To do this, you are going to need a plan, each step needs a deadline, all leading up to your books release date.

It doesn’t stop there.

You will need to continue the same activities to keep the momentum and build sales after the publication date.

It’s a lot of work.

Let’s break it down, and please note this is simply about marketing your novel. Costs involved in editing, printing, and publishing your book are not included here. All of the aspects I’m discussing are things that fellow authors are currently using to market their novel. Things that work.

Building a platform.

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThis basically boils down to having an online presence. A place that gives all the information about your published works, tells readers where to buy your book, and offers a way to engage your readership. This can be through social media sites, blogs, or building your own free website (make sure that you are not then hit with web hosting fees.) From speaking to fellow authors who’ve had success in this medium, the more interactive platforms garner the most success. Again, it boils down to how much time and effort you donate to the cause – and finding a medium that works for you. I’ve spoken to published authors who’ve had varying tracked sales from sites like facebook, WordPress, Instagram, tumblr, YouTube and twitter.

Facebook requires you to post regularly, and authors have had more sales conversions in interacting with writing groups and book clubs. Some have tried facebook adds, (which cost money) but have had little to no success in that converting to sales. I only think facebook adds work in conjunction with other types of marketing, and if you are more established so the public will recognise your book or name. Facebook was also great in contacting readers for reviews on ARC copies – which when posted on Amazon and Goodreads promote your book prior to its release.

Social media allows you to grow, and tap into communities, build hype, and pull together a street team creating buzz about your upcoming release (like a book tour.) Just about every author I’ve spoken to about this has said the minimum amount of time they spent building a following was around a year. Which, if you are planning a book release in advance is not too bad. You need to initiate marketing activity at least six months before the release date if you want to see a response in your sales.

Creating this type of buzz also turns into presales. You can get your following to buy immediately through presale options available on Amazon. The more sales you make, the higher your ranking, and the more Amazon will make your book visible in their recommendations section. So, planning is key!

Through the various aspect of your online platform you can collect email addresses to send out updates and reminders of your release date. It helps to prompt your readership to get sales. But don’t spam the heck out of them – it will have the reverse effect.

With the interaction you have with people on social media, it creates a relationship. They become invested in your novel, in you as a person, in your career. That translates into sales, support, and book reviews. They can also provide constructive criticism and help you grow into a better writer.

You can do this same type of activity in person.

Network.

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleAt book clubs, at free seminars and workshops at your local library. You never know who that one ‘person of influence’ is that will catapult your books exposure to the next level.

 

 

Build a press kit.

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleHave it ready and contact newspapers, magazines, television talk shows, radio stations, podcasts, review sites. You never know which one of these will run with a story. That is valuable exposure. It just takes time and research.

Generally you want to start contacting media outlets around three months before your release date to cash in on momentum – and give them enough time to publish or air an article.

Enter writing competitions.

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleThere are a numerous competitions running annually. If your novel meets the criteria for entry, why not submit it. Many require no entry fee – but some do. I know three authors who did not win, but were placed in the top five, or got an honourable mention. This is a great thing to entice a publishing company to spend more money on a marketing campaign. It gives your writing credence and exposes your manuscript to a wider variety of publishing professionals.

Being shortlisted for a prize is something you can put on your cover, list in your books description. It substantiates you as an author. Plus all those people who entered and monitor the competition are likely to purchase a copy of your novel.

Collaborative Advertising in End Pages.

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleThis is a bit of out-of-the-box thinking for those who go the self-publishing route, because you control the content in the blank pages at the back of the book. A group of authors who help each other out as critical partners came up with the idea of promoting each other’s novels in the end pages of their releases. You get a page to essentially place an advertisement for another author’s book, and in turn they do the same for you. And on e-book releases, you can include a link direct to your sales platform (be it Amazon, or a private e-store.)

Book Subscription Boxes.

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 07 by Casey CarlisleThere are a number of subscription services out there. They have different criteria for their featured novels, and a lot of the time they are themed. Do some research and see if your novel meets that criteria and contact them and see if they are interested in featuring your book. You can time it with your release date. It’s free marketing for your novel, reaching an already established and eager audience.

 Release a free companion novella.

Many authors do this, it a smart technique. Essentially you are giving away a free teaser of your novel. It’s usually in the form of an e-book and hooks the reader to order (or pre-order) your novel upon completion. Or you could use it as a free gift with purchase. ‘Buy my novel and receive this limited edition bonus material you can’t get anywhere else.’ It’s a bonus, it’s exclusive, only available from your platform for a short window of time.

Swapping banner ads, or collaborative advertising.

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 08 by Casey CarlisleI’ve seen this done with limited success. You have to be tapped into your demographic, and you need to choose an equitable product/market willing to do the same. You both advertise, or talk about each other’s product (or novel) on your platform. It does work, but I think it takes a lot of time to find the perfect fit and get the advertising part right.

Book reviews.

Building Your Book Launch for $0 Investment Pic 09 by Casey CarlisleWord of mouth recommendations are what drives the publishing industry. ARC copies of your novel can make or break your book release. Make sure you have your book listed for pre-sale so people can reserve a copy, and then those who read your ARC can write their reviews and it goes live instantly. Make sure the people you approach for reviews are not the victim of spamming emails or cold contact. The whole point of having a platform is to build relationships. Don’t send a free copy to a YouTube book reviewer and expect the sales to come pouring in. They don’t know you. Your book is likely to get shelved or donated and no exposure will come to fruition. Book reviewers love books, love authors. If you take the time to connect and build a relationship, their likely to reciprocate. Make sure they are in your target demographic and enjoy reading your genre before you even think of supplying a copy of your ARC.

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Regardless if you are traditionally published, indie published or self-published, you should be doing your own form of marketing. Get creative. There are no rules in how to reach a prospective audience. I’ve even spoken to an author who garnered huge sales from touring schools across the country to talk about careers in writing for English classes. She wasn’t spruiking her book, but curious minds ended up becoming fans and purchased her novels. Some authors have run competitions to help promote their novel… do a bit of research and come up your own version. Writing can be a solitary endeavour, but publishing and marketing certainly are not. If you are a shy recluse, sorry but you are going to have to find some methods of building relationships with people in some form in order to promote your novel. There are so many ways to do this. Above are a number of things that I have seen work. It all comes down to planning and investing your time. Like building a business or renovating a house – the more time you put in of your own, the less you have to pay someone else to do it.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to other authors you love and asked what marketing methods worked for them. Many have their own platforms, an amazon or Goodreads page. What’s the worst that could happen, they not answer your question? No big loss. But if they do help you out, it’s as valuable as mentorship because you are getting valuable information that works from an industry professional.

Put your thinking caps on and best of luck.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Warcross’ (#1 Warcross) by Marie Lu

A VR battle royale.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlsile.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 402

From Goodreads:

When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game – it’s a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When Emika hacks into the game illegally, she’s convinced she’ll be arrested, and is shocked when she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job.

There was the hype, the gorgeous cover, and rave reviews from Marie Lu’s past titles that had me snapping up ‘Warcross’ as soon as I was able, finding a comfortable corner to escape and read.

I was pleasantly surprised by this title, and it is the first novel of Lu’s that I’ve read. It came on the heels of a similar title ‘Ready Player One’ (and the movie release,) so I was ready to get sucked into a digital fantasy world.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlsileAlthough ‘Warcross’ was a little too ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…’ Even though our protagonist Emika was hesitant at times, she was lead throughout the story. I was wanting her to show some more grit and independence.

I was not sure about the Hideko-Emika pairing… what is the age gap? Did anyone else feel a bit creeped out by this?

Definitely my favourite parts were the VR game battles. I could feel the tension; and the pace and writing style kept me gripped to the page.

Nice to see the inclusion of non-abled bodied characters in the team, (yay diversity) and their presence as a matter of no consequence, and even the character (Asher) is considered cute. I‘m bored of disabilities used as a plot device or an identifier; and ‘Warcross’ definitely leaves all that ish behind.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlsile.gifThe VR world was built thoroughly, and I loved reading about the digital landscapes and conflicts; but the real world had some missing pieces. I wish the landscape was built more thoroughly as the virtual one was.

Some other drawbacks I had with the narrative was the low key, slow to build in the first half. I wanted it to build quicker, or drop some interesting cookies to keep me interested. ‘Warcross’ was mostly predictable, and did not feel altogether original. I think since ‘The Last Starfighter’ and ‘Tron’ movies back in the 1980’s anything using this plot device will feel ‘done’ unless the author can put a new twist on it.

Marie Lu has a great writing style, but was hoping for some more witty banter. I like me some witty banter. Or sarcasm.

Did I mention the cover art? OMG the cover! Drooling.

Warcross’ ends on a cliff-hanger – doh! Miss Lu executes a mic drop and leaves the room. Yeah thanks for that. Now I have the agony of waiting for the sequels release. Not to mention reviews of ‘Wildcard’ ARCs making rounds of the blogs – it’s torture.

Overall feeling: I want to be a hacker too!

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fiction or FanFic?

Fiction or Fan Fiction Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

When is a book not a book?

I recently came across a competition where an author was offering free publication for the winner, where the entrant can write a novel using the characters mentioned in his trilogy, with exception of the main characters.

While it sounds like a fun and exciting opportunity; a great way to expand the universe of a series you loved and get published. (Because, I gather you wouldn’t enter the competition if you did not like the series.) I even entertained the possibility for a moment. And then I realised that even if you get credit for the writing, you don’t own the intellectual property. The characters belong to someone else. And I’m sure the publishing deal would recoup the publishing costs and goodwill from the sales.

Which I hate to say, reduces the work you’ve put your blood sweat and tears into as simply fan fiction.

There is still a bit of stigma in the writing and publishing world around this kind of writing. It is slowly merging into a genre in its own right, but there are still legal issues around copyright, plagiarism, intellectual property and distribution rights that keep the waters muddy. Arrangements have to be made each step of the way with the author of the fan fiction and the creator or the source material for it to step into ‘big girl pants’ and become a real source of income from writing.

Maybe the author running the competition is looking for a co-writer to inspire him and keep the series alive, or grow the universe much like Marvel or DC Comics? I praise his ingenuity, but at the same time can see major pitfalls for emerging authors. Especially as a debut author. You’re not likely to get another traditional publishing deal when you have already pigeon-holed yourself as a fanfic writer.

That’s the information I’ve gotten back from many of the publishers I’ve questioned.

Having said that, many well-known authors are now writing in someone else’s intellectual landscape: Margaret Stohl with the Black Widow series, Leigh Bardugo with Wonder Woman, James Luceno within the Star Wars Universe, and I could continue listing more and more. Franchises are becoming larger and more lucrative, and writing fan fiction, is becoming a legitimate career. But, this would only be true for established, cult, and large franchises. Small and mostly unknown (like in the competition that sparked this blog) end up doing a huge disservice to an emerging author if they plan on releasing their own work in the future.

There’s a lot to be said for ghost writing, or releasing work under a pseudonym in these areas to protect your brand and credibility. But in a landscape that is in a major state of flux, the publishing industry struggling to catch up with technology and pop culture, claims professionals have made today, may change tomorrow.

In the end, it is the readers who hold all the power. Their decisions on what to buy and read will determine the future. Whether it be growing and expanding the fan fiction genre or not – remember YA and NA are only new genres specifically created from market trends in the last 5 or so years after the popularity of series like Harry Potter, Twilight, Divergent, and The Hunger Games.

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We even see this dilemma play out in Rainbow Rowells ‘Fangirl,’ as the protagonist, Kath, struggles to find a voice with her writing and her professors deeming fanfic not a real form of writing… Like Kath’s world, fan fiction is massive on the internet in real life. Even Amazon.com have recognised this growing market and launched its own Fan Fiction Publishing division, splitting royalties between the company, the original author, and the fanfic writer. Though all that time and effort only reaps you a 20% cut, compared to a 90% share for original work in e-book format. It’s certainly food for thought, and at the end of the day you need to be passionate about your work; and maybe the monetary recompense, or credibility, pale in the enjoyment you get from your creative outlet.

In any event, I’m fascinated to see where this phenomenon will go now that a wave of franchises and cross-media events are taking place in popular culture right now.

In the meantime, happy writing.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.