Book Review – ‘The Marque’ by Michael Patrick Harris

Western meets Space Invaders.

The Marque Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 57

From Goodreads:

The world has fallen beneath the rule of alien invaders. The remnants of humanity are divided into two camps: those who resist, and those serve.

Darrel Fines serves. He is a traitor, a turncoat who has betrayed his people, his wife, and most of all, himself. In this new world order, in which humanity is at the very bottom, Fines is a lawman for the violent and grotesque conquerors.

When the offspring of the Marque goes missing, Fines is charged with locating and recovering the alien. Caught in the crosshairs of a subdued worker’s camp and the resistance cell that he was once allied with, Fines is forced to choose between a life of servility and a life of honor.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This review will be short and sweet – because ‘The Marque’ is only 57 pages long.

While I enjoy sci-fi and horror, this combination was akin to Stephen King. Though I’m uncertain of the message.

The writing is gritty and dark and fiercely masculine. I think that is what disappointed me a little, I was hungering for a bit more perspective! A bit more mythology.

The Marque’ was more like a soundbite. A premise of a great story. A snapshot of an interesting character facing a moral crossroad.

And then it was all over.

Fantastic writing and imagery, great concept… but that is all this is.  I’d love to read a full length novel by this author, I have a feeling it would be incredible. Checking his back catalogue I can see he has only listed short stories and novellas on Goodreads. While I enjoy this medium of storytelling, I prefer novels. I like to get lost in the world building, character development, and feel the build of a fast-paced plot. You don’t get that in a shorter lengthed tome. Michael Patrick Hicks is definitely a talented writer and I recommend you check him out (but only if you enjoy mini-bites of fiction.)

Overall feeling: Not too shabby.

The Marque Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Marque Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.

Advertisements

Ghostwriting and earning money from writing under a pseudonym

Ghost writing Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I aspire to write novels under my own name… but at the moment, the majority of my income comes from writing for other people.

Ghostwriting, or writing for other people so they can attach their name to your work as the author is more prevalent than you might think. More so in Non-Fiction genres, but it’s pretty much everywhere.

When you take a step back and view writing as a whole – and not just novel writing – there are plenty of opportunities to earn a living. For me, I’ve diversified. I get a little bit here, a little bit there, and it all adds up enough to support myself as I chase my dream. That suits me. If I focused on a certain specialization, I find I get stagnant with creative flow, as well as being pigeon-holed as only being able to produce that kind of material. I like to mix it up and keep things fresh.

Ghost writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

The majority of my income is derived from Manuals, Text books, Academic Support Material, and Speech Writing. It’s also easier to do because it’s more about conveying facts than embellishment and world building. Plus I love research, so I find it fun. It’s the type of work where there is a team involved – you work to a spec, fact check, submit for feedback and re-write. You get a stamp of approval and it’s off to someone else to worry about the editing, formatting, publishing, and marketing.

It’s much the same as Article Writing for media, except in media you need to include marketing terms and hot topic phrases (*cough* click bait *cough*) which is usually for an established columnist who is on a break or overworked. You will get a sample of their writing style to match before submitting. If you do a good enough job it can mean a fairly regular source of work.

I used to do a lot of Copywriting, but am scaling back on that, as the Marketing environment has grown exponentially in the last five years, and with so much new talent and a technology/social media focus, I’m not wanting to take a year or so off to update my skills in order to compete. It’s time I’d much rather spend writing my own content.

Screenwriting is something I fell into, and I’m finding the more work I do, the more offers I get. It was a case of who you know to get this score. Always a part of a writing team, deadlines that must be met no matter what, and I’ve gotten to work for some big movie productions down to a scripted YouTube piece.

71a83a70-33b2-4e9c-89be-b9a98cf8220eAll of that is fun and full of variety, but I’m also branching out into releasing work under a pseudonym. Only because in the world of publishing and marketing, everything is genre based. You can’t become established as a Mystery writer and then drop a cookbook on your dedicated fan base. So it’s recommended by your publishing team to ‘brand’ yourself. And thus alter ego’s are born. Plus the different genres/forms of publishing differ greatly for each pseudonym. They have their own marketing plans and budgets, different demographics and markets. Although I’m only small fry, it makes me feel like some big corporation at times with all this diversification with my writing.

All that I’ve mentioned is well and good for an established writer. I’ve got degrees, industry contacts, and thirty years of experience. For those of you starting out, do the research. Each of these endeavors were the result of weeks of toiling through information to form an action plan. Know your stuff. The internet has provided you with perfect tool to get the advice you need right in front of you for free. It just takes some time and perseverance to pull it all together. Plus, you need to get out there and network. Attend industry conferences in the field you are interested in writing for, publishing workshops, writers groups – the more resources you have, the better equipped you’ll be. Make sure you have samples of your writing handy at all times, whether it’s something you can email, or examples listed on a website, these will be crucial for attracting paid work. Don’t be afraid to put in a submission for work. Call places or send them an email query. It is an investment of time in trying to set up and get prepared for an income other than that from your novel… but it will mean you are a full-time writer.

Ghost writing Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

These different forms of writing income have given me freedom to follow my passion, and although I’m not getting credit for my work in the form of notoriety – because it’s being published under someone else’s name. It does provide the financial freedom I need to work from wherever I carry my laptop. Plus releasing work under a pseudonym not only gives me a chance to brand work best suited to marketing activity to reach its target demographic, but also gives you the opportunity to try out different tactics in promoting. Whether traditionally published, or self-publishing, it will always be beneficial to learn how to sell your own work.

Keep at it author friends – find a way to follow your dreams!

uppercase-lowercase-banner-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

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.

uppercase-lowercase-banner-by-casey-carlisle

© 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 cover art – Using stock photos vs. Creating your own image.

Getting that professional edge.

cover art 07.jpg

I am a veracious reader. I peruse bookstores and online stores. And without provocation, I can confidently say that if the cover looks amateurish, I completely dismiss the novel, whether it be a well-written story or not.

While I hate to admit that I suffer vanity when it comes to book aesthetics, I totally judge a book by its cover. It is one of the biggest marketing tools at your disposal when it comes to releasing a novel, so it amazes me how some authors make little to no effort in this area.

The main culprits are overused stock photo images and bad photoshopping. We’ve all seen book covers where the exact same photo has been used on at least one other authors work. It’s confusing and tends to leave the reader feeling duped. Like the author did not value their work enough to invest in an original cover. So if you do use stock photography, use a treatment to alter it enough that it looks completely different to the original and reflects the tone or your novel. If you are paying someone to create you cover art, ask about the source material, where they got it from, what it looked like. If you are investing money in you book, it better be funds well spent.

cover art 04.jpg

cover art 05

There are some terrible photoshopped covers too. I mean, why bother? In a technological age where any 12 year old can upload quality pics on Instagram and Tumblr, you are just asking for your novel to be ignored if you are making a composite image that is poorly executed. If you want to do it yourself, take a few classes, watch tutorials online. When you think it’s done, compare it to covers of novels in your genre already available. If your answer is anything other than ‘Heck yes!’ then it’s time to start over.

cover art 01

cover art 02

Additionally these days HD cameras are so cheap. Lighting is not so hard to work out. Take a day and snap your own source material.

The only reason I can think of as to why some of the novels I’m thinking of have bad cover art is because the author in question rushed through the publishing process. Did they have a marketing plan?

Usually the quality of the cover reflects the content – well, in the readers mind anyway. So if you have sub-par content on your cover, do you expect it to hit a best sellers list?

cover art 03Take into account typography, placement of your font. Colour, tone and the images used. Will the cover still be clear in a thumbnail? Does it stand out from other titles in the genre? Does it reflect your story? There should be no reason to rush the most important marketing tool for your book baby. Take a week to sort everything out. A good cover reveal is a great event for creating hype. Use it.

There are even websites that can design a cover for you for a low fee. Cover artists really aren’t that expensive either. Take the time. Do the research. Or if you are a control freak, get some skills and practice!

We all want you to succeed and put your book in the best possible light.

uppercase-lowercase-banner-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.

Novella vs Novel

Novel vs Novella Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

What’s the difference between a novel and a novella? Is there a varied approach in how they are published and marketed? What is right for me?

The technical differences between a novella and a novel is chiefly length. A guide to the different categories is as follows:

Novel vs Novella Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

For this post I’m focusing more on the idea of when you’ve finished your work and you’re not sure what you’ve got. Or if you have an idea and uncertain of what form you should deliver it in. The information here is merely a guide. Publishers tend to stick within the rules, but as writers, we are artists and can always break through into something new.

Novel vs Novella Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleNovellas for me usually involve 70-120 pages, and focus on a single point of view. I see them as bite sized fiction that are strong in theme. I like them as additions to a series to introduce (prelude) or enhance the collection (from another character’s point of view.) But as a standalone, I usually feel like the story packs a big punch, have a fast pace, and leave the reader to think afterwards.

Because of this, personally, I’m not a fan of releasing a novel in parts. I know some authors do this to get around a current publishing contracts, or to create a hype in their marketing strategy. But I prefer my story to make sense, and not end in the middle of things – not to be confused with a cliff-hanger. A cliff-hanger is a suggestion of things to come. Ending in the middle of things is when hardly any of the plot points introduced at the start of your story have not been addressed or resolved. It’s a big turn off for readers too – so if you go down the road of releasing a novella, pay particular attention to this concept.

Novel vs Novella Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

With the structure and concept of novellas out of the way, we usually see them released in the form of an e-book. Yes, there are physical books published too, but you need to have a cost effective release to a ready-made audience for this to be successful, as the printing costs for novellas is proportionally higher. Hence the popularity for publishing in e-book form. It also gives a little exclusivity to the story. Later, if the novella is a part of a series, you can add it at the end of a novel (formatting permitting) as an added bonus in a limited release to give another sales boost.

I like the concept of a novella, its publishing options are much more flexible and offer unique marketing possibilities. Also they are quicker to create – or can compile of edited-out parts of your novel/series that you expand for a companion story.

This is all my preference, and how I like to use the form of the novella to my advantage. It’s slightly different in tone and pacing to my novel writing, and used to enhance a series. If I release a stand-alone novella you can expect it will only be in a digital format, a condensed punchy read.

Novels are my sweet spot. I like to get lost in the world I create on paper. Take my time to build the world and all of the characters within. So that inevitably leads to story arcs, backstories and differing motivations for my cast… and there is no way you can fit all that information in a novella.

Novel vs Novella Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

Developing a character and watching them change and grow through a number of experiences is a delight. Having that time to explore and discover the characters, mythology and landscape is what a novel is all about for me. You get to play with tense, point of view, printing format, change and build tension to set the mood. A novel opens up a lot more creative doors in storytelling to allow you to grip the reader. It’s complexity by nature creates interest.

Novel vs Novella Pic 03 by Casey CarlislePlus I love the journey in producing a novel – the editing and re-writes, the attention to detail. Like producing a film, there is much more involved than simply telling a story. It’s about editing, scene transition, tone, pace, a climactic ending. The journey. And then there’s the fine tuning of the physical product – formatting the pages, creating content for the end pages, cover art. How you are going to launch your novel, a marketing strategy and other related activities to get the word out. I find it all fascinating. As authors we wear different hats to walk in each of our characters shoes – and so in the real world with go through the same process taking on different roles to launch and promote our writing. It’s a constant discovery and learning process – especially in the advent of the digital age.

Depending which publishing track you go down: traditional or self-publishing, will also influence your activities. With novellas, I’m looking at more the self-publishing route. For me it means reaching a wider audience and having more control over the finished product than I would with a traditional publisher, as I mentioned, novellas are sometimes not so cost effective, and the return on them smaller. But with a novel, the reach of a traditional publisher exceeds what I could get online. It also adds credibility – not to mention the vetting process most publishers put your book through to really polish your baby to be ready for the reading public. You still need your own marketing campaign (and online platform) in tandem with that of the publisher, but a traditional publisher certainly opens doors that would otherwise remain padlocked down in any other route.

This is all very general and conceptual, but an interesting discussion and guide into the writing/publishing process. As the industry changes, laws are introduced, and the digital market grows stronger our options too will change. I’m excited to see where this all goes over the next ten to twenty years.

Will novellas become more popular in the advent of a generation of instant-gratification digital users leading the market? Or is a new multi-media form going to evolve?

Keep your eyes on the pulse fellow writers…

uppercase-lowercase-banner-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.

Book Review – ‘Darkness Under The Sun’ (#0.5 What The Night Knows) by Dean Koontz

You really shouldn’t talk to strangers.

Darkness Under The Sun Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Horror

No. of pages: 60

From Goodreads:

There once was a killer who knew the night, its secrets and rhythms. How to hide within its shadows. When to hunt. 

He roamed from town to town, city to city, choosing his prey for their beauty and innocence. His cruelties were infinite, his humanity long since forfeit. But still . . . he had not yet discovered how to make his special mark among monsters, how to come fully alive as Death. 

This is the story of how he learned those things, and of what we might do to ensure that he does not visit us. 

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

Spotting a review for ‘Darkness Under the Sun’ just before I was about to pick up ‘What the Night Knows’ was kismet. I quickly added this novella to my e-reader ready to submerge into a scary and thrilling prelude, set the tone to whatever paranormal force is to feature in the main novel. And what I read was sufficiently spooky, it reminded me of Roald Dahl or Edgar Allen Poe. I got an unnerved sense straight away about how the protagonist, a thirteen year old Howey Dugley meets a mysterious adult drifter new friend (Alton Turner Blackwood) back in 1989. And I think it’s meant to be on purpose. Red flags start to wave and the reader is meant to notice them… all to set them up for the twist. A twist that gave me a shiver.

Darkness Under The Sun Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI’ve been scared by some of Koontz books, afraid to step out of bed in the dark, too chicken to investigate noises outside my window at night. This tale didn’t do that. It left me feeling creeped out. That prickling of hair at the back of your neck.

I appreciated how Howie develops as a character and commits to paying recompense for his actions (fingering fellow school student Ron Bleeker as a bully who deserves recompense to Alton, whom he knows is dangerous) – which in turn takes on a philosophical significance of the story. Not before jumping forward in time to Howies 32nd year, and events begin to re-emerge mirroring the past he’s tried to forget and pay penance for. Leaving us set up for the novel ‘What the Night Knows.’ There is definite dark and supernatural things at work here. And ‘Darkness Under the Sun’ is the perfect teaser.

It’s a quick easy novella to read, Koontz’s usual colourful descriptive style marrying both lush beautiful landscape and brutal gore of a murder scene. Another favourite to add to my collection, you can be assured it is as good as Koontz vintage best. I’m even more keen to read ‘What the Night Knows’ and find out where this all leads and get answers to the mythology. A compact plot with a spiritual message.

Overall feeling: I think I thought I heard someone whispering my name in the dark… eep!

Darkness Under The Sun Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

 

Darkness Under The Sun Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.