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.

Writing a business strategy (for writers)

A guide for beginners – the business of writing doesn’t have to be a drag, it can be an example of adventure.

“For the past couple of years, I’ve been fine-tuning my business strategy as a writer. At a recent writing conference, I discovered that many writers, even those with years of experience, find setting business goals daunting. It isn’t. It’s only frightening because it seems complex. By taking it one step at a time, your business strategy can be made simple and understandable.” – Lynne Lumsden Green

When I think of a business strategy for writing, my mind instantly goes to spreadsheets and budgets, but that is only part of managing your career… and the number crunching part is really a small part. Used as a way to track and monitor progress. An article published in WQ (Jun-Aug 2020) Lynne Lumsden Green discusses this topic which I think helps demystify the task many of us baulk at. She suggests that we start by asking ourselves these questions:

  1. What are your long-term goals? Where do you want to be in five years?
  2. What are your short term goals? What do you want to achieve in the next six months?
  3. What has worked best for you in the past? What hasn’t?
  4. What can you learn from your successes?
  5. What can you learn from your failures?

Upon first reading her article and going through the list of these questions an issue prominently jumped out at me regarding my own career goals. These questions prompt you to not only keep on track with your goals, but highlight what is, and is not working.

The key takeaway for me was the question about what is not working – how long have I been doing the same thing and seen little or no positive growth. It really gave me that ah-huh moment. It’s time I should be trying different methods, tackling different tracks towards my goal. What’s that old saying : doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I’ve gotten too comfortable in my systems and habits that it is now impeding growth.

These questions are all about finding out what works and using those methods to get you to your goals. Ditch what isn’t working.

Lynne Lumsden Green goes on to discuss:

“Let’s look at part of my business strategy as a stepping of point. For 2020, one of my goals is to get more paying gigs. This means I need to write nonfiction articles for magazines, as well as short stories for paying markets. From January, as part of keeping proper records, I’ve been keeping a monthly spreadsheet separate from my nonfiction submission spreadsheets. I started by wanting to sell an article a month, but I am hoping to increase that to one article a week by December. To do this, I need to develop a pitch/query at least once a week. To do that I must develop relationships with the editors of my target markets.”

“Can you see how setting goals leads to implementing a series of logical actions to achieve that goal?”

I love how Lynne explains desire/goal through to a practical application to achieve a result. My writing goals are more based around getting first drafts completed by the end of this year, gearing up for putting out for submission later in 2021. So I have set scenes I have to write each day (notice I didn’t say word count, but story elements of the plot.) In conjunction with this I am researching Publishers who are accepting submissions, what their guidelines are, creating paragraph summaries, tag lines, 1 and 2 page summaries, noting themes, writing up short character profiles… all that lovely marketing material you need for a pitch/submission. Additionally, some publishers (mostly overseas) require that you have a literary agent to represent you, so I have been researching that as well. Again, many are genre specific and have their own guidelines for accepting applications. Another aspect of this goal is researching writing competitions – these can not only put up on the radar of publishers/agents, but if you win, it commonly results in a publishing contract. All of this activity not only makes the whole writing activity real, but gives you a deadline. And each bit of information or step you achieve along the way is ticking off a small task towards your longer term goal.

If you want to get even more technical you could also be tracking the amount of time you spend writing, researching, marketing, so that when you start to earn money through a book advance, sales or royalties, you can estimate how much money you earn an hour. If it’s not high enough for your goals, then you can look at different ways to improve upon your system… and ultimately your earnings.

Writing when inspiration strikes, passively submitting a story here and there one at a time can be a little soul crushing because you are eagerly waiting for a payoff instead of concentrating on a schedule and already moving on to your next target/goal. A business strategy for writing forces you to take in a bigger picture, a career making attitude, and leave you little time to fall into depression from rejection letters and failed submissions.

Lynne Lumsden Green also states “As writing is my business, I try to keep to a schedule. I spend an hour or so every morning on mail, updating my files, and researching new markets. This part of my business strategy won’t be changing any time soon. I then spend an hour every day on social media. I recently had over 400,000 people come through my Steampunk Sunday page on Facebook; a ready-made audience for my writing! You might want to do writing courses or attend more conferences, or join a writing group, so don’t forget to include those in your plan.”

Again this shows by example how much a schedule, consistency, and trying new things are important you your long term success at being a writer. Simply posting to social media blindly does not ensure success, you need to add value, offer a solution to a problem, tap into a niche market. Research your demographic. Try different forms of social media. Reach out to other writers who are having success and mimic their methods for a trial period.

There are a lot of resources out there to tap into. Courses, platforms like SkillShare, YouTube videos, blogs with advice, writing groups, state and government bodies that are running local initiatives to support the publishing industry and writing community, even emailing an author with one or two questions to help you figure things out…

“Don’t forget to be brave. Take risks. Having a business strategy doesn’t mean it has to be boring.”

I hope this discussion helps to change your thinking and provide some inspiration to develop your writing career a little further. Go get ‘em!

© 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.

The importance of scheduling your writing time.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

You want to finally write that novel? Here’s a great tip that has never failed me. I’ve spoken to many aspiring authors and published authors, and inevitably the discussion comes around to how do you write? The getting-stuff-done part, not the process.

Basically it has come down to a very simple rule for me (and nearly everyone I canvased for this article) – you need to make a dedicated window of time each day/week for your writing. I did this while I was working full-time, and when I started writing from home full-time.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI have a rule of absolutely no interruptions for me to get in the zone and write. Even if the words aren’t flowing so well, I have a number of techniques to coax the prose. So writer’s block isn’t a thing for me. I have many tools to keep me writing, and multiple projects to jump to if needed. The biggest hurdle is having time to write.

No running chores, no telephone conversations, no social media, just a comfortable place to sit and get the ideas formed into sentences and on to the page.

At the moment I dedicate the minimum of an hour a day. I set a timer. And beware my demon snarling wrath if you impede on my creative time.

Usually I will write longer than this self-imposed minimum, but I found setting the bar too high stresses me out, leaves me feeling like I’m falling behind. It also allows me to plan my day, whether I have appointments, chores, or other life stuff to do; knowing I get at least an hour of dedicated writing time puts my anxiety in a box, buried deep in a dark hole, never to raise its bothersome head again.

Now this 1 hour minimum takes many forms in its delivery: I could be in my office, completely quiet; I could be in my pj’s lounging on the couch, the dog asleep on me feet; I could be at the library, noise-cancelling earbuds in playing chill-out tunes; maybe at the University library feeling studious amongst all those people filling their brains with knowledge; or even at a café where I can indulge in the atmosphere and the occasional pastry. Heck, I’ve even written on a blanket in the rainforest to the soundtrack of birds chirping, or under the shade of palm trees at the beach. Whatever is working for me at the time. I need to mix it up so I don’t feel complacent or stale. And as long as I get in a minimum of an hour a day to write.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Depending on your process, and your situation, you’ll have to adapt this concept to work for you. I know authors who write 10 hours a day in silence (in a stylishly converted shed); some 4-5 hours in a bustling coffee shop; I know a mom who has 1 hour of quiet time from her four children, locks herself away in the attic/office to get stuff done while her husband takes his turn of the child-rearing business. Heck, when I was working in the city and had an hours commute either way, I’d write while listening to music – that meant 2 hours a day to scribble out a narrative. Score!

Work out a reasonable goal for you, be it daily or weekly, and stick to it. Maybe you only write for a few hours on the weekend? You might feel the flow just before bed and spend some time before calling it a day?

It’s all about commitment and perseverance because writing a novel is a big, long-term project. There’s writing the thing, re-writing the thing, editing the thing, maybe doing all those things several times over, and getting the thing published. So creating a regular habit around your writing can only assist you tremendously in your journey.

Get to it fellow scribes.

 

Do you have any writing rituals that help keep you on track and motivated? I’d love to hear what tricks and tips you use.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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.

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!

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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.

Editing your novel

Blocking time and different types of editing – what does it take to edit your novel?

Editing Your Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

There are many types of editing that I’ve been exposed to, and not only do they have many names, but also overlap in function and many are re-visited in the publishing journey. There is no rule of what you must do, but it is advisable to develop your own process to have your manuscript publish ready. The more steps you include in your vetting process, the more professional your novel will appear. And we all want to give ourselves the best possible chance of success.

It can be daunting to hand over your book baby to someone else to critique, but I’ve put together some information that may help you view the process objectively and put you on the road to publishing success:

Editing Your Novel Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleContextual edit (Substantive or Developmental edit also called a Structural edit) – This type of edit is best done by a professional in the publishing industry. They should concentrate on story structure, organisation, coherence, logical consistency, relevance, continuity, world building, and character development. It’s ‘big picture’ thinking over your novel. To make sure it makes sense. That the basics are covered and you have a sound structure to build off.

This type of edit can be done on a partially completed manuscript, or a first draft. It’s about shaping the concept.

Story structure is about making sure you have a beginning, middle and end. Identifying the themes of your novel, its genre, and clearly plotting things out like the heroes (protagonist) quest and the obstacles they overcome. Ensuring a turning point (or points) and the climax of the storyline.

Organisation deals with a logical sequencing of your plot/paragraphs. You may switch and reorganise chunks of text to create a better flow to your story and cut other parts completely.

Coherence and logical consistency are all about making sure the story makes sense. That it follows a clear train of thought. That ‘voice’ or narrative style is consistent. Or that character perspectives are consistent and definitive from each other if including more than one point of view. This can also help identify tense, active or passive voice, show don’t tell, perspective (first person, third person, third person removed/omnipresent) and ensure each of these remain consistent throughout the manuscript.

Relevance refers to judging if the sentence/paragraph adds to, or drives the plot forward. Whether it helps develop the character, or sets a scene – otherwise it should be cut so as not to drag the pacing of your novel.

Continuity deals with the following up of events, mentions, dates, passage of time, names of characters and so on. For instance if you state early on in your novel that a character hides an object in a place, that it is resolved in some manner. Like tying up all the plot points. That Wednesday follows Tuesday. That the descriptors used for each character remains consistent throughout. This is a great step to eliminate plot holes and inconsistency within the physical world of your novel.

World building deals with how you introduce the reader to the rules, mythology, and description of the setting of your novel. How much is too much description? How much to suggest so the reader can use their imagination to fill in the gaps? This is important to ground your story and create a set of parameters in which your characters interact with each other and their physical environment. Again, show and don’t tell usually come into play where you are uncovering facts about the characters surroundings, or getting to know other characters through experience rather than a long paragraphs of info dumping.

Character Development is also an important aspect. You want the protagonist of your story to be impacted from the obstacles he/she/it faces and change from the experience. This also ties into motivation of the character – why do they do the things they do? What is driving them towards the goal/climax of the story? It not only adds for interest for the reader, but gives a sense of completion and the ability to connect with the character through a shared experience. At this time attributes of a character can be addressed. Aspects like race, gender, sexual orientation, special abilities, able-bodiedness, financial resources, social hierarchy, mental/medical ailments or disorders, physical characteristics, age… elements like these help paint a more realistic picture and add interest for the reader.

Word count – Depending on your genre, how you are publishing your work, and market trends, it may be identified that your manuscript may be too long or too short. In this stage of the editing process you will need to identify a word count goal (usually decided by your publisher) to work to. Publishers use this to not only stick to a budget when dealing with the cost in printing, or to meet an expected length commonly accepted by the targeted demographic. Word count will differ per publisher, genre, target audience and relevance to your manuscript.

A professional can complete a contextual edit from anywhere between three days to a couple of weeks depending on the length of your manuscript and how much work is needed. Editors also charge per word, so be sure to get a quote before committing.

Editing Your Novel Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Line edit or Copy edit – Where the abovementioned edit deals with larger issues of the story and structure, a line edit, or copy edit deals with intricacies in how it is delivered. Issues like grammar, style, repetition, word usage, and jargon come into play. As does relevance (again).

Grammar focuses on sentence structure, the sequence of words and their meaning. Style refers to the tone and feeling that your writing as an author invokes – something that is unique to your expression. Repetition looks at eliminating common words that frequently appear in your manuscript so that you don’t bore your reader with overuse of particular words. You can either rework the sentence or replace a word with a synonym to add interest and keep flow. Word usage usually refers to ensuring you are using a word in its intended context, that it makes sense, and that it does not confuse the reader. Jargon (and slang) can be polarising – depending on the intended format of delivery of your novel (i.e stream of consciousness) Jargon and slang are usually confined to dialogue, however if deemed appropriate, can be used in the narrative. The reason it’s not common practice is that because of the different culture and backgrounds of readers, you will be limiting your audience to those who are familiar with the jargon/slang you are using – and it messes with the voice and tone of your novel. Letting the reader create that in their own mind will help them relate to and connect with your novel. Excessive use of colloquial words may isolate your story from its intended market. Again relevance comes into play – ensuring each paragraph helps to drive your story forward and is not weighing down the pace of the novel.

A line or copy edit from a professional usually can take anywhere between three days to a couple of weeks depending on the length of your manuscript – as also will a content edit, or proofreading.

Editing Your Novel Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleContent edit – Depending on the style and genre of your novel, checking on factual information and their sequence i.e. dates, places, references; fact checking may be of high importance. You want to make sure all of these things are correct. It adds trust, integrity, and professionalism to your name as an author. This type of edit is especially important in non-fiction.

Proofreading – Is done after the above edits are completed. Proofreading is a light form or editing primarily used to pick up minor errors: grammar, capitalisation, punctuation, spelling, and word usage. This can be done by anyone with a high competency in the language in which the manuscript is written, and who has knowledge in the topics mentioned in the novel. Obviously a professional is more adept and identifying errors and suggesting corrections.

Formatting – This step deals with text, ensuring layout is appropriate for the medium in which it is being delivered (i.e. script, novel, electronic media, etc…) You determine how the words will appear on the page/screen. Font size. Whether you are having chapter headings or artwork. Number of pages in the printed copy. Content to be included in the end pages. Margins from the edges of the page or screen. It’s all about the physical appearance of your manuscript.

Formatting takes as long as it takes – it is dependent on technology, software, and process for the intended delivery. But it should not take any longer than a few weeks at most.

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Critical Partner – It is important to have at least one critical partner in your writing process. More if possible. A critical partner is usually another writing professional who writes in a similar genre as you do to help identify issues in pace, relevance, structure, impact, plot holes, potential triggers, flow, tense, and narrative style consistency. Commonly in the form of writer’s groups (or online groups) where you swap work for a critique for free. Its authors supporting fellow authors. It helps to have friends or professional associates within your industry, not only to become a critical partner, but also to be a resource of information, emotional support, and even a mentor in your writing process.

Beta reader – This type of editing comes at the end of the process mainly to determine the impression your story makes, or market reception predicted after publishing. Beta readers usually aren’t professionals, just readers for your intended demographic that will give you feedback on how your novel will be received. This can offer valuable insight of tweaks and issues that may have been overlooked and a valuable resource before spending time and money on publishing and marketing your novel.

The time it takes for a beta reader to complete offering feedback varies depending on their available time and reading speed. Some can get back to you in a couple of days, others can take longer than a month. But use understanding and manners when dealing with beta readers as they are usually doing it out of kindness. I usually touch base every few chapters for feedback while it is fresh in their mind with a list of questions on hand (and it keeps track of their reading.)

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I’ve listed the types of editing in the journey towards publishing in a logical order, but of course you may cycle back up the list, or jump down depending on your needs, resources, and state of your manuscript. It will also depend on if you are following a traditional publishing route, or choose to self publish; and well, how much money you want to invest in this step.

Editing services can be expensive, and you need to identify an editor who works with your writing style. You can find editors endorsed by your states/countries publishers and writing associations on websites. Usually they are registered and vetted for you, and you can send a chapter or two as a sample to see if you are happy with their style and get a quote for your entire manuscript before deciding on services. Critical partners may also have suggestions for different types of editors you can use.

Sending your work out for critique can be scary, but you have to develop some objectivity and a thick skin to give your book baby the best possible chance to succeed. Do your research and take the time to get it right. I find this list (and process) handy in the writing process for self-editing – so I have the manuscript as polished as possible before sending it out to a professional. Hopefully to reduce the number of times I have to pay for services, and flex and grow my writing muscles.

What is your editing process? Do you have any resources you can recommend to fellow writers?

In the meantime, happy editing 🙂

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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.

Re-vamping an old manuscript to make it culturally relevant for a present day release.

Can you polish an old turd?

Revamping an old manuscript Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I read through an old manuscript the other day and still really loved the story. But given it is one of my earliest attempts at writing a novel, it is rife with inexperienced writing and pop culture references from the 1980’s. So can you rescue an old story without completely re-writing the whole thing…? I’ve given it a bit of thought and listed some things below to consider in giving on old piece of writing a new lease on life.

Firstly, deciding on an era. Maybe I want to keep it set in the ‘80’s. It is certainly on trend right now. What was once a current and relative setting is now historical fiction? But I was cringing with the use of snail mail and landlines, and feel the implementation of email, webcams, and mobile phones would help in the pacing of the novel so that it is not tied down with too many details – and can eliminate some locations for a better feel and flow. It’s a personal preference, but I agree that the story would benefit from this. Again, as an amateur writer all those years ago, I hadn’t learnt to get rid of details not relevant to the plot – so this will help a lot.

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With setting it in a more contemporary time, all the pop culture references will need to be current – and easily identifiable. So bring on the research! What falls into this category of relevance and well-known, and will flow with the narrative? This can be fun, it means lots of television, movies, and scouring the internet.

Another big thing, and which seems to be on trend at the moment, are diverse characters: anti-heroes, women of colour, a spectrum of gender identities and orientations, differently abled characters, people living with mental illness… and the list could go on and on. We are seeing authors taking risks and exploring the human condition much more than ever before, so ensuring your cast is representative of the real world can only add interest and complexity. My earlier writing reads flat and is full of stereotypes and tropes – because that was all I had exposure to back then. So switching up my protagonist and supporting characters can only be a massive improvement.

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I am also able to identify issues with pacing much more easily these days. Due to experience. The floundering, flowery writing of this early piece is in desperate need of some tightening up. I go paragraph by paragraph asking myself these questions. It this relevant to the plot, the scene, or the character’s motivations. If the answer in no, it gets cut. Can I express this in a shorter, more meaningful (or punchier) sentence? In this manner, I can also address grammar, spelling, tense, active/passive voice, and eliminate too many adverbs.

Another attribute of my early writing is the simplicity in plot. It is predictable and tends to only deal with the protagonists outcome. So adding in some story arcs for secondary characters, a bit of their background to support their motivations to favour the protagonist sounds appealing. Then brainstorm twenty ideas for some plot twists and decide on a few…

And hopefully you have a much improved manuscript. Beta readers will let me know if I’m on the right track.

Have you tried to re-visit some of your old writing and breathed some new life into it? What tools helped you?

In the meantime – happy writing and editing.

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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.

Quarterly Goals / Resolution check-in

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2018 is one check in away – looks like there is going to be a mad dash towards Christmas to kick those goals!

This past quarter was awesome! I trail-blazed through the months writing like I was possessed. Got out to visit amazing places and caught up with lots of family and friends for some parties full of love and laughter. In my down time I read sooo many books and managed to get some house renovations done to magazine-quality aesthetics… pity it all happened in my head. Reality was a little different.

A few issues due to health and a holiday stole a chunk of time in meeting my goals for the July-September quarter. I was trying to force myself to finish a few projects… but with the creative process, wrestling to man-handle out the inspiration can have the reverse effect. So I stalled on the two WIP’s which would have been easily wrapped up if I hadn’t stressed myself out. Not writer’s block, but a creative slump. When you’re getting to the pointy end of a novel, the conclusion needs to zing. But I was zingless. 😦

Quarterly Goals Jul-Sept 2018 Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Though, here’s how I performed overall:

This quarter has shown the highest word count than in the past three years, however, I was working on scattered projects and not on the ones I wanted to complete. It was hard taming the muse. At least I have my groove back and am making progress – now I’m on the home stretch, as the year ends, so will many of the projects. *rubbing a rabbits foot, kissing a four-leaved clover, and tossing salt over a shoulder* It feels great to edit all the text that has been flowing from me lately.

I wanted to get some more of the renovations and furniture restorations done, but alas, while the words were flowing after a sparse previous quarter, I didn’t want to jinx it, so the manual labour I use for breaks was pushed aside. As too were any professional development studies, though, I did get a lot of research done around the publishing landscape and some marketing ideas.

Quarterly Goals Jul-Sept 2018 Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This quarter was more about getting back on the (writing) horse than anything else. I stopped blogging. Back to concentrating on the basics. Why I love writing, and what I was doing it all for. It seems to have worked, I feel like a weight has been lifted and am back to the regularly scheduled programme. So expect to see this blog coming back to life after just over a month away.

I’d say there was only a 20% progress for yearly goals overall – pitiful really, but I’m just glad to be writing again. Can’t express how terrified I was that my excitement over writing was gone. But there is only one direction left to go. Onward and upward!

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Next check in will be at the end of the year, and hopefully with some news of a publishing date in 2019!

Stay calm and carry on writing!

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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.

How reading sub-standard and low quality novels has bettered my writing…

…and things to look out for when I publish my own book.

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I see it all the time on Goodreads, readers DNFing a novel, and a review of a sentence or two saying how horrible the writing was. And that’s it.

Good for them. I’m not knocking anyone’s opinion. I’ve tried to give up on completing a novel, but my brain won’t allow me. I at least have to skim through so I can find out what happens and reassure myself that what wasn’t working continued throughout the book.

The biggest aspect of my OCD with reading is that I now turn even the worst reading experience into an educational endeavour. There are always good points and bad points in each story. What worked, what didn’t. I like to list how I would improve the novel as if I were an editor and about to publish the book under my own label – what changes would I want to make in order for me to sign my name to the title?

It’s helped develop a critical eye, and use these tools on my own writing.

So I welcome low rated novels in my reading habits. (But not on purpose.) It helps to hone my skills, pick up on things I hadn’t previously thought to identify in my own writing, editing, and publishing processes. Things like complex characters and character development, spelling and sentence structure, pace and tension are a given. But I have found elements in context, and writing style that I hadn’t noticed before. Issues with cover art, formatting, font size and style, information for the end pages, the quality of the physical book are starting to jump out more and more. Especially for self-published titles.

It has re-iterated how important it is not to rush the publishing process. Steps to take to vet and proof your work. And skills in marketing and market research you need to acquire to help make your writing a success.

I am slowly compiling a checklist for the whole writing to publishing process to put my own work through. Granted it is going to grow and evolve over my career as I gain more experience and insight.

Reading Substandard Novels has Improved my Writing Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleI’ve heard some of my friends say that it is a useless endeavour to read low rated books – that I should be focusing on top quality literature as something to aspire to. What’s wrong with doing both? I find glaringly obvious issues with my low rated book reading that I would have otherwise overlooked in top rated books. It’s like brushing up on the basics. High rated books give me examples of nuance.

It also helps stretch that editing muscle – a must for your own writing process. And helps to create not only a critical eye, but gets you in a frame of mind to distance yourself from your own writing. So heavy cuts and rearranging aren’t so gut wrenching. It helps you identify what is lacking so you can get that second draft even more polished.

It’s not about tearing down other authors writing, or striving for perfection in your own. It’s more about exercising the essential tools you need to improve the creative process. Creative flow is one thing – having it make sense and relate to a reader is an entirely different thing. That’s why we have rules in language, spelling and grammar; to help set a standard that everyone can build from.

So when I read something that makes me cringe for all the wrong reasons, I’m glad for the opportunity to identify what is not working for me and go about fixing it. Then I can mirror that exercise on my own content. It will help me grow – and hopefully keep the professional editing fees lower 😉

What is your opinion on completing novels that feel like a dog’s breakfast? Are you one to scrap it in and not waste your time, or do you at least have to see what happens at the end?

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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.

Plotting out a series

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How to keep pace and interest in a multi-book series and avoid the middle book slump syndrome.

The key to this is planning. And plotting. (…well for the way I work anyway…)

The goal is to have each book in your collection have a clear start, middle, and end. Have the hero/protagonist state a goal and achieve it (or not, depending on the tone of your story,) have their character grow and evolve from the experiences. The climax must be poignant and get resolved enough to satisfy a reader.

You can end on a cliff-hanger, or have some plot points unresolved to continue in the next book/series.

In the sequel/s you follow the same format where you also introduce new characters, new plot points, more twists and turns. You really want to up the anty and difficulties the hero/protagonist faces.

I like to plan out most of the basic plot points for the books before I start writing anything so I know where I can start to add in character arcs, plot twists, turning points, in a linear fashion. That way you can identify organically where part of the story breaks… and these breaks can constitute each novel in your collection.

Plotting a Series Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Even though this is an example of a single book in the Hunger Games series, the themes run across all three books – try continuing the graph for  the remaining books and you will start to get a feel for how to plot over a series.

 

A hero’s quest is always a great example for a series – in each book the protagonist faces a major obstacle/s on their journey for completion of their desire.

Maybe each novel reveals something that has our protagonist re-assessing the situation and going in a different direction, or towards another goal.

It could also be more of a contemporary tale with each novel dealing with a milestone in the protagonist’s life.

The important thing is that each novel is a complete tale in its own right, and the subsequent sequels build on the world and tension that was established in its predecessors.

Also it is important to keep the consistency in the writing style. If you change perspective, writing for a different characters POV, and the debut was in first-person narrative, continue with that for the sequels. Comparatively you need to continue with the same tense, active/passive voice. If you switch things up too much, the ground work you’ve established in the prequel/s becomes redundant. Readers are going to expect consistency, and breaking from that pattern is only going to disappoint – and end with bad reviews.

Having these basic ideas plotted out at the beginning keeps your narrative on track and allows you to chart the pacing of your novel. It also gives readers a subconscious hint of what is to come and will keep them engaged in your story.

Of course you don’t need to plot out an entire series before starting to write. It could be when wrapping up your novel you get ideas for a sequel because there is more you want to explore in the universe of your story… there is no set way to do this sort of thing. It’s basically finding something that works for you and sticking to it. But I personally like to have a guide. That way if I want to have fun developing my characters, building my world and adding in some engaging side plots or character arcs, there is room to play without turning my manuscript into an epic Stephen King length novel.

Again creating a series is only restricted by your imagination. We see series coming out set in the same universe, but with new characters – like novels set in the same town. Series taking on different perspectives of a core cast. Series of a protagonist overcoming a number of obstacles on their way to a single goal (think Harry Potter.) Generational series, following a family tree, each novel dealing with a protagonist from each generation. Maybe it’s simply following a character and each novel is a romance with a different love interest… Allow your writing to become a piece of art and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Hope these tips help in inspiring your writing and organising methods to keep you creating great novels to read. Let me know what helps you in plotting out a series. I love tips and would be forever greatful.

Happy writing everyone 😀

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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.