Measuring Your Success as an Author

Measuring Your Success as an Author 01 by Casey Carlisle

You write, therefore you are.

Before we get into what can be a touchy subject for some, please note the title: I mention success, not commercial success. Which I feel is an important distinction. The latter seems to be the standard in order to gauge whether being a writer is, in fact, a worthwhile profession.

This topic came about from a discussion I was having with a few fellow authors when I had noticed an ex-business acquaintance posting about her award winning novel. How it was ranked #1 on Amazon. Now, from knowing her personally for over 10 years, I know she was never inclined with superb literacy. And upon hearing that I was writing books, and was going to be editing my mothers work (posthumously) to release under her name as a dying wish. It felt like she wanted to become an author to throw it in my face. Like anyone can do it. Like I wasn’t all that special.

Measuring Your Success as an Author 02 by Casey CarlisleTruth be told. Anyone can write a novel. But this woman was coming from a place of negativity. The past aside, I thought good for her. I’ve been toiling for years on content and yet to publish. She has achieved this in six short months. Though, when I investigated her claims, found out a little more about her book, nothing added up. No listing on Goodreads, no search results on Amazon, or Google for that matter. I couldn’t find it anywhere apart from a link on her website. It was a little overpriced. In the genre of self-help, and to be completely honest, nothing particularly unique or original. I could jump on Pinterest and scroll through the inspirational quotes and get the same sort of content.

Did that mean she wasn’t a success as an author?

So the discussion with my little gaggle of writers pondered the idea that you are a writer as long as you are writing, and an author as long as you have published something for public consumption.

The woman mentioned above may be an author, but she exposed herself as a bit of a liar by making sensational claims on stitched together content from very generic sources. My fellow writers wanted to discredit her because of how they put in so much time and effort to craft a novel, or memoir, and someone else produces something, in their opinion, substandard.

But that’s the thing about the access to self-publishing. We have started to see work that is solely produced as a revenue stream, a low-cost method to get your work out and support your claims that you are an established author.

I say good for them. Everyone has different tastes in literature, different ways they want to spend their own money. There is an audience for all types of writers.

Eluding further on the conversation, many of us were mixing up published online content with traditionally published and self-published material. It is such a diverse field. I had to bring up the fact that I do a lot of writing for web content, textbooks and manuals, technical writing, and ghost writing. Very little of which has my name attached to it. So it falls into the grey area of being labelled an author. I can’t point a something and claim I wrote it when I don’t have a by-line, or am not credited in the end pages. Today, we have infinitely more access and diverse modes of writing and publishing. I think the past ideas of a successful author aren’t holding true in today’s climate.

Not all authors are credited for their work. Not all writers earn money from their craft. Not all writers and authors are commercially successful.

Measuring Your Success as an Author 03 by Casey Carlisle

Talking to many writers, it seems the dream is to be getting that elusive best seller from being traditionally published. However there are alternatives to this ideal. Traditionally published authors reap the benefits of a system that has their work edited and published by a team, having their books positioned in book stores, department stores and online shops. It’s nothing a person with some basic know-how and a bit of savvy, and a lot of hard work cannot accomplish today. Online marketing has provided a great opportunity to anyone willing to have a go.

Blogs and podcasts have found success on their own. E-books have cornered a niche market. It is truly an amazing landscape in comparison to what existed 15-20 years ago.

Getting back to defining success as an author… is success earning a living from your publications? Recognition? Or merely the fact that you have been published? With the market being flooded with sub-par self-published material, general opinion on simply being published has become devalued. In a culture of influencers and social media, recognition seems to have taken a more dominant role. But that is tied into image, behaviour, content, and relevance. It’s a full time job managing an image just to market your publication. But individuals are doing it and winning. And as for earning a living from your published works… there aren’t a lot of writer friends in proportion to the number of writers I know of who are living above the poverty line solely on the profit and royalties they make from sales alone.

So, unfortunately, success as an author is a subjective term. It’s interpreted by the individual and their perspective. In my opinion as long as you are enriching the publishing landscape, touching readers, then you are a success. But don’t be like that woman lying about her book – she’s like a Karen. Don’t be Karen. Write with passion. Believe in your work. Support fellow authors and make the publishing experience a pleasant one, because heaven knows it’s hard enough for most of us to write a book in the first place.

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How would your measure success for an author or writer?

What is your opinion on a lot of these false claims made in marketing a book?

Do you thing self-publishing is sullying the reputations of published authors?

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© 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.

Decluttering your manuscript

De-cluttering your manuscript Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

When doing one of the final edits for your novel, it’s hard to get a degree of separation from the words on the page. Because you wrote them all. There is emotional attachment in every syllable. So there are a few tools I use to help me remove superfluous material and keep the flow, pace, and tension up throughout my story.

This is pretty close to a contextual edit.

Firstly I like to clearly identify the basics of my story. The beginning, where the scene is set, the characters are introduced, the goal or challenge is stated, and what is risked or the challenges to be faced will entail. It’s about world building and setting the tone of your novel. Are all the themes introduced – what are they? The middle, where the protagonist faces obstacles, be they personal, emotional, or physical.  Character growth and development from facing these obstacles. Is there one or more turning points, and do they reflect on the theme/s of the story. And the climactic end. A lose-everything-or-die scenario. High emotion, fast pacing, and does it tie up the theme of the novel? Are all your plot points resolved? Does it feel like a natural conclusion? Have you revisited and reflected upon the questions you posed in your introduction? I know all of this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many published novels do not fit this criteria. Identifying a clear start, middle and end will put a spotlight on scenes or chapters that diverge away from your core plot line.

Then I move to taking a closer look at each chapter or scene. It depends on your writing style. Some like to unfold part of the plot over a chapter, some do it through scenes. Some have long chapters, others short.

De-cluttering your manuscript Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe main thing I focus on here is asking myself questions like: Is this relevant to the plot of my novel? Is this essential for the character profile, or their development? Is this part of a character arc? Does this tie into my theme/s or shed light on part of my story? Is it increasing the stakes? Generally, if the answer is a negative, I’ll re-read the part of the novel with the section in question omitted, and if I feel it still makes sense and haven’t lost anything in regards to the main story, I’ll cut it. You can highlight it, save a new version of your manuscript, or put all the cuts into a new document in case you change your mind later. On a side note, these cuts are great tools for marketing later – publishing them on your social media or website as extras to entice readers. Never delete!

De-cluttering your manuscript Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleDon’t be afraid to be brutal with your cuts. Having a focused story keeps the pace and interest of your novel at a premium. Resulting in a reader so excited after reading one scene, they can’t wait to read the next. Making cuts like this and focusing on chapter or scene individually allows you to ensure it’s the best it can be, that it is leading the story forward.

If some characters are not supporting the protagonist or the main plot, cut them. Or just mention them in passing. No need to develop a backstory and motivation if they are not adding to the narrative or plot. A rule of thumb is like they do in television shows and movies – if the character is not important, they generally don’t have a name in the credits. Like ‘lady on bus,’ or ‘guy with glasses.’ Keep non-essential characters with those descriptors, so that they are an interesting observation in the landscape and not dragging your narrative with unnecessary tangents.

So that’s the basic premise I use to declutter my manuscript. Further to this, which is usually for the final draft, is a line edit. When I ask the same questions per sentence… and then focus on sentence structure, tense, perspective, spelling and grammar. And usually by that point it’s as polished as I can get it, my brain is melting and dripping from my ears, and I send it out to another professional editor/s to make it even better.

I find addressing questions that always bring me back to deciding if the material is relevant to my story are the key indicators as to whether cuts should be made.

I hope my method of editing helps you in some way for your creative process. What methods do you use that are effective – let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for great tools to improve my writing and share with fellow authors.

In the meantime, write something every day, and carry on.   🙂

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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.