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.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

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?

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.

Representation in Writing vs Own Voices

Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Many of the novels I’ve read lately represent diversity or own voices, which I have loved. So let’s take a deeper look into how writing is evolving in today’s market, and how much of the market share they actually represent… or are they just the latest fad? Is this reflected in my personal library?

Firstly, let me state unequivocally that I do not lump diversity or own voices into a marketing trend. Granted, they are being used as just that at the moment, but trends are an unavoidable phenomenon in driving book and e-book sales. We saw a surge in YA after the success of Harry Potter and ‘Twilight,’ then erotica in the wake of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ followed by a push in non-fiction, primarily memoirs and autobiographies… and of late it’s been LGBTQIA+ and diverse characters (including own voices.) This observation has come from what genre of novels publishing houses are accepting for submission, and where I’ve seen the marketing dollars spent on for campaigns both online and in-store.

But I don’t want to get into a discussion on marketing trends and the publishing landscape, I’m more concerned with what we’re seeing in literature, and congruently, how is it reflected in my own personal library and shopping habits? I know the things I like to read, but am I a snob when it comes to novels that support diversity? People of colour, LGBTQIA+ characters, characters with a disability or mental illness, empowered female characters… I think it’s about time I survey my shelves and tally up just where I sit on the spectrum.

In addition to that, I grew up in a privileged household, am healthy, able-bodied, and only lived through some aspects of discrimination and illness. So it limits what literature is relatable to me personally. While I like to educate myself and take a walk in other characters shoes to experience walks of life differing to my own, it still needs to be something I can connect with on some level. So the results of this discussion are skewed because of my life experience. I can strive for political correctness and inclusivity, but by nature, I will never truly know what it is like for some minorities. But literature plays a huge part in breaking down those barriers. As a former high school teacher I can see the value in this.

Blond student looking for book in library shelves at the universityFirstly, let’s take a look at my own shelves to get a sample size. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Though take into account that I’m only looking at novels that I have purchased and read myself over the last thirty odd years. So it’s encompassing a lot of marketing trends.

Here’s the results from a sample size of 400 novels:

Own voices                         12%    (including LGBTQIA+ and people of colour)

I feel it’s important to recognise an authentic point of view that’s come from a place of genuine experience. It shows not only diversity in representation, but also in that of authors. While I believe a writer can create any character they wish, I feel it’s important to acknowledge books that fall into the own voices category, because they did not have access to the publishing industry in the numbers they do today previously. It’s illustrating how reading and writing is evolving, and indeed humanity as a species. Maybe we’ll get somewhere closer to a Star Trek future than we think.

 

LGBTQIA+                           21%

(Representation in the main characters of a novel)

Disabled                               9%

(A physical disability of some description in one of the main characters)

Mental Illness                    20%

(One of the main characters suffers some form of mental illness and is one of the major themes of the novel)

Person of Colour              14%

(Representation in the main characters of a novel)

Gender Inequality           11%

(The major theme of the novel deals with female discrimination/inequality)

Body Shape                        9%

(Main Character has body size issues as a main theme of a novel)

 

 

A further breakdown of GLBTQIA+  – looking at representation in the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity of the main cast.

Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

The main observation of these statistics, is that if I did not take into account the last ten years of reading, all of these categories would have a sum total of less than 5%. So there has been a massive explosion of diversity in recent years.

We’ve seen the trend of more intricate storytelling evolve throughout the entertainment industry. Film and television are exploring more developed characters and storylines, including diverse characters. Flashing back to some of the shows and books I’ve read in my teens, they feel stereotypical and tropey nowadays. At the time I felt they were amazing, but if reviewing today, I’d tear them to pieces.

Two things surprised me, and made me a little proud, upon looking at the statistics of my library, is that I have around 15-20% representation of most of the categories above. That means one in five books I pick up are representing diversity of some description. Which is statistically comparable to the real world population. I mean, I’ll be working on getting those numbers much higher, but for all the talk that the publishing industry was dominated by white middle-aged men in the 80’s, to being overtaken by women today, it says a lot about my attitudes towards inclusivity and humanity in general. It seems I sought out diversity even in my teens, despite it not really having become a movement for another twenty years, or much of a selection to purchase from.

One thing I want to touch on a bit further is that of own voices versus diversity. It’s kind of like saying only gay actors can play gay characters in film. Writing is using words as tools, just as acting is using expression as tools. It has nothing to do with the creator. I say you can do either. But. Where a person who has been discriminated against in the past has managed to break out and add to the wonderful world of entertainment, it’s important to acknowledge their struggles and change from that experience. Why should it have been a struggle in the first place? What can we do the make it more accessible in the future? It doesn’t need to get uber-political, it just needs to stay rooted in common decency and mutual respect.

Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Looking at my TBR, there will be a huge difference in the statistics in years to come. I’m seeing a lot of queer books, novels dealing with mental illness, disability, and people of colour. I might have to make conscience effort to include more dealing with gender equality and body image to round out my library. But it looks exciting!

What other genres or categories am I missing that you feel are important to note? I’ve thought about class and social standing, but that seems to be a very dominate storytelling tool. Maybe I can call out representation of fellow redheads in literature? Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

My Challenge to You:

Take a look at your library, how many novels have you read that fall into the above categories? What trends have you noticed in the publishing landscape? Do you even enjoy diverse reads?

Comment and let me know the results.

Happy reading Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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.

Secret Recipe

Tales of a Temp were never so tasty…

Secret recipie Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I got kicked out of boarding school – but I won’t go into that story (maybe in another blog, it’s a comedic tale of rebellion). But that forced the issue that if I wanted to attend school in my home town, I’d have to pay for the fees, textbooks and everything else myself. That was my punishment. Enforced by my Father/Overlord. Otherwise I’d be shipped back to the cold halls filled with Nun’s wearing scowls and habits that smelled of mothballs. So I needed a job.

My rescue came in the form of a popular fast food chain restaurant. It was fairly new to our town at the time, and employed younger workers that could accommodate evening and weekend shifts. It took me a single day to find the job and get my first roster from what would be my third ever employer. I don’t think my father thought I was capable, that I’d cave in to his will and get sent back to his expensive boarding school with a tail between my legs. Well, I showed him! Watching his eyes bug out and veins pulsing along his forehead and neck, I informed him I had enrolled in the local (and Public) High School having fulfilled my required employment. I missed my friends, my home and was happy to never see the Nun run dorm rooms ever again.

Secret recipie Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleUnlike the institutionalised education I’d been surreptitiously ejected from, I became fast (food) friends with my blue-collar worker types. No snobs here… it’s hard to be stuck up when you’re covered in a thick layer of cooking fat and have mayonnaise stains in unfortunate places. Swapping pinstriped blue and grey uniforms for maroon polo shirts and tan pants, I bonded with my new mates facing similar dilemmas – needing money… from hard yakka. Plus, I was loving the new independence my own greenbacks afforded me.

I suffered through coming home smelling like grease, rude customers, hairnets, and a couple of occasions soaring into the air as I slipped on an oily floor. I don’t fall gracefully, I look like Bambi jumping on a trampoline: all flailing limbs and unco-ordination. All for the benefits of staying home and my own money. Another was left overs… my brother was my best friend. I’m sure he grew an entire foot over the year with all the extra food he kept sneaking out of the fridge.

Secret recipie Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleIt was a pretty cushy job, because of my big smile and eloquent diction, I was always placed on drive through. And I enjoyed it until someone did a grab and dash. But funny how you know everyone in a small town. Needless to say the culprits were caught on CCVTV and quickly tracked down.

Christmas brought a staff party, where three girls sung carols in beautiful harmony, affectionately dubbed the ‘Pointer Sisters’ (because they were aboriginal – I know – I shudder at small town mentality).

So by halfway through the year I had cracked my secret recipe to happiness: paid my tuition, bought my first car, expanded my wardrobe and had a social life. Even though the food may have had secret herbs and spices, it was the greens in my bank account I was more thankful for. Even though I’d been in the workforce before, this was the first job to make me feel like a grown up.

Tales of a Temp by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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 writers can ensure their work sells… by Casey Carlisle

Many of us use Beta readers – other writers, friends and family members… but do you get your target audience to scrutinize your work?

Image

Upon completing the ‘reader-ready’ version of a manuscript, wanting to get some feedback and assistance in editing, storyline and characters, many of us give our baby of blood, sweat and tears to someone to read. Usually it is a family member or close friend, and for others, it is a colleague within the field of writing to get some constructive criticism. It can be a nerve-racking or pleasant experience depending on who you give it to, and what their impression on your work is. Some of us don’t even use Beta readers, but I like to gauge the reaction of a few readers before I hand my draft to the editors and publishers. Being so close to your plot and characters for so long, it is quite often that there is something simple you miss, and a fresh set of eyes can be your saving grace.

I have two groups of readers I sample my writing on: friends I can rely on to give an honest critique and some fellow writers; and my target audience. There have been some posts on Beta readers discussing wether writers use them or not, and even what questions to ask to help gain valuable insight. Although, I haven’t seen a lot of talk on choosing your target market to offer their two cents.

Keeping a large portion of my recreational reading within the genre in which I write, not only to keep in touch with what’s happening in the industry, but to stay in tune with the voices of today’s popular culture. I write YA, and it’s been waaay (*cough*) too many years since I squeaked in rubber soled Converse down the concrete halls of a High School as a student. So how could I possible think that my scribblings relate to any pubescent reader? I research, I observe, I chat… and then pray my words stir their minds and souls. Even though I consider myself a mature, professional woman, there is still that insecure fourteen year old girl romping around in my head, fangirling, squealing, swooning and the occasional, ‘like..ew!’ So I have a small network of avid readers from fourteen to twenty that keep my finger on the pulse (and keep me young  – and sometimes feeling positively ancient).

It has yielded fantastic results for me. Not only has it challenged my writing style, but also improved the complexity in plots throughout the novels. They challenge my use in language and demand more interesting characters… and I can’t thank them enough. Their feedback has made it possible to reach out and grab my dream of being an author. Otherwise I may still be banging away at the computer, churning out pages and pages of prose that would never see the light of day.

Image

Now I wonder how many of us test our products on the very people we want to sell to? It makes sound business sense right? We’re road testing our product, and when some of us are putting years into a single manuscript, you want to be sure that we get something back. Yes, we may write for love and entertainment, but isn’t it also for the love and entertainment of others? A little research into who is going to read our book, how it is they buy their books and where they buy them from – all of this is invaluable information to keep in mind. For those of you who use social media to market your wares, why not use it to have a conversation with your followers: create a poll to garner statistics on where they spend their money. The more information and feedback you have, the better you can be in control of your destiny as an author.

Please like, share and comment below – I’d love to hear what you do to have your book ready before publication.

Image

© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.