Active voice – in health and writing

Active Voice Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

A short life update from a writer, taking a break from other book related content.

From the start of the year I challenged myself to start making writing a priority again. I mean I was always writing, but over 2017-18 my habits had strayed from my goals. Distracted by creating online content, bidding for copywriting jobs, and last Christmas when I took stock of my progress, it depressed me a little. So 2019 is all about prioritising and finishing projects. Also about my health. Since taking on this penmanship dominated career, my weight had dramatically increased, and my stamina for any type of physical activity dropped.

Active Voice Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleSo that’s the reason my activity on this blog has decreased a bit. I’m out there living life. Going to the gym, concentrating on writing, and finishing a number of projects I’ve been half-way through for years.

It’s working! I’ve had success with my body mass index shrinking, my strength increasing – and a lovely side effect is I feel energized and clear headed for writing. A creative career has a lot to do with stimulation – if you’re not feeding your imagination (and keeping your brain at optimal health) it will start to stagnate.

So I’m enjoying my new push of productivity. Though I have to admit, I feel a little guilty that I’m not reading as much, and consequently not posting reviews as often. I also loved researching writing topics for posts; and again, I have little to no time for that right now.

This is pretty much a mid-year(ish) check in. Not quite where I want to be with writing achievements, but it’s better than it has been in years. I feel healthier. I’m socialising more. Even today, after three solid days of non-stop rain, I’m out on the balcony writing and feeling positive, happy, and productive. Music by Andrea Kirwan in the background supplying the perfect atmosphere for the flow of words.

To all my fellow writers – keep up the struggle, find that balance, and push those book babies out into the world.

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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.

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Mental illness in writing

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

It might be a point of difference, a plot point, but mental illness in YA and literature can help save lives through education and lifting the veil on depression and related conditions. Before the person suffering takes drastic measures of their own…

I have a (secondary) character in one of my WIPs who suffers from depression, it provides one of the main characters in the story with motivation and characteristics important to their arc. However, while taking a break from framing out the second half of the novel, I jumped on social media for a nosey and catch up with friends. Two things happened that have me questioning my mentally ill character… first, a teenage girl in my family circle dealing with her own mental illness and a ton of online bullying; and secondly, the suicide of an idol. Part of the contributing factors leading him to his death were the continual hate he was getting online – he never felt good enough.

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

It really hit home. I truly don’t fully understand what it is to be depressed enough to take your own life. I’m much too proactive and positive for that. It must be such a desperate and lonely place to be. And I wish others did not have to experience such a painful and debilitating emotion.

Professional psychologists attribute some of this to a chemical imbalance in the brain, as well as finding the coping mechanisms to train your thought patterns… it all sounds so clinical in the face of such a devastating state of mind.

I know there is no easy fix for something like this, but I always wonder why the two people mentioned above in particular don’t take some control of their exposure to the hate? Granted, they are the victims, and by right should not have to limit their activities. But why in the heck don’t they just delete all social media accounts? Or block the trolls? Online haters feel safe in anonymity; and the numbers and reach of these kind of people are incrementally greater online. Why not just switch off, unplug, and concentrate on you. On what you can control?

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI understand asking that of today’s youth would be like removing a limb – but wouldn’t you rather value your mental health than put up with idiots and haters? It has become such a huge problem that we are dealing with since the growth of online communities. Depression, anxiety, and bullies are a dangerous mix – it can lead to suicide, substance abuse, or fatal retaliation. Thankfully there are ways to deal. Help lines, organisations, peer counselors, teachers, parents, friends, doctors, mental health professionals. While life online has exposed people to more hate, it has also connected us to real help. Plus, we can control what we are exposed to with security settings, blocking profiles, reporting abusers to moderators. It’s not a hopeless situation. And seeking help online isn’t as difficult as reaching out in person. There is no shame or embarrassment.

I feel like including characters in my writing, and reading about them in fiction, can help educate people about this issue in an informal and personal way. I may not fully understand the things that go through someone’s head suffering depression, but with some research maybe I can help a reader feel like they are not alone, show them ways to handle these strong feelings, and seek out the help they need? Some of the novels I’ve read have certainly educated me in handling grief, bullying, depression, and anxiety. It’s also shed light on other mental illnesses and disabilities and how individuals cope with them in their lives, like bipolar, schizophrenia, being on the autism spectrum. When I was a child, things like this were taboo. Never mentioned. But what I see today is that dealing with mental illness doesn’t have to be struggled through alone. People can overcome the difficulties. And it’s more common than you think.

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

It hurts my heart to see such a dark side of humanity laid bare when I think of those driven to take their own lives from bullying and hate. We don’t need to do that to each other. And to anyone surrounded by shadows and clouds, feeling worthless and alone – don’t believe those feelings. Don’t give in. You are a special, unique individual. A part of what makes this universe tick. Even though these words are coming from a complete stranger through a screen of some kind – you are loved.

 

And there is help.

 

Please call for help.

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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.

 

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.

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss…

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

… and setting up a cracker of a year!

Holy Hanna! I can’t believe it is already March and this is the first blog post I’ve written for 2019… where did the beginning of the year go?

For the last two months I’ve done nothing bookish or indulged in writing. Sad face emoji. Over the holiday period it was my intention to get some much needed spring cleaning done and finally go through everything boxed up from my mother’s estate. I’ve put off the unboxing for far too long. Mum passed just over five years ago and there were always distraction and other things that took priority. But there were no excuses over the holidays and the job is well overdue. Yay for me being proactive and ticking some of the less desirable items from my to-do list. I’m patting myself on the back for this one!

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Here’s me thinking a few weeks was all that was needed. Erm… I didn’t take into account the emotional connection to objects and photos. Each day was a rollercoaster between the joys of unwrapping something I desired – like my birthday; and something triggering the loss and grief all over again. Two weeks stretched over an exhausting six weeks. My over-ambition hobbles me again *shakes fist at the sky* However the experience has left me feeling lighter, cleansed, and motivated. If not more connected to my mum.

It’s reminded me of all the things I started writing for in the first place. Flashbacks to mum’s words of encouragement. It has re-invigorated my drive. Last year was feeling like it was difficult to make any progress – even though I had been. It simply came down to nothing being finished. (That’s what you get for running too many projects at once.) But it has left this year as one where I can start crossing items off my goals list.

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

It’s left me wondering if I should work less on the blog and concentrate on the professional landscape I’ve been building; or knuckle down and attempt to do both. I’m just a little concerned of burnout or overextending myself. (Like I always tend to do.) I don’t want to spend all my time at a keyboard, I value getting out and exploring the coast and Hinterland, connecting with family and friends. Guess I’ll give it a go and see how things work out. Both aspects of novel writing and blogging are fun – it’s just one is building a career, and the other is sharing the love of reading… choices.

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

So now I’m back in the swing of things, and we’ll see where this journey takes me. What opportunities I can create… and hopefully the regular schedule of blog posts won’t suffer.

In the meantime, happy reading and lots of positive and creative vibes to those on their own writing journey.

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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.

5 star reviews from the past 5 years

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Books that I award 5 stars to usually affect me in some way: strike an emotional cord, surprise me with the plot or writing, or allow me to completely escape into a fantasy world (or all of the above)… and I don’t award that perfect score lightly. So I thought I’d take a look at how many novels fall into this category; both read and published within the last 5 years.

I was surprised that it only consisted of seven books. Out of the over 400 novels I’ve read in the past 5 years, the list below were the only ones to shine. Maybe I need to start reading more new releases? Let’s take a look:

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe Martian by Andy Weir

I’m a huge sci-fi geek. It’s what got me into reading in my youth. But I think what resonated with me from ‘The Martian’ was how plausible it felt. Much of the novel is grounded in applicable science. Plus, I love working through problems. It was a real case of every obstacle being thrown at protagonist Mark Watney, and he systematically finding a solution to keep surviving. MacGuyver on Mars!

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleIlluminae, Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This series is action from start to finish. It has sassy, sarcastic, and diverse protagonists, a countdown, and more than one antagonist working against our heroes. With a narrative of collected documents, the pace kept going, and grabbed snippets of different perspectives in this action packed soap opera. The middle book ‘Gemina’ didn’t quite match the calibre of its companions, but this is a trilogy I’d recommend to anyone who wants a sci-fi read.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleCress by Marissa Meyer

I really have to get on with finishing up the rest of this collection! With a fairytale re-telling twist, this science fiction saga brings loveable characters that feel both new and familiar. I was struck at how the storyline kept to the tone of the original fairytales, but still managed to tell a completely new story. This series is the one that opened the door to re-imaginings of old fables. I’m interested to see where it all goes. ‘Winter’ is calling me…

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleSimon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Such a cute, quirky contemporary. I both laughed and cried out loud. It was so in touch with teen awkwardness and working out who you are that I could not put it down. So glad the film followed not long after, which I enjoyed thoroughly as well. None of the Creekwook books have lived up to Simon yet, but it is nice to stay in the universe for a while longer.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleThe Five Stages of Andrey Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

This was a dark horse of a book. I remember being tentative about this read at first, but it has become a favourite. It does deal with protagonist Andrew and his identity and orientation, but mainly it’s about dealing with grief. With an edgy contemporary style, and having to personally deal with losing a family member a year of two earlier, this resonated with me. Grief hits you in unexpected ways and can hang around for quite some time. It can ruin you, change your life. Sometimes it’s about crying, saying goodbye, and getting on with things; and sometimes it’s not. Shaun David Hutchinson’s writing style really stood out to me. A brilliant stand alone.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 07 by Casey CarlisleA Court of Thorns and Roses Sarah J. Maas

I’m not big on fantasy, but having found a new love for re-tellings, and the hype around Sarah J. Maas, I gave this trilogy a chance. I have to admit I was surprised by how compelling protagonist Feyre’s story is. How Maas interpreted the tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ We get a ballsy heroine, a trickster of a beast, and such an imaginative fae world… and the ending was not what I expected. So this one gets full marks for great escapism, strong female characters, and surprises.

And that’s it. All of my other 5 star reads were published much earlier and did not fit into this discussion. Four science fiction, two contemporary, and one fantasy. Considering my favourite genres are YA, Science Fiction and Horror/Thriller, I expected quite a different list. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Do you have any 5 star recommendations? Let me know in the comments, I need to start populating this list with more books!

In the meantime, happy reading. Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

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.

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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.

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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

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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

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