Reflections on 35 years of writing

Reflecting on 35 years of writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

When people think of success in a career in writing, they immediately assume you’re a novelist. Your publications are available in most bookstores. They don’t think of name recognition, just that you have a book in bookstores. What a narrow view of success, and of the vocation as a writer.

In the early years writing for me was purely for enjoyment and escapism. Writing fantasy and science fiction stories, never meant of anyone’s eyes but my own to peruse. I was learning to stretch my imagination, the creative muscle, and the ins and outs of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. You never stop learning or flexing those muscles.

Shortly after high school I started writing articles for magazines and newspapers. But it was by no means my chief source of income, merely done out of love with a small financial recompense for validation that my writing was interesting and engaging… and on trend.

Reflecting on 35 years of writing Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleProfessional writing came through university and after. I’d take casual jobs to write letters. You know those awful form letters you get from large companies, so meticulously worded – yep, I wrote some of those. And from there I went into technical writing for text books, guides, periodicals; and into educational development guides breaking down curriculum and its applications for desired outcomes. It all sounds so very dry and snore inducing right? But that’s been the backbone of my writing income. I did think about returning to journalism, but after writing in such a fact-based medium, needing to include sensationalised headlines, marketing tag lines, dramatized text, and clickable content felt like a false economy. Like news was losing its integrity. Of course I could have been one of those writers swimming against the current and sticking to my principles, but it would mean starting over in unpaid internships and begging for a by-line. My heart wasn’t in the fight.

From there I branched out into online content for articles and websites, and coming full circle, started writing those science fiction and fantasy novels again. This time with a serious agenda to write something worth reading (and getting traditionally published.) Not to say I’m successful because I have a book for sale in a bookstore, but for the journey, the sharing of a story, for the fun of it. Plus, of course, there are so many more avenues to publishing and getting your work in front of readers these days.

Opportunities also came my way that had me accepting the challenge. Screenwriting, speech writing, ghost writing, developmental editing, line editing, mentoring, brand and marketing campaigns. All paid work. But still not the type of efforts that will result in having a book baby stacked on the shelves of your local bookshop.

It’s funny people’s assumptions on what I do as a writer. I’ve had relatives thinking I wrote children’s pop up books when I told them I was writing a young adult title. Most assume I’m sitting at my computer with a pot of tea and churning out bodice-busting romance e-books. It just goes to show how little the general public know when it comes to careers in writing. Where good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and a dash of imagination and organisation can take you.

Now, as a child I may have dreamed of finding something I wrote for sale in my corner bookstore. I’ve made a career out of writing in a different form, and there’s still time. I have had my work on the shelf, but in a different form, under a different name. But one day soon I will see exactly what I imagined my future would be like – but will that mean I’m finally a success? Haven’t I already achieved that?

Reflecting on 35 years of writing Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

What do you imagine as your success as a writer? How have your friends and families perceptions of being a writer affected you?

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.

Becoming a successful author

Today, it’s not just about writing a book, signing a publishing deal or self-publishing – you need to have a career path and a marketing plan as well.

Becoming a Successful Author Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

It’s not essential, but if you want to have longevity in the industry and earn decent financial recompense for the blood, sweat and tears you’ve invested in your novel, then pop on your thinking cap and start planning and brainstorming now.

If you approach any traditional publisher, they are going to want to know what your future plans are; and what you have already done to reach an audience for your completed manuscript. These days, traditional publishers don’t do a great deal of marketing for your novel either. Most of the time, the backing of their name on your spine opens doors to retail outlets and websites for copies of your brainchild. So yes, you get a wider reach to markets you wouldn’t otherwise get. And, let’s be real. The publisher re-coups all costs out of the proceeds of your sales over the length of your contract. On a side note, you need to be legal savvy in regards to the contract too – you could be losing out more than you think.

So while you reach a more global demographic and market, your return on investment will be much smaller. A publisher will not sign you on one book alone either. The need to see plans for future novels, or more in a series. It makes you a safer investment, a bigger cash cow. It’s more realistic to think about a 5 year, or even a 10 year plan. Know how long it takes you to knock off a book, have it edited and publish ready. Have multiple books already plotted out, and chapter samples for perusal. With such a competitive market, you need to give yourself the biggest possible chance.

All this is also true if you plan on self-publishing. If you want readers to invest in purchasing your novel, they need to know you are a writer of substance and sustainability. Tease them about the next novel coming soon. Hint that your first novel is the first in a series… You want to offer a promise to get them to return. And follow through! That’s why you have that massive plan for years into the future. Know your release dates and work to them. It adds to the buzz of your launches and sales if you can also get them excited about the next release. How many times have you finished a book and wish you could read the next in the series straight away? Cash in you your own hype.

Having this plan also lets you realistically work to deadlines and have a life outside of writing.

becoming-a-successful-author-pic-01-by-casey-carlisle

Now for the marketing portion. You need to put a plan in place for how you are going to get the word out, how you are going to connect and engage with an audience. Hand in hand with this you’ll need a centralised place for people to go and find out about you (and your releases.) Be it a website, a facebook page, or another medium, make sure you have something. Update it regularly with whatever is your marketing shtick. Pictures, funny anecdotes, news on your writing progress, writing advice, video clips, top 10 lists, make it is as unique as you are. Because you are your brand.

Ensure the people who read your book also use the medium you are using. For instance, don’t use LinkedIn to promote your children’s book. A little bit of common sense and market research go a long way.

There is tons of advice on the internet on how to use social media and build your brand – it’s literally everywhere. You don’t have to do all of the different social media outlets either. Choose a few that you are comfortable with, that you can use easily, and stick to that.

Calendar out your posts, countdown to a book release, tease the story. Do it for every book you release. Engage with your audience. There is nothing more satisfying to a reader than sending an author of a novel you loved a message and getting a response.

You can also approach a marketing company for help it you aren’t that savvy. Yes it costs money, but marketing is one investment that yields returns. You spent all this time writing your book, don’t you want to give it the best possible chance of becoming a best-seller? Marketing companies can do what is called ambient PR, and they also have contacts within the media industry. That equates to stories in the paper, television appearances, invitations to exclusive events, booking signing tours. And that’s just the basic stuff – maybe you want to get creative. Promote your book by skydiving and releasing pamphlets and live stream it on YouTube… it’s only as limited as your imagination (and let’s face it, your funds.)

Creating all this hype is like putting money it the bank, it grows in interest. People talk, word gets out and you reach a wider audience. That in turn also drives revenue towards your next book release. Just don’t leave too big a gap between releases without any marketing activities. No-one likes dead air. All that hype you generated will be for naught. That’s by you need to plan it out. Lock in calendar dates and go for it.

Becoming a Successful Author Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gif

It would be nice to simply download a marketing plan from a website – but the reality of it is, you need to create one specific to your brand, product, and demographic. If you write YA, then you’re more likely to reach them on twitter and YouTube, at the cinemas, music festivals… Think of colour, vitality, and a great hook line; create something to grab their attention. Romance readers, probably use facebook and pinterest more, frequent coffee shops and boutique stores… I know I’m generalising, but it’s to give you an idea of where to start.

Take note of marketing campaigns that have caught your interest – can you adapt that idea for your gain?

becoming-a-successful-author-pic-04-by-casey-carlisle

Creating a plan of books to be released, and a marketing plan to boot is an author’s business plan and feasibility study rolled into one. You’re taking steps to ensure your novel will sell, showing that you are a good investment, whether to readers, traditional publishers, or to yourself.

Give yourself the best possible chance for success, take some time and start plotting some ideas. Think big. You can always scale back.

UPPERCASE lowercase banner by Casey Carlisle.jpg

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.