Welcome to the Golden Age of Audiobooks … by Richard Rieman

Audiobooks are the fastest growing medium in publishing. How far have audiobooks come? The first audiobooks were called “Talking Books” and were created in the 1930s for people with visual disabilities in America and Britain. This group included war-blinded soldiers and blind civilians who couldn’t read braille.

It was illegal for sighted persons to listen to LP audiobooks from 1934 until 1948, because publishers and authors’ unions controlling royalties and rights did not want them made available for public sale. They might cut into book sales!

Audiobook listening on Audible rose 35% last year, and audiobook sales have increased 20% worldwide each of the past three years. There is still a lot of room for growth!

The number of books being given a voice is rising dramatically, but there are still far fewer audiobooks in each genre than print and eBooks. It’s a great way to reach a new fan base in your genre.

Fiction Rules!

The top audiobook genres are Mystery/Thriller, Sci-Fi/ Fantasy, and Romance. Listeners far prefer fiction titles (64% of downloads) to non-fiction titles (36% of downloads).

It’s not just Harry Potter books. Publishers Weekly reports self-published audio has also taken off, with Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), and the rise of consultants and studios catering to authors who want to self-publish their audiobooks. Author’s Republic, owned by Audiobooks.com, also helps self-published audiobook authors distribute their work in competition with Amazon’s Audible.

Audible offers production services through ACX, but to receive a 40 per cent royalty rate publishers must hand over exclusive distribution rights to ACX (compared to 25 per cent if rights are retained to distribute on CD, to libraries, on other retailers and internationally.)

Audiobooks as Long Podcasts

"Podcasts are the gateway drug for audiobooks" …the words of Tom Webster, Vice President of Strategy at Edison Research, at the 2016 Audio Publisher's Association Conference in Chicago. Webster pointed to an explosion in podcast listening as a major reason why audiobook listening is on the rise. He explained it's directly tied to an increase in listening over smartphones. Those who consume podcasts on a weekly basis listened to an average of five podcasts per week.

“Media consumption is showing signs of being dramatically changed by both technology and by new paradigms,” said Edison's Webster. “The rise of alternative content forms, such as podcasts and ‘bingeable’ content from on-demand video services is subverting the myth that our attention spans are shorter.”

When I told a teenager recently I was an audiobook narrator and producer, he told me enthusiastically, "I listen to audiobooks! Those are the really long podcasts!"

Just a Click Away

No more cassettes, (almost) no more CDs; audiobooks are now just a click away. Digital downloads now account for 85% of listening. Beyond smartphones, new cars are including Audiobook listening apps, libraries are using services like Overdrive to offer free listening, and even Amazon’s Echo devices play audiobooks.

Falling Costs

Audiobook publishing and production costs are falling. Depending on the producer and narrator, a self-publisher can expect to pay anywhere from $600 up to $4,000 per title. The major publishers who have a cast of actors, music, and sound effects – creating more of a radio play than an audiobook, spend over $50,000 for an audiobook production.

To simplify the costs of audiobook production, I have broken out the costs per 1,000 words. You can expect to pay between $10 (if you split your royalties with your narrator) and $30 per 1,000 words to get an audiobook version. The more you are willing to pay, the more experienced your narrator/producer will be.

Unrealized Potential

This is the last in my series of RMFW blogs about audiobooks, so let me leave you with these final thoughts from acclaimed Author and Narrator Neil Gaiman:

“The rights to an audiobook often remain unrealized and the book is never recorded. There is huge potential sitting there, too – the potential for creative work, the potential for new income, and the potential for good listening.”

Please give your books a voice, and join the “Golden Age of Audiobooks.”

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RMFW member Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and an in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of “The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation,” Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

#April … by Rainey Hall

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One year ago, I declared April 11, 2017 as “Write Any Way You Want and Forget about Bridging Paragraphs Day” aka “Babbling is Okay.”

March madness is over, the green jacket has been given away, sunlight before 8AM; Autism Awareness Day, Earth Day, Professional Administrator's Day, Passover, and of course after-Easter chocolate sales. No fooling, April is quite the month—which naturally brings me to rabbits.

Contrary to what many believe, rabbits do not lay eggs, they deliver them. Honest.

Have you ever seen the movies Hoodwinked or Wallace and Gromit? They’re good mysteries for children. However, both films portray bunnies as being very, very, very bad. The screenwriters totally thought big and out of the box.

One Easter, my dad brought home a huge cardboard box. In one corner hidden beneath brown and green grass lay a gift for us kids—a baby bunny. Turned out that rabbit was magic! No, she didn’t pull herself out of a hat. Somehow she turned into what, seven bunnies, and then twelve, and then… Hey, rabbits taught me practical math. Think about it.

Turns out Easter isn’t a hot item in fiction, but the books that mention the holiday have all done well. For instance the Nebula Award-nominated Black Easter by James Blish, or The Red and The Green by Iris Murdoch. The Easter Parade by Richard Yates is said to be one of his finest works. The Country Bunny was written in 1939 and to my knowledge, has never been out of print.

If a classic movie tickles your fancy, Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade, (comedy/romance/musical), originally released in 1940 is still a go-to film.

April is a popular vacation month too. My cousin’s kid and her family just took off for Hawaii. I volunteered to chicken sit for Silver, Penny, Anna, Scarlett and Gwenelsa. Either Gwen or Elsa died, but since they looked so similar nobody knew which was which so the names were combined to remember the innocent. Haunter, their cat—yeah, I’m a little intimidated by the name too—stays hidden in the pajama drawer. Worry not, she must be alive—well at least something is eating her food.

Many attention-worthy events happened this month in history like the birth of Maya Angelo, the blind and impoverished John Milton is said to have sold the copyright of Paradise Lost in 1667, and in 1992 Betty Boothroyd became the first woman to be elected Speaker of the British House of Commons in its 700-year history.

Which brings me to this month’s lesson, a quote by William James: “Let everything you do be done as if it makes a difference.”

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A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

How to Use LinkedIn & Twitter to Find an Agent

So, you’ve been to the Gold Conference. Took classes on how to write. Went to RMFW Saturday talks and bought several books on the craft of writing. You then went to work on your novel. That story that’s been bugging you since your sophomore year of high school. That novel. You wrote it! Congrats.

Now what?

You could self-publish. Nothing wrong with that. But something in your heart says you want to go traditional route. OK. It’ll be hard, but your game. You came this far, right?

The next step is to find an agent. An agent who will use their contacts in the publishing world and fight for your book. An agent that will love your novel. How do you find that agent? How do you contact them without sending money to unscrupulous people promising to deliver you to hungry agents?

This is where technology and our awesome modern world can help you find that agent.

Now I do have to warn you that just because you’ll have the technology on your side doesn’t mean the process I lay out will be simple or fast. It will still take work on your end. Here’s what you’ll need:

  •             Internet access
  •             Spreadsheet software
  •             A Twitter account
  •             A Linkedin account

They are very easy to use. Linkedin will take some time to put together a polished profile, but Twitter is really fast.

What you are going to do is use the search function of Linkedin and Twitter to compile a list of literary agents to put in your database. You are also going to read the agency profiles to determine if it will be a good fit for you. You’ll then comb through the individual agents, determine which ones accept the kind of novel’s you’ve written, and begin compiling their information in a spreadsheet you will create. While you research agents to query too, some of their sites will mention their twitter handle.

Many agents have Twitter accounts. If you find an agent you want to query, then follow them! Read their posts and figure out what they like! Remember, a query letter is like a resume for a book. Today you’re supposed to tailor your resume for every business you apply too. The same is true for a query letter. (Why query an agent who loves women’s lit when you’ve wrote an epic fantasy with traditional gender tropes? Do your research!)

You could try to friend them on Linkedin, but you’ll probably get a lot of rejections. Also, NEVER query someone through Linkedin. Linkedin is a way to make professional business contacts, NOT sell yourself. (Which is what a query is supposed to do.) If they decide to friend you, great. But don’t make it a priority.

Have you made your Linkedin & Twitter accounts? Good. Now, start a spreadsheet with columns for the following:

  •             Last Name
  •             First Name
  •             Agency
  •             Agency website
  •             Agent Contact info (or, simply an email address)
  •             Submit guidelines (Optional)
  •             Phone number (Optional)
  •             Twitter handle (Optional)
  •             Submit window (Optional)

OK, we there yet? Awesome! Now have three tabs of your favorite web browser open, along with your spreadsheet. Go to Linkedin and type in “literary agent.” You should get 3000+ hits. This is where it gets monotonous and hard. You have to go through every profile that comes up, find that agents company webpage and visit it. (Hence the second browser tab.) Most agency websites will have bios of their agents with their past sells, a little back story and what they like to represent. Read that part carefully. If you believe working with this person will help you, put their info in the spreadsheet. If not, move on. Many of these agents will share their Twitter handle there, too.

Don’t think this can be done in one day. Also, think big. Compile a list of at least twenty agents to query. You can put that agencies submit guidelines in your spreadsheet, or when you’re ready to query, visit the site again and follow the instructions at the time you send it.

Remember, this will not get done in one day. Take it slow and make sure your query is top notch. (Look for Query blogs on this site, or websites that explain it.) I wouldn’t query more than 1-2 agents a day.

Most agency websites say expect 3-6 weeks before you get a reply. Every agency is different, however, so read their guidelines carefully.

Finally, be a professional. Don’t nag, or complain to people. If you get a rejection letter (or no letter at all,) please do not take it personally. There will be plenty of other agents willing to read your manuscript and one of them is bound to love it. It might just take time.

Don’t harangue agents on twitter or Linkedin. Create business relationships with these social sites. Agents get thousands of queries a year. Many of them don’t even bother to follow the guidelines the agency or the agent have set up. If the agent doesn’t get back to you quickly, they are probably working through the hundreds of queries before yours. Be patient. Be polite. Even if you don’t get your dream agent, be kind to them. You will be surprised how supportive the writing community can be if you have the right attitude.

 

You can read Jason’s blog at Jason-evans.net

You can follow Jason on Twitter @evans_writer

Or like his Author Webpage on Facebook at Jason Henry Evans

 

Getting to Know You: The RMFW Q&A Project #10

The Getting to Know You Project was intended to introduce RMFW members with short responses to three questions, a photo, and a few social media links. This will be the last post in the series for now.

Mike Houtz

Website: http://mikehoutz.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.mikehoutz/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelhoutz/

1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I spent 15 years practicing medicine before deciding that raising my own children and pursuing a passion for fiction writing was a better life lived than 90+ hour weeks at the hospital ignoring those closest to me. After working on my first project, a medical thriller (naturally), I’m now currently seeking representation on my second novel, DARK SPIRAL DOWN, an international thriller. I just received a call that DARK SPIRAL DOWN is a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. The only thing better would be a 2017 Colorado Gold! I write when my two young sons are at elementary school. My office overlooks the front range just a mile away, the beauty never ceases to amaze. I’m still discovering my ideal writing method. I see the chapters in my head like a movie and type out what my mind’s eye captures. I’ve found careful plot outlining keeps me from getting "too" off course. I’m trying a slightly different tactic writing by the synopsis of my medical thriller, revisited, for my next effort (or, is that the first? I’m confused.).

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I spent thirteen glorious years performing all over the country as the lead guitarist for a cajun/zydeco band, Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies. I think my fellow classmates were stunned that I could balance intense medical studies with performing. Proof that if you love something, you will find a way.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

I absolutely love watching my boys compete in their respective sports. One in fencing and one in lacrosse. We’re constantly on the road all over the country with their competitions. Unfortunately, it will all be over in the blink of an eye, and I know I’ll cherish those times for the rest of my days.

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Diane R. Jewkes

Website: http://dianerjewkes.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DianeRJewkes
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DianeRJewkes/

1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

Hi! I write historical romance primarily. I grew up loving history and reading romance so it was a natural progression when I decided to start writing. My first book, The Heart You Own, was published in 2012. I started writing it before the invention of Word (it took a long time)! My second book, The Heart You Need, was published this year. I live up in Conifer and have an office in my house where my two assistants, Albert and Rizzi, keep me company and remind me to take them out so I don't sit at my desk all day. I'm a pantster, so I get an idea, sketch out a rough plot and research my time period and place. I keep composition books for each idea with all my scribbles, questions and scenes. I like to write first, type later.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I have a degree in journalism and worked on a small newspaper in New Mexico. In the short time I was there I covered 4 murders, got to submit reports on the Santa Fe Prison riot to the Associated Press and helped come up with the Deming Duck Race. I also had an entry in the first duck race. He was fitted out with a satin cape and little satin spats for his feet!

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

I love spending time with my children and grand-children and traveling.

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Patricia (Pat) Stoltey

Website/blog: http://patriciastolteybooks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patricia.stoltey
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PStoltey
Google+: https://plus.google.com/115494264819086899639
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1105939.Patricia_Stoltey

1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I write primarily crime fiction, including a historical mystery called Wishing Caswell Dead to be published in Five Star's Frontier Fiction line this November. Previous books were The Prairie Grass Murders, The Desert Hedge Murders, and Dead Wrong (a thriller finalist for the 2015 Colorado Book Awards).

I write because it's the only way to quiet my busy brain which is always thinking about stories and characters and settings...probably the result of all the reading I've done over the years. I'm a binge writer, so I create in bursts over a period of days...then slip back into periods of goofing off. I mostly write in my own little office at a desktop...a room cold in winter, hot in summer, and placed just beside and above the neighbor's garage where one of the grown kids practices on his drums. I write at the computer and usually have nearby a cup of coffee in winter or a glass of iced tea in summer.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I spend at least one hour every morning reading for fun/learning while I get myself fully caffeinated and take care of Katie Cat's morning demand for lap time. Soon after, I spend at least twenty minutes with Sassy Dog in my lap at my computer while we watch cat and dog and other critters on You Tube videos. My husband and I are downright silly about our pets!

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

This is hard because so many things that used to bring me joy, like travel (especially flying anywhere) or cooking (especially since I'm always trying to diet), are no longer appealing. I think my happiest moments these days are those I spend at home, dressed in sloppy and comfy clothes, gardening or playing with watercolors or daydreaming in the sun, and just being. And I do love a good nap on the couch with Sassy Dog sacked out on my stomach to keep me warm.

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Thanks to Mike, Diane, and Pat for participating in the Getting to Know You Project.

Getting to Know You: The RMFW Q&A Project #9

The Getting to Know You Project was intended to introduce RMFW members with short responses to three questions, a photo, and a few social media links. The last post in the series will appear tomorrow.

J. A. Kazimer

Website: http://jakazimer.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulieAKazimer
Another Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jakazimer/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jakazimer

1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I’ve always wanted to answer with the ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you’ line. But that doesn’t really help when getting to know me as I haven’t killed anyone in a really long time.

So instead, here goes, I write in a few genres. Mainly mysteries and romance. But I’m best known for my F***ed-Up Fairy Tales. I started writing in 2001, found an agent finally in 2006, and sold my first series in 2010 at a RMFW conference. Since then I’ve published over 15 books both traditionally and indie. Currently I’ve been working with a film studio on film adaptations and a mystery series of novellas based on a YouTube personality’s life.

As for when I write, it’s in spurts. I’ll write a couple of thousand words one day, and not write for weeks. The where is usually on my couch, with a puppy on one side and a cat on the other. I write on a computer as I can’t read my own handwriting. Had this been fifty years ago, I would’ve become a doctor.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I worked as a PI in Denver for a few years. The least fun part of that is, on a stakeout, you have to pee into a bottle. Being a girl made this career choice not the best.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

My dogs. I love those spoiled things to pieces.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim Van Pelt

Website: http://www.jamesvanpelt.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.vanpelt.14

1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

When I was teaching high school English full time up to 2015, I mostly wrote in my classroom from 3:00 to 4:30 in the afternoon, and then from 9:00 to 10:00 in the evening at home, but now that I only teach in the morning, I write from noon until 3:00 or so. After three hours my brain feels melty and I have to take a break. I do almost all my writing now in a comfortable recliner in my living room where I've decorated the wall with science fiction and fantasy art that sets the mood for me; and in the middle afternoon, I'm the only one home, which means I'm also uninterrupted and control the music. It's practically ideal.

Although I've written several novels, about 90% of my output is science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories. I must have a short attention span. Growing up in a house with an aeronautical engineer father who loved science fiction, and a mother who loved to read pretty much steered me toward a love of those genres. Dad took me to the movies when I was little, and Mom bought me books. When I started selling work in the early 90s, they became my biggest fans. They'd buy copies of everything I published to send to friends and relatives.

I started my writing career because I loved what reading did for me. There's a subset of kids who spent much of their free time reading, and I was one of them. To be able to do for someone else what a good story did for me seemed like the best goal imaginable. I still write partly with that motivation in mind, but I've also grown more interested in writing as a challenge in shaping a story and using language. Some stories come out of setting a barrier for myself: Can I write a first person narrative that never uses the word "I"? Can I break the "rule" that a story shouldn't start with the weather? Can I structure a story like a well-done song? Etc. But mostly I try to make a story come out as compelling on the page as it sounded in my mind while taking a shower.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

Most of my RMFW friends know the writer side of me, but most don't know how much I've enjoyed my teaching life. There's a magic in the classroom when the students are excited and I'm jazzed about the lesson. The hardest part of thinking about retiring from teaching is walking away from that. I love writing and being an author, but I don't know if anything I've ever written has changed a life. I'm pretty sure, though, that I made a difference for a few kids in high school.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

Fortunately, I married my best friend. I think my greatest joy besides writing and teaching is spending time with her. We both like to run and bike. She's working on getting me to do triathlons, which will probably happen. There's a lot of the world we haven't seen yet that I'm looking forward to seeing with her. Everybody should be so lucky.

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K. B. (Katy) Wagers

Website: http://www.kbwagers.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kbwagers
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/midwaybrawler/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkbwagers

1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

*waves* Hi all! I currently write holed up in a cave, kidding though I kind of wish that were true. Right now I either write in my office at home or in Starbucks just depending on the mood and time of day. Most of my writing gets accomplished after working hours on the week days and early mornings on the weekends. I write science fiction on my laptop or Surface and carry around a notebook that’s primarily used for plotting and story essentials (character bios, geography, and the like).

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I’m a Colorado native and grew up on a farm on the eastern plains. We had pigs when I was a kid and I wanted to be a writer from a very young age, with a brief break in my teenage years when I was going to be a rock star.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

My most favorite non-writing activity has to be lifting weights. I discovered the joy of fighting gravity a few years ago and there is little else like the feeling of winning against that beast—even if only for a few seconds!

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Thanks to Julie, James, and Katy for participating in the Getting to Know You Project.

Moving from Fear to Courage in Diversity Writing … by Rebecca Hopkins

The very first novel I ever started writing took place in a small town in Texas. The outsider newspaper reporter main character was on her way to solving some town mystery.

It was quite similar to my own life at the time. I worked as a small town Texas newspaper reporter from up north. And I was doing the one thing I knew about novel writing at that point, following the old adage—Write what you know.

But then I moved to Indonesia and I never finished the book.

Rebecca with Yuli's younger sister Erni at a Ramadan feast

I met a young Indonesian Muslim woman named Yuli. Yuli introduced me to her ancient Tidung tribal culture, took me to dance festivals where flicks of the wrist tell stories of war and love. She welcomed me into her family’s home for the end-of-Ramadan feasting, not caring that I’m neither Muslim nor had fasted for a month. And she shared her fears of evil spirits and of practicing her English with me, while I shared my own fears of cobras and of speaking Indonesian with her.

At the beginning, I understood very little of her world. But as I asked more questions, drank more tea with her mom, and then attended Yuli’s funeral after she tragically died from a motorbike accident, I fell in love with her people.

I also feel deeper in love with something I’ve always liked—the joy of not just “always knowing” something, but discovering something new.

I met many more “Yulis” over the years. The Indonesian language has an expression: “The guest is the king.” Even outsiders and strangers are embraced in the most welcoming of ways—abundance of food provided to mere acquaintances even on the most meager of salaries. Friends have invited me into some of their most intimate cultural and family events, opening their hearts about their beliefs, fears, struggles, stories, values. I feel like I get to take a look at their hidden treasure troves—at their urging. And that’s just the start. They insist my children call them “grandma” and have referred to me as their “daughter.” For a foreigner who sometimes still longs for my own family on the other side of the world, this is therapy.

I’m a writer who is passionate about sharing a good story. So of course, I wrote a novel about the things I was learning. (After five years of research.)

Indonesian Woman

I confess, I still can’t sleep on the hot Indonesian nights when the electricity goes out and I can never remember the name of the evil spirit that likes to steal babies out of pregnant women and I sometimes forget to offer tea to my drop-in guests. I’ve learned so much by being here, year after year, raising my three kids in this culture. But let me be clear, the longer I live here (finishing my twelfth year this spring), the more I realize how much I don’t yet understand about the home of most of my adult life. Though very welcome here, I am still a bit of an outsider, peering in, trying to figure out if there’s room for me here.

After I’d rewritten the twentieth draft of my first novel, the Diverse Books and Own Voices movements got under way. I’m cheering for insider voices from marginalized, underrepresented groups in the most personal way. My husband is a relief pilot into some of Borneo’s remote jungle interior villages, providing safe, reliable air transport for med-evacs and supply runs for some of the world’s most isolated and marginalized people groups. I live among these unknown (to westerners) tribes. They’re my neighbors, friends, my kids’ friends. I’d love to see the names of some of my Indonesian writer friends on a book someday in the libraries of American schools. I can’t wait to see what words and expressions and characters they use to tell their own stories in all the nuanced, deeply personal ways that only they can do.

But these well-needed movements left me feeling scared of what I’m doing—writing cross culturally. What right do I have to tell stories based in a culture that isn’t fully my own? What if I get it wrong? Am I stealing their stories?

Between the Army brat childhood in which I moved constantly (and interacted with and tried to fit into different subcultures), and my adulthood in which this Indonesian home of mine has grown and shaped me, I’ve seen many cross cultural interactions that look like crashes and ones that look like embraces. The “crashes” usually are caused by some amount of either arrogance or ignorance, and they leave behind bruises, cuts, scars, bitterness. If there’s a lot of force to it, a cultural crash creates a repulsion that knocks people far away from each other.

Indonesian Woman and Girl

Then there are the cross cultural “embraces.” They come out of the humility to know one’s limitations, the desire to learn, the listening ear, the value of another’s dignity, and of course, the welcoming that comes from the “other” culture. The embraces have a way of somehow recognizing and validating the unique differences between us while blurring those differences as we come close enough to change each other in little, but meaningful ways. We learn to feel at home in our shared humanity.

The more globalized our local circles become and the more cultures get close enough for the next crash or embrace, the more all of our stories will need an element of diversity in order to ring true. With this, the standard grows higher to treat these interactions with care and respect. The whole world is watching (and hopefully, reading).

I believe we, as storytellers, were born for this challenge. To some extent, we’re all doing these things as writers. Sometimes we’re researching people from past times. Sometimes we’re creating brand new worlds completely different than ours. And often times, we’re writing from jobs, genders, and other perspectives unlike ours. We have this drive in us to not just write what we’ve always known, but to love the discovery of something new to us, and somehow, timeless.

Unless we’re writing an autobiography (as my first novel was veering toward), we’re already, instinctually, drawn toward little d “diversity” writing. As we write, we are already asking questions for which we don’t yet know the answer, inviting our characters into a journey of figuring them out. We’re recording the unique, little-known elements of life that somehow, when written in touching prose—is so familiar to all of us. We’re creating characters who are entering journeys we’ve never had to enter…and yet somehow end up looking like places we’ve been ourselves.

I must be honest. I still have questions and struggles about the nitty-gritty of representing a story’s truth well, of figuring out which stories I was “made” to tell, and which, perhaps, I shouldn’t. But I’m learning how to welcome that process with courage, humility, understanding and a recognition that while I may not be able to achieve a completely “accent-free” rendition of the world I’m discovering, there is room for my stories—and all the mixes of cultures that continue to grow within me—on the page.

I love the Indonesian Proverb: “I am you, you are me.” It shows, exactly, the hope I find as a writer, a reader, and a resident of Indonesia. Stories of all shapes and mixes have the power to connect us. All of us. Hopefully… in the most warm of embraces.

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Rebecca Hopkins writes novels about a world of ancient jungle tribes, sea-dwelling gypsies and isolated Balinese hand signing villages. It’s a world she’s trying to make her own—Indonesia. She’s lived in Indonesia with her relief pilot husband and three kids for eleven years.

Read more about her writing and life in Indonesia at www.rebeccahopkins.org. Rebecca can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some interesting posts about this debate, looking at it from various perspectives.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/01/novelists-cultural-appropriation-literature-lionel-shriver
http://writeoncon.org/2017/02/02/roundtable-writers-on-writing-diversely/
http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/articles/voiceappropriation.html
http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10087
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/09/michael_chabon_s_telegraph_avenue_can_a_white_guy_write_about_black_characters_.html
http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2016/06/20/how-to-write-protagonists-of-colour-when-youre-white/
http://readdiversebooks.com/white-authors-fill-your-stories-with-people-of-color-but-dont-make-them-your-protagonists/

Green … by Rainey Hall

In kindergarten, my teacher read the class Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. She then treated all of us to—you got it—ham, scrambled green eggs, fried green potatoes, green milk and green biscuits. Ah, those were the days.

That night after regurgitating green stuff, I swore off eating, touching and smelling anything that resembled mold. Ten years later, hunger summoned the courage to ingest green beans, lettuce and fresh peas.

Can you believe green-colored food and drink showed up again during my teen years? Do you know some people actually drink green beer? No. No, I don’t touch the stuff, green or otherwise. I’ve come to the conclusion people ingesting said color of beer must have had the same kindergarten teacher as me.

Here’s another thing about green: summer meadows with rainbows. I was actually at the end of a rainbow. No gold. No leprechauns. My big brothers finally noticed my disappointment and eagerly encouraged me to investigate the opposite end of the bow because, “You’re at the wrong end.” Bums! Foiled again by siblings, I learned two ends do not a pot of gold make.

Maybe that’s when I began writing as a form of therapy? But I digress.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to have been pinched only once when I accidentally-on purpose forgot to wear green to school on a bleak March 17th. Sort of an experiment gone haywire. Who made up that little gem of a game? With that one and only pinch and accompanying bruises, I promised myself, all my stuffed animals, and the family dog, Zipper, to wear green every day of the year. Since that day, I have never utilized pliers or wire cutters, or eaten crab and lobster. Of course being within close proximity of a Doberman is out of the question too. I can guess the capabilities of those K-9s.

Was Saint Patrick even Irish? Did he ever wear green clothing?

Corned beef and cabbage? At the risk of sounding like a spoiled American, are you kidding? I’ll stick with grass fed beef and carrots—both dishes lacking green. Speaking of cabbage, my grandmother used to make sauerkraut in the basement, (around the same time I was pinched, discovered the truth about rainbows and learned how the Grinch stole Christmas.) Amazing I can smell anything now, let alone eat Brussels sprouts.

Okay, here’s the point: how about a new March holiday like “Don’t Fly a Kite Because the Wind Will Rip It to Shreds Day”, or “Take Time to Smell the Celestial Blooms of Spring Hyacinths Day”, or “Irish Soldiers in the Civil War Day”, or “Irish Soda Bread—even though it may not have originated in Ireland—Day”, or “The Best Irish Authors of the 20th Century Day”. I’ve got a million suggestions.

Here’s to just a few (20th century) Irish authors—get it out of your mind—I have never been green with envy over, but have admired and enjoyed the wonderfully varied talents of:

Oscar Wilde

Bram Stoker

CS Lewis

Anne Enright

Jonathan Swift

If you have the opportunity, please visit irishtimes.com and check out an article written in ‘The Guardian’ by Justine Jordan on Irish authors.

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A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

5 Tips for Successful Audiobooks … by Richard Rieman

You wonder if an audio version of your book is a good idea. Maybe you listen to audiobooks – perhaps a Harry Potter book with Jim Dale doing over 150 different voices – and you think, it’s probably much too complicated and expensive.

Here are some common audiobook misconceptions:

1. Underestimating Audiobook Popularity

At a time when eBook popularity is waning, audiobook listening on Audible grew 38% last year. Audiobook sales growth is up 35% worldwide after 20% increases 2 years in a row. Listening on smartphones is the fastest growing way people are enjoying audiobooks. Automakers such as Honda and GM are now including audiobook apps from Audible and iTunes in their new cars.

Audiobooks also have their own fan base, so it’s a way to sell more books!

2. Overestimating What Creating an Audiobook Costs

As recently as 10 years ago, audiobooks could cost $30,000 or more to produce. Getting a recording studio, voice actors, audio editors, music rights and more meant that a major publisher would be needed.

Now, thanks to the growth of self and independent publishing in the audiobook world, and the explosion in the number of narrators with home studios and editing skill, high quality audiobooks can be produced for less than $3,000. If you are willing to share your sale royalties with a narrator/producer, the upfront cost can be reduced to several hundred dollars or less. Amazon created ACX, the Audiobook Creation Exchange, to make it easy for you to find narrators for both fiction and non-fiction titles at relatively low cost.

3. Settling for a Good Voice Instead of an Actor

When choosing a narrator, you can easily be seduced by a beautiful voice. But what you need to look for is a voice ACTOR, who can distinguish characters by subtly using different vocal tones and inflections and glide easily into the changing emotions of your story. For nonfiction, a skilled narrator can hold your interest for hours by talking to you, not by reading to you out loud. Get a great storyteller, not just a great voice.

4. Narrating It Yourself When You Shouldn't

There are a few good reasons to narrate your own book:

• It’s your book and your words, so you can tell your story best. You know your characters, your story or subject, and the thinking behind your words better than anyone else.
• You keep more money. If you pay a narrator, you will either share royalties or pay them upfront to produce your audiobook. When you narrate your own book, your audiobook royalty payments go to you (after your publisher or Amazon take a big chunk of it.)
• You can be your own narrator if you have acting or radio/TV experience or have done lots of public speaking.

None of the above? Then get a professional to do it. It's a lot harder than it looks, and do you really want the bad reviews that come from a poor narrating performance when listeners judge you against the professionals?

5. Not Promoting Your Audiobook

It’s great to produce an audiobook, but if it falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Your audiobook needs to be shouted out to your fans and new listeners.

• Include an audiobook sample in all promotions. The “retail sample” required by ACX is ideal for this. Your book cover and audio clip can be used in all social media and your website.
• Request listener reviews from all your contacts and use a review service like Audiobook Boom.
• Create a promotional video like this one for Denver author Catherine Spader’s dark fantasy “Feast of the Raven.” You can engage a book trailer expert or use a resource like Animoto for less than $100.
• With future books, try to time your audiobook release with the print and e-book versions, so all your efforts can simultaneously share your promotion efforts.

Audiobook production, just like producing a paperback or eBook, is not easy. But it is worth it, especially when you are creating both a new fan base and new revenue stream for your already existing work.

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RMFW member Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and an in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of “The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation,” Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

This is part three of a four-part series on audiobooks by Richard Rieman. Part one: Bringing a “Mostly Dead” Book Back to Life in Audio. Part two: Voices in Your Head: How Audiobooks Can Improve Your Writing.

Spotlighting One of Our Younger Members, Zoe Smith-Holladay

It is our pleasure to introduce Zoe Smith-Holladay, a 12 year-old creative writing major at the Denver School of the Arts and a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Zoe is founder & author of kidsanimalstation.com, an animal blog that she started when she was eight. In Spring 2016, Smith-Holladay’s first fictional piece of prose “No Man’s Land” was published in literary magazine Calling Upon Calliope. Her second published work, “Ode to James Baldwin,” appeared in African Voices, http://africanvoices.com/avblog/ode-to-james-baldwin/

Her favorite genres to read and write are historical fiction, comedy, and fantasy. When she grows up, she wants to be a geneticist and would like to find a way to combine her passion for creative writing and science.

The following book review was published on her blog on January 15, 2017. We are reprinting it here with Zoe's and her mother's permission.

Writing Monsters By Philip Athans
Book Reviewed by Zoe Smith-Holladay

Recently, I read a book called Writing Monsters: How to Craft Believably Terrifying Creatures to Enhance Your Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans, a head-to-toe guide on how to write monsters and creatures in stories. As a lot of my constant readers know, I love to write, and it ended up being a very helpful book for the novel I’m working on. Everyone can think of at least one monster from classic fiction; creatures such as Frankenstein and zombies come to mind. Many writers have tried (and failed) to create the next great, popular monster, and this is a helpful guide to do exactly that. In this review, I’ll go into more detail, telling you things this book is good for, and some things you will learn about without spoiling it completely. You may be wondering what this has to do with animals, but what is and what isn’t a monster is in the eye of the beholder, just ask all those who read Cujo by Stephen King.

Useful Structural Features

There are a few features of this book that make it particularly appealing to anyone trying to create a good monster. For one, it had a ‘monster creation form’ at the front of it, that you can fill out as you go. This monster creation form is helpful for thinking about your own monster, and can answer some really difficult questions, or raise some that you hadn’t even thought of. I was having immense trouble creating my monster until I filled out this form. Another feature is that it has examples of monster creations from writers such as Frank Herbert and H.P. Lovecraft. “Learn from the best,” that’s what they say, and, in this book, you can do just that! Writing Monsters also has little side features about things such as monster archetypes, like the werewolf and the alien, and blurbs about monsters that exist in real life, like sharks. These features make the book more entertaining and thought-provoking for the reader.

Unique Perspective

This book also offers up a very interesting perspective. While it is indeed a non-fiction book about how to write, it isn’t all just writing facts, it also talks about what monsters and their creation really mean, and where, in our minds, monsters actually come from. There are a lot of spots in the book that will make you ponder about your monster and what it says about not only humanity, but you yourself. It’s funny to think about how some of our most well-known monsters reflect on humanity, not only in the story itself, but in real life. For example, I never thought about how Zombie books are more about the people and their response to them than it is about the Zombies themselves (although eating brains is pretty gnarly). Another example of monster movies saying something about humanity is the fact that there are lots of monster books and movies with monsters that are actually human, such as The Shining and Friday the 13th (not that I’ve seen any of those movies).

I’m sure you’ve noticed that we’re going old school with the photos.

Thought-Provoking Questions

Throughout the book, you are constantly bombarded with questions about what your creature is, what motivates them, and their abilities. It’s really thought provoking for a budding author to read because it makes you question what you are writing about. Some parts of the book tackle subjects that you may have not even thought about in your writing. For example, it helped me realize what my monster symbolized for my main character. (no spoilers, you are gonna have to read my book!) As expected, there are some parts that are run-of-the-mill writing advice classics, such as “show don’t tell”, and “use all the senses,” but, in the end, you come away with lots of new insights. In addition, the insights are not only about your characters and the monsters themselves, but what you want them to be, and what you want them to reflect about your story. You also get to think about what you want your readers to feel when they read your book — whether you want it to capture the specific reader’s darkest fears, or something broader that everyone can relate to being afraid of.

All in all, this is an excellent read, not only for entertainment, but if you’re searching for a good how-to guide for writing about monsters. If you want a link to buy the book, here’s that: Writing Monsters on Amazon. I haven’t been able to find any book like it. It is surely a good book, overall.

Zoe's review was originally published on Kids Animal Station blog and you can find it HERE. To follow Zoe's writing accomplishments, visit her blog regularly and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

5 Important Things to Know About Self-Publishing–Part 2 … by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Part 1 of Laura's post was published on Friday, January 27th.

The Work Has To Be Competitive.

There’s a common refrain, heard around writers conferences and discussion forums, that runs something like, “If I can’t sell it traditionally, I’ll self-publish.” While there are some perfectly legitimate uses of this phrase, quite often it’s either meant or interpreted as, If the work isn’t good enough to sell traditionally, it can be self-published.

Well, it can. But it shouldn’t.

A self-published book should be indistinguishable from a traditionally-published book in quality, from cover to editing to layout. You know how you can spy the self-published book in a roomful of books for sale? That’s not good.

I will be among the first to say that self-published books can be just as amazing – or perhaps better, since they don’t have to be edited to a lowest-common-denominator committee – as any traditional book lineup. But the truth is, the off-cited tsunami of crap does exist, and we’ve no one to blame but ourselves.

The first time I made a piece of clothing, it wasn’t good enough to sell at a mall retailer. My early music lessons were in no way good enough to press an album. And my 5k time will never earn me a spot on the leaderboard. So why do we think early, developmental, or subpar writing should be published?

Imagine a boy, maybe 17, who isn’t sure he likes movies. He had to watch a few for school, stuff that never really caught his fancy and just didn’t connect with him because it was not his style or because the teacher made too much of the symbolism and camera angles and he hated writing the papers, but now he’s hearing from his friends that movies are really good. But he doesn’t want to drop $15 on a theater ticket to start, he’s going to try something cheaper first to see if it’s worth the investment, right? So he goes to Amazon Video to find a free or $2 flick. And he finds somebody’s basement-shot action wannabe with party-store costuming and bad sound obscuring the lame dialogue and whatever fight stunts their sixth-grade kid brother wanted to do before Mom got downstairs. (There are some… striking self-published movies on Amazon streaming video.)

Maybe that fledgling filmmaker will be the next Spielberg. But his current work isn’t impressive. And not only is he turning off his current audience (and setting up a hilarious retrospective to surprise him during his big talk show interview once he’s a household name), he’s probably just convinced our kid that movies really aren’t worth his time.

Okay, I know it’s hard to imagine anyone not familiar with movies in today’s society. But the truth is, a lot of people think they don’t like to read, because of bad school experiences or because reading was never valued in their family or whatever, and when they finally go to pick up a cheap book, they get something which just turns them off further.

Put out work which creates more addicted readers. Have a good critique group which constantly pushes you to be better. Make sure your stories are well-edited – both for structure and for grammar/typographical errors.

We Don’t Have to Be Competitive.

Look, we authors are not competing against each other. We’re really not. We’re competing against television and streaming movies and phone games.

No reader buys just one book a year; getting a reader hooked on another author just creates a bigger market for all of us. Promote other authors whose work your audience will also appreciate. But note that last phrase – I don’t promote just anyone I want to owe me a favor, I share stuff I think my readers will also enjoy. That does everyone good – other author gets a boost, my readers get something they like (they can’t spend all their time just waiting for my next release), and I gain a bit of additional reader trust so they’re more likely to stay with me. Pushing unrelated genres at readers will just confuse and annoy them. (And while I may or may not tell another author when I’m enthusing about their work, I never do it in anticipation of a favor owed. That’s not the point.)

I do several live book fairs a year, and I always if possible do a circuit before it starts to find out who is selling what. Then if I get someone at my table looking for something else – a Western romance, perhaps, or a middle grade adventure – I can point them directly to another author. They’re happy, the other writer is happy, the book fair organizers are happy, and I don’t have to deal with frustrated or disappointed shoppers. Everybody wins. (Well, except I didn’t make a sale – but then, I wasn’t going to, anyway, if they weren’t looking for what I sell.)

Help other authors with their writing craft and their marketing. (And just as important – take critique and advice professionally, not personally.) And remember, there isn’t really a divide between traditionally- and self-published authors. In fact, many of us are hybrids, doing both! It’s all about creating readers, not outselling the guy at the table or website next down from yours.

Enjoy it.

Okay, this is sixth in a list of five, but it’s true – self-publishing is more work than traditional publishing, but it’s also much less constrained and carries a great potential of fun. If you keep your eyes open and your hand to the plow, you can create an enjoyable career following your dreams.

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Laura VanArendonk Baugh writes fantasy (epic, urban, and historical), mystery, and non-fiction. She enjoys helping other authors and will be teaching on writing craft and self-publishing with Ireland Writer Tours in August 2017. Find her at her website, on Facebook, and Twitter.