The Critical Importance of Look Alike Words

A word from Conan the Grammarian:

Concerning the Critical Importance of look-alike words, or similar or commonly mistaken words. Learn the diffs! As Conan has often admonished writers, this is not advanced rocketry or even higher mathematics.

In no particular order, these words often appeared incorrectly in this year’s contest manuscripts.

Stanch & staunch

The first means to stop up or prevent from bleeding; the second means stout-hearted, loyal.

Of course a character would never stand stanch at the hero’s side, so please don’t go staunching any wounds!

Discreet & discrete

The first means circumspect or tactful; the second means separate, distinct: individual.

Conan finds that scientists and engineers often write about characters who act discrete, because apparently they don’t know there is another word (the same way lawyers often have characters waive instead of wave).

Rack & wrack

The first means to torture (as in the eponymous medieval device); the second is debris from a storm.

Characters who wrack their brains not only commit cliché, but they perform a very odd non-action, too. On the other hand, characters may go to wrack and ruin, but never to rack and ruin (though that’s a cliché, too).

Lead & led

The first is a soft, toxic metal or the present tense of the verb to lead; the second is the past tense of that verb. Memorize this!

Pour & pore

The first is a verb meaning to decant liquids (or rain); the second is a noun meaning a teeny tiny hole or a verb meaning to scrutinize.

One ought never pour over a document, unless one spills something by accident.

Grill & grille

The first is a type of cooking device or the act of cooking on that device; the second is a grating or lattice.

One could, Conan supposes, grill burgers on a makeshift grille, but Joe’s Bar and Grille is trying to be fancy and ends up looking ignorant and pretentious.

Rain & reign & rein

Rain falls from the sky; emperors, queens, and terrors reign; riding horses and some metaphors require reins.

It rained for ten days after King Mutt’s reign ended, causing his people to rein in the celebrations.

Council & counsel

The first is a noun meaning committee or board; the second is verb meaning to give advice. A counselor is a lawyer or other professional advice-giver.

May & might

For the verb indicating possibility, may is present tense; might is past tense – past tense as in the tense most storytellers use most of the time.

Alright & all right.

The first is not a word (yet) in accepted English; the second is how it should be spelled.

Conan admits that languages change over time, but alright remains nonstandard, and Conan will fight it to the death. All right has nothing to do with already, so the attempt to “normalize” one into t’other is as foolish as the egregiously erroneous rules that one must never split infinitives or end sentences with prepositions.

Pack Up Your Media Kit and Smile!

As I sit down to write, I’m remembering that game we used to play as kids—the one where someone starts by saying, “I’m going on a trip and in my bag I packed…” You sit in a circle, and the starter names one item with each player listing previous items in turn and then adding another until you can’t remember the sequence anymore. I’m hoping to start a list that others will want to add to in the comments section at the end, because an author’s media kit may contain any number of items and no two media kits are alike.

You worked hard to publish your book. But now the promotional push has begun, and it will continue until you retire. A well-stocked media kit will save you oodles of time as your book list grows and you venture forth into various promotional arenas. Here are some ideas for what yours might include:

  • Your Photo. If you’re lucky you can sign up at the Colorado Gold Conference and have author and super-photographer Mark Stevens shoot you. J But if the timing doesn’t work, invest in a headshot done by one of your local professional studios. You’ll want the high-resolution digital version, and be sure to obtain a written release of the photographer’s rights transferred to you.
  • Your Book Cover. Again, you’ll want a high-resolution cover shot.
  • Your Business Card. You can have one professionally designed or do it yourself at a company like FedEx Office. I’ve done it both ways. Since I like to add a new book onto my card each year, I’ve saved some money by learning to design my cards myself.
  • Author Bios. You’ll need at least two: a short bio of less than one hundred words and an official bio that can be longer.
  • Book Endorsement List. Create one document to copy all of the industry review pull-quotes and author blurbs that you accrue as you publish your books. Whenever you need a media quote for a given book, one will be right at your fingertips.
  • List of Links to Online Articles, Interviews, and Guest Blogs. Again, build one document by pasting in each link. It saves so much time to have that information in one place, and the guest appearances add up over the years. If you have audio files from radio interviews, you can add those here too.
  • List of Cover Flap Blurbs and Short Book Descriptions. I like to have all of my book descriptions in one place, the longer ones from the cover flap or back of the book as well as the short one-to-two liners. When you need a book description for an announcement, you won’t have to search to find it or take the time to re-create one.
  • The type of promotional items to give out at events is a personal decision and varies from business cards only to elaborate gifts—and everything in between. My first year I used business cards, the second I added bookmarks, and this year I’m adding pens as well as bookmarks, for no reason other than I simply enjoy receiving these two items from other authors when I attend their events. I’ve read that swag should reflect your book content if possible, which seems like a good idea, so I sometimes give out doggie milk bones in party favor bags at my signings. And though not related to the content in my murder mysteries, but a gesture that reflects my gratitude, I love to give out kisses and hugs to readers…the chocolate kind.

Okay, here we go now. Smile and enjoy the journey! This is a good list for starters—but what else should we pack in our media kit?

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

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, which includes Killing Trail (2015), an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee; Stalking Ground (2016), a Colorado Book Award and International Book Award finalist; and Hunting Hour (2017), an RT Book Reviews Top Pick. She lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Engaging Your Newsletter – Subscriber Quality Matters by Stephanie Reisner

We all know that building a newsletter email list is an essential part of an author's marketing toolbox.  Your list provides one thing your social media doesn't. A direct line to your readers. See, Facebook and Twitter, they purposefully don't show your posts to all of your page or feed subscribers. So unless your readers are stalking you - they're going to miss sales, new releases, and other vital information.

This is where the newsletter list comes in. It makes sure that those interested in your books are getting timely information about said books directly in their email.

As an author with four pen names, I keep four different lists and in the past six months, I've been measuring the quality of these lists. I've used numerous methods to boost my subscriber numbers. I've given away freebies. I've offered exclusive content. I've done giveaways and contests. All of these things have done their job to grow my lists.

However, the effectiveness of a newsletter can't be measured in the number of subscribers. It has to be measured in engagement. You can have thousands of subscribers, but if you're sending out two thousand emails, only getting four hundred opens and one hundred clicks, the quality of your list, and the quality of your newsletter overall, comes into question.  A big list where few people engage is a lot worse for an author than a small list that is very engaged. Don't worry - I'm not going to insist you start dumping the non-engagers from your list. You can, potentially, turn non-engaged subscribers into engaged subscribers by regularly evaluating your content.

Since engagement is so important, there are two steps you can take to increase engagement.  The first step to building the engagement of your existing list is to find out just how engaged your readers currently are. Start by keeping track of your click through rates (minus unsubscribes because, in many newsletter apps or services, those will show up as click-throughs) with each newsletter. By doing this, you're going to find out which newsletters got the most attention, good or bad. Study the newsletter and figure out what you did right or wrong. Start taking notes. Note that just because you have unsubscribes doesn't mean a newsletter was bad. It likely just means you probably got a few freebie hunters who decided to move on. Unsubscribes happen - even to good newsletters.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to subscribe to the successful newsletters of other authors and see what they're doing, making notes of things you find particularly effective.

Next, take it even further and note which subscribers (individually) are the most engaged. Some newsletter services or applications make this easy to do. Some may even do it for you.

I have four main lists my subscribers can subscribe to, but on the administrative end, I keep track of email addresses attached to click-throughs in separate, private lists that can only be seen by me. If someone is engaged and clicks through, I check the box next to the appropriate click-through list. I can then choose to send special newsletters to these people exclusively, instead of the entire list if I want to get feedback, reward loyal readers/fans, or give them exclusive content/information. I am still experimenting with this, but so far, it's been quite effective. I've even had fans drop me an email asking if they could be put on the same "special secret" list their other fan friends are on. (Hey, it works for me, I write darker, mysterious stuff, and my readers like the idea of special super-secret lists.)

Keeping track of this information for six months (or longer), is going to help you strengthen your newsletter content and identify key readers who want what you're writing.  While it can be a bit time-consuming, it's totally worth the time you take to do it.

Ideas for newsletter content to keep your readers engaged:

  • List only giveaways.
  • List surveys.
  • Exclusive offers and deals.
  • Contests (naming characters etc...)

How do you engage your readers?

 

Colorado native Stephanie Connolly-Reisner grew up with a love for reading and writing. She started penning her first stories in grade-school and never stopped. Now much older, she’s a prolific writer who lives along the front range of the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and a couple of very pampered house cats. You can find her and her four author personas at www.the-quadrant.com. She can also be found at Facebook. Stephanie writes under four pseudonyms: S.J. Reisner, Audrey Brice, Anne O'Connell, and S. Connolly.

http://www.the-quadrant.com

How Do Online Classes Work?

The answer to this question always makes me smile because I want the first answer to be, “Easily!  Seamlessly.”  Except, if you’re nervous about a new technology, there may be nothing easy about an online class.  At least, at first.

Online classes are a way of taking a class at the times of day or days of the week that you most prefer in the comfort of your own home or favorite coffee shop during the specified duration of the class.  In general, you can expect the following:

  • Classes are offered for a specified period and are generally two to four weeks in length.
  • The level of structure within a class varies widely based on the preferences of the instructor.
    • Some instructors follow a defined schedule and hope to see feedback within a specified few days.
    • Some instructors like the freedom students have with self-paced study.
  • There are generally two to four “lectures” per week (text or video or a combination).
  • Participants can log into the class whenever is most convenient for them.
  • Participants have the opportunity to ask questions and post comments via a discussion board that works a lot like Facebook.
  • Some instructors offer one or more “chat” sessions during the class, which are schedule for a specified time that allows participants to engaged with others in real time.
  • Participants have access to the classroom materials for a couple of weeks after the class ends.

RMFW University runs on a classroom platform called Moodle (used by colleges and universities), which gives users a richer experience than available with a Yahoo group.  To help people interested in classes at RMFW University feel more comfortable with the tools, there is a Quick Start that is a self-paced tutorial structured to emulate how most classes are organized.  If you would like to see what the RMFW University classrooms are like before enrolling in a class, send an inquiry to moodleadmin@rmfw.org requesting access to the Quick Start.  The tools are so simple to use, this tutorial should take you no more than an hour to figure out, even if you regard yourself as technically challenged.

A list of upcoming classes is posted on the RMFW website under the tab for Education and Events.  If you have ideas for classes that you’d like to take, please let us know.  Or, if you’re a person with a skill that you’d like to teach others, let us know that, too!  We are actively expanding the catalog of offerings.

What could be easier?  The classes are reasonably priced, and you can attend wearing your favorite faded PJs and slippers.  We hope to see you there soon!

~*~

Sharon Mignerey (www.sharonmignerey.com) is a long-time member of RMFW who was recognized in 2016 as one of RMFW’s Guiding members.  She is the 2000 WOTY, and she has been published with Silhouette, Zebra, and Steeple Hill.  She has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, and she has a passion for sharing the tools and techniques of writing and story-telling with other writers.  She divides her time between the Texas Gulf Coast and a family cabin in Colorado’s mountains.

I Did It My Way (But Why Would Anyone Want To?)

After more than thirty years of writing genre fiction, I will finally be able to answer “yes” to that irksome, miserable question that all would-be novelists get at cocktail parties, “Are you published?” On November 2, 2016, I signed a contract with Five Star (Cengage/Gale) for publication of my historical romance, Love’s Last Stand. Yes, yes, yes, the publication monkey is off my back forever. I am finally a so-called “real” writer. But getting published took so long I thought I’d also answered that other nagging question would-be novelists sometimes get. “If you knew you’d never get published, would you keep on writing?” Lately, my answer has been, “Well, yes, I’ve pretty much done that already.”

I first started writing fiction in 1981, in the most clichéd manner possible. I heard somewhere that Harlequin would give you $1500 for three chapters and an outline. How hard could it be to write romance? Yes, dunderhead, harder than your thick skull. I didn’t get my advance or a contract, so I went to law school. But the writing bug had bitten, and I simply couldn’t abandon that story I’d started. After graduating and working for the Department of Justice for three years, I managed to finish the book, and without ever taking a writing class, reading a book on writing, or attending a critique group. How good could that book be?

Lo and Behold! My classic story of romance took second place (or was it 3rd) in the RMFW contest, way back when we still awarded places. I was a genius! Fortune and fame were close enough to touch. Ask me about my smug smile, please. Alas, it was not to be. The story, which I still love, violated every rule of fiction writing imaginable, especially those of romance writing, and I invented a few new rules to violate along the way. I shudder at the memory. That manuscript will remain forever buried, not in a drawer, but even further out of reach, in the murky depths of Word Perfect 4.0, where no one will ever find it, except perhaps, Robin Owens.

Undeterred, I continued to write. And, more importantly, I found RMFW and my critique group, not to mention my future wife (thanks, RMFW!). I was still not getting published, but it could have been my fear and loathing of rejection, as much as the quality of my writing. I simply didn’t query much. At least not as much as I should have. Not as much as you should, if you’re not already published. I much preferred the writing and, if I wasn’t going to publish, the one thing I could do is win or final in a contest.

And contests I did with a passion. Between 2002 and 2016, I was a contest finalist twenty-seven times. On top of that, I won the RMFW Colorado Gold Contest twice, and got first place in the Crested Butte Writers Friends of the Library Contest (twice), the Southern Louisiana Romance Writers Dixie Kane Contest, the Land of Enchantment Romance Authors contest, the Central Ohio Fiction Writers contest, and the San Antonio Romance Authors Emma Merritt Contest. I was Champion of the Contest World! But I still wasn’t published.

Eventually, I simply read ten pages for Five Star editor Tiffany Schofield at the RMFW conference, and the rest is history. What to make of it? You tell me, please. Was it as simple as not sending out enough query letters? Was everything I wrote “over the top,” as one agent told me? Was it just plain dumb luck? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time all these years? Truly, I don’t know.

Mine may be a cautionary tale, and I can’t recommend my strategy for getting published. What I can recommend is finding a good critique group, continuing to write come hell or high water, and, of course, never, ever giving up. Sorry, there’s nothing new or innovative in my advice.

I may never get published again, but at least now I know it’s possible, even for me. As long as it took, I’m not ready to rest on my laurels. My smug smile has been replaced by one a bit more knowing and patient.

After all, I’m just getting started.

 

When he’s not writing fiction, Steven Moores is an attorney for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to law, he has degrees in journalism and fishery & wildlife biology, and his interests in writing are as varied as his education. He has written contest-winning stories in romance, mystery, young adult, and middle grade genres, and he is currently under contract with Five Star Publishing (Gale/Cengage) for publication of his historical romance, Love’s Last Stand.

#Gravity and a Toast to Science Fiction

In the song written by John Mayer and Mike Perry—Gravity—John explains that the words are about making sure you (still) love yourself, making sure you (still) have your head on…because it’s easier to mess up than it is to stay here (successful).”

Another explanation I heard about this song is “…staying up even when you’re melancholy, staying grounded in a fast-paced, quickly-changing world, fighting the gravity of everyday challenges in order to achieve your goals...”

Werner Von Braun said this: “We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.”

Cameron Diaz let us know her thoughts on the subject: “I’ve been noticing gravity since I was young.”

I too have noticed the results of quantum particles for quite some time. And hey, thanks to gravity everything above my knees is at a whole new level.

Sylvester Stallone had this to say about the topic, “I think that gravity sets into everything, including careers, but pendulums do swing and mountains do become valleys after a while…if you keep on walking.”

Remember the movie, Happy Gilmore? Here is what the character, Gary Potter said which, in a roundabout way relates to Earth and its gravity: “Oh yea. Lotta pressure. You gotta rise above it. You gotta harness in the good energy, block out the bad. Harness. Energy. Block. Bad. Feel the flow, Happy. Feel it. It’s circular. It’s like a carousel. You pay the quarter, you get on the horse, it goes up and down, and around. It’s circular. Circle, with the music, the flow. All good things.”

And he said it with a straight face. You’ve gotta love actors!

This quote is for you Sci-Fi/Military writers: “What’s aerobraking? That’s a way to use the gravity and upper atmosphere of Earth to slingshot a ship either deeper into space, or slow it down to be ‘captured’ by Earth’s gravity.” Buzz Aldrin

As a kid, I used to watch the black and white series, Sci-Fi-Fic; maybe on channel two. The shows made an indelible impression on my mind. People that really know me can attest to that fact.

Just thinking about my first experience with H.G. Wells is, well quite horrifying. War of the Worlds. (Oh crap, is it real?) The Invisible Man (I keep listening over my shoulder.) Of course, The Time Machine is…The Time Machine.

Michael Crichton (and screenwriter David Keopp) are masters of tension—and dinosaurs.

Space Odyssey—Arthur C. Clarke was 51 when he co-authored the screenplay for this movie.

Farenheit 451!  Ray Bradbury scored big with this hit.

Orson C. Scott = The Ender’s Game.

Jules Verne. Need I say more?

Do you know an aspen tree’s anchor root is relatively minuscule when compared to the height of the tree? That’s applicable to particles that make us stick to the surface—isn’t it?

Okay, here’s one for you hardcore Sci-Fier’s. Can any of you explain why rocks in the garden defy gravity? Over and over and over…

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

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 Prote

 

 

Oh #Murphy! Thank Goodness for #Erma.

I’m usually a “the glass is half full” kind of a gal. However, I finally washed my car, (inside and outside), and then I waxed my Buddy.  Buddy is just past five years old. He’s blue with a high ground clearance for vehicles in his class.

Oh, hail! The frozen balls crashed into him without warning. What the…?  The apocalypse? Why not before I washed and waxed him? (I now endearingly refer to Buddy as, Dimples.)

 

Buddy takes a direct hit.

 

 

 

Yeah, we were all surprised.

 

 

Next, my cousin stopped by to show me the damage on her car. Wow. Looked like the metal had been ripped by ammunition—big bullets.  Of course, standing right next to me, she then informed me of her current health status. “I’ve got the worse flu I’ve had in years. Really stirring the outhouse, (elbow jab) if you know what I mean.” Then she sneezed—unexpectedly like the arrival of the hail. “Worry not. You shouldn’t get sick.”

(I realize people all over the Denver Metro area had far worse damage to their homes, themselves, their vehicles and pets than my family. I am truly sorry for the disheartening and frustrating events and hope you find a bit of humor to help you cope.)

~*~

 

Really needing new, professional clothing, I hesitate to go shopping. One pair of pants says I’m one size, another pair=another size and so on.

 

 

 

~*~

Back in the old days—before internet and cell phones—a friend and I went to San Francisco for the day. He didn’t know tickets had to be purchased weeks in advance for a tour of Alcatraz. Foiled, we decided to be happy and get our picture taken on a beach; the setting sun was to our backs. The person we asked to photograph us took off with the camera. A few jogs away the would-be thief thrust my camera into the sand. No film. Well, irony and happy endings are in the eye of the beholder.

~*~

My sister-on-laws first roses of the year bloomed on Sunday.

~*~

 

 

I can’t imagine how the architect and construction crews felt when building the Bell Tower of Pisa. The construction was not only interrupted by a war, but the building had a definite lean to it. Still does. On the bright side, built in 1173 the edifice still stands.

 

 

~*~

 

Honestly, I’m a little reluctant to visit the Eiffel Tower. What if the elevator gets stuck?  On the other hand, what if the lift doesn’t work at all? There’d be fewer tourists. Besides, after that long flight and being at sea level, the stairs shouldn’t be that difficult….

 

 

 

 

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

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.

Let It Percolate!

Let it Percolate!

Stephanie Reisner

It's happened to all of us. We're someplace horribly inconvenient and a great idea pops into our heads. We do our best to record that inspirational thought for later when we have time to sit down and write. Then, when we show up at the computer to type it all up, the moment is lost, the excitement is gone, and we end up staring at a blank screen. Or, even worse, that beautiful idea only generated two hundred words, and that was that. Certainly not enough for an entire novel let alone a single chapter.

This has happened to me more times than I can count, and I imagine it has happened to many of you. I have something for you to try next time that great idea shows up on your doorstep. First - go ahead and welcome the idea by jotting down a few fevered notes, but don't rush to the computer to try to flesh it out. Not yet. I know - it sounds completely counter-intuitive, doesn't it?  We've been told most of our careers that inspiration is fleeting and that you need to take it and run with it when it shows up. Especially since we’ve all had the experience of sitting in front of the computer staring at a blank page and that taunting, blinking cursor.

Here's what I propose: Instead of rushing to try to throw down ten thousand words on your fantastic flash of insight, stop. Let the idea percolate. Sit on it for a few days, weeks, or months – however long it takes - and let the idea grow. Right now, it’s just a seed. Not every flash of inspiration is a solid, healthy seed though. Sometimes these inspirational seeds are too small, and may only grow into a sub-plot or just a story point in a current or future project.  But if it's a really good idea and big, a solid, healthy seed -- it's going to grow. Those are the seeds some of us want because they are the fuel for those intense ideas that often grow into multiple books.

Five Tips to Help Your Ideas Grow:

  1. Talk the idea over with a friend or family member.
  2. Mull it over and flesh it out in your mind before putting pen to paper. I often put the idea through various scenarios just to see how versatile it is. I often discover that the more versatile the idea, the better.
  3. Start some pre-writing. This can include character descriptions, outlines, notes, and even locale descriptions. For fantasy or sci-fi authors, this could take the form of world-building.
  4. Start a storyboard or mind map. Large whiteboards are perfect for this. For those of you who like to visualize your story – the storyboard or mind map can be just the inspirational mana you need for a strong start.
  5. Read. It helps fuel the imagination.

When you let ideas percolate, you may just discover that the big ideas will stick around and grow until you have no choice but to write them down. By the time they demand to be written, chances are you'll have built more backstory, more plot, more characters, and so on, which is going to make the pre-writing or initial writing smoother. Finally, follow-through. By telling you to let ideas percolate, I’m not saying you should put them on the backburner forever. At some point, you will need to commit pen to paper and get it out of your head and onto the written page. Stories can’t just stay in our heads or they can clog the mental plumbing. So be disciplined, be vigilant, and write. Good luck and happy writing!

***

Stephanie Reisner began writing at the age of ten and never stopped. Under S. J. Reisner she writes fantasy, romance, and YA. She also writes erotic and paranormal romances as Anne O'Connell, occult/paranormal thrillers and horror stories as Audrey Brice, and non-fiction books and articles under yet a different pen name. Her most recent releases are Saving Sarah May (S. J. Reisner, Romance), Ascending Darkness (Audrey Brice, Supernatural Mystery), and Taming Trish (Anne O'Connell, Erotic Romance). When she's not writing she's hiking, gardening, or just hanging out with her husband and cats. To learn more visit: www.sjreisner.com

 

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Fiction Writer in the Modern Age? A Quiz … by Tim Weed

Photo by Rachel Portesi

It requires a huge investment of time and years of immersion in the literary craft to write a viable novel or short story collection, and let’s face it: publishing these days is worse than a crapshoot. You may not find a publisher, and even if you do find one – or if you take the risky decision to self-publish – your painstakingly crafted literary opus may never reach a wider audience. It takes a special kind of person to voluntarily undertake such an ordeal, especially in the current cultural environment, where film and television and high-tech gaming, not books, appear to be the ascendant forms of narrative.

On the other hand, fiction meets basic human needs. You can’t get the same kind of transportation effect from a film or a video that you can from a novel or a story. Good fiction generates a connective electrical current; it creates a living interface between two minds, and in the process, it gives readers a personal stake in the creative process. Ernest Hemingway once wrote:

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”

The visceral, all-encompassing experience Hemingway put his finger on is why fiction isn’t going away any time soon. There will always be a demand for fiction, and there will always be opportunities, therefore, available to those who can master the art of writing to the extent that they can attract and inspire readers.

Do you have the unique combination of character traits it takes to be a fiction writer in the modern era? Take this handy quiz to find out. Rate yourself from 0-3 on the following character traits, with 0 for it doesn’t ring a bell at all, and 3 for it describes you to a tee.

1.  You’ve always had an overactive imagination. You are a dreamer who finds rich sources of distraction and spiritual nourishment within your own head.

2.  You’re more of an outsider/observer than a participant at the center of things. Fiction writers tend to be introverts: noticing, observing keenly, and ideally taking notes.

3.  You’re a voracious reader, and likely have been since you were very young. This should go without saying and is sine qua non for a fiction writer, but it’s amazing how many people try to do without it.

4.  Partly as a result of the above, you possess natural storytelling skills and an ingrained sensitivity for language.

5.  You’re comfortable with uncertainty and doubt. In other words, you have a capacity to dwell within what Keats called Negative Capability. You’re okay when things are not cut and dried; you don’t mind living “slant,” guided by your subconscious, in a state of constant mystery and not-quite-knowing.

6.  You’re arrogant and brash, at least some of the time. You don’t mind playing God if that’s what’s called for, and you’re impudent enough to create your own rules.

7.  On the other hand, you may be absent-minded or forgetful. Why is this important? It allows you to forget everything you’ve been told in workshops and read in craft books. It gives you a fresh ticket to re-inhabit your drafts as if you’re experiencing the story for the first time.

8.  You’re as self-motivated as the most successful entrepreneur, only unlike an entrepreneur you don’t care about money. You possess the sort of overdeveloped self-reliance you can call upon every single day to overcome the paralyzing inertia of knowing that no one, NO ONE, is waiting for you to finish your book.

9.  You have an advanced ability to lie to yourself. To get through the slog, you can tell yourself with a straight face—and really believe it—that this draft you’re working on this year is really, truly the final one. Guess what? It’s probably not. Also? It may never get published. Are you still willing to keep working on it?

10. You’re shockingly persistent. You write with grinding regularity and you read voraciously, like a writer, analyzing everything you read in ways that help you improve your fluency in the craft. You may have been born with it or you may have learned it, but in either case you have it in spades: jaw-clenching, invincible, damn the torpedoes persistence in the face of constant resistance, rejection, and failure.

If you scored less than 15, please find a different hobby. We hear model airplanes are fun. Also knitting.

If you scored between 16 and 24, you’ve got a chance at this, though you’ll have some difficult barriers to overcome. It’s a tough road. Are you sure you want to try it?

If you scored between 25 and 30, what the hell are you doing reading this? Get back to work!

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Tim Weed’s first novel, Will Poole’s Island (2014), was named one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year. He​'​s the winner of Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction and Solas Best Travel Writing awards, and his work has appeared in Colorado Review, The Millions, Backcountry, Writer's Chronicle, and elsewhere.

Tim serves as a featured expert for National Geographic Expeditions and is the co-founder of the Cuba Writers’ Program. His new short fiction collection, A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing (Green Writers Press), has been shortlisted for the New Rivers Press Many Voices Project, the Autumn House Press Fiction Prize, and the Lewis-Clark Press Discovery Award.​

Read more at Tim's website.​and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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.