Open Letter to Robert J. Sawyer

Dear Robert J. Sawyer,

I wanted to talk to you at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold Conference this year, but I never made it over to you. So much excitement, intrigue, and chatting with my tribe. Since I couldn’t speak to you in person, I figured I’d write an open letter, saying now much I loved, loved, loved your talk on Saturday night.

Yeah, it wasn’t all fuzzy puppies and inspiration, but what you said blew me away. My mouth hung open the entire time, and I kept glancing over to see if the publishing industry was sending in shock troops to pull you down from the podium. You were a firebrand, and dang, I kept thinking, “He can’t be saying this stuff. Someone is going to stop him.”

But no one did because you were speaking the truth. Authors are either abused or ignored much of the time. We get paid pennies for our words, even at the professional rate, and we don’t get raises. Pennies a word, like it was the 1920s while agents went from 10% to 15% and publishers are having record years.

I am signing up with the Author’s Guild and I promise to do my part for the resistance.

Yet, the problems authors face are legion. Part of the problem lies with us scribblers ouselves. Maybe all of the problem lies with us.

In this day and age, anyone can write a book and publish a book. I find that amazing, exciting, and wonderful. I think there has never been a better time to be an artist because distribution has been solved. The internet has opened the world up and as artists, we have a platform we can use. Yes, it’s never been noisier and books have never faced the competition we face now.

For example…

Dude, I can watch Sword Art Online on my phone. I can play amazing video games with mind-melting graphics day and night. And TV has never been better. Jessica Jones, man, Jessica Jones.

When I was a new writer, I heard Andrea Brown, the literary agent, speak and she said I’ll hear that books are dead, the publishing industry is in trouble, and it’s the end of days every year for the rest of my life. I will hear that the book business is a goner until I die. So being an author has never, ever been easy. Never.

If all writers wrote books as a business, I think the entire industry would be different. We would be paid better and things would be more fair. However, not all writers write to make money. That, I think, is the crux of the problem.

Some write for status, and I talked about that in a blog post for RMFW last year. I love that post. Here is the link.

Some write books because they love them, and yeah, they publish them, but it’s not really to make money. Andrew Weir wrote The Martian on his blog because he loved hard science fiction. He never really wanted to publish it, but his fans insisted. And he hit it HUGE!

E.L. James wrote because she wanted a sexier Twilight. And she hit it HUGE! And she admits she is not a writer. She just got stupidly lucky.

So what are we to do?

People will always want to read books. Books are magical, and you can’t get the same experience with movies, TV, or video games. Reading is a unique experience.

You are totally right in saying we need to unionize and demand to be treated fair. Whether we can all be loud enough to change the industry, well, I just don’t know.

For me, I am going to write and I am going to publish and I hope to transition to full-time writer at some point, but I have a day job. Like I said, I’m with you. We shall storm the gates of hell.

I’m a hybrid author, I have some Indie stuff, I have some small press stuff, and I’m looking to break into the big game to use their marketing arm, though I’m doubtful about that action working out.

It’s funny, any power I have as a writer comes from readers. Look at what Taylor Swift did with iTunes because she had the clout of her fan base. She forced their hand. I think really successful writers can do the same.

I have a series with Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press, and working with the WFP team has been great (the contracts are extremely author friendly). We are a coalition of independent authors who support each other, and what we do at sci-fi/fantasy conventions has proved very effective in selling books. I feel very lucky.

In the end, we authors do have power. Yeah, Amazon doesn’t have our best interest at heart, but having your own website and selling directly to the customer has never been easier. If I can get enough of a fan base, my options become greater.

So for me, it goes back to writing what I love, playing the game, and continuing the march forward. Staying open and aware to all of the possibilities.

But dang, what a wonderful keynote you made. Moving, shocking, and in the end, I did find it inspiring.

We are a beleaguered group of feisty heroes, marching against an army we have no chance of defeating. We are children of a grand legacy of artists, who have always been out numbered.

And yet, we will soldier on.

Because that is what we do.


Aaron Michael Ritchey


After the Conference: Dealing with the Sea of Gloom

The Post Conference Sea of Gloom should be on a map, located somewhere off the shores of the State of Despair. It should have  its own psychiatric diagnostic code. It should be included in the manual of All the Things Writers Need to Know. (By the way - why has nobody written this reference book yet?)

But nobody really talks about the post conference slump.

What you hear about writer conferences is all glowing and wonderful. Come hang out with other writers! Learn new skills! Get inspired!

And this happens. Boy howdy, does it happen. For a few days we are swimming in a writing sea where everybody speaks the language of books. By the last day, we are ready to take on the world. Nothing is going to stop us. Nothing can get in the way. We are WRITERS! What do we do? WE WRITE! We are going to go home and take the world by storm!!

And then we get home.

Our families are overjoyed to see us and we are overjoyed to see them. Home is good. It's wonderful to sleep in our own beds and even to eat familiar foods. But there's a downside. Everybody needs something from us. Groceries need to be bought, houses need cleaning, meals need preparing. Kids and pets and loved ones might seem extra demanding. Friends make noises of interest when we spill over with all of the exciting things that happened at the con, but quickly glaze over.

We go back to work and the familiar old boring routine sucks us in.

At this point, some of us get caught in the undertow that pulls us out into the Sea of Gloom. All of the goals that seemed so possible and exciting at the conference now seem distant and unrealistic. That agent you pitched to - the one you're sure is your soulmate and destined to guide your career forever - doesn't respond when you send in the manuscript pages she requested. You log into Facebook to discover that a bunch of your new BFF writer pals are off having fun at yet another conference while you're stuck at work. One of them announces that she just signed with your soulmate agent, who still hasn't commented on the pages you sent. Some other author has a brand new book deal and yet another has hit the bestseller list.

You try to get back to work on your manuscript only to find it impossibly full of flaws and now you're all kinds of embarrassed that you ever dared to show it to anybody. Life stretches out before you, bleak, empty, and dull. All of your dreams wither up and die.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you've only dipped your toes in a Puddle of Gloom. Or maybe the gloom thing doesn't hit you at all.  This is wonderful, and I am happy to know there are such emotionally healthy, well-adjusted writers out there in the world.

For the rest of us, I have some thoughts to offer.

1 This reaction is actually normal.

Any mountaintop experience is likely to be followed by a plunge into the valley of shadow, or at least a return to the level plain. We can't live on the heights forever.

2. Introverts are drained by exposure to people.

Most writers - not all - are introverts. This doesn't mean we don't like people, it means we get our energy from alone time. Hanging out with other people (even awesome, exciting writer people) drains our energy. During a conference we are adrenaline-charged and fired by passion, and often don't notice that we've expended our energy supply and are running on fumes. There is a cost for this, and sooner or later we have to pay the bill.

3. We need time to process

There is no possible way to intellectually process everything that happens at a con. Too much happens too fast. Information, relationships, ideas, and opportunities pepper us at warp speed and we're only able to grasp a small percentage with our conscious brain. The subconscious, though, is hard at work on what we've missed. It will spend weeks processing, cataloguing, filing, and storing, feeding us little bits and pieces at random (and usually inconvenient) moments. This, again, requires some of that energy we don't currently have because it was depleted by all of that peopling we did.

So what do we do? How do we swim out of the Sea of Gloom? 

  1. Be kind to yourself.  Simple acceptance of the fact that you are an introverted human being who has been immersed in an intense sea of emotion and human contact carries you a long way toward shore. Tell yourself this is a normal reaction and that it won't last forever.
  2. Rest. Take a little time to recharge your physical batteries. Take care of your exhausted body by feeding it good food, getting some extra rest, drinking lots of water and indulging in gentle exercise. If you can manage time in nature, do this. If you're a city person, find some trees, the more the better. (I dare you to hug a tree, while you're at it. You're a writer. Everybody already knows you're weird.)
  3. Refill. Nurture your emotional self. Take a couple of days off writing and read a fantastic book. Resist the urge to compare your writing; just read for pleasure. Consider a brief Social Media break. Breathe. Do Yoga. Pet the cats or the dogs or the llamas, whatever type of friendly animal happens to be available. Hug a child. Listen to music. Do a non-writing craft. Draw pictures. Color in an adult coloring book, or a child's coloring book for that matter.
  4. Catalogue. Get out a journal and start making sense of your experience. If you're a logical sort, make lists of what you learned, what you plan to do, and how you plan to do it. If you're more freewheeling, do some daily free writing to help clear some of the backlog.
  5. Visualize. After you've taken a couple of days (or a week) to rest and recover, it's time to dive back in. Find five minutes of quiet and solitude where you won't be interrupted. Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths. Now, think back to the moment at the conference when you felt most inspired and motivated and excited. Recall how that felt. Draw on the physical sensations you experienced. Remember the thoughts that skipped through your head. Tap that motivation, that sense of possibility and hope and let it fill you to the brim.
  6. Go forth and do all the things. Pick a goal, break it into concrete tasks over which you have control, and run for the gold.

The Evolution of a Writer

At Bouchercon 2016

2016 has been the year of the question: What kind of writer do you want to be?

It’s something I’ve been trying to figure out for years. When I was young, I loved writing stories. Then in Middle School, I wrote a column for the school paper, The Ram Page, and decided I wanted to be a journalist. I studied Journalism in college, and started writing columns and articles for a regional paper. Then six years post college, two years post marriage, I found myself writing stories again. It didn’t take long for me to figure out I had a lot to learn.

With very limited options, I signed up for an Institute of Children’s Novel Writing class, sent off my money, received my course instructions, read the first chapter of the workbook, wrote a chapter, sent it to my instructor, repeat. She (or he—I never knew) read my work, critiqued the pages, sent it back with suggestions and instructions, repeat. By the end of the class I had a YA novella that was totally unpublishable.

Then I met Maggie Osborne. She was speaking at the local library, was well-published and willing to teach. Under her tutelage, I wrote a Harlequin Intrigue that was totally unpublishable. A few years later, my husband and I were moving back to the Front Range and she introduced me to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. That was in 1988. Since then I have been part of the RMFW family, made a number of lifelong friends, found my voice and a support system that has sustained me through the good and the bad of publishing.

In the summer of 1998, I was offered a three book contract for my Birdwatcher’s Mysteries. Then, with the first book in the series scheduled for release, the second book turned in and three more books on contract to write, life threw me a few curve balls. One required I spend two months in Israel in the Fall of 1999 while one of my daughters received medical treatment for an auto-immune disorder; the other required a prolonged battle against breast cancer (ultimately successful) that delayed the fulfillment of my contracts in a timely fashion.

It turned out serendipitous. In Israel, I came up with the idea for DARK WATERS (published in Sept 2015), while the battle against cancer meant I was late turning in manuscripts in the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series, impacting the momentum of sales. While my editor was supportive and understanding, the publisher viewed it smart business to cut their losses and chose not to renew my contract. I was devastated. BUT being out of contract meant I could focus on writing DARK WATERS.

It was a joy to have the time I used to have to write books. I could write at my own pace, ruminate over story, research to my heart’s content and polish my prose to perfection. Fast forward, I now have two publishers—one for the thrillers and one for the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series. DARK WATERS is out, Book #6 in the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series is out, and I’m midway through my editor’s revisions on RED SKY, scheduled for June 2017. AND yet I’m once more facing decisions.

Writing two books last year was hard. So, do I write Book #7 in the Birdwatcher's Mystery series or work on another thriller? Do I sign new contracts or take the Tony Hillerman approach, write a complete book nomatter how long it takes, polishing until I'm satisfied, and then try and sell it? Or do I sign a new contract with my traditional publisher, opt to go Indy, or quit and take up traveling full time?

Simple choices? Not!

While writing is art, it’s also a business. We may love to write, to play with words, and create stories that captivate readers, but once we’re under contract, there are expectations. It becomes a job! So, do I want to work on deadline, do I want to make money, do I want to practice the art of writing, can I do all of the above? Do I want to keep writing to a theme, or branch out and write a different book, a different genre altogether?

As a new monthly blogger, I plan to tackle some of these questions, share some of my own insights, struggles and perspective. If any of you have a topic you’d like me to address, please send me an email.

Bouchercon in New Orleans 2016
Bouchercon in New Orleans 2016

Meanwhile, for me, September has been the month of conferences. First there was Colorado Gold (a great con), and now there’s Bouchercon. These are two very different conventions. Colorado Gold is a teaching conference where you can take writing classes, meet agents who may want to represent you, read for editors who may like your book. Bouchercon is a mystery fan conference designed to showcase mystery writers and introduce them to readers, where already established writers can meet with their agents and editors and attend publisher parties. This year at Bouchercon I was up for an Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook, a big award in the mystery community. I didn’t win. Hard! But “it’s an honor to be nominated.” In truth, I had several people tell me that “the win is in being nominated.” Maybe, but I thought winning meant walking away with the Anthony. One dear friend put it best, “It sucks not to win. I’ve been a loser seven times and it never gets easier.” She bought me a drink and made me laugh. But, while it may suck to lose, I'm counting my blessings. It’s much better to have lost to Louise Penny than Paula Hawkins.

The real “win” for me was the opportunity to sit on a panel with Lee Child. The Rogue Women Writers (a group of eight women writing international espionage and geopolitical thrillers, who blog at were assigned a Friday afternoon slot with Lee moderating. For those who don’t read the genre, Lee Child is the #1 international thriller writer of the Jack Reacher novels. Now, I’m smart enough to know that nearly everyone in that room was there to see Lee, but still…what a thrill it was speaking to a standing-room only crowd. Thanks to all my RMFW friends who attended. A lot of you know how intimidating it is to sit in front of an audience and talk about yourself. Not only were you there to support me, but you Tweeted, Facebooked, shared photos, posted comments and took the time to tell me you thought the panel went well. FYI, I thought you all did well, too!! In my book, RMFW and the whole Rocky Mountain writers’ community rocks!

Take the First Step

14311444_1050223608424117_3014868071978910328_oTwo weekends ago, I was honored to be a presenter and panelist at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. If you are new to writing, or unfamiliar with the conference arm of this organization, I would highly encourage you learn more, consider attending, or even offer up your time as a volunteer. It is a fantastic opportunity to meet other writers, learn craft, and pitch your books to a variety of agents and editors.

I first learned of RMFW in 2005. I had just relocated back to Colorado with my husband, our two babies, Beth and Matthew, and a few dozen pages of a novel I had started writing while pregnant with Beth. Back then, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, but I remember the Internet search in Excite (the old Google for those that either don’t know or remember):

Colorado Writing Clubs.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers was one of the first results to pop up.

I didn’t know what this organization was, but I scoured every word on that old site and discovered they hosted writer critique groups and that there was one in my area, the North side of Denver. They met at the now closed Borders Bookstore on 104th avenue.

I was terrified, but I reached out anyway. Certain that I would be told no, I wasn’t welcome, good enough, or experienced enough to join their ranks. But that didn’t happen. For a small yearly fee, I joined RMFW and was accepted into my first ever critique group. I had been an avid reader my whole life, absorbing and learning story without ever knowing it. But it was that day, the day I took that first step toward RMFW that my formal education in writing and publishing began.

csdp0hcuiaaianbWriting can be a solitary and lonely business. Most writers I know, myself included, prefer those hours alone in our heads with story. But because we are not entirely nonhuman, we also need to connect with others of our kind. Since that day in 2005, I have slowly built up a truly fantastic network of fellow writers who I am proud to also call friends. Most of those connections started and continue to flourish because of RMFW.

I was a presenter and panelist at this years conference, but I clearly remember eleven years ago being an outsider looking in. Take that step, connect with other writers. I can practically guarantee you won’t be sorry you did.

Sooo . . . Rocky Mountain Gold Conference! Inner and Outer Validation. Friends.

I had a great conference, I hope you did, too! And I hope you got what you needed to progress with your work.

As one of the Honored Guiding Members, I was especially touched by the people who wrote something in my book, (I only reminded one, or maybe twenty, to do so). I speak for Chris Jorgensen and Sharon Mignerey in thanking the organization for making this particular conference so special for us.

I know that I will treasure the memory book. I'll be able to look at that wonderful volume and think that I have made friends, contributed to my writing community, and perhaps I've helped one or two writers along the way. That makes me proud.

No doubt I'll also take it out during the long, dark teatimes of my soul to help keep me going .

And since I mentioned outer validation, I have to repeat something I know, and that is: Outer validation is a drug, you need more of it, more often if you depend on it to keep you motivated.

Inner validation is what will continue to support you. My particular motivational saying is: I am doing the best I can with the resources I have. That works in past tense, too. I did the best I could with that writing, that book, with the resources I had.

Because all you, and I, can do is our best, right?

But that memory book will remind me, too, that I have friends who will stand me in good stead. During those dark moments when I need encouragement, I will remember that I can talk to my friends who will listen and help me.

And that's really what this community of writers, the conference is all about. Networking, yes; hoping to take another step up the ladder of a writing career, yes; but, for me, the bottom line is that I see people I may only see once a year. People I still consider my friends.

The conference, to me, is a place to reconnect with my friends who are no longer geographically close. To renew offers of support, to accept offers of support when I'm down.

That's really what we need each other for, to keep us going day-to-day, to talk to, to listen. About writing and about life.

And about our writing life. You need to brainstorm a plot? Sure, I'll help you. You're having a problem with this scene, whose point of view should it be in? I'll listen, I'll read.

That's what this Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization is for, support.

Thanks again, may your day go well, and may all your writing dreams come true,

A Few Words About Photo Copyrights

The topic of photo copyrights came up during several of my workshops at last weekend's Colorado Gold Conference (one of the best Writers' Conferences anywhere - and if you've never attended one, PLEASE join us next September, when the conference turns 35!). Authors often have a limited understanding of how copyright law applies to photographs - and sometimes don't realize that using photos pulled from the Internet without a license is copyright infringement unless the photograph is in the public domain (or the owner has released it for use by others).

In light of that, I thought I'd take a little time today to review the law of copyright as it applies to photographs (and their use online), and offer tips for protecting yourself and your work from claims that you've infringed a photo copyright.

Copyright attaches to photographs at the time of creation, and belongs to the photographer who shot the image (or, in some cases, the client who hired the photographer to create works for hire). You cannot use someone else's image without a license (or permission), unless the image is released for your intended use and/or has entered the public domain--and you must be able to prove that status.

In other words: you cannot simply pull someone else's photographs from the Internet and use them, even on a blog that earns no money. 

Also, you cannot assume a photograph is released for use or in the public domain because it appears on Pinterest or on someone else's blog or website. (Even sites that claim to offer copyright-released or licensed photos for free can carry some degree of risk, because if a troll uploads a copyrighted image without the author's permission, people who subsequently use that image may be subject to infringement claims. It's rare, but I've seen it happen, with expensive consequences.)

So what's an author to do?

Some authors subscribe to reliable paid photography services that give access to image libraries. For a fee (and, in some cases, for free on a more limited basis) authors can use the images in these libraries for book covers, blogs, and other creative endeavors. Some services work on a "pay as you go" basis, licensing individual images, while others allow authors to pay a monthly (or annual) fee for unlimited image use. Only subscribe to reputable sites, and when using free photo sites, make sure the operators actually check the source of the images they offer.

Some authors stick with images that have entered the public domain, either due to copyright expiration or a confirmed copyright release by the photographer or copyright owner. Once an image has entered the public domain, it's free to use and it isn't copyright infringement to use it for blogs, book covers, and other creative works. The U.S. Library of Congress has an extensive collection of images, many of which are in the public domain and thus completely free to download and use. (Here's a link to their Japanese collection - much of which is in the public domain.) 

When pulling images from any website, BEWARE. Some free image sites are legitimate, but others may contain stolen or copyright-infringing images uploaded accidentally (or, in rare cases, on purpose by devious individuals wanting to cause trouble). When in doubt, don't use the image. You will be legally liable for copyright infringement even if the infringement was accidental.


The best solution of all is to create the images yourself. Most people have either a camera or (more commonly) a mobile device that includes a camera. When traveling, or even out and about near home, take photographs of everything from rocks to flowers to automobiles (be sure to blur any license plates you capture - or, better still, take photos where the license plate doesn't show).


I refer to this habit of taking photos of various objects and places as "shooting B roll" - and it's a habit every author and blogger should adopt.

In film and television, camera crews shoot a combination of "A roll" - the scenes involving the actors, hosts, or primary subjects of the film - and "B roll" - still and moving shots of background, interesting objects, and other items used in post-production to enhance the film, as well as for bumpers and introductory scenes.

By shooting your own B roll when you're out and about, you're establishing a photo library of images you own, which you can use for any and every purpose, from cover art to blogging and beyond.



Need a mug for a post on your favorite morning beverage?







Don't limit your photographs to family functions, historical sites and lovely landscapes--though they're certainly useful too. 



Start photographing that B-roll now. It won't take long to build a photo library all your own.



Like this bowl, you'll be glad you did.

Rocky Mountain Writer #56

julieJ.A. Kazimer & "25 Things I Wish I Knew 5 Years Ago."

At RMFW's big annual Colorado Gold conference this month, Julie Kazimer (a.k.a. j.A. Kazimer) gave a workshop called "25 Things I Wish I Knew 5 Years Ago – Moving from Pre-Published to Multi-Published."

Among those 25 tips was one very simple suggestion: don’t publish crap.

On the podcast, Julie dives a bit more into her workshop tips and talks about her publishing career, which didn't start until she received a combined 1,000 rejections for four different writing projects.

Perhaps Julie’s most well-known work is CURSES – An F’d Up Fairy Tale. Her latest is The Assassin's Kiss (Camel Books), the third in a series.

When she isn't looking for a place to hide the bodies, Julie spends her time with a pup named Killer.. She spent a few years as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of writer.


More: Julie Kazimer's website

Intro music by Moby Gratis
Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens:

Hello and Here’s to Romance

Hello from the high mountains of Colorado.

After what can’t be called a hiatus - because it was too long - I am back writing for the RMFW blog. Looking forward to it. When Patricia Stoltey asked me to write, I asked her if there was a topic she’d like me to explore. She replied that she’d like more posts on writing romance. Her wish is my command.

When I was a kid, I really didn’t love to read. I was captivated by television - maybe even addicted. That was back in the day before recorders (yes, campers, we did have color TV in those days) and I knew exactly what days and times my heroes would show up on the screen. Woe be unto anyone who interrupted. And, if my mom planned something different for me - EGADS!!! I’d have to wait and catch that episode on reruns.

Looking back, I realize that this obsessive TV watching was feeding the romance writer in me. Feeding my fascination with heroes.

Then, when I was in my late teens, I was introduced to romance - historical romance to be exact.

Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers.

The Flame and the Flower, The Wolf and the Dove, Sweet Savage Love and Dark Fires.

8131425And I became a reader. I then married a military man and books kept me company in Germany during the long weeks when he was away.

I carried stories in my heart for years, wondering if I could actually write a novel, before finally making the leap. Whether you write romance, or sci-fi, or fantasy, or whatever you write - you know that feeling of taking a deep breath and beginning that first story.

Though some of my tastes in romance have changed, I still love going on the journey. Romance is a journey whose destination is pre-determined. To be classified as a romance there must be a happy ending. The hero and heroine must be together in some sort of committed relationship at the end of the book.

Romance readers demand it.

As an aside - this is why some of us rail at the categorization of Nicolas Sparks as a “romance” writer. Hello. No, Message in a Bottle is NOT a romance novel. It’s a love story. But - spoiler alert - a book in which the hero dies halfway through - not a romance.

Sorry for the digression.

And how committed are the readers of romance? Pretty darn committed.

Romance is the number one selling genre.


According to Romance Writers of America, 84% of romance book buyers are women. (That’s surprising to me. Yet, I do have male readers of my military romance.) 64% of those readers read romance more than once a month, 35% buy romance more than once a month. And by and large, those readers have been reading romance for 10-20 years.

The top rated sub-genres in romance are:

Print: romantic suspense (53%); contemporary romance (41%); historical romance (34%); erotic romance (33%); New Adult (26%); paranormal romance (19%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (17%).

E-book: romantic suspense (48%); contemporary romance (44%); erotic romance (42%); historical romance (33%); paranormal romance (30%); New Adult (26%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (14%).

The reason I mentioned these statistics is to show that writing romance is not a whim. It very well might be a great business decision if you love the genre. Also I wanted to point out the wide variety of stories you can tell within the category.

Why do I write romance?

Because I believe in love. Love that overcomes obstacles. Love that, after all is said and done, wins the day. Love that binds two imperfect people together to face the world together.

I’ll be back next month and we’ll get into some of the requirements of the genre.

Until then, campers, BIC-HOK - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.


It’s About Who You Know: The Truth About Successful Publishing

Word Cloud "Social Innovation"I won’t claim to know what makes a successful writer. I do know what it takes to be a working one. Let me start this post by dropping a little knowledge: A working writer is a writer who works. I know, right? Who knew? A working write writes. They often write a lot.

I’m a working writer.

I don’t write every day.

I don’t outline.

I don’t do many booksignings or other promotions.

I get sick of writing.

I get even more sick of publishing.

I am a bad working writer.

I still write.

This past weekend me and about 400 of my new closest friends spent three days revealing in A) workshops and B) the fact we aren’t alone. No, dear writer, you are not a freak of nature…okay, you might be, but the rest of us surely aren’t.

There were so many fantastic workshops. I learned lots of things. I pitched to an editor. I met my agent in person for the first time since 2007 when I signed with her. I hung out with people I don’t spend enough time with. Met so many more who I now adore.

And in the midst of the madness, it came to me. THIS IS WHAT PUBLISHING IS ABOUT. Being part of a tribe. Being a part of something bigger than my writing cave, bigger than my isolation. If I sold a million books tomorrow, I’d know, while the money and fame are nice, it’s about the people I consider my tribe.assassins_kiss

Don't believe me? Fine, buy 10 copies of my latest book, and then tell 10 friends.  ----->

You never know when that person you meet today, turns out to be the very reason you become rich and famous. Thank you to all those I met this conference. To those I hold dear until next year, when you forget to buy me a whiskey.

Hope you had a lovely conference too. Tell me what you enjoyed most--Who you met? What you learned?

Up Like A Rocket

SpaceX_Rocket2Last month I gave my quick list tips for getting started in marketing, but this month let's get into the weeds on the launch itself.

Many people still go for the biggest bang on the first day. They'll take out ads, email their lists, post on their blogs -- sometimes weeks in advance -- in an attempt to gin up some interest in a book that may not be available yet. Launch day comes, everybody buys the book, sales rank climbs straight up like a rocket. Our erstwhile author sits there, refreshing the sales screen every few minutes, unable to look away.

Great launch.

Then there's the next day. And the next. And the next. There's a very, very long line of "the next" in this book's future but there's a nasty surprise in store for those who aren't aware of how this book actually gets into orbit.

Up like a rocket?
Down like a rock.

The problem is the way sales ranks get calculated. It's a black box as far as precise details go, but there are some models we can use that approximate the algorithm's behavior.

Your book's sales rank marks your place on the bestseller list in Amazon.

Example: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,810 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

That means there are 16,809 books selling better than you in the last hour and a few million selling worse.

So how does Amazon calculate that? It's not based on the number of books you sold in the last hour. It's a weighted average based on a rolling window that counts current sales more than past sales.

Here's what a hard launch looks like after 20 days.

That first day is great with 500 sales. It might get you up above #300 in terms of sales rank. The red line marks the weighted average ("Sales points") per day as that big chunk rolls off. By the end of the first week, you're at the bottom of the Great Amazonian Sea unless you can maintain a level of sales. For the first time author, getting a big first day is much easier than getting a good first two weeks.

Here's what a soft launch looks like after 20 days.

graph-soft-launchNote the difference in scale. Everything here happens under the 100 level on the hard launch graph, but the important thing is that your consistent sales yield a persistent position on the best seller lists. It's worth noting how the graph falls off when sales start tapering down after 14 days. If you can maintain that modest level of sale, your sales rank will stay more or less level.

Both graphs represent about 625 sales.  As an author, you'll make the same amount with either launch. As a publisher, your sales rank performance will be better with the soft launch because those sales ranks feed into other metrics like the Popularity list, giving your book better visibility there even when the bestseller lists start to fade.

Here's what an actual soft launch looks like after eleven months.

Note that this title stayed above #1,000 for a month and above #10,000 for four months. My launch consisted of one email to my list, one post on my blog, one tweet, and a note to my Facebook fan group - each separated by a day to try to spread the notice out. I don't have a hard launched book to show you. I've been doing soft launches since I started publishing my own books in 2012.

The soft launch gives you a chance to ask your network to share the news while the book is still visible. It's a window where some small amounts of promotion can actually make a difference, even on a first book. The advantages for the second and third and fourth books just multiply if - and this is a big if - you can keep your messaging low key so everybody doesn't buy on the first day.

If you can keep your book from going up like a rocket, you might be able to keep it from coming down like a rock.

Disclaimer: The launch pattern graphs do NOT represent the actual bestseller algorithm on Amazon. Only Amazon knows the exact mathematics involved. Things like "how much weight to apply to aging sales" and "how long is the window" are only approximated here based on observed performances. While the actual levels of those curves might vary, the general shapes have proven to be reliable. The third graph is from my Author Central reporting for the last book I released.