We took a short holiday recently - which is why there's been no newsletter for the past couple of weeks. We deliberately chose a place that had no Internet access!
Nice to get away to plot a new book or three and recharge our batteries. Lovely.
A friend and I released a music CD this week, along with a short video. The CD is 75 minutes of beautiful guided meditation designed to heal you emotionally and even physically. We're getting great feedback. And it's available on Amazon Music here and now!
Finding Your Unique Genre
Finding your own successful writing genre is about maintaining a delicate balance between following your heart, listening to your intuition, and actively responding to the marketplace.
What kind of writer are you?
Are you primarily a fiction author? If so, of what? Novels, short stories, flash fiction, screenplays? And in which genre? Romance, thrillers, horror, YA, fantasy?
When you’re starting out, it's hard to decide where best to allocate your writing energy. There are so many possible ways forward. And without feedback – as in sales – how are you to know what is a profitable use of your precious time?
Luckily we now live in an age where we can self-publish on Amazon and gain almost instant results. We can usually tell within days whether a new book will receive a positive response, perhaps catch the public imagination, and hopefully become a firm seller.
This process used to take years, even decades, using legacy publishing. Now, independent writers can exert far more control over their careers and destinies. All good news.
However, it's hard to pin down what you might be doing - and will actually enjoy doing - in five year's time. More especially when something about your writing may take off and - for financial rather than creative reasons - you find yourself writing different kinds of books than you imagined. This actually happens more than you probably realize.
Did you know that Paulo Coelho (author of The Alchemist and other spiritual parables) originally wrote vampire stories?
And that Patricia Cornwell (the crime writer) first planned on being a romance
Two newer writers, Stuart MacBride and Scott Mariani, both wanted to write fantasy novels until their careers blossomed with crime and action/adventure, respectively. Both authors are now firmly committed to writing the novels they've become famous for – but are trying to now 'sneak in' their fantasy work. Indeed, Stuart MacBride openly complains that he's probably more grumpy as a writer because he never thought he'd end up a successful crime author.
Despite the possibility of these developments in your own career, it's important that you start somewhere and define the kind of author you think you will become.
Do that now.
Write it down. Fill in the blank.
Five years from now I will be writing _______________ for a living.
You need to do this because it's much harder to attain success if you don't know what it looks like.
When I did this filling in the blank exercise back in 2002, I predicted I'd be writing self-help books for writers. Sure enough, five years later, that's exactly what I was doing full time.
Now, I had good reason for pursuing that goal, which may not be appropriate for you. My main motivation back then was not working nine to five and, from all the research I did at the time, it seemed that achieving success as a self-help writer was as close as I could get to a sure thing.
The above assertion is, of course, not always true but what was important, I think, is that I believed it at the time.
I've read many writers' success stories and have yet to find one where a writer gave up his or her day job to write fiction only and went on to become an overnight success. As far as I can tell, it just doesn't happen.
Fiction writing most frequently requires support in the short term: savings, a supportive spouse, a day job, or at least an alternate source of income for one or two years. Perhaps less if you write and self-publish quickly (say, a new novel on Amazon every four to six weeks.)
However, with nonfiction, a do or die approach to a writing career can work. Nonfiction titles sell because many more people are looking for information and solutions to their problems.
I basically put a hold on my own novel writing in 2002 to concentrate on building an Internet business.
I'd written two novels before that. A semi-autobiographical piece called Kiss Chase and a sprawling 200,000 word epic fantasy called Immortal Flame - both of which I consider my training wheel novels - and are probably in need of a serious re-write before publication.
It wasn't until 2007 that I got back into writing novels again.
We were working with a film production company and I woke up one morning with an idea for a movie about a family of people who didn't know they were related, but were all blessed with psychopathic genes…
By that time I had enough income from the website and screenplay advances to be able to devote four hours a day to writing the novel that became Kindred.
Oddly enough, instead of releasing the book, I put it aside - with some vague idea of self publishing it in paperback through my publishing company, Magellan Books, after a good edit or three.
I then wrote Willow, a YA novel that I was convinced the world needed.
You know how it is. I woke up one morning and decided that a modern version of The Three Investigators (by author Robert Arthur and others) would be terrific. The basic idea was that I'd have three teens solving mysteries. The modern twist would be that one was psychic, one was a medium, and one was a ghost.
It turned out to be a fun adventure/mystery story that still gets good reviews.
Interestingly, the book did actually reach a number one spot on Amazon just after its release - in the True Paranormal genre. That wasn't intentional on my part. I think Amazon just misread the blurb. But it did amaze me that, yes, you can indeed create a bestselling novel, even with your first fiction release on Amazon.
After five edits - three from me, one from our assistant (Elyse) and one from my wife, Robyn, I decided to unleash Kindred as a follow up to Willow.
Kindred did amazingly well. It sold a truckload compared to Willow, even though it was initially $7.99. Both books are selling to this day. So, despite arriving comparatively late on the fiction scene, as it were, I proved to myself that being a bona fide novelist was finally an option that could be taken seriously.
Now, you'll probably have noticed that I have begun a crime thriller series, the first of which is Purge, along with continuing my Easy Way to Write series.
I think I’ve finally managed to strike a balance between fiction and nonfiction that I’m happy to pursue.
Essentially, I’ve found that the longer my career progresses, the more and better I respond to the marketplace, my fans, my subscribers, and my book sales.
My problem, if that’s what it is, is that I enjoy writing all kinds of things, including music, and film.
I haven’t yet been able to pick one specific genre or niche and stick to it.
Recently I had an epiphany when it became clear to me that I do indeed have one genre that I stick to. And that genre is Rob Parnell.
I think, with the proliferation of self-publishing, this is how it works for many authors these days. If you follow your heart, trust your intuition, and actively respond to the marketplace, you may invent your own genre, which, by definition almost, is a direct reflection of who you are, and what you want to write about.
I believe that it is grasping what you want first, however, that is fundamental to getting the career you will need later.
Mainly because knowing what you want in your future defines the way you come across to your readers now.
And, even if you've never sold a book at this point, your future success can be pretty much pre-determined by the stance you take in your writing at this point in time.
So don’t be at all afraid to be yourself.
Do it well, but do it your way.
MY CURRENT AMAZON FICTION: