Natalie Bright

For the past six years, Mark Coker with Smashwords has shared results of their readers survey. Several of the topics covered include pricing, box sets, word count, social media, genres. The results of the 2017 Smashwords Survey can be viewed in total, see links below.

The Smashwords catalog offers over 450,000 titles and is fiction heavy. 87.5% of Smashwords’ sales during this survey period were for fiction. Romance, including YA romance, accounted for almost 50% of total sales.

Listen to the Podcast #7 here:

Watch his complete RWA slideshow presentation here:

Here are a few of the major points that I found interesting:

Top Selling Genre

According to the 2017 Smashwords survey, the top selling genres for fiction were Romance, Erotica, Fantasy, Young Adult & Teen, and Science Fiction. The top five for non-fiction were Self Improvement at #1, Health, Well-Being and Medicine #2, Business and Economics, Religion and Spirituality, and Relationships and Family.  Obviously romance readers are the most veracious, and are loyal fans.

Presence on Social Media

Of the top 1000 bestsellers, close to 75% of these authors have a website or a blog. Over 60% of the bestselling authors are on Facebook and on Twitter. Readers like connecting with their favorite authors

Book Pricing

Books that are priced at free, on average, get about 33 times more downloads then books at any other price. More proof that FREE for a first book in your series is a powerful way to introduce readers to your work. By pricing your book at free, you make it easy for new readers to take a chance on you. Many authors write a shorter novella priced as free or as a give-away in newsletters, as an introduction to their series. The survey definitely shows that series with free first book earn more than series without that starter incentive book. I’m torn on this topic, because I wonder if our hard work has been devalued. Everybody thinks they can write a book, and it’s so easy to publish these days. The profession of writing has shifted away from the craft of writing a great story to publish your work now. As you all know, writing and editing is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do, and it has to be done first before you can have a book in hand. Then comes the publishing and promotion.

It’s Still about the Story

After last week’s critique meeting with the WordsmithSix gang, I can tell you that quality continues to be our focus. We are working on stories for a Route 66 themed anthology, and from what I read last week, readers are in for a treat. We leave no stone unturned when we critique each other’s work. We talk about character motivation, plot structure, and setting descriptions. Our meetings usually run about three hours, and we don’t waste much time on spelling and grammar issues. We really try to dig deep to assure that readers discover an entertaining story.


Fear of Heights

Fear of Heights

Nandy Ekle

Raylene dropped her purse and keys in the chair by the door. Her six-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Stevie, and her just-turned-five-year-old son, Wonder, came bounding up the steps into the mobile home behind her, trying to tear each other apart.

“No, I get the first snack,” Stevie yelled.

“No, I do,” Wonder yelled back.

“Ow! you pulled my hair! I’m telling. Mom, Wonder pulled my hair and it really hurt!” She rubbed the offended part of her scalp, then she stomped on his foot.

Wonder let out an amazing shriek. “Mom! Stevie stepped on my foot!”

Raylene took a deep breath and shut the door. “Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop it right now! Both of you. No snacks for anyone. Both of you get to your rooms while I get dinner done. Now.”

“But, Mom,” they both whined in unison.

“Get!” She pointed toward the hallway and twitched her head in the same direction. Sister and brother looked at each other with unabashed hatred in their eyes, then plodded off to their rooms.

Excerpt from “The Winter Wizard”

Excerpt from “The Winter Wizard”

By Adam Huddleston

This week, I simply wanted to release a few paragraphs of a fantasy story that I am currently working on. If it were to ever be published, it would actually be the beginning of the second book in a series entitled “The Sea-Wall”.

The wind and snow assaulted the small, wooden cabin. Each gust threatened to separate the old timbers that made up the walls and roof. Ben and his family snuggled deep under their bed covers seeking warmth, but only managing to frustrate their tired bodies. Just as the family patriarch was nearing sleep, a loud rap came from the front door.

Ben slowly cracked one eye open and peered into the darkness. He waited a few seconds, hoping the sound was just a rogue branch blown by the wind, or perhaps a wayward owl, lost in the blur of a night blizzard. He counted to five and was about to drift off to sleep when the knock came again.

Ben covered himself in a giant bear skin and stumbled out of bed. The icy-cold floor bit into his feet and he moaned loudly. The knocking continued, growing in intensity.

“I’m coming!” he growled at the newcomer. “It’s the middle of the night, don’t ya know?”

Ben hobbled through the modest den and grasped the brass knob, wincing as the metal stung his palm, and ripped the door open.

On the narrow stoop, covered in a thick blanket of bright snow, was something that resembled a human figure. After a few moments, a thick walking staff appeared out of the whiteness and pushed an ice-covered hat upwards. A pair of deep-blue eyes, deeper and bluer than the waters of the Sea-Wall (not that Ben had actually ever seen the Wall in person), opened. The eyes belonged to a trouble-worn face, and Ben took a step back as a bushy set of grey eyebrows furrowed over them. The man leaned forward and fixed Ben with a fierce gaze.

“It’s time to repay your debt,” he said.


Outtakes 322


By Cait Collins


I love the changing seasons. Spring gives the promise of birth and renewal. Blossoming flowers and budding trees give us hope for a brighter, warmer time. Summer’s brightness and warmth bring families and friends together to celebrate by the lake or the pool. Picnics and bike rides are popular activities. Crops planted in the spring grow to maturity.

Fall is my favorite season. The turning leaves paint the world with unspeakable beauty. The golden colors of the aspen and birch trees against white trunks reaching up to a cold blue sky take my breath away. Red, gold, and brown maple leaves fall gently to the ground. Every turn of the road reveals more beauty. The air is cooler and crisp fall scents of the harvest perfume the air.

Winter snows blanket the ground and we slip and slide on icy streets and sidewalks. Frigid air chases us indoors and we gather around the fire popping popcorn and telling stories while the world sleeps preparing for rebirth in the spring.

Writing a book or story follows the pattern of the seasons. Spring is the spark or beginning of the work. The author opens his mind to possibilities. He embraces this new-born idea and nurtures it.

As spring becomes summer, the work grows under the watchful eye of the creator. Characters mature and actions lead to reactions that are both good and bad. The climax is on the cooling horizon.

The work is completed and sold. The author settles in anticipating the harvest of sales. And then the resting time comes. It is a time to restore the mind and allow the body to recharge and while the seed of a new idea takes hold. A new flower blooms.

Social Networking

Social Networking

Rory C. Keel

For a writer, social networking sites are beneficial in several ways.

First, they can help you make connections with other writers who are trying to achieve the same goals. The ability to discuss with others the techniques that work, and those that might not, can help you as a writer avoid mistakes and pitfalls by increasing your knowledge of the writing craft.

Second, social networking sites can provide the ability to contact and reach out to successful writers and their publishers, creating opportunities that you might not otherwise have. Due to the high volume of manuscripts received by publishers, many good writers are overlooked. By networking with publishers, agents, and the authors who write for them, your connections could turn into an asset when you are ready to seek publication.

The third is marketing. As much as we would like for our writing to sell itself, or for our publishers to do all the marketing, we will need to do some of it, if not most, for ourselves. A majority of publishers will want to know your platform – in other words, do you have an audience? With social networking sites, you can develop a potentially vast audience for your writing.

Word Count for Picture Books

Word Count for Picture Books

Natalie Bright

0-200 words. 8-24 pages. BOARD BOOKS have minimal text with thick pages for little fingers to hold.

About 600 words. 32 pages. PICTURE BOOKS for ages 2-5. Text and illustrations on every page.

Up to 1000 words. 32 pages. Ages 4-8. Fiction or nonfiction.

Up to 1500 words. 40 pages. Ages 6-10. Fiction story picture books have longer stories for older readers.

Up to 2000 words. 48 pages. Ages 8-12. Nonfiction PICTURE BOOKS for middle grade readers, usually illustrated with photographs, may or may not have chapters.


                   Outtakes 325 



                     By Cait Collins 

​In past years, I’ve been afraid to read my favorite authors’ backlists. I was concerned that I would be disappointed. Recently I bought a Nora Robert’s release that I had been told was a new novel. Instead First Snow was a release of her books A Will and a Way (1986) and Local Hero (1987). While the stories are different from her more recent works, they are great reads. These older titles made me realize that an author must to grow with every release.

​I was first introduced to Nora Roberts as a romance writer, then later as a writer of romantic suspense. Later I discovered her witches, demons and ghosts. I’m still hooked. I have a feeling that Ms. Roberts grabbed at every opportunity. And that’s the point. We don’t grow unless we try.

​I prefer writing novels to writing short stories. But what’s wrong with writing a short story? It may be frustrating at times, yet it is worth the effort. Sadly we let the fear and frustration prevent us from achieving a new phase in our careers. And even though the first attempt might not be perfect, the next book or short story will be better. We will improve with each completed work. That’s the whole point of experimenting and rewriting. It makes our work better and more marketable. It gives us confidence in our talent and career path. If we only try we might one day have our own backlist.



Natalie Bright

Writing is the hardest work you’ll ever do.

Many people start their great American novel with good intentions, and for many different reasons, and then it’s time to edit.

My kids have this notion that writing an assignment paper is going to be a breeze, so they wait until the last minute. My son talked about his research paper for several weeks before the due date. The theme was something he knew a lot about, and he verbally explained the outline of his paper very thoroughly. I was impressed (and surprised at how he seemed to be interested in an English assignment). The grade was barely passing, due to sloppy sentences, misspelled words, “the writing is not good” wrote his teacher. Why didn’t he read over his work? He had put a lot of thought into the research topic, but almost no effort into the writing itself.

Time after time, I talk to wanna-be authors who have given up and given in to the utter frustration of editing their draft. They are daunted and shocked at how much work they have yet to do, because the story seemed so alive in their head. More often than not, the story has been in their head for many years. The idea that was so clear and brilliant in their mind reads like crap on the page.

Do not be intimated. This is how the process works – seriously! You have to edit your work.

The real magic happens, I believe, during the editing process. This is when your story takes shape and rises above the others. This is when you find your writer’s voice, and realize the load of crap has possibilities. This is where you’ll leave the physical world of your daily existence and disappear into the world you’ve created.

Writing is harder than most people think. There is always a better word, description, sentence order, scene; it’s never really finished and it won’t emerge on the page perfect, but you have to stay with it. Please don’t give up that easy. If you have a story in your head, YOU and only you, can be the one to write it. If you’ve always wanted to be a published author, you can!


Perfect Pet

Outtakes 324

Perfect Pet

By Cait Collins



I remember having pets as I was growing up, but I never really bonded with any of them. I didn’t take the time to go out and throw a ball with them and I didn’t chase them around the yard. You see I wasn’t much of an outdoor person and Mom didn’t allow pets in the house. So my relationship with our dogs was relegated to feeding and watering them. I’d also do the occasional hug. But I did not develop a friendship with one of the animals. When we lost them either by a transfer to another state or by death, I’d shed a tear, but I never really missed one of them

The heroine in my current story was critically injured in an earthquake. She was the lone survivor when a hut used for a schoolhouse collapses and traps her beneath the rubble. Her father finds a pure-bred German Sheppard to be her service dog. Muttley becomes more than her protector and soother of nerves and fears, he becomes her friend and confidant. She pours out her heart to him. She’s able to talk to him when humans seem to annoy and frustrate her. I envy that relationship. The trick for me will be developing the relationship between Muttley and Moira. Since I’ve not bonded with an animal, I’m going to have to figure out how to allow the relationship between woman and dog to gown until even the idea of a separation is unbearable.

One idea would be to get a dog. But I’m seldom home and that would be unfair to the dog. Besides, I would soon resent being awakened in the middle of the night to let my new pet go potty. I guess that makes me selfish, so I’ll really have to stretch to get the scenes right. I hope I’m up to the challenge.



By Natalie Bright


Sparks on sticky notes, piles of articles, spirals full of handwritten chapters, lists of historical topics to research – all potential stories. I’ve got to get this mess organized.

My mind is in overload mode, because I love writing so much that I am now attuned to every idea that pops into my head, and ideas are coming from everywhere. I used to worry that I’d never have enough ideas to stay busy. I gave up television, scrapbooking, and cross-stitch for this?

I’m not sure when the voices inside my head got so loud, but it happened. I can’t shut them up, and I don’t want to. My problem now; no self-discipline. I like every minute of the process from first draft, research, to final edits, and then planning book events. It’s all fun. I even like co-writing, with four projects in the works. Two more rescue animal stories coming in November, plus two more new projects next year.

Wait a minute. Let’s take a more professional view of my process. Let’s take the heart out of the creativity. The truth is I would have fired me years ago.

My middle grade historical, HANGIN’ DAY, was six years in the making through the traditional route. It was agented but never sold. Six. Years. No other industry has that kind of turnaround time. I’m taking serious disciplinary action against myself, and the key to success is to Stay. On. Task.

Here’s My New Plan:

  1. New ideas get a page in the idea journal. Nothing more. Jot a few notes, but always return to the WIP.
  2. Working titles and self-imposed deadlines are posted on a whiteboard. Stick with the schedule.
  3. Which idea burns the brightest fire in my gut, and does it have potential? List those sparks on the whiteboard, with a designated start date and possible pub date.  What needs my attention NOW? And then, what’s next?
  4. Apply myself to learning more tools of the trade. Scrivener has really made a difference for me this past year. Next up: formatting.

How do you stay on task?

In the meantime, our group project is progressing. You’re going to really enjoy these Route 66 stories.

Finish your book! The world needs your story.