The Savvy Author


Forget Amazon Rankings and Just Write!

Book sales are very important to an author. It’s a nice feeling to see a book into which you’ve poured heart, soul and an incredible amount of time, produce healthy sales. The problem is that not all places that put up sales and author rankings are equal or tell the whole truth. A good example of this problem is Amazon.

I know an author who measures his days by his author ranking and book sales numbers on Amazon. If his numbers are “good,” he’s in a happy frame of mind. But, oh, when those numbers drop! He is down and miserable wondering what he can do to raise his numbers to what he feels are acceptable levels. In fact, he spends so much time on publicity schemes that he doesn’t write the 1,000 words a day he has promised himself he would do. He is getting far behind in his outlines and the writing schedule for his new book all because of his rankings.

What authors forget is that the rankings on Amazon don’t tell the whole book-selling story. Amazon is not the be-all and end-all of the book-selling world. Not selling well on Amazon doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t selling well on other book selling sites. Sales from those other sites won’t be reflected in Amazon sales, nor will your author ranking. I know this because my own books sell very well, and my Nielsen rank is high, even when the sales figures are lower on Amazon, because the giant online store tracks only its own sales. An author’s overall success as a writer is not linked solely to Amazon. How can you tell how many books you’ve actually sold on Amazon from your sales rank there? The answer is simple — you can’t.

Barnes and Noble also has rankings which seem to be a better way to judge your sales numbers because, unlike Amazon, 95 percent of what B&N sells are actually books and ebooks. It is the same with online and brick-and-mortar independent bookstores. You may find better sales figures at BookFinder, Abe’s Books, a local book shop or independent booksellers.

The rank for one book in Amazon online stores varies from country to country. Each store represents a different demographic or market. Let’s say a book ranks #10 in (Australia) but ranks #11,264 in (U.S.A.). Sales figures will differ accordingly. Also, Amazon claims that the Bestsellers Rank is calculated hourly, but Amazon’s information about true rankings are meager at best.

The info available may state that the ranking of bestsellers is updated every hour but it seems that most rankings are not updated that frequently. Here’s how it really works: The sales standing of books ranked #1 to #10,000 are recalculated every hour. Books in the #10,001-#110,000 are recalculated daily, not hourly, and those over #110,000 are ranked monthly. Big difference. And while the Amazon ranking of your book is good to know, it doesn’t necessarily match the royalty statement from your publisher. That statement is gathered from the sales data of all book sales, not just from one source. If you are truly concerned with your book’s sales and your author ranking, send an email to your publisher requesting the info he or she has on the book.

Writing is a time-consuming, deadline-oriented profession. If you’re not actually writing, you’re thinking about it. It is like no other profession in the world because it is with you all the time. How many of us have gotten up in the middle of the night to jot down a story idea, a character’s line, or a scene? You love your passion and you are consumed by it willingly.

Authors who start to worry about their Amazon ranking should be aware that by doing so they’re allowing Amazon to define their success. My advice is to just keep writing and find good ways to publicize your book — 80 percent writing and 20 percent smart publicity is best. Remember that a well-written book that drawers readers to you is your best publicity. The sales figures will, eventually, take care of themselves.


More: Coming in December, 2016

It's almost here! Magic, Murder, Mystery-can our NYC PI Cate solve this case in New Orleans? coming December, 2016
UNREPENTANT-Pray for Us Sinners
book 3 in A Cate Harlow Private Investigation

Amazon Book Publishing Book Reviews Book Sales Nielsen Ratings

Why (Most) Childfree Women Are Successful

"If you want to be successful in your career, don’t have children."

Female Speaker at Women and Business conference

It’s interesting to note that while women have significantly advanced in their chosen professions, there is still a huge imbalance in the number of women who have made it to the top of their fields. What isn’t so surprising is that the women who do forge successful careers are mostly child-free. Not having children seems to be a plus in the career department.

Nothing gets the pot stirred like a statement that some women do not want to be mothers... ever. They’re not postponing it, they’re bypassing it altogether. And in reality, there are many women who feel that being mothers hampers their careers and their choice of lifestyles.

Believe me when I say that this post is not written as a slur on any woman’s choice to become a mother, nor is it written as an all-out paean to child-free women. It is what it is — the observation that to succeed, you need to focus on what you want without distraction. To do that, you need to put what needs to be done high on your list of priorities. Men have been doing it for years without anyone thinking less of them. Whether in the corporate, financial or even artistic realms, to reach the top in your career requires a single-minded drive, dedication and passion.

Girls are taught that motherhood is a desired natural state; a state which is a normal progression in our lives as females. Even today, the emphasis is on motherhood first, career second, and that is wrong. Motherhood doesn’t define womanhood.

In the book The Barrenness, a fictional work by writer Sonja Lewis, the sensitive topic of a woman’s choice whether or not to have children is wonderfully addressed. Should the thirty-something protagonist put her career on hold and have children or not? It’s a choice many of us face.

Motherhood is draining; you can’t deny it. Yes, motherhood can be a beautiful experience, but only for those who truly want it. Unless you have a strong maternal drive and feel your life would be incomplete without a child, having one is an illogical choice; it doesn’t make sense financially, health-wise (think: sleep deprivation) and can restrict you from living the type of life you want to live — especially if that life includes a high-powered career requiring long hours and travel.

Raising a child is time-consuming. Why is it surprising that some women choose to dedicate that child-rearing time to their careers and adult relationships? And why, if we do that, are we considered selfish? Where is it dictated that we have to give our time, our energy and our lives to another being? Because society or religious views say we should? To me, that argument is insufficient,

Career, personal freedom and finances are some of the top reasons many women choose not to have children. They value the time and effort it takes to become secure in a career and they are enjoying the intellectual and monetary perks it provides. Choosing other pathways to personal satisfaction, it seems, can be equally — and for some, more gratifying — than mothering.

In the Psychology Today article, “Choosing to be Childfree in a Changing World,” author Ellen Walker, Ph.D. states that 43 percent of college-educated women between the ages of 33 and 46 are child-free. More and more women are skipping out on what has generally been viewed as a necessary life experience without regrets.

Successful career women from journalist Diane Sawyer to actors Cameron Diaz and Marisa Tomei to media mogul Oprah Winfrey are successful and child-free by choice. Dame Helen Mirren, whose acting career has spanned several decades, has this to say about her choice to be child-free: “I always did — and still do — value my freedom too highly (to become a parent).”

The ‘Great Kate’, Katharine Hepburn, focused on what she wanted in her life and what she wanted was a career and the ability to do as she pleased. When interviewed about her life she said, “Being a housewife and a mother is the biggest job in the world I’m sure, but if it doesn’t interest you, don’t do it — I, personally, would have made a terrible mother.”

I applaud women who are mothers and work full-time outside the home and would never judge their choice to do so. But I also applaud and admire women who have made a bold and non-conventional choice to not be mothers. Being true to yourself and your own needs should be paramount. The truth is that most women who have achieved professional success have chosen not to have children.



Horror Stories-Women Write the Best!

Once upon a time in a literary setting long ago, an accomplished “lady novelist” searching for a change of venue from writing about “womanly” interests might have tried her hand in writing a neat, nothing messy, of course, who-done-it. It was unthinkable that the fairer-sex would ever have the unholy desire to create a horror story filled with blood, gore, and frightening characters. Even the clever Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, whose mind created one of the best psychologically frightening horror novels ever to be printed, was not taken too seriously as in, “This cannot possibly have been written by a woman!”

In fact, Frankenstein was published anonymously in 1818, and readers and critics alike argued over its origins many attributing the dark work to her husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelly. But the work was all Mary’s own, taken from her imagination and, as she told it to her friends, “the grim terrors of a waking dream from a sleepless night.”

While horror might seem as if it’s the sole purview of the male writer there are plenty of female authors who know exactly how to terrify their readers in a well-written horror novel. Indeed some of the best horror fiction comes from the minds and vivid imaginations of women. Think of Anne Rice and Shirley Jackson; their work can strike terror into our hearts.

There has always been a misconception about how authors of certain genres should look. Romance? Sweet, pretty, and passionate about falling in love. Erotica? Sexy, eyes filled with hot sexual passion, and slightly devilish. Horror? Grim, dangerous, attractive but scary.

But most writers often look nothing like the stereotype of their work. Romance and erotica authors are more likely to look like your average grocery store shopper than the image their work puts into our minds and writers who create good horror stories, especially women, can look like the cute grown-up girl next door. Their appearance belies the genius of their excellent work.

One such genius at creating a solid and satisfying horror story is a pretty redhead named Jeani Rector and she was gracious enough to carve out time in her hectic schedule to allow me to interview her.
A woman with a passion for gardening, Jeani is a master at writing novels and short stories guaranteed to give a delightful fright to her readers. She is also owner and editor of the popular online and print magazine The Horror Zine. She’s been hooked on horror since the age of ten when, sleeping over a friend’s house on Saturday nights, and while her friend fell asleep, Jeani would stay up to watch a show called the Bob Wilkins Creature Feature at eleven at night. In her teens she began reading books and stories by Stephen King.

Her interest in horror became a passion. Additional influences included books by Susie Moloney, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Massie and “anything by Bentley Little.”

Jeani began having her short stories published in online horror magazines and all went well until 2009 when all the ezines seemed to fold due to the recession. Undeterred by this Jeani decided to step into the void and create her own online magazine; The Horror Zine was born. An interesting note is that she named the ezine The Horror Zine simply because, as she says, “They included key words that people might randomly Google and stumble across; the, horror, and zine.” Little did she know the enormous success her ezine would become.

Like most writers Jeani had a “day job” and, like most writers who are itching to do nothing more than write, she hated it. For twenty-five years she was a professional Research and Budget Analyst for a large government department. Readers are grateful that she did leave. Completely devoted to her endeavor, she gets up at five AM every morning to write, edit, and create The Horror Zine.

Besides devoting her time as editor and writer for her ezine, Jeani is also a popular author having penned two novels, Pestilence-A Medieval Tale of Plague and Accused-A Tale of the Salem Witch Trials plus a “best-of” Jeani Rector book of short horror stories.

While it used to be be rare that female authors would make a career of only writing horror novels, Jeani Rector has proven that is no longer the case. Her work is definitely on-par with the best in the genre male and female alike. Be prepared to be wonderfully scared!

Happy writing!

Read Kristen Houghton’s own ebook of horror shorts Stolen Property available at all book venues

Copyright 2016 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved



Is Your Book 'Movie-Worthy?'

Do you ever dream of one day seeing the fictional characters you created being portrayed by real actors on TV or the movie screen? Think it’s only a daydream or wishful thinking? Is it possible that it will ever happen? It can, and does, happen. All it takes one good break, one chance that your story or book gets noticed by the right person and your short story ends up as a full-length movie.

Mary Orr, Cornell Woolrich, and Hagar Wilde are not exactly household names on their own yet their short stories were made into critically-acclaimed movies that we all have seen or at the very least know. Some of these movies have become classics.

Mary Orr was an American actor and author. Her short story, “The Wisdom of Eve” was published in a 1946 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Her short story was loosely based on the rumored rivalry between actors Tallulah Bankhead and Lizbeth Scott.

Scott was Bankhead’s understudy during the Broadway production of Thorton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth and legend had it that Bankhead was being victimized by Scott, who Orr used as the basis for the character of Eve Harrington. In 1950 “The Wisdom of Eve” became the solid basis for the Academy-award winning movie, All About Eve.

Worried that your work may not be “good enough?” Believe it when I say that your short story doesn’t even have to be the very best you’ve ever done. Rear Window is a brilliant 1954 Alfred Hitchcock mystery thriller based on a 1942 short story, “It Had to Be Murder” penned by an author named Cornell Woolrich. Some book critics have stated that “It Had to be Murder” wasn’t Woolrich’s best work as a short story writer but it obviously had that certain something that made buying the production rights from him and turning it into a movie classic worthwhile.

The same can be said for the short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser. Hidden in Millhauser’s book of shorts, The Barnum Museum, it was almost overlooked until director Neil Burger read it, liked it, and successfully turned it into the film, The Illusionist.

A short story by Hagar Wilde, published in Collier’s Weekly in 1937 gave us the wonderful movie Bringing Up Baby. To the delight of Hagar Wilde, the producers of the movie agreed to keep the original title of the story that the readers of Collier’s Weekly had so enjoyed.

“Brokeback Mountain” is a short story by acclaimed writer Annie Proulx which appeared in The New Yorker in 1997. A controversial love story, the short piece was later made into a film in 2005 and has become a backburner classic.

Novellas, quick reads a bit longer than a short story, have also been made into films. A Christmas Carol may have only taken Charles Dickens a month to write but it has become immortal. However, without Dickens’s determination to see it published, we may never have gotten to enjoy this incredible work on the screen. When it was turned down by magazines and publishing houses, he decided to go it alone managing the editing, printing, and marketing all by himself.

You never know who is reading your stories and books when or where. It pays to make yourself available. Opportunity comes to those who are prepared for it. Keep your website updated with important contact information so that you can be reached easily. Have three contact people on your site; your agent, your publisher, and you, available via email and phone numbers.

The possibility of having your work, short story, novella, or novel made into a movie are very real. Keep publicizing yourself as an author and get the word out about your writing. You never know who may be interested in what you’ve got to offer.

Happy writing!

Grave Misgivings, book 2 in the popular Cate Harlow Private Investigation series is now available where all books are sold.
Copyright 2015 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved


Join best-selling author Kristen Houghton for a book signing and author talk

Come join me!

Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Barnes and Noble

Riverside Mall, Hackensack, NJ

Book signing and author Q. & A.