How did you come to write your first novel, Saving Spirit Bear?


Many sites I post my books on have a question and answer component – the readers ask the authors questions. I’ve never actually asked a question of any author whose work I’ve read, though sometimes I pose them in my reviews, and I’ve never received a question from a reader.

Most of these are stock questions generated by the site.  The questions that aren’t I’ve come to believe are also bogus – asked by a friend or even the author themselves with hopes the answers will spark some sort of dialogue or?

We are a desperate lot, aren’t we.

Here’s a question I often ponder and so I asked myself and am sharing the answer with you. If you find this exercise slightly distasteful than consider yourself partly to blame for not asking me your own questions.

How’s that for rationalization?

QUESTION: How did you come to write your first novel, Saving Spirit Bear?

I had a plan to become a successful, published author.

I would begin writing romance novels because they have the most readers of any kind of fiction and are the easiest to get published. This is not to say authors of genre fiction aren’t good writers. I have subsequently learned that writing within the confines of genre is more difficult than doing otherwise.

Back to the plan.

Once I had a bit of a publishing track record traditional publishers of mainstream, literary fiction would be more likely to consider me. Right?

Saving Spirit Bear was my first novel. The theme I wanted to explore was whether the end ever justifies the means? I wanted to present real moral dilemmas for both the protagonists and the antagonists, not just the desire for profit or power. For example, is it all right to compromise your integrity if the goal is just and noble?

As well as presenting a satisfying romance, I hoped to address this issue by introducing a subplot about an environmental issue, in this case endangered species and destruction of their habitat, something I feel strongly about.

The story’s about Kimberly James, an ambitious, young, junior executive in a New York corporate relations firm who sees an opportunity to advance her career by doing whatever’s necessary to push through the development of a mega ski resort in Canada.

Jonah Baker is part owner of a lodge on the land of the proposed ski resort. He’s an ardent environmentalist and not about to permit a development that threatens ancient rainforests and the habitat of the rare and endangered Spirit Bear for any price.

Kim begrudgingly respects his principles before profit, but cannot allow a tree-hugging, bear-loving zealot to derail her fast track to success. Jonah admires her determination and worldliness, but will fight to the end to stop a materialistic corporate climber from destroying something rare and unique.

You likely know the rest of this story because genre literature is formulaic and if you read romance you know what’s going to happen. If you don’t and you want to find out go to my Amazon Author’s Page  at and buy a copy.

Anyhow, after striking out with agents and traditional publishers I sent Saving Spirit Bear to three e-publishers. All of them wanted to publish it. I chose one and rationalized my failure to attract any real publishers by saying e-books were preferable – less impact on the environment.

It would be an overstatement to say sales were mediocre. Reviews were almost non-existent. No agents or traditional publishers came knocking on my door.

At the time I was a member of the local chapter of Romance Writers of America (eighty-five women and two men). Since I wasn’t getting any significant reader response I asked the published writers in my RWA chapter what they thought the problem(s) was?

Saving Spirit Bear, I was told , was not popular with romance readers for a number of reasons. I didn’t introduce the love interests soon enough. My ‘Happily Ever After’ was lukewarm or not at all. I needed to ‘sex it up’. My subplots overshadowed the romance. My heroes lacked testosterone. My heroines didn’t show enough vulnerability. My words were too big, my plots too real, my characters too unlikable. My stories were out of control.

However, I was encourage by my publisher who dubbed the book Eco-Fi (environmental fiction) and asked for two more with a similar theme for a series entitled Eco-Warriors.

There was never any question about letting the lack of success of my first novel defeat me. I love to write – successfully or otherwise and during the process of writing Saving Spirit Bear I experienced glimpses of something very exciting – the story following it’s own course and the characters taking on lives of their own.

I eagerly set about writing my second novel but I was worried. Would I find my next story and it’s characters restricted by the confines of this genre?

Next Question: Did you find your next story and it’s characters restricted by the confines of this genre?

The answer is forthcoming.

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

Inkitt – The fairest publishing house in the world?


Here’s an email I received a couple of weeks ago.


I’m Marvin, Head of Growth at Inkitt and I wanted to reach out to you personally. It seems that you have not entered our new novel contest yet, is there a specific reason for that?

It’s now or never – the contest will end in two weeks and all you have to do is gather 100 readers for “Loving the Terrorist” to be considered for publication!

I’d love to shift your story into the contest. What do you think?

Marvin Wey
Head of Growth |

I thought you might find my response and the subsequent reply from Inkitt’s founder and CEO, Ali Albazaz interesting. First a bit of background.

In the past few months I’ve written two  articles about Inkitt and the concept which you can find in my blog archives.

Briefly, Inkitt is a site where you can upload your stories for free. Besides the opportunity for crowd critiquing, Inkitt claims to have created an algorithm that identifies best sellers (sic). If your story is chosen by this “objective”, computer generated program Inkitt will either set you up with an established, traditional publisher or publish it themselves.

So here’s my response.
Dear Martin,
Just how do you guys make your money? Certainly not as a publishing company with eighty-five percent  going to the author though there’s a little bit of word play involved – is it net earnings or a royalty on the price of the book? There could be quite a difference.

I see you’ve changed the criteria of your contests – it’s not longer the top few who get the nod, but everyone who exceeds one hundred reads – that would be downloads.

I imagine somewhere in the process the hopeful author will run into additional fees – maybe paying for those cool covers you design. No? Good for you.

So maybe you make it with print on demand. Just how many books have to be ordered to start showing a profit? Can it be made up with sales from the family and friends of all those really bad authors you’re publishing?

But that’s not what I find disturbing about sites like Inkitt , Kindle Scout  and HarperCollins’  now defunct  authonomy. It’s that they encourage bad writing – or put another way,  they don’t encourage new writers to improve their craft.

The peer critiquing system is like , “you vote for mine and I’ll vote for yours” regardless of whether the writing is good or not.  It’s a mutual admiration society and a phony one at that.

But who I am to be critical – a nobody with the sales to prove it.

So, for me is there a downside to having you “shift” my novel  Loving the Terrorist into to the Story Peak Novel Contest?

I’m still trying to figure that out, but until I do why don’t you go ahead and put it in.

Rod Raglin

Hi Rod,

Marvin forwarded your email to me and it makes me very sad to hear this from you.

Me and my co-founder, Linda, started Inkitt because we want to make publishing more fair, transparent and objective. We had seen from the outside how unfair and subjective publishers can be. Linda and I are both coming from a technical / IT startup background. Three years ago I had the idea that we could track people’s reading behaviour, and analyze it to find consistent patterns. This way it would be possible to predict bestsellers. Long story short: we built it. We then found investors who believe in our idea to democratize publishing, and raised over a million dollars to make this dream come true. Now we are a team of 17 people working day and night to make the publishing process fair and objective.

Since we launched Inkitt to the public around 1.5 years ago we had a rocket speed growth. Over 20.000 writers have uploaded their works (from short stories, poems to novels) on Inkitt and we’ve just started publishing them. The first book our algorithm picked is getting published by Tor / MacMillan (see links below). The second book: we’re publishing with the Inkitt imprint and it’s doing great (links below). Since this month, we started publishing 1-2 new books every month, and have plans to grow that number by 4 times each year. Every book gets a professional cover, editing, a dedicated online marketing team with a minimum of 6,000 dollars in marketing budget. With clear guidelines in place for budget increases based on performance.

In cases where Inkitt publishes a book we receive 50% of the net revenues (50% royalties for the author) and in cases where we re-sell the rights to another publisher on behalf of the author, we receive 15% agents-fee. Authors do not pay anything for our services – we are their publisher and it’s our duty to take care of all costs.

We want to give the spotlight to the authors because they deserve it. I don’t want to see the next J. K. Rowling receiving a rejection from an old-school publisher and give up her writing dreams. Me and the entire team, we’re all in this game because we want to build the fairest publishing house in the world.

Best wishes,

Ali Albazaz
Founder & CEO |
Mobile: +49 170 8647236
P.S. It appears Inkitt has indeed shifted my novel Loving the Terrorist into the competition. It needs one hundred readers to be considered for publication. So far it has zero.

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs


Sifting through the minutiae of the Smashwords Sale


Throughout the month of July I gave away one hundred and thirty-seven e-book editions of my novels during Smashwords SummerWinter Sale 2016.

As an author who has published his books with Smashwords I was contacted and asked if I wanted to participate. You could offer whatever discount you wanted for what ever period of time you wanted during the month of July. Once you registered, Smashwords applied a coupon code to your dashboard and anyone who wanted the book just entered the code and got it free.

I’ve had no more success with Smashwords than I’ve had with any other sites selling my books – which is just about nil, but since I’ve been giving my work away on other sites lately, which entails a sweep-stake and then actually sending the e-book to the individual winners via email, this seemed way easier.

It was.

Giving your work away on Smashwords was free and unrestricted. One might think that’s not a lot to expect considering the time and effort that went into it, however, to give away a single title on StoryCartel costs twenty-five dollars, on Goodreads – one hundred and nineteen, and Kindle Select (Amazon) wants exclusive rights for ninety days.

LibraryThing and BookLikes don’t charge for their giveaways but they generate about a third of the results and, as I mentioned, you have the labourious job of sending out individual emails with your e-book attached to the winners.

I have six works on Smashwords – five novels and a play. I decided to go for broke and offer them all free for the month.

Just a brief aside here. Have you ever noticed how people without success pour over meaningless minutiae like the numbers hold the secret to fame and fortune if only they could decipher them? No? Well, I have, probably because I’ve begun to do it – and now you get to experience it.

The Smashwords giveaway was interesting to me on a number of levels – though, like I said, not likely interesting to anyone else.

This was the first time all my writing (barring one of my better novels yet to be released by the publisher) was presented to the public in one place, at one time and on equal terms.

Here’s how they fared in regard to free downloads:

Harry’s Truth – A Play in One Act – 33

Saving Spirit Bear – What Price Success – 31

Abandoned Dreams – 22

Loving the Terrorist – Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs – 20

The Big Picture – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic – 18

Forest – Love, Loss, Legend – 13

What does it mean that my one act play, Harry’s Truth, only sixty pages, ranked first? Or that Saving Spirit Bear, my first novel with the least positive reviews (and rightly so) was second? What does it mean that the better I write the less popular the book?

Any suggestions?

Other than those conundrums it appears giving away one hundred and thirty-seven books does not generate any reviews – at least not on Smashwords, or likely on any other site for that matter. Free, it appears, is the equivalent to no value – or, more specifically no downside.

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.


Links to associated sites:


Kindle Select








My novels and play Harry’s Truth – A Play in One Act, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend, The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic and Abandoned Dreams and

The ECO-WARRIORS series:

Book 1, Saving Spirit Bear – What Price Success?

Book 2, Loving the Terrorist – Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs

Book 3, Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients

are available as e-books and paperbacks at


Cover Art of books by self-published authors at


Video book reviews of self-published authors now at

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews:


More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to:


View my flickr photostream at


Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music