SPS-247: Laughter and Love: Writing Romantic Comedies – with Rich Amooi
Rich Amooi has followed his heart and passion into writing romantic comedies, a genre traditionally dominated by women. He hasn’t let that stop him and has found success in this very competitive genre.
- Using first-in-series-free to boost a fledgling author career
- Knowing which advice to follow and which to ignore
- The importance of a cover design that accurately reflects a book’s genre
- Writing from the female point of view as a man
- The value of blocking social media in order to dive deep into writing
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
COURSE: Self-Publishing 101 is now open for enrolment – for a limited period. Learn more here.
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-247: Laughter and Love: Writing Romantic Comedies - with Rich Amooi
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Rich Amooi: I've seen the arguments online, "This is my blood, sweat and tears. There is no way I'm going to give this away for free." Well, you may not have a career.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a line on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello, and welcome. It's The Self-Publishing Show with James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: From the dreary, grey UK. So we should've been in Florida last week. You realise that? Did you see all those posts coming up from our previous years? Your memory of last year and the year before, being on the beach. And yes-
Mark Dawson: I know.
James Blatch: ... we have missed NINC. It's been tough for NINC, because I don't think that many people went, but they did quite a lot of virtually as well.
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: So now we would be back from the beach in Florida but looking forward to California-
Mark Dawson: To Vegas.
James Blatch: ... Nevada and Vegas in November. But not to be.
Mark Dawson: Not doing that either.
James Blatch: Not doing that either. COVID has struck. In fact, today, it's even struck POTUS and FLOTUS, is the day we're recording this. It's getting real. Stuff's getting real. Right, enough of that. That's here to stay for a bit.
The upshot of it is, we've mentioned before, although personal and distressing circumstances can occur during the pandemic, of course, but generally for the online industries, it's been very good. And certainly we've seen evidence that publishing and self-publishing in particular has done well with people having more time to read, being at home. So that's been good. So definitely a good time to focus on your career, which is what this podcast is all about.
We're talking today to a romance author called Rich Amooi, who I think, from memory, is down in California. I think it's San Diego, actually. And Rich ... You're a bit nervous about saying this, but he himself talks about being a man in a woman's world, really. He's a male romance author.
Mark Dawson: No, I'm not nervous about saying it. A bit of context there, as we had our Slack channel, people throwing out ideas for the title, and it was a little bit sexist, which isn't surprising from Alan. So I managed to choose a slightly less sexist title, which is what you'll see on this podcast.
But no, he is a man writing romance. That's fine. It's not necessarily a woman's world. Women can write all kinds of books.
James Blatch: He's a really great guy. I'm full of admiration for the way that he's built his author career up, and a great listen. So a great listen coming up in a few minutes. First of all, would like to welcome Jill Temple is our new Patreon supporter this week. Thank you very much indeed, Jill, for joining us. She went to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow.
We should say, Mark, that there are just a few days left if you would like to enrol in Self-Publishing 101, the foundation course to set up your self-publishing career. It opens for new students a couple of times a year. This'll be the last time in 2020. It will open at some point in 2021.
Mark Dawson: If we're still here.
James Blatch: If we're all ... if the world hasn't disappeared. '21 has got to be a better year than '20, surely. So if you're thinking about it, now is the time. And if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/101. And Mark, yeah, we had a really good couple of posts from people in the groups this week on this subject, did we not?
Mark Dawson: We did. This was completely unsolicited and it was posted in the Mastery group, which is the group that goes along with the Ads for Authors course. So an author ... James will read it out in a minute. But she posted ... She's had lots of success, but just with 101, hasn't actually used ads yet, which makes me think potentially we have another high six figure, seven figure author ready to hit the big time.
So probably get an idea if you read that post, James. Because as I say, we didn't know this was coming. I saw it, weirdly enough, as I was drafting an email to go out during 101's launch period, thinking it would be nice to get a fresh testimonial. And as if by magic, this comment popped up.
James Blatch: Well, I just screen grabbed it so we'll put it up on the screen as well. So this is Nancy Scanlon, and she posted yesterday, on the first of October, "So this happened last month, and it wouldn't have if it weren't for the SPF 101 course. Thank you to Mark Dawson and his team." So the rest of us are just thrown in by Nancy as as his team.
Mark Dawson: Minions.
James Blatch: The minions. That's fine. "I'm almost ready to dive into ads." So before she's even dived into ads. And there is her book report screen grab, $11,137.74 between the first of September and the 30th of September. So I'm assuming her first five figure month. Her books look great.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, I think it's time travel romance. They have very nice covers, and I think there's only four. I have a feeling she's only got four books. So that's a fantastic result. She had a BookBub in there as well, but that's not going to account for $10,000 worth of sales, but it certainly helps. So yeah, it was lovely to see that. And without adding the ads on.
So as I've mentioned before, the way I look at 101 is the launchpad and then ads is the fuel. And she's done this without actually fueling her rocket, which is really impressive. So, no, well done to Nancy. I was delighted to see that.
James Blatch: Yeah, fantastic. She's knuckled down and really implemented 101. And to have that kind of platform ahead of running paid ads is very exciting for her. I'm very excited for her. Keep an eye on Nancy.
And I've had a couple of private emails from people. Unusually, actually, students on our course saying, "I've been noticing this guy." I've had two of those in the last couple of weeks saying, "Just watch this guy because he's suddenly taking off." One man, one woman. And so, we will keep an eye on those as well. People really hitting the seam. The oil spurt, or whatever analogy you want to use.
So selfpublishingformula.com/101, until Wednesday 9th. What I normally do is secretly keep it open for a day or two afterwards for people who missed the actual deadline at midnight on Wednesday, but it will then shut up shop until deep into 2021.
Mark, we are going to move on, I think, to our interview. Rich Amooi. I had a chat with him just a few weeks ago. As I say, I think he's down there in Southern California. A man writing romance and doing really, really well.
Rich Amooi. Welcome to The Self-Publishing Show. Lovely to have you with us. I think you are my second interviewee from San Diego in the space of three weeks, which is making me jealous because it's that time of year where we're starting to get a little bit grey here, and I always think about that Southern California sunshine that you must bathe in most of the time.
Rich Amooi: Yeah, this is very nice. Thanks for having me, by the way. I appreciate it.
James Blatch: Hey, it's our pleasure. So we're going to talk self-publishing. We're going to talk about your career.
How would you describe your books? Whimsy romantic? Romantic comedy?
Rich Amooi: It's definitely romantic comedy that's on the quirky side. I have some characters that are a little more quirky, and sometimes a little crazy, close to over-the-top in some cases. But it's your typical romantic comedy.
James Blatch: And you've done pretty well, we should say. There's a spoiler alert to the story that we're going to tell here, that you've done pretty well.
Rich Amooi: I'm doing very, very well, but as you know, in publishing, there is always another level.
James Blatch: Of course there is, and we have names for all those levels if you want to get the t-shirt at some point. Okay, well, look, let's start with a bit of back story.
How long have you been writing, and when did the self-publishing episodes begin?
Rich Amooi: I'm actually kind of a late bloomer. I started in my 50s, and I'm 58 now, and my wife encouraged me to get into writing. She was already doing a little bit of writing. She encouraged me to take some creative writing classes at Stanford University, and I decided to go for it. And in one of those classes, I was writing short stories and one of those short stories that she read, she absolutely loved and said, "You have to turn this into a full-length novel." And I did. That ended up being my first novel.
James Blatch: Was writing around for you before then? What triggered it?
Rich Amooi: No, actually, it wasn't. It wasn't ever on my radar to go into another career as an author, as a writer. It just kind of happened. My wife was doing it and I said, "You know what? That would be kind of cool if I got into that. I have this love, this obsession for romantic comedies. Why not give it a shot and do something that I absolutely ... I think I would love it because I love romantic comedies, so why not write them?"
James Blatch: Were you reading a lot of romantic comedies, then? Because they're a great genre for both books and films, aren't they?
Rich Amooi: Actually, at the time I was not reading a lot of them. I was more into the movies. So pretty much every romantic comedy ever shown in the cinema since the mid, late 1980s, I've seen, probably more than a few times, and that's where my connection came. And it wasn't until later that I dove into the fiction side and trying to create something on my own.
James Blatch: Okay. So you started writing. You did your course at Stanford, developed the short story into a novel.
In the romantic comedy genre, the novels are typically 75 to 100,000 words, was it something like that?
Rich Amooi: I think it's a little bit shorter. Not close to 100,000. Probably a lot of them are between 70 and 85,000.
James Blatch: Okay.
Rich Amooi: There are some that are shorter and some that are longer, but I guess it just depends on the author. A lot of authors have their sweet spots when it comes to output. But yeah, you're in the ballpark. My last three novels were between 75 and 85,000 words.
James Blatch: Okay. So your short story you set out to do, well, you did on the Stanford course and developed into a novel.
Was this a story that you thought at that stage you were writing for an audience, or were you, classically as we say, writing it for yourself at that point?
Rich Amooi: I thought that it could have an audience, but I was writing from inside of me because it's something that I love so much. So I was just writing, as they say, something that I would like to read myself. And that's the approach I took. Fun, quirky characters, happy ending. Pretty much that's what I was going for. And it was a lot of fun writing it, and it was something that appealed to me. After I wrote it, I said, "Hey, that's pretty cool."
James Blatch: Good. That's always a good feeling.
And at that point, so you finish your book and were you think self-publishing from the beginning or were you looking around for a traditional deal at that point?
Rich Amooi: I was always thinking about self-publishing from the very beginning. In fact, before I even published the first book, I did a lot of research, probably about year to a year and a half of research on publishing, particularly self-publishing, and trying to figure out my game plan for when I was going to dive into it and get started.
And this is something you may get a kick out of. Way back in the beginning, before I even published, I was still researching so much for my first published book, hired Joanna Penn in a private consultation to pick her brain, and I think at the time I paid her like 150 or 200 dollars for one hour just to pick her brain as much as I could about it and tried to form a game plan to get into publishing. And it was well worth the money because at that time, I didn't know a lot of people. There weren't a lot of people talking about self-publishing at that time, but she was. So I decided to hire her. She helped me with the game plan, actually, that set the wheels in motion and my career.
James Blatch: What year was this, Rich?
Rich Amooi: This was ... I mean, I've been a published author, I just celebrated my sixth anniversary for publishing, so this was probably about eight years ago, approximately.
James Blatch: Okay. So that was in its infancy. I imagine Joanna's fee's gone up, even if she still does that sort of thing.
Rich Amooi: Oh yeah. Yeah.
James Blatch: She just probably doesn't have time.
Rich Amooi: Who knows if she even does it anymore? But if she does, then I'm sure they have gone up. But it's funny because at that time, she mentioned this thing to me that I could use to help launch my career and get the ball rolling, and I had no idea what it was. It was this weird thing called BookBub, and I was like, "What is BookBub?" I said, "Okay." And I wrote it down, and she sent me some notes later with a link and some different things.
And she basically told me a whole bunch of things. To publish the first book, don't spend too much money and time and effort marketing that first book. Wait until you get the second book out and then go for a BookBub. Give the first book away for free, then those people who you hook will go onto your second book and you'll have a newsletter and they can sign up for your newsletter. So that's exactly what I did.
I waited until my second book came out. I applied for a BookBub. It took me like two or three times to get it. I got it. I gave away 50,000 copies of my first book. From there, people went onto the second book. I got newsletter sign ups. And that's what really got it all started. And then I just repeated the process more than a few times.
James Blatch: Wow. I mean, that was the way it was working then. It still does work extremely well for some people. Some people have moved away from it a little bit. But quite a jump a lot of people struggled with, giving a book away for free, and still do struggle with that idea.
But for you, you saw that commercial sense straight away?
Rich Amooi: Oh, absolutely, and I still believe in it 100%. And I've seen the arguments online, "This is my blood, sweat and tears. There is no way I'm going to give this away for free." Well, you may not have a career. So your blood, sweat and tears will stay with you in your pocket with few readers, and that's okay, but there's a reason why many of the biggest companies in the world give away millions and millions and millions of dollars of their product, because they think they're going to hook you with those cookies, and then you're going to keep buying the cookies.
I believe in it. I still do BookBubs all the time. And the other argument that I've heard is that BookBub is too expensive, and this always makes me laugh because I think, "Well, first of all, it's the price you have to pay if you want to get some readers." And you don't look at the actual cost of the BookBub. You look at what you're going to get out of it, not just the price.
James Blatch: Of course.
Rich Amooi: So I always thought that was kind of odd to me that they don't look at the big picture and what you're getting out of it. It's just the price.
James Blatch: Yeah. It's a very commercial mindset which isn't naturally native to people in terms of when they are starting out as authors rather than business people, but a really, really important change of mindset which you illustrate there, and I've talked about this quite a lot recently.
I had my first BookBub on the books that we market through our imprints and seeing that spike and then the slow rise up in page reads that followed for three or four weeks afterwards, no question that it paid itself several times over.
In this case, we've got a six book series, so you presumably wrote your first couple ...
Were they standalone books in the same universe or were they serials or series?
Rich Amooi: All of my books are standalones. I'm working on number 17 right now.
James Blatch: Wow.
Rich Amooi: And that's funny because back in the day when I did consult with Joanna Penn, I did sit in on a couple of other panels from some big publishers in New York. They were among the big five and they had this big phone call where you could go in and pay and you could sit and you could ask them questions, and so part of my research. And that was one of the pieces of research ...
I got two things that I got as advice that I ignored. One was to write in series, because people buy in series. If you want to have the best chance of having any type of a career, write in series because once you hook them with the first book, they'll go on through the entire series. Janet Evanovich has, what, 26 books in her one series that just keeps going and going and going?
So I thought about it, and then I thought to myself, "You know when I go to the movies, I like to watch a movie that is fun, that has comedy, that has a happy ending, and then I'm done with the characters and I want to see something completely different." And that was my approach to writing. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with writing in series because most romance authors write in series and they do very well, the ones who have been able to break out to the next level, because they wrote in series.
I will also say that, could I have been at a higher level or maybe sold more books if I wrote in series? Probably. But that didn't change my mind. I've always wanted to do standalones and I have no interest in writing series at this time.
The other piece of advice that I got was to not use my real name because women would not buy romance from a man, so that I needed to come up with a female penname. And that was another thing that I ignored because I love romantic comedy so much, I wanted to be connected to them with who I am, me, Rich Amooi. I wanted people to know and see my love for the genre. So if I used a fake name, I was thinking, "I don't like that." So I decided to ignore that advice as well.
James Blatch: Good. So New York doesn't have all the answers, as we've probably worked out in the way things are changing.
Rich Amooi: I think, as you know, when it comes to listening to your show or any show or anybody who has some great advice, not everything is going to work for you.
James Blatch: Sure.
Rich Amooi: So you take what you can use. If you're really dead set on doing something ... Unless you're thinking of something that is obviously not very smart. You're thinking, "You know what? I'm going to publish this book and I'm not going to have a cover for it." Okay, so that's probably not thinking properly, but there are some things that you have to take what works for you.
James Blatch: Yeah. And there's definitely a lot of examples of where similar strategies have worked very differently for people, and that's definitely something you need to bear in mind. There's not one size fits all. It's understanding the landscape, understanding the options, understanding the system, getting the basics right, and then there's a little bit of working out what's going to work for you. It might be Facebook ads for you. It might be Amazon ads. It might be a combination of the two. But it's strange how some authors, for them, one of them works and the other one just doesn't.
Rich Amooi: It's very strange. I've seen that countless times and it really makes no sense but it happens.
James Blatch: Yeah, but there it is. Okay, so your book, you say 17 you're up to?
Rich Amooi: I'm working on 17.
James Blatch: You're working on 17 now. But I'm assuming, despite the not being in a series, ignoring New York's advice, that you get readthrough results here?
You have readers who will plough through your series because they love your writing?
Rich Amooi: Yeah. I'm fortunate that, whether it's one book or another, because people don't always start with the same book when they read one of my books for the first time. They stumble upon a certain book for some particular reason. Somebody was talking about it. And it could've been my fourth book. It could've been my 10th or 15th book. And yeah, that's the thing. You hook them. Even with standalones, if they love it enough, they're going to go on and find some other books.
James Blatch: I love your covers by the way. In fact, funnily enough, I did an interview this morning with a British author who does cosy mystery. Very similar, the cartoon type character seems very in vogue. It's very appealing. And I think in your particular books, Rich, spells it out very nicely, the kind of comedy, quirky book with a romantic element there, which is no doubt ... And that's such an important thing.
Your cover needs, at a glance, to say what your book is, and I think yours do a great job of that.
Rich Amooi: Thank you. My cover artist, she's actually in the UK, Sue Traynor, and she is amazing. She's done almost all of my covers. And she does an amazing job. She's a wonderful artist, does it all by hand. I absolutely love them and I think it's an important part of my branding.
James Blatch: You've had these covers from the beginning?
Rich Amooi: Yeah, since the very first one. That was part of my research, looking at other ... I always wanted to do illustrated covers, and so that was part of my research of going online, on Amazon, and just looking, finding as many illustrated covers I could find, then looking inside the book and seeing if they thanked the cover artist, who it was, and then going online and finding that person and seeing other work that they've done. That's how I found Sue.
James Blatch: And you've written a book called Coffee, Tea or Me, and I seem to remember, in my youth, bearing in mind I was born in 1967, that there was a large, doorstep, dogeared, airport-bought copy of a book called Coffee, Tea or Me, which was like Pan Am era air stewardesses. And I always remember looking at that, thinking, "I wonder at what point my mother or father read that book?" So I could never quite imagine them. It was that era where they didn't really discuss those sort of things.
Rich Amooi: I get an occasional email every now and then and they say that there was a book called Coffee, Tea or Me in the '60s or '70s and it was about flight attendants or something like that. Don't know much about it, but-
James Blatch: It's hilarious. I think it was a book that was just of that moment there, just as the Swinging Sixties started to permeate into more mainstream sex and Sex and the City type thing before that. Anyway, it's just something I noticed. Okay, look, that's your background. Let's talk a bit about your marketing and where you are now, and also I want to talk about writing.
So in terms of marketing, when did you start ... Well, you began with your giveaway, your chat with Joanna, your second book out, started to give away the first one.
Started to build up a newsletter. And was that a slow process for you at the beginning?
Rich Amooi: Are you talking about the building of the newsletter?
James Blatch: Yes.
Rich Amooi: I think it was slow at the beginning. I was building it organically, and at that time I only had the newsletter signup in the back of my books. I didn't even have it on ... Well, I did have a newsletter signup on my website, but one thing I did later was I did add a reader magnet, and that helped significantly to increase the sign ups on the newsletter.
But for a while there, I had that reader magnet only in the back of my books, so I was offering it only to people who have read one of my books, and that has changed since then. Now I have it on my website, out in the open for everybody. Because I figure if they took the time to go to my website, they must know something about me and they're not just looking for a freebie. There are the freebie grabbers and that's okay, but they'll be weeded out soon and eventually will unsubscribe and everything will be fine.
James Blatch: When you first uploaded, did those books sell in those early days or did you have to put some paid advertising in to get them going?
Rich Amooi: Well, as I said, I did take Joanna's advice at the beginning. So after I published my first book, I didn't really spend any money getting it out there. I already had a website. I had an author website up probably a year before I even published my first book. And at that time, I already had some newsletter sign ups before my first book even came out because I was looking for groups online to be a part of. And of course, my mom and my sister and stuff like that.
James Blatch: Yeah, of course.
Rich Amooi: Anybody that you can get on your list to start, just so you can actually practise and send out some newsletters and get a feel for it and feel comfortable sending out newsletters. So that was the beginning, and it was a slow, organic process. I wasn't get a whole bunch of newsletter sign ups in the beginning before the first BookBub, before my second book came out. I mean, maybe I got one a month or one every six weeks or something. I don't remember exactly.
It wasn't until I started promoting the second book, got the BookBub and really got myself on the map, so to speak, where the newsletter signups started coming in. They still weren't coming in huge, but they were coming in much better at that time.
James Blatch: And in terms of sales, when did that start? Tell us about how this obviously got to where it is today?
Rich Amooi: Sales at the beginning were, I think, slow, like for most people. You're just trying to get your books seen, because they're invisible. And at that time, the Amazon advertising wasn't available at that time, so you didn't really have a lot of outlets to get your books in front of eyeballs for people to buy them. So you know, honestly, I don't remember a lot that I did at that time. Pretty much I was on Facebook and I was trying to go for BookBub as much as I could. But there wasn't a whole bunch of other things at that time, marketing channels.
James Blatch: Were you running Facebook ads?
Rich Amooi: At the beginning, no. No, I wasn't at that time. And I don't even recall if they even had a way to boost the post at that time. I don't even remember.
James Blatch: You had a BookBub early on. On the back of that, you were selling books. What were you doing? A few hundred dollars a month, or not that?
Rich Amooi: I think I was doing more than that. I think people went onto the second book and most of my books are at 3.99. So I was definitely selling a few. At that time, with my second book, it wasn't enough to say, "Hey, I'm a full-time author and I'm making bank right now." It wasn't at that level, but I was actually making some money.
And that's when it really hit me that, "You know what? There's a market for these romantic comedies, there really is." And even though I'm a man working in a woman's world, when it comes to romance, there I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I saw, "Hey, wait a minute. This can really happen." And that's when I even picked up the pace and started writing faster.
James Blatch: So it was enough for you to see that there was a future here?
What were the breakthrough moments, then, Rich, to get you to where you are at the moment?
Rich Amooi: I had a couple of breakthroughs. I think the first breakthrough would be actually just getting that first BookBub and getting myself seen somewhere out there where people would sign up for my newsletter and buy the second book. But I think my first big breakthrough was with my third book, Kissing Frogs, and that was after another BookBub.
Back then, and keep in mind the category of BookBub that I've always been in is chick lit, because they don't have a category for romantic comedy, and they have never given me a BookBub for the contemporary romance category, which is, it's pretty big. So they always gave me chick lit. And in many ways, chick lit is kind of like romantic comedy. So I was perfectly happy with it. I was thrilled, actually, to get that.
But back then, that was when even some of the smaller categories of BookBub could do very, very well. Chick lit wasn't one of their biggest categories. Still it's not. I think it's their 20th or 25th category in terms of size. But still, with my third book, I had the number one free book in the world. And after that BookBub, I gave away, I think it was also around 50,000 copies. I did stack some other promos at that time because more promos were coming around, were available.
And that's really when the numbers started going up. And then, I would say after that, the next milestone that I hit where they went up even further was when Amazon ads were available for independent, self-published authors when they weren't before. I jumped on that right away. And when I got that email, I was already setting up ads the exact same day because I knew I had to jump on it quick because everybody was going to do it, and those click costs were going to go up. So I jumped on it as fast as I could.
I think that little wave there lasted maybe about six months before there were just too many people jumping on it. And then the return was starting to slow down and go down lower and lower. But I jumped on it early, when I had the chance.
James Blatch: And what's working for you now? What are you running at the moment?
Rich Amooi: Right now, I'm just running Facebook ads. I do an occasional Amazon ad, but the romantic comedy category is huge on Amazon. To give you an example of how big it is, my breakthrough book, the one that has sold more than anything, was actually my 14th book. It's called It's Not PMS, It's You, and that book made it up to ... I think it was around number 320 in the paid store. And it was in the 300s there for, I don't know, maybe a month, six weeks, and it was under 500 for a while. It was doing really well. But that being said, being in the 300s in Amazon in paid books, in my subcategory of romantic comedies, my book only made it up to number 35.
James Blatch: Wow. Wow.
Rich Amooi: So you can see how competitive that category is.
James Blatch: With some big sellers.
Rich Amooi: Big, big sellers. And then, the same thing since my romantic comedies are considered also contemporary romances in that category, it was the same thing. It barely cracked the top 50, even though it was number 300 and something in the store. Lots of competition in the category.
James Blatch: Can you give us a hint at where you are in terms of earnings at the moment?
Rich Amooi: I'm a mid-lister. I don't know what the window is for being a mid-lister, but I think I'm in that window. I consider myself to be doing pretty well. I can pay the mortgage then other things. I'm doing well. But like I said earlier, there is another level and I would like to see my books reach a bigger audience, because still with the success that I've had so far, there are still millions and millions and millions of people who have no idea who I am and, "Who is this guy writing romance?"
James Blatch: Yeah. And let's just talk for a moment about being a guy writing romance, particularly these sort of books. And you mentioned It's Not PMS, It's You. Am I right in thinking that PMS is pre-menstrual syndrome?
Rich Amooi: Syndrome, yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah, because in the UK it's pre-menstrual tension. I want to make sure that I've got the right thing. So that is quite a female area and quite a female thing to say to each other as well.
You are really right in the heart of female territory here, and clearly thriving in it. I mean, that's quite something, I think.
Rich Amooi: Before I published that book and I talked about it online in a couple of author groups and showed the cover and they said, "Wow, you've got some serious balls writing a story like that from a woman's point of view about a touchy subject." Because women do not want to hear a man saying, "Is it that time of the month?" You're playing with fire when you mention anything like that.
I wanted to do something that came to the defence of women, because I believe not only ... Everywhere you look, I don't think ... You look at some men who just don't treat women properly, and I wanted to do something ... I wanted to stick it to the men is what I wanted to do. The men who think like that, who think that they are superior over women. I wanted to stick it to them, but I had to do it with humour, obviously, because I write it with romantic comedy.
I guess when you look at that, I'm going into a territory that's not normal for a man, but the response has been overwhelming. It's been my bestselling book, and I still have women who write to me, emails or messages on Facebook that say, "This was the funniest book and it hits home. You nailed it on the head." I even had a review that is one of my favourite reviews, a woman who said, "I finally found the unicorn, a male romance writer who knows how to write a female properly," or something like that. I don't know the exact words. And that was a big, huge compliment to hear something like that because I put a lot of work into making sure the female point of view is accurate, and I have women read it before it goes live, and it's very important to me.
James Blatch: Well, it reflects well on your own sensitivities as a man, Rich.
Rich Amooi: Well, thank you. I don't know how to respond to that, but I love everybody and I think everybody is equal and that's the way it should be, and I reflect that also in my writing.
James Blatch: Let's talk a bit about the writing before we let you go. So in terms of your process, do you sit down and have a good idea of what's going to be in the book?
Do you plot, is basically what I'm asking? Do you plot or do you just write ahead?
Rich Amooi: I have to plot or I would be bald right now. Because when I was doing the short stories in the classes at Stanford, I did no plotting at all. I wrote about 25 short stories during one of the classes, and absolutely no plot. And I did well, actually. Because the stories were maybe three to six thousand words. They did have a beginning, a middle and an end. And for some reason, I was able to do that.
Now with 75,000 words or 85,000 words, I tried that and I couldn't it. My head was going to explode. I had to have some sort of a plot. It didn't have to be a deep plot at all, and I still don't do deep plots. Sometimes when I do my outlining and talk about a particular chapter, sometimes it's just three or four sentences that's going to explain what's going to happen in that chapter, and that's all I have for the outline, and that's enough to get me going.
I do need something like that for every book going forward, something that's going to happen in every chapter, the conflict, the tension, the ups and downs, everything all the way to the happy ending.
James Blatch: And in terms of writing, do you have a particular time of day and a particular process?
Rich Amooi: I prefer to get started immediately in the morning. Walk the dog. I've eaten, I've had my coffee. I'd like to sit down and actually just get started. It doesn't always happen that way, but I prefer to start immediately. In fact, right now, I tried to eliminate my distractions so I have something that blocks my social media so I can't go onto Facebook or get sucked into Twitter, and then just focus on my words.
But even right now, with all of the negativity in the world and all the drama and all the doom and gloom, I'm writing love and laughter and humour. I have to write comedy in the middle of that. So what I'm doing now, it's not easy to stay focused with all the stuff going around us. So what I do sometimes, every few days, I block social media for three days because I really have to focus. For me to have the humour come out of me and get it onto the page, if I have these distractions about things going on, it just eats at my creativity.
I have an app on my computer. I don't go on social media very much on my phone. It's pretty much on my laptop. I have an app that will block social media for 72 hours so I can get some words in. Then I'll go jump in, take a peek at some things, do a post and then block it for another 72 hours.
James Blatch: That sounds like an excellent thing to do for our own mental health anyway, just to block out the craziness for a few days and just remember your family and what's important and real.
Rich Amooi: It's actually helped, and it's not only helped with my writing but just in my everyday life because you can really just get up in your head about all the things that are going on and what you would tell this person if you had them in front of you. And so many things, mental, are jumping back and forth in your head a thousand times a day. But if you can get out of that and just block it and focus on what you need to get done and get it done early, then later on in the day or in a day or two you can get back to the drama.
James Blatch: Yeah. Not very conducive, all that stuff, to the texture and feel of your books, I can tell straight away. So I completely understand that.
Do you have a word count target for each day?
Rich Amooi: If I'm in the zone and I'm writing well, I like to have a word count of 2,500 words per day. Honestly, especially in the last six months, like a lot of authors, it's not happening. It's like I said, you got to be focused and you really, really just have to stay with it. But that's a comfortable level for me where I feel, if I get 2,500 words in a day, I feel very, very productive. I feel good about the book moving forward and getting to my goal of publishing the book. If I get under that, if I get 1,000 or 1,500, still, not bad. I'm happy with that, but I do have this in the back of my head, "If I only I didn't do that three hours of gardening and pull those weeds in the back yard."
But you have to have balance in your life. You have to go out and enjoy things. We love the beach. We need to go over to the beach regularly, walk, put our feet in the sand, walk in the water, get in and swim and not think about anything else but being there in that moment, on a beach and enjoying life. So it's very important.
James Blatch: I completely agree. And I don't think it's particularly healthy to have that kind of ... I'd call it almost a Catholic guilt lives with you the whole time of when you're not working, feeling slightly guilty that you should be. I wish I could get rid of that. I've spoken to Mark about that before. It kind of invades your head when you're in the cinema trying to enjoy a film or, as you say, at the beach.
There's a trick to enjoying the moment and knowing that that's fine.
Rich Amooi: Exactly. I think that it's very, very important to have that balance in your life. And I think that plays a part in my writing because if I didn't have the balance, if I didn't have time to just go with my wife to the beach for a few hours or go for a walk or for us to sit at home and watch romantic comedy movies or Hallmark movies and just kick back and do nothing at all, if I didn't have that balance, I think it would show in my stories.
James Blatch: Do you see your stories as classically as a form of escapism for people to lose themselves in smile?
Rich Amooi: Absolutely. In fact, I just did a post about my six year anniversary of writing romantic comedies and I got that from a lot of people. They say, "Thank you so much. We need your stories so bad." People who read books want that escape in general, but I think when it comes to romantic comedies, it's almost like it's taking it to another level because you have laughter involved, and laughter is a form of medicine. It produces so many different chemicals in the body and it's necessary, especially in times like these where people are just stuck at home or they don't know what the future holds. Laughter is the key in so many ways.
I'm grateful that I'm able to provide that joy and laughter to people for them to escape for a little bit. And it helps me escape as well.
James Blatch: Who knows what people are going through and what they gain from losing themselves in one of your books? Laughter and love. Can't go wrong, Rich.
Rich Amooi: It's a very, very good combination for the most part. Most people want it. Most people need it. So I'm definitely working in a genre that I love, and to know that I'm actually helping people escape and enjoy something like that, it makes it even better for me.
James Blatch: And you want to take it to the next level.
Do you have any specific routes at the moment that you want to explore?
Rich Amooi: When it comes to my output, I still want to keep doing what I'm doing. I want to put out a couple of books a year. There were a couple of years that I had three in a year. I would like to get it back to three books in a year if I can, but that takes a lot of focus and determination and really just working hard, while still finding that balance there.
So like I said, having the balance. I don't want to eliminate things that I love in my life to get that. I want to have the balance. I want to keep doing what I'm doing and continue to grow and get my books to as many readers as possible. And I would like to one day be the first man ever to have the number one romantic comedy book in the world. So we'll see when that happens. You'll notice I didn't say, "We'll see if that happens." I said, "We'll seen when it happens." You've got to have the right frame of mind.
James Blatch: I like that positivity. And you let us know when that happens, because that'll be a big moment. We'll all celebrate with you. Well, Rich, it's been fantastic talking to you. Thank you very much indeed for taking the time. I can't help noticing that you've got quite a resemblance to Matthew McConaughey, particularly in one or two of your photographs on your Amazon page.
Rich Amooi: Thank you. I appreciate it because some people say I look like John Turturro and I think I prefer the Matthew McConaughey a little bit better, not that John Turturro is a bad guy. Speaking of quirky characters, there is somebody for you right there. But thank you very much.
James Blatch: For sure. Hey, no, you're welcome. Yeah, stay in touch, Rich. Let us know how you get on, and we'll see you when you get the elevator up to that next level.
Rich Amooi: Thank you. And thank you so much. I appreciate you having me on the programme.
James Blatch: There you go. What a lovely man Rich was. And obviously you can always tell with the loyalty of the reader. So Rich talked about his relationship with his readers. They are a very loyal crowd. It's often the case, I think, with romance, perhaps more than other genres. Maybe something to do with the subject matter is very sort of emotional and intimate and people feel close to the authors. So we talked about Lucy Score, who's an absolute star in our area. And Lucy, I think, has a fantastic mailing list of people who adore her and her writing.
And Rich is clearly building something on a similar vein, which is great. And yes, he is a man writing romance, which of course, there are. We had men on here who write romance before. But they are, without question, in the minority. In the same way, Mark, I'm guessing females are probably in the minority of thriller writers?
Mark Dawson: I guess so. I don't know though. That'd just be speculation. But I suppose it probably is true. But who knows?
It's lovely to see Rich doing so well. It just goes to show, it doesn't really matter what you want to write. The market is there. It doesn't matter what gender you are, you can find a genre that will ... if you can find that intersection between what you want to write and what your readers want, then you can do really well. And he's a prime example of that.
James Blatch: Yeah. Yeah, good for Rich. Good. Yes, I mean, there's lots of famous, very good, female thriller writers, more so than I would say male romance writers, who do exist but there aren't hugely prominent ones. I can think of people like Karen Slaughter and Susanne ... Who's the British author of the TV series ... I've forgotten now. Widows, and so on? Lynda La Plante.
Mark Dawson: Lynda La Plante. I was going to let you swing there for a little bit. No, there's plenty. Sara Paretsky. I could write down 20 probably. No, there's plenty. So I think that's a false distinction to make. Numbers would probably back you up in some cases, but there's no ... you can write whatever you want, and should.
James Blatch: Yes. Absolutely you should. Thank you very much for those wise words, mate. Good. That's it.
Mark Dawson: James' erotica ... He's not writing about aeroplanes anymore. He's writing about other things. We'll move on. Let's move on before we embarrass ourselves.
James Blatch: There's a little bit more love in book two than there was in book one, which was a barren-
Mark Dawson: I'll look forward to that.
James Blatch: ... a barren landscape for romance. Good, yes.
Look, we have chosen our next BookLab target. Victim, I should say. So that's coming up. I love those episodes. And next week we're going to be devoting the episode to non-fiction, particularly using your book as a kind of calling card, and vice versa, using the book itself as a revenue generator whereas your main thing you've got might be something else. Consultation, I think, is one of the ... We've got two interviews. Consultation is one of them and public speaking, the conference, keynote speaking is the other one. So we're going to look at both of those.
And I think there'll be stuff in there, without question, that applies to fiction authors as well. So don't skip it if you're a fiction author. I know lots of you listen very loyally every week anyway. Good, that's it. All that remains for me to say is that it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And it's a goodbye from me.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
Mark Dawson: Goodbye.
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