Help From Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom - Debt of Honor (1994 HB)

Clancy, Tom – Debt of Honor (1994 HB) (Photo credit: sdobie)

Tom Clancy’s 5 big rules for writing and life

“Learn to write the same way you learn to play golf,” the novelist advised


Tom Clancy, the insurance agent turned superpower thriller novelist, died yesterday at the age of 66, leaving behind a legacy that includes blockbuster books (over 100 million copies of his books in print), movies, even videos games. Although he didn’t set down a list of writing tips for posterity––or at least, if he did, it’s still stealthily unrevealed––through interviews and lectures Clancy offered advice that can be applied to any style of writing.

Tell the story.

“Fundamentally, I think of myself as a storyteller, not a writer.” What’s the difference you may ask? Instead of trying to impress critics with his literary pyrotechnics, Clancy said he told stories to “take people away from driving trucks or fixing toilets or whatever they do, away from their drudgery. That’s a good enough purpose for any man.” Clancy’s career really took off when a man not known for being a member of the literati, then–President Ronald Reagan, labeled Clancy’s first book The Hunt for Red October a “perfect yarn.”

Writing is like golf.

“A lot of people think [when you write] something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired––it’s hard work.” Clancy’s advises writers to “Learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right.” READ MORE HERE.

The Most Popular Fiction Authors in America By Number of Sales

Where Are the Children? book cover

Where Are the Children? book cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Most Popular Fiction Authors in America By Number of Sales


It may shock you to know that there is no single repository of statistics for the number of books sold by an author. Likewise, there is no keeper of records on the sales of a particular book title. (Registering your book with the Library of Congress only protects the copyright. The library does not track sales.)

Authors or publishers get an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) that is unique to each book format. Thus, a title may have several ISBNs attached to it, one for hardback, one for paperback and one for an ebook. Writers may change publishers, and publishers may change their names, merge or disappear. Multiply this complexity by the sales made worldwide, and you can understand why the following figures have a tremendous margin for error.

This list includes only American fiction authors, who have sold over an estimated 100 million books. William Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, both Brits, are by far the biggest individual sellers of books with an estimated 2-4 billion. Yes, that is billion with a capital B. Keep in mind that the numbers refer to the complete works of an author (including co-written works) and not a specific title.

The list is fluid in that younger authors will no doubt improve their rankings over their careers. Likewise, as populations and communications have increased, so has the exposure of these authors to an increasing audience. The added popularity gained when a book is made into a movie or television show can cause sales and rankings to soar.

The prolific series of children’s or young adult books by R.L Stine, Ann M. Martin, Stan and Jan Berenstein, Richard Scarry, Gilbert Patten or Norman Bridwell (from 400 to 80 titles each) average just 2 million units per title. Taken as a body of work, each of these writers has sold over 110 million books. Dr. Seuss wrote just 44 books with the same rate of sales and like Stine and Patten are in the top ten. Only one nineteenth century writer, specializing in rags-to-riches stories about young boys, is in the top ten. Horatio Alger wrote 135 dime novels.

Although only ten American women (one of those, Jan Berenstein co-wrote with her husband) made the top forty, a woman, Danielle Steel, came in at number one. She has sold between 500-800 million romance books and has written about 120 titles. Other best selling romance writers include Janet Dailey, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber and the youngest and least prolific author, Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame. Other women in the top forty include gothic/horror author V.C. Andrews, whose works are now ghost written by a man; Anne Rice, the queen of vampires; suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark; and forensic writer Patricia Cornwell.

Two Western authors made the top twenty. Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey have both sold over 230 million books. L’Amour is credited with over 101 books, while Zane Grey’s count is unclear. Publishers sold about 24 of his books after his death in 1939, but a conservative estimate is around 55 titles.

Only one other American has done as well as Stephanie Meyer when it comes to selling the most books with the least number of titles. His name is Dan Brown. Thanks to Tom Hanks (The DaVinci Code) he has sold over 120 million books with just 5 titles. Likewise, only one name on the list is someone you might study in an American literature course. His name is Erskine Caldwell. You may have heard of his books, includingTobacco Road and God’s Little Acre.

Mystery, suspense, thriller and private detective genres are often grouped together in the minds of readers. Together they represent the largest group of bestselling authors. Sidney Sheldon of television fame, Irving Wallace, champion of the underdog, and Mickey Spillane of the Mike Hammer series, have all reached their high rankings with roughly 25 titles. David Baldacci is gaining in rank with 25 titles of his own to date. The more fruitful authors include Dean Koontz, James Patterson and Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), all of whom hover around the 100 mark. Straddling the middle ground of productivity with 50 titles is Rex Stout, famous for his Nero Wolfe series.

Legal and medical mysteries/thrillers are sought out for their occupational themes. John Grisham with 33 titles and Earl Stanley Gardner with 140 titles are the most noteworthy for their sales. Gardner, the Perry Mason writer may someday get surpassed in books sold given Grisham’s continuing movie adaptations. In the medical field Robin Cook has 27 titles, while Frank G. Slaughter wrote 62 books before his death.

There are two top-forty writers who fall under the adventure genre. Harold Robbins has sold over 750 million books with just 23 titles. Clive Cussler has 37 books with less than 150 million in sales. Cussler, L’Amour and Grey are what many women consider romance writers for men.

Some writers just don’t fit any mold. They not only stand out in their own unique way, but also define their genre. Among these are horror/fantasy writer Stephen King with 70 books to his credit and spy writer Robert Ludlum with 40 books. Michael Crichton of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park is considered a techno-thriller/science fiction author. He wrote 25 books. James Michener had 47 titles to his historical fiction credit.

One last author that may surprise you wrote about 70 books, many in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He was eager to exploit his most popular fictional character, who has become an American icon. He even set up his own printing operation to publish his books. He became one of the oldest war correspondents in WWII and died in 1950. You may have heard of him, Edgar Rice Burroughs. If not, surely you’ve heard of his famous jungle character, Tarzan.

Copyright 2013 by Linda K. Murdock, author of Mystery Lover’s Puzzle Book, Crosswords with Clues from Your Favorite Mystery Series. Her book is a mini-anthology that includes reviews of 29 bestselling writers, who do mystery series. A check-off list of each author’s titles, along with a crossword puzzle for each of the series, are included. See a sample crossword and more articles and reviews at

Article Source:

Article Source:

Are You Writing With Government Help?

The western front of the United States Capitol...

The western front of the United States Capitol. The Capitol serves as the seat of government for the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda and two wings. It is an exemplar of the Neoclassical architecture style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love to research, which is one reason why I love to write. I discovered that finding the right resources will help me get the most accurate information on any given topic. I never thought that turning to the government for help would even be an option. When I viewed the website I found so many cool things.

Reference Center and General Government

Find U.S. government common abbreviations, calendars, contact information, forms, photos, maps, news and more.

Other useful sites are:

U.S. Government Printing Office –

The World Factbook –

What unexpected sites have you found for your writing project?

Writing To Live

Making a living as a freelance writer or novelist is a tough gig. If you aren’t aware of how to get started or what some of the terms truly mean help is here.  I love finding useful information for new writers and even for writers who are stumbling a little in the void. There is too much information out there and it’s difficult to grasp all of it. Over at Bubblecow, there is a terrific list of helpful terms and how you can utilize them in your real life writing.

English: Traditional freelance writer work system.

English: Traditional freelance writer work system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How To Make a Living as a Writer

Posted August 31, 2012 by  & filed under Get Published.

So you want to make a living as a writer? Well despite what some writers will have you believe traditional publishing still offers writers a realistic chance of making a living as a writer. However, it’s not easy and it takes some planning, but it can be done. So here’s how to make a living as a writer…

The Tools Needed to Make a Living as a Writer


To build any kind of meaningful discussion, I am going to need to work with generalisations. Forgive me for this, I know there are exceptions to these rules, but I have tried to stick to ‘real life’ as far as possible.

The first generalisation is that most books deals begin with an advance. This is a sum of money, paid by the publishers, to the writer prior to a book’s publication. This advance is exactly that, an advanced payment of royalties the book will (or should) earn. It is possible to negotiate a deal without an advance, but if an agent is involved then an advance will almost certainly be paid.

This brings us to our second generalisation, the size of the advance. Once again these vary greatly and depend on the book’s potential market, the writer’s potential selling power and the agent’s ability to negotiate. However, as a general rule of thumb, an advance for a debut novel will be anywhere between £500 and £10,000 (or more). Advances tend to be paid in two instalments. The first is on signature of the contract, the second is on delivery of the manuscript. Since we are generalising, I am going to use a figure of £5000 per book. In the US it is pretty safe to work with a figure of $10,000 per book.


A royalty is the amount of money that a writer receives for each book that is sold. This sounds simple in theory but is painfully complex in practice. The writer will receive a percentage of… something. It may be the cover price or the price at which the book is sold to the trade, or something else determined by the publisher. Add to this, differing rates for different vendors, varying digital models and promotions and you can quickly see a complex mess of confusion arising from the gloom.

I know this will be controversial, but I would not build royalty payments, beyond your advance, into your immediate calculations. Many books never sell enough copies to earn back the money that a writer has been paid as an advance, and those that do often don’t start paying out until after a full year of sales (if not more). In short royalties are important, but when starting out it is dangerous to rely on royalty cheques to pay the bills.


Rights, be them foreign or film, are potentially a rich source of income for writers. The problem is that they are unpredictable and often beyond the control of writers. Agents and publishers will wrangle over the rights when a contract is negotiated, and then proceed to try and sell them through their own departments or third party companies. Whether a writer is luckily enough to sell additional rights is largely in the lap of the gods. However, a general rule of thumb (more generalisations, sorry) is that the better a book sells in the home territory (UK, US etc.), the easier the rights will be to sell.

Foreign rights are often the key for many writers to making a full time living. Foreign rights are the rights for a book to be published and sold in another country. What normally happens is a foreign publishing house will pay an upfront, a one off fee for the rights to publish the book. In addition, the writer will also receive a percentage of future sales, in essence a second royalty stream. In terms of figures, we are once again into the realm of generalisations, but you are probably talking £5,000, rather than £50,000. However, three or four foreign rights sales and the writer’s income suddenly starts to become attractive.

Film rights are another potential source of income. What tends to happen here is that a film maker will option a writer’s book. This means a lump of cash is paid for an exclusive period of time in which the book can be turned into a film. If the period lapses, and no film has been made, the rights revert back to the writer (but they keep the cash). So how much can a writer expect to get for an option? The answer is – it varies. The better the book sells in the real world, the higher the option price. You hear stores of hundreds of thousands being paid, but in general terms, for a first time writer, it is more likely to be in the tens of thousands. Read more here.


No Pain Self Editing

edit on the go

edit on the go (Photo credit: fensterbme)

Self editing should be and needs to be a very important part of your writing process. The only problem is we have a tendency to feel overwhelmed and think we should scrap the project because its too much work. At The Other Side Of The Story, a blog by Janice Hardy, has a guest post by author Emily Wenstrom, who offers sound advice on how authors can get through the self-editing process.

Guest Author Emily Wenstrom: How One Editor Learned to Edit Herself

Join me in welcoming Emily Wenstrom to the blog today. Emily wears a lot of different writing hats, and she’s here to share a few tips on how to edit yourself.

Lit addict, movie junkie, writer. Emily is a creative writer fascinated with science fiction, fantasy and monsters of all kinds. When she’s not writing about these, she’s a professional writer working in marketing and public relations. She blogs about creativity in art and career at Creative Juicer. She also recently launched wordhaus, a short story zine built for the digital age, now seeking submissions.

Take it away Emily…

I write fiction on the side, but by day I’m a professional writer and editor. I’ve also been managing editor of a city magazine, proofed for a political newsletter, worked a brief stint at a daily newspaper copy desk, and served as the last line of defense against typos and grammatical gaffes at a marketing agency. I’ve even created my share of in-house style guides for publications, agencies and even client companies. Read more here.