POD Paperbacks in Bookstores: A Guest Post From Sheena Lambert

As regular readers of this blog will already know, I’m happy to only sell my books online. I think when you produce paperbacks by Print-On-Demand, the unit costs just aren’t low enough to accommodate both a bookshop’s and a distributor’s cut, and the time it takes to get your book into stores (and keep it there, and chase payment, and collect returns) just isn’t worth it for me. So I was fascinated by fellow Irish self-publisher Sheena Lambert’s account of getting her CreateSpace-produced paperbacks into several major bookstore chains here in Ireland. Today, she shares it with us. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Sheena! Take it away…

“There are two types of writer.

Yep.  Just two.

(Work with me here.)

When asked, those in the first group will, for the most part, purport to have been “writing stories since the age of four”.  They are the ones who claim to have spent their awkward teenage years “curled up on a chair with a book”.  They read English Lit at Trinity college, went on to get some lowly job in a newspaper/publishing house/advertising agency, and have been trying to write the same novel for the best part of their twenties.  When asked, this group has no problem describing themselves as writers.  That is what they are.  That is what they were born to do.  Whether or not they are published, is simply not relevant.

The second type of writer probably did their English homework under duress, and spent little, if any, of their childhoods reading in contorted positions.  They most likely studied something sensible like the law, or engineering, and the closest they ever came to being published in their twenties was having a 2-page feature article on bio-waste in a trade magazine.

AC proofs

But then, something happened.

Maybe they attended a Creative Writing course, just to get out of the house for an hour.  Maybe they entered a short story competition, and to their own amazement, won it.  Maybe they wrote 1,000 words on something that riled them and sent it off to the Irish Times in a huff, never imagining that it would actually be published.  For this group, the business of writing crept up on them.  For whatever reason, they went from never writing a thing, to carrying around notebooks full of illegible scribbles, having a iPhone full of hastily typed notes and ideas, and spending every spare second plotting or editing or, well, writing.  And yet, they would never dream of introducing themselves as “a writer”.  When asked, they mutter something about “doing a little bit of writing” and then talk openly about their day job.

I am in this group.

I was an engineer (I suppose technically, I still am), owned a clothes shop and was a stay-at-home mum before I found writing, or it found me.  I used to dabble with the odd bit of poetry, but when I started writing in earnest four years ago (yes, I was the one attending the Creative Writing evening class in an attempt to hide from my children) I never expected to find something that I didn’t even know was missing.  It might be like discovering religion, or chocolate, for the first time at the age of 34.  Wondering how you could possibly have gotten this far through life without it, and knowing that your life was never going to be the same again with it.  I have spent these four years writing stories, poetry and short plays in the hours when my boys are at school.  I’ve had more articles published (and paid for) online and in the national press.  But most significantly of all, I have written and self-published a novel, Alberta Clipper.

I began writing Alberta Clipper as a TV script for fun, and then decided to rework it as a novel.  It took me the most part of a year to write (juggling it with a 4 and a 6 year old).  When I finished, I set it aside for a couple of months, and wrote other things.  Then I gave it to beta readers, insisting that they fill out a form afterwards which required them to give the bad feedback as well as the good.  Based on their criticism I reworked parts and edited it.

Then I sent it to a carefully selected list of agents and publishers, and waited.

Now, here’s the thing.  If I had gotten a publishing deal, or even an agent at this stage, I would have joined the ranks of the first group of writers.  I would have proudly announced that I too was a writer, having been validated by a professional in the business.  Instead, of the fifteen or so queries I sent out, I got approximately five “no, thank you” responses, and five “we-really-like-this-but-the-market-for-women’s-fiction-has-tanked-and-we-are-just-not-taking-on-any-new-authors-right-now-unless-you-have-written-The-Bible-or-something-that-might-sell-at-that-level” responses.  (The other five responses must have gotten lost in the post.)

Undeterred, and confident in my product, I decided to self-publish in the autumn of 2012.  I read Catherine’s Self-Printed-The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing from cover to cover, prepared my scripts, and went live on the 1st November 2012 via Amazon and Smashwords, in paperback and as an ebook.  I remember the moment that Alberta Clipper went live, only for it’s unremarkableness.  I was sitting on the couch, watching Friday night TV, glass of wine in hand, laptop beside me when ooops, there it goes.  My novel’s gone on sale.  Graham Norton just kept on talking.  My husband kept on snoring.  I’m guessing had I a traditional publishing deal, that moment might have gone a little differently.


Nevertheless, it was here.  I now had a book for sale.  Electronically and in paperback.  I decided at that point to take a break from writing my second novel and focus three months marketing Alberta Clipper.  Although this went against all the usual advice you hear about writing, I knew I had a limited amount of time available to me each day, and that I had to use it well.  I was only going to launch Alberta Clipper once.  And Catherine’s book did say not to lose momentum.

So I devised a marketing plan.  Nothing fancy, just a little ‘where I am, where I want to be, and how-the-bloody-hell-do-I-get-there’ plan.  Again, against most self-publishing advice, I decided to focus equally on the local paperback sales and the international ebook sales.  Because my marketing plan had two goals.

Goal 1:

To sell enough books to be a financial success.  For me, this would mean generating an income of $5,000 in the first year.  (This figure will be different for everyone, but in my head, earning less than that would have been disappointing.  And impractical.  If I couldn’t make that much in a year from my writing, I’d have to get a real job.)

Goal 2:

To increase the chances of getting a traditional publishing deal for my second novel.

Now I know that if my book sold even moderately well electronically, it would be enough to reach my first goal.  But even with blog tours, and Amazon Author Pages and Twitter and Facebook, I felt I had very little control over how well the book would sell online.  Self-published authors that sell well online almost all have a series of books out.  That is a fact.  A quick look at the top ten kindle sales in every category will confirm this.  And I am not in the business of churning out serialised tomes. It’s just not how I write.

I was also conscious of the fact that Ireland, being Ireland, it was within my reach to get my book noticed, if it was good enough.  In Ireland, there are only a handful of bookstore chains, and two major book distributers.  So with my firm belief in the appeal of Alberta Clipper as my lynchpin, I approached them all.

My résumé was short.  All I had was some newspaper articles and the book itself.  In a couple of instances I was turned away for not having a formal marketing and PR campaign planned, complete with TV and radio appearances.  But in a couple of cases, the bookstores actually read my book, and within a month of being published online, it was being given a trial run on the shelves of three in a chain of ten bookstores.  Their first order of forty books sold out in the three weeks, and they re-ordered Alberta Clipper before Christmas with a view to stocking it in all ten of their shops around Ireland in 2013.

Bookstation 3

As with all good marketing strategies, success begets success.  I got a slot on national radio, the book was profiled in a newspaper, I got the opportunity to write an article in the Irish Independent’s magazine, and six weeks later, one of the two main book distributers in the country wrote to confirm that they wished to stock and distribute my novel.

It’s worth remembering at this point that as a self-pubber, there is almost no margin in getting my book onto the shelves of bookshops in Ireland.  The cost of printing the books is simply too high.  But what I am doing, is working to attain the second of my marketing goals.  I think my book is good enough to be on the shelves of bookshops.  And now I can point to professionals in the business who think my book is good enough to be on the shelves of their bookshops.

It’s the validation thing.

I continue to try and reach the first of my two marketing goals.  To this end, I am hopeful that someday I might meet a computer hacker who can infiltrate Amazon’s algorithm on my behalf.  Stranger things have happened.

In the meantime, I can walk into physical bookshops all around the country, and see my lovely little book with the barometer on the front sitting proudly between Maeve Binchy and the latest Marian Keyes.

And I can at last look people in the eye, and call myself a writer.

Well, nearly.”

Sheena Lambert picAlberta Clipper is available now in paperback and e-book from Amazon and other major online retailers, and in the following bookshops here in Ireland: Antonia’s Bookstore in Trim, Co. Meath, Bookstation outlets and soon, Eason’s nationwide.

What do you think? Is getting your physical book into bookshops worth the time, effort and stress?

Share your thoughts in the comments below…

100 Ways To Combat Writer’s Bottom: An Interview with Jane Wenham-Jones

Jane Wenham-Jones is the author of one of my all-time favorite “how to” writing books, Wannabe a Writer? And since I started writing full-time, my arse has been expanding at a rate that’s in direct proportion to the amount of time I’ve been spending sitting on it. So when I heard that Jane had published a new e-book, 100 Ways To Fight The Flab: The Wannabe Guide to a Better Bottom, it was like all my calorific Christmases had come together, minus the associated post-Christmas binge guilt.


Today she’s stopping by to tell us how we can all avoid the dreaded Writer’s Bottom. Welcome back to Catherine, Caffeinated, Jane!

Tell us about your experience with Writer’s Bottom, the tragic and devastating condition that led you to write this book.

WELL… First of all, I would like to make it clear that I coined the term—in a hundred years, when it is a recognised medical condition I would like to be remembered as the woman who identified this debilitating syndrome. Actually I don’t feel my own bottom is in too bad a shape (cos I follow my own tips, natch!) but I certainly have had plenty of experience of putting on weight when I have been writing a book. You get to the end of the day, wrung out and emotionally exhausted, feeling as if you’ve run a marathon but of course you haven’t. You’ve been sat on your backside, and probably eating all sorts while you’re at it!

Aside from doing a Hemingway and write standing up, what can writers, generally speaking, do to avoid this? (If anything!)

Follow my tips of course. Eat a chilli a day. Eat dark chocolate. Go for a brisk walk before bed. It’s all in the book…

What are you thoughts on “magic” underwear: yes/no/several constricting layers of it at all times?

Spanx work miracles. No wonder Sara Blakely is now worth a billion dollars.

Is there anything we can do that will both increase our word count and enable us to eat as many crisps (chips, American friends) as we want? Or is that just a pipe dream?

Type sitting on an inflatable exercise ball—you’ll have abs of iron.

Please give us the three tips from 100 Ways To Fight The Flab: The Wannabe Guide to a Better Bottom that will a) instantly transform us into skeletal versions of our former selves and b) ensure that we drop what we’re doing and go straight to Amazon to buy the book.

Here are three tips chosen at random:

Think thin

There is a lot to be said for the power of positive thinking. Have you noticed how skinny people are always twitching about and never sit still? Tell yourself you are a thin person too and start fidgeting now. Walk rapidly instead of waddling along like a fatty, throw the kids’ crusts to the birds instead of hoovering them up (thinnies disdain leftovers) stand tall, think slimline and practise an irritating laugh and trilling: Sometimes you know, I forget to eat altogether…


Cut the carbs

There is no doubt about it, however much you may be 9clinging onto that packet of custard creams, that this works. Eat no rice, potatoes, bread, cakes, pasta etc and you will lose weight. If you don’t drink alcohol either it will fall off. Also, the benefit of the high protein approach – lots of meat, fish, eggs, cheese – with salad or vegetables, is that if you do it properly you won’t feel hungry either. (Bored and deprived maybe but certainly not starving). In fact, after a while, as you rediscover your hip bones and note just the one chin looking back at you from the mirror, you may find you really feel quite energised and jolly. I think it’s the smug feeling of virtue that cheers me up! Opponents of this plan, usually to be identified by the plate of chips in their hands, will whine on about heart disease and cholesterol levels but really they’re just feeling bitter about the lack of biscuits. Useful for a quick fix when you’ve got two weeks to get into the dress you haven’t done up since 2006.

Cut the fat

Doing this is much, much worse. You are condemning yourself to a dreary existence of dry toast, flavourless leaves, bad-temper and hunger (or was that just me?). Yes, a multi-million pound fortune may have been built on the premise that if you give up butter you’ll get thinner legs, but if you’re that desperate to lose ten pounds it is probably less painful to cut a leg off.

Another reason to buy the book is that we are running a FAB competition with it—to win six nights here—which is a wonderful, gorgeous place. More details and full rules can be found on my blog. Get your entries in before April 26th!

(‘Before and after’ pictures and grateful testimonials also especially welcome.)

Now that you’ve written (hugely entertaining!) guides to writing books, selling books and not expanding like a rubber dingy that’s had its cord pulled while you do those things, what’s next for my favourite advice-giver?

I am thinking of some other hundred-tips books…. 🙂 But my agent is getting very fierce about my writing another novel— so have to get a few chapters of that under my belt first. Prime Time—my last one—has just been shortlisted for the Romantic Comedy category of the RoNas which is very exciting.

Richard and Judy are presenting the awards and I was already down to compere (have done this for last two years). So at present all my energies are directed into sticking to every tip in the book so I can fit into the new frock which was only available in a size too small…. 🙂

Thanks so much, Jane!

Find 100 Ways To Fight The Flab: The Wannabe Guide To A Better Bottom on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and other good e-book stores. Visit Jane’s website here or follow her on Twitter here

Social Media for Authors: [Groan] Do I HAVE To?


This week I read a really interesting interview with Gillian Flynn’s agent, Stephanie Rostan, about whether or not social media sells books.

Gillian Flynn, if you’re not familiar, is the author of the fantastic Gone Girl, frequent topper of bestseller lists worldwide and soon to be a movie David Fincher is rumored to be directing and Flynn herself is currently writing the screenplay for. (She’s also the author of Sharp Objects and Dark Places, which are even better than Gone Girl, I think.) According to Publishers Weekly, Flynn was one of the top 3 bestselling authors in the US last year, but she neither tweets nor blogs, and although her website looks cool, it’s only occasionally updated with book news and events.

So if one of 2012’s biggest selling authors has never as much as read a tweet (let’s just presume), let alone composed one, why is the internet full of people—me included—saying that if you want to sell books, social media is the way to do it?

Because, like, it takes AGES.

And it doesn’t always work.

And anyway we just want to WRITE.

If you write full-time, do it sitting down and like to reward yourself with calorific treats, then you may have a problem with the expansion rate of your arse. (I know I do.) Let’s say you do, and let’s say you want to shrink it. The internet says this will involve exercising, eating less, eating only pretend food (with labels that say “Now With a New, Improved Taste!”), drinking gallons of boring water a day, switching from caramel lattes to black coffee and getting used to the constant sound of your stomach growling. But you have a writing friend who eats only Big Macs, drinks only melted Ben & Jerry’s, snacks on butter-coated cubes of lard and writes in bed, lying down, and she hasn’t gained a pound since 1997. Do you look at her, look back at your diet plan and say with a groan, “But do I HAVE to?”


“But I just want to WRITE!”

Of course you don’t, because you know that your friend’s metabolism is obviously an implant from an abduction experience she must have had when she was kidnapped for a night by an advanced alien race during her teenage years, and that while she can scoff Big Macs without gaining weight, you only have to glance in the general direction of a McDonald’s and your jeans start to feel tight. The same goes for waking up looking like Cindy Crawford. She just has to wake up, because looking like Cindy Crawford comes naturally to her. You, on the other hand, probably need some Touche Eclat and a blusher brush. (Again, I know I do.) And Gillian Flynn is traditionally published with two extremely well-received books already under her belt, Gone Girl was readily available on the just-inside-the-door shelves of all major bookstores in the countries it was published in, and it was positively reviewed in the New York Times, Time, The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, The Guardian, The Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly and People magazine, just to name a few.

So does Gillian Flynn have to tweet?

Hell no.

Do you?

Yes, probably. Because you have to do what you have to do.

Now I’m not talking literally about tweeting, specifically, but of course you are going to have to get off your butt and do whatever you can to help sell copies of your book, and yes, that includes using social media. You have to do what you have to do. Yes, we all know of examples of self-published authors who don’t tweet or blog or use Facebook as much as we do, and they’ve sold truckloads more than us. But so bloody what? This is like the whole “JK Rowling is self-publishing” thing again. She may be, but what’s it got to do with you? Nothing, unless you are also a billionaire from your book sales, had eight movies break box office records and there’s a large section of Universal Studios devoted to the characters you created.

We all want to “just write”. But you’ll never be able to just write if what you write doesn’t bring money in, because then you’ll have to spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week doing something other than writing. You’ll only make money by selling books, and the first step in selling a book is to inform a potential reader than it exists.

For a self-published author, social media is the only gateway to a global audience that doesn’t charge a toll.

So yes, I think you have to.

At least until you’re on the bookstore shelves and reviewed in The New Yorker, anyway.

(And FYI, I discovered Flynn long before Gone Girl was even announced. I heard about Sharp Objects, looked it up, ordered it online and after devouring it, got Dark Places too. I never came across her in a bookshop or read a review in print media until Gone Girl was released, so how was it that I heard about her in the first place?

Oh, yeah. A Twitter friend was reading it and mentioned it online. So THROUGH A TWEET.)

KDP Now Paying ALL Royalties By EFT


We don’t normally have posts with such newsy, matter-of-fact headlines on this blog, but last night Amazon KDP announced something important and I wanted to make sure you all know about it, although if you’re a KDP author and this affects you, you should have received the same e-mail I did. It’s bye-bye to foreign currency cheques and hello electronic funds transfer because KDP is now offering to pay all royalties, be they dollars, pounds or euros, into your European bank account.


Up until now, I got three different payments from KDP each month: a US dollar cheque for sales from Amazon.com and a British pound cheque for sales from Amazon.co.uk, and royalties from Amazon.de sales (which were minimal; I think my best month ever there was €50) were paid directly into my bank because, being in Ireland, my bank account and Germany shared the same currency, the Euro.

Now I never really minded getting cheques, because I always thought it was wondrous thing that Amazon would allow me to sell my books on their Kindle stores and promptly pay me once a month to in the first place, and so I didn’t especially care how the money arrived. But I’ve been getting these cheques for three years now, and they do have their disadvantages. With one of them coming all the way across the Atlantic, they can take a while to arrive, and once, one got lost. (It was quickly cancelled and replaced by Amazon.) When I lodge them in my bank, it’s a bureau de change transaction, and sometimes they can take up to 5 weeks—5 weeks!—to clear. Also, these cheques are the biggest chunk of my income, so getting paid in such an undependable way wasn’t all that great either; some months they’d arrive by the 1st, another month it might be the 10th, sometimes Amazon.co.uk sent out their cheques in the middle of the month, just for laughs. (And once when this happened, I was in Nice Airport dutifully staying away from the shops when a text message informed me that this unexpected early cheque had arrived. I literally ran into the Duty Free. Toblerones for everyone!)

And I couldn’t switch to EFT, because Amazon would only do that when there was a currency match, i.e. my earnings were in the same currency as my bank account, which is Euro.

Until now.

Now they will convert my US dollars or UK pounds in Euro, and then pay them directly into my account. Hurray! Some people are logging onto their account and coming back telling me the options look the same, but just change the currency symbol to € first and the EFT option should pop up, as in the image below.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 11.10.30

For some of you, the big benefit to this is that the threshold for payment will dramatically reduce. For cheques, it was $100/£100/€100. Now for EFT, it’s just the equivalent of €10.

I do have a query about whether this means less or more money (what conversion rate are they using? Is it real time? Will I gain what I was paying my bank in commission for a foreign currency exchange? Or is it my bank doing the exchanging anyway, when the money gets sent to them?). When these EFT payments start to arrive in April, I can easily compare the conversion rate to previous payments anyway, and see what’s up. But overall, I’m just happy there’s no more cheques.

Well, that’s no strictly true. There is still CreateSpace, who follow the same method since they started their European Amazon extravaganza: a US dollar cheque for Amazon.com/EDC sales, a UK sterling cheque for Amazon.co.uk sales and a Euro cheque for other European Amazon sales (with the same payment thresholds). I just logged in and it looks like nothing’s changed there, but we live in hope.

This situation change is true for Irish authors, but I wonder what changes KDP authors in other European countries are seeing. Let me know in the comments below!

My Favorite Plotting Book EVER* (*Contains Cats)

It was September 2006 and Ihad  just moved to Orlando, Florida. I didn’t have much money, no car and my job hadn’t commenced yet, so I basically knew no one. I spent most of my days wandering around Downtown Disney, tracing a path which always ended up in the Virgin Megastore on Westside (which is no longer there, sadly). Upstairs there were magazines, a bookstore, and a cafe: the perfect place for me. The bookstore wasn’t the kind where you could walk in with a book you wanted in mind and find it there on the shelf, though; this place was more of a let’s go in with an open mind and see what we find type of place.


One day I found Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Synder and started to flip through it. Not only did it make me laugh, standing there in the aisle, but it also explained story in a way I could understand, and used examples from movies I was familiar with to show that like it or not—and done consciously or not—all the movies that leave us feeling really satisfied, that have us walking back out into the light after seeing it in the movie theatre and saying to our friend, ‘That was really good, wasn’t it?”, adhere in some way to these principles.

Even though I shouldn’t have been spending any money at all, I just had to buy the book so I could take it back to my crappy little apartment and read the rest.

Disney 7656

Have I shown you this before? This was my crappy Orlando apartment (the one I shared with partying Russians who never locked the front door). I believe that’s called 80s Office Chic. 

Which is where I discovered that this screenwriting book is amazing for plotting commercial fiction.

It’s even more amazing if you’re asked for a chapter-by-chapter outline, as I once was, before I’d even written a word of the book.

Need a one-page synopsis? Or your entire book down pared down to just three paragraphs? Whip out Save the Cat!, flip to the beat sheet page (my copy now just falls open there) and fill in a sentence—one sentence—for each of the fifteen beats. Divide into three, jazz up a bit and there you go: your one-page synopsis.

And if you can’t fill in a sentence for each of those fifteen beats? Then your structure might have a weak spot. There’s room to improve.

Putting The Fun Back Into Story

If you’ve read Story by Robert McKee, Save the Cat! is like that only in a language you’ll understand and a length that won’t fry your brain. Save the Cat! is actually a fun read, and something you’ll return to again and again. The book isn’t that thick, even. Story is just too much for me. I can’t take it all in. It also seems to squeeze all the fun out of it, every last drop, until it just gets so technical and nit-bitty that it can only leave you feeling totally overwhelmed (I think).

Another thing I love about Snyder’s books is that he assumes you know what you’re doing. He takes it for granted that idea, characters, etc. are all already there. His beat sheet is more of a test, something you can lay down over the story you already have to check it for structural integrity, for weak spots and holes.

Now, yes, I am aware that I’m supposed to be writing books, not screenplays. But if you write commercial fiction, there is no real difference between you and a screenwriter in terms of the plot beats you should aim to hit. Only the novelist, I think, faces a much deeper, wider and darker chasm (100,000 words) than the screenwriter does (120 pages) and so if there’s help out there, why not take it? Especially when most of us have a great idea for a beginning, a vague idea for an end, a cast of characters and not much else.

How are you going to fill in the middle, eh?

‘Story Structure’ Does NOT Equal ‘Formula’

Let’s just take a moment here to address those of you whose teeth are already grinding and eyes are already a-rolling at the thought of doing anything to our work other than letting it run free and wild across the blank pages of Pretentious Meadow. A beat sheet isn’t about writing to a formula. This is about the elements of story which, if you’ll recall, is what all this is supposed to be about in the first place.

For example, let’s say that I came rushing up to you, breathless, and said, “Oh my god, you will not believe what’s just happened to me. I was sitting in traffic, right? Waiting for the light to turn red. Next thing I know this guy comes running up to my window and starts pounding on the glass!”

And then I abruptly stop talking.

What would be your reaction?

Wouldn’t it be to ask, “Yeah, and? What happened then?”

Because every story has to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and I clearly left out the ending of my traffic tale. Therefore, it doesn’t sit right with you. You know it’s missing something. You knew it as soon as you heard it, because you’re wired for story. So you have a natural, human reaction to hearing the beginning and middle of a story: you look for the end.

This is exactly what Save the Cat! and other “plotting” books, devices and advice is all about. The only difference is that they go much deeper than the basics of beginning, middle and end. For instance, Snyder can break a story into two halves (Opening Image <- Midpoint -> Final Image), four quarters (Act I, Act II Part 1, Act II Part 2, Act II) or fifteen by way of his famous beat sheet (see the first Save the Cat! book for this).

But you can just take what you want or need, and leave the rest. For example, when planning my current WIP I thought of the story like this:

  • Half way through is the “midpoint”, where the hero does something that means he can never return to his “Before” life, a point of no return
  • Act II up until the midpoint is all about the hero being proactive, moving into a new life (without committing to it)
  • Act II after the midpoint is all about the hero resisting the (inevitable and permanent) change that’s up ahead
  • Act I is the “Before” or Old World, where if the hero keeps doing what he’s doing, life will be pretty sucky
  • Act III is the hero deciding to move into his “After” or New World, and settling there
  • At each turn (end of Act I, midpoint, end of Act II) there’s a significant stakes raise, greater than the one before.

My constant re-reading of Save the Cat! helped me fill in all the other bits as I went along, but when you’re first faced with the question Is this idea enough for a novel?, being able to figure out if your story has a beginning, middle and end can save you a lot of staring-out-the-window time.

I’ve mentioned this book before, but I wanted to post about it again because I recently re-read the other two books in the series, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies and Save the Cat! Strikes Back, and remembered just how wonderful they are. Tragically Snyder passed away suddenly at the age of just 51 before Strikes Back had even hit the shelves, but not before he’d become famous (and appreciated!) in screenwriting circles and was traveling all over the world to help other writers with their scripts.

So if you’re struggling, give Save the Cat! a chance and see what it can do for you. At the very least, it’ll make you giggle.

Find Save the Cat! on Amazon and visit Blake Snyder’s website here.

The 100 Best Movies Challenge

It’s Friday! So let’s set aside the self-publishing stuff for a second and do something fun.

On Wednesday Nathan Bransford posted his personal list of 100 Favorite Movies and challenged others to do the same. Now as you all know I never met a procrastination activity I didn’t like, and I love movies as much as I love books (well, almost…), so today I’m posting my list.


One hundred movies sounds like a lot, and will seem like a lot when you first start trying to think of all your favorite films. You’ll enlist the help of friends and family, look up Best Picture nominees on Wikipedia and frantically browse your DVD collection. But soon you’ll be saying, “Oh! How could I forget that?” and “But what about—?’ and “I feel like there was something else amazing he was in too…” and then suddenly you’re up to 149, you need to start whittling them down and you’ve Argo in twice because you’ve Ben Affleck on the brain.

Now I’ve cheated ever so slightly with mine because I’ve counted series like Toy Story and the first two Home Alones as one entry, but so what? It’s my list! I’ve also picked my favorite movies, many of which would never have had a shot at Best Picture, so don’t hate me for loving Spacecamp. Or Dirty Dancing. Or 17 Again.

I also know I’ve left some out and will think of them as soon as I click the Publish button on this post…

(Yeah. There’s a chance I’m over-thinking this.)

Okay, so here we go. 1-10 are my all-time favorite movies, but 11-100 are in no particular order.

(Yep. Definitely over-thinking this.)

My 100 favorite movies of all time are (I think!):

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. Contact
  3. Apollo 13
  4. American Beauty
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  6. Adaptation
  7. The Truman Show
  8. Stranger Than Fiction
  9. The Departed
  10. The Usual Suspects
  11. Primal Fear
  12. Spacecamp
  13. The Silence of the Lambs
  14. Wall-E
  15. The Lives of Others
  16. The Secret in Their Eyes
  17. The Shawshank Redemption
  18. 17 Again
  19. The Terminal
  20. The Mist
  21. Catch Me If You Can
  22. Any Given Sunday
  23. Contagion
  24. Elf
  25. Dirty Dancing
  26. The Town
  27. Return to Oz
  28. Office Space
  29. The Cable Guy
  30. Midnight in Paris
  31. Home Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
  32. Best in Show
  33. The Devil’s Advocate
  34. Thank You For Smoking
  35. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy
  36. Seven
  37. Jaws
  38. Forrest Gump
  39. Cast Away
  40. Schindler’s List
  41. The Toy Stories
  42. Independence Day
  43. Armageddon
  44. The Sixth Sense
  45. Fight Club
  46. Gladiator
  47. The Insider
  48. Training Day
  49. Amelie
  50. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  51. Titantic
  52. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
  53. Bicentennial Man
  54. Mission Impossible
  55. Tropic Thunder
  56. Misery
  57. 1408
  58. Inside Man
  59. The Game
  60. A Perfect Murder
  61. Jagged Edge
  62. The Life of David Gale
  63. Cinema Paradiso
  64. Minority Report
  65. The River Wild
  66. Twister
  67. The Informant!
  68. Zoolander
  69. The Other Guys
  70. All The President’s Men
  71. The Others
  72. Bridesmaids
  73. Arlington Road
  74. The Vanishing
  75. Pretty Woman
  76. Argo
  77. The Reader
  78. The Remains of the Day
  79. Quiz Show
  80. Jerry Maguire
  81. Good Will Hunting
  82. Speed
  83. Closer
  84. Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil
  85. Clueless
  86. The Wedding Singer
  87. The Holiday
  88. The TV Set
  89. For Your Consideration
  90. Senna
  91. In The Shadow of the Moon
  92. The Hangover
  93. Bad Santa
  94. Supersize Me
  95. The Hoax
  96. Grizzly Man
  97. Recount
  98. Stepbrothers
  99. Kiss The Girls
  100. I Love You, Philip Morris.

Agree? Disagree? Never going to trust me again because I love Return to Oz? (Guess what? I DON’T CARE. It’s amazing.) Or have you spotted a glaring omission? And don’t say The Godfather II, because even though it’s like the greatest movie ever made, it’s not a favorite of mine, really. Ditto for 2001. And Apocalypse Now? I’d rather Tropic Thunder any day. And I know many people have a scary obsession with The Princess Bride—I like it, yes, but it’s not one of my favorites. Also not a fan of anything Star Warred, Star Trekked or Lord of The Ringed.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or read Nathan’s list here.

Have a good weekend!

UPDATE: It’s happened: I remembered others! Here are a few that I didn’t think of when I was compiling the list: A Few Good Men, The September Issue, Easy A, The Cutting Edge, Enchanted, Top Gun (hello? HOW could I’ve forgotten that? I love that movie…), The Social Network and Superbad. Not sure if they’d have squeezed their way into my Top 100 but alas, we’ll never know (because I’m not starting this again!).