The Definition of a Successful Author

I was chatting with a fellow author this afternoon and she  told me something that was pretty cool. According to her brother in law, who’s a literary fiction author, the incredible sense of camaraderie and accessibility that’s become one of the hallmarks of the thriller writer community is somewhat of an oddity in the publishing world. He told her the literary fiction world is considerably more cutthroat, and that we should be grateful to be in our genre.

I don’t think this is because of our genre. I think the reason for the ongoing buddy comedy that is most of the author friendships I’ve observed and made here at the conference are only made possible because of the ITW (International Thriller Writers). The organization’s founders specifically built mentorship and service into the mission of the ITW. This has resulted in a vibrant, friendly, and empowering support network.

I’ve attended three ThrillerFest conferences so far, and every single one has been a well-oiled machine. I’ve never felt like there was any sort of separation, implied or overt, between the Big Name Authors and those of us who can count our book sales using a child’s abacus.

Last night, I was invited out to have dinner with some of the presenters from the conference and it was a blast. They were welcoming, gracious, and made me feel like one of the group even though I’d only met one of them before. The most important thing I took away from those conversations (which went on until very late last night) was that no one’s career rises in a straight line. You never know which project of yours will take off, which means you just need to keep moving forward and try not to look back too much.

This morning, I attended a panel discussion featuring authors whose book sales can be measured in the millions. The moderator asked, “What is the definition of a successful author?”

The overwhelming consensus is that a successful author is one who gets it done. Writes a book, gets it out, writes another, gets it out, writes another, etc. No one mentioned sales or reviews. It was all about the writing. Each book you write promotes the books you’ve written before, which means the best thing you can do to sell books is, duh. Write more.

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Man, I love this conference. I’m going to be sad when it’s over. And then I’m going to sleep. You guys, I’m going to sleep so much.

A Quick ThrillerFest Update

Today was the first day of the conference for me, and as always I’m exhilarated, exhausted, encouraged, intimidated, hopeful, and despondent. The trick to surviving a conference where you’re breathing the same air as the people who brought Rambo and Jack Reacher to life is to realize you will never, ever sell as many books as they have. Once you accept that simple truth, a healthy amount of hopelessness sets in and you’ll be right where you need to be.

Let’s see, this morning I attended a class on autopsies, learned how to structure a thriller from one of my favorite legends in the field (the incomparable Gayle Lynds, who is articulate and pleasing to listen to), and learned more about the ATF than I ever thought I would.

It’s been a long day (my first session was at 8 AM, and I’m only now sitting down for a break at 6 PM) but I have one last event tonight before I can collapse in an introvert coma. Cocktails and networking, here I come! And then? There’s a pillow with my name on it.

Greetings from the NYPL

I’m writing this from the Reading Room of the New York Public Library. It’s really, really quiet and really, really pretty in here. My friends who know the city really well recommended this to me as a good place to get some writing done and after seeing it for myself I heartily agree.

As you may have surmised, you clever reader, you, I am in New York City. I flew in yesterday afternoon and only felt a little like dying from jet lag when I woke up this morning. So far since entering the city proper five hours ago, the following things have happened to me:

  • A very nice man insisted on carrying my suitcase up the stairs at Grand Central Station, and wouldn’t hear of my carrying them. It occurred to me how easy it would be for him to just take off running with all my stuff, but thankfully he did no such thing and no flying tackles were carried out by me or anyone else.
  • I ate a late breakfast at a surprisingly affordable hole-in-the-wall diner called Scotty’s Diner that I immediately loved deeply and with all my heart.
  • A man tripped while walking past me and, when we collided, my immediate suspicion was that he was trying to pickpocket me because that’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. It turns out that 1) there wouldn’t have been anything to pickpocket even if he had been a scoundrel and 2) he was just clumsy and seemed very embarrassed by the whole incident. It’s possible I’ve been writing thrillers too long.
  • I walked past the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, and the New York Public Library, all of which were as exciting to me as if I had crossed paths with actual celebrities.

Stopped for a cold beverage break with a famous kitty. #thereisonlyzuul

A post shared by Erika Mitchell (@parsingnonsense) on

And now, after a quick catnap in my hotel room, I’m back at the library writing and revising. I can’t believe people get to see these spaces every day because it seems like there’s something astonishing on almost every block. I’ve now fallen hopelessly in love with this library and will find it difficult to leave.

ThrillerFest, the conference I’m in town for, begins tomorrow. It’s one of the only times a year all of us come crawling out from behind our keyboards to mingle and learn. I reckon by the time I need to be articulate tomorrow morning I’ll be mostly over my jet lag and ready to network with the best of them.

Until then, I still kind of feel like I don’t know what day or time it is but what I do know is this: You shouldn’t walk in puddles in NYC, there are some people who can walk in high heat and humidity wearing skinny jeans and not sweat like they’re stuck in a sauna, and sometimes nice people just want to carry your bag for you.

(By the way, I’m updating my Instagram feed quite a lot this trip, so check it out if you feel like visiting Manhattan vicariously through my pictures.)

Onward, I Say!

Wow. I mean, right? Whoosh. Welcome to the other side of the book launch. It probably just looked like a lot (maybe too many) social media posts from your side, but over here it was like spinning ten plates with two hands. Except for yesterday. Everything leading up to yesterday was spinning plates. Yesterday? Actual launch day? That was something different.

As opposed to the frantic pace of promotion and marketing, yesterday was a nice, quiet retreat into Revisions Land on BAI TREASON.

What’s that? you cry. You cheated on TAKE THE BAI ROAD on its birthday?!

Not really. I’d just done everything I could do to spread the word about TAKE THE BAI ROAD, and the only thing left to do was let it happen (or not happen) and figure out what’s next. For me? What’s next is BAI TREASON, which is shaping up to be twisty and unexpected and fun in all the right ways.

I’m channeling Edna Mode from The Incredibles, darling, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

I’ve always wondered if launching something is the same for movie stars as it is for authors. You work on this massive creative endeavor for months, then it’s out of your hands getting cleaned up and polished, and then, right when you’ve started working on something else, you’re supposed to get all excited to talk about this project you finished working on ages ago.

That’s not to say I’m not stoked about TAKE THE BAI ROAD. I totally am. It’s a fun book and I don’t even feel bad charging people money for it because it’s worth a few bucks and will definitely spice up your summer reading time (I recommend reading this one with a nice, cold beer under a shady tree when it’s really hot outside). I’m all for the Bai Road, so to speak, I’m just trying to make sure I don’t drown in promoting one project at the expense of doing what I love (writing a new project).

So here’s to TAKE THE BAI ROAD, which you can find here (among other places). May it find a happy place among the literal and digital bookshelves of the people who purchase, borrow, steal, and are gifted it.

Now onward, I say! To a mystery! To Ukraine! To BAI TREASON!

Behold, My Newest Baby!

Not many of you will remember this, but once upon a time I was a mommy blogger. I got my start in blogging by venting about my intolerable boss on an old Blogspot blog, and eventually moved up to the WordPress big leagues where I currently (happily) reside.

When I had the first of my two children, I shared pictures and tales from the new mother trenches. Doing so was a ton of fun, but when I was published for the first time I realized I’d really rather keep my children’s privacy in mind so I stopped posting baby pictures and started posting book covers, instead.

Posting book covers is as close as I come to publicly sharing photos of my progeny, and the two are not as different as you might think. For example:

  • Both a child and a new novel take WAY longer to produce than you’d like.
  • They both require research and intellectual flexibility.
  • I’ve been sleepless with worry over the fates of both my children and my books.
  • I’m inordinately proud of my kids and my books. They’re my best offerings to the world.
  • They all make me laugh when I’m least expecting it.

So to that end, will you please help me welcome my newest addition? Weighing in at 832 KB and a length of 242 pages, please welcome TAKE THE BAI ROAD to the book family, born today on July 5, 2017.

What can you expect if you buy this book? Well, in this way kids and books are different because I can tell you exactly what to expect from my book whereas my kids? Giant, goofy question marks.

TAKE THE BAI ROAD puts smartass Chinese-American spy Bai Hsu on the trail of the elusive Ghost Cartel, a shadowy organization moving product through cartel-controlled Mexican trade routes. It’s his most dangerous mission to date, pitting him against warring cartels without cover, resources, or backup. It’s an assignment that will test him, make him question himself, and put him at risk of losing everything that’s ever mattered to him.

According to Kirkus Reviews, ““Mitchell’s winning tale…is constantly in motion, taking Bai from one perilous predicament to the next…Fast-paced, invigorating, and entertaining.” (Click here for the full review, it’s awesome.)

Jeff Ayers, who reviewed the book for Suspense Magazine, had this to say: “What makes this series so pleasurable to read is Bai himself, his somewhat snarky attitude and self doubt make him more than the mere superhero jumping into the chaos to save the day.”

If you’d like to read a sample chapter before you buy, please click here.

If you’re sold, you can purchase your copy of TAKE THE BAI ROAD at any of these fine online retailers:

Thank you for supporting my writing by reading my work. I hope TAKE THE BAI ROAD gives you many enjoyable hours of entertainment!