Is It Still a Thrill?

by James Scott Bell

If I may begin today with a toot (no, not that kind). A toot of my own horn. For today is release day for my seventh Mike Romeo thriller, Romeo’s Rage. (If you’re new to the series, please note these may be read in any order.) It’s there for you this week at the deal price of $2.99 (reg. $4.99). (Outside the U.S., go to your Amazon store and search for: B0BFRP7SQV)

Thank you. Now let’s talk thrills.

We of course specialize in thrillers and suspense here at TKZ. Our archives are filled with tips and techniques on such matters as the grabber opening, scenes that compel readers to turn the page, characters we care to follow, and so on.

We also frequently talk about the challenges writers face when striving to produce (see, e.g., Terry’s recent post). When we do overcome and the writing is flowing again, there’s a thrill in that. And so, too, when we put the final polish on a manuscript and send it to our publishing house, or up to the Kindle store.

And then there’s thrill of the book’s release. It’s like the start of the running of the bulls at Pamplona (as long as you can run fast, that is). It’s the raising of the curtain on opening night on Broadway, with you in the middle of the stage about to intone, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.” It’s just before you drop out of the plane with a parachute on your back, or dive off the bridge with a bungee cord around your ankles.

The thrill generally takes three forms.

  1. Working for the Forbidden City, it’s when you open the box of copies the publisher has sent you, and take out your baby and hold it in your hands. The idea may have been conceived a couple of years ago. You finished the book, and it’s been another year to eighteen months for the actual delivery. Here it is at last! You hold it and smell it, like a proud papa or mama.
  2. It’s when you go to the bookstore and see it on the shelf. Even better, on the shelf with the cover facing out. Better than that, on the New Release table. Best of all, if your publisher has laid out the bucks, it’s in a dedicated book display on the floor or in the window.
  3. For the indie writer, it’s when the book is live online.

I’ve experienced all three, and for me it never gets old.

Now comes the waiting, the watching. Your book is out there on its own. The initial thrill begins to fade, replaced by that onerous irritant, expectations. You’re hoping—for sales, great reviews, a bestseller list, a call from Spielberg.

You know what the odds are. The average number of novels sold by traditional publishers is in the mid- to low-four figures, unless, of course, you’re on the A or B+ list. It’s anyone’s guess about ebook sales. We do know the number of ebooks published annually is somewhere north of 4 million. Ack!

But you can’t help hoping. You’re a writer, and every writer desires a growing audience of readers who will become dedicated fans. Yet if your book doesn’t get the foothold you hoped for, the emotional crash is like a rancid tamale in the tummy. (I must be metaphor crazy today.)

As hard as it is to do, Stoic wisdom stresses the management of expectations. You simply cannot stress about the things that are out of your hands! Your hands are for typing (or handwriting). I wrote more about Stoic wisdom here.

You must manage expectations about social media, too. It’s well established now that social media is not the super-duper sales machine people originally thought it would be. Remember the early years of Twitter? Some writers were posting the same “Buy my book!” tweet a dozen times a day. “Hey! I’m reaching millions of people this way! That’s gotta sell some books!”


Of course, if you have 97 million followers on Instagram and 6 million on Twitter, like Billie Eilish, you might be able to move some books (though apparently not enough to cover a large advance).

For the rest of us, social media has its place, but not as the main driver of book sales.

So what happens when that tamale hits your gut? My advice is to cover it with ice cream. Let it hurt for a few hours, but no longer. Get back to your keyboard. For as you type, you’ll begin to feel it once more—the thrill of the new story, new characters, new plot twists and turns. And finally, the thrill of a new baby. The book is done. You’re back in the delivery room. It’s launch day again.

What about you? Do you still feel—or anticipate—a thrill on launch day? Does the prospect inspire you? Sustain you? Does it ever get old?  

Or like B. B. King, are you lately singing, “The Thrill is Gone”? Are you doing anything to get it back?

32 thoughts on “Is It Still a Thrill?

  1. I’m happy for those who have the time, energy and inclination to plan and attend or host actual or virtual launch parties for their books. Personally, I don’t. I don’t have time. But then, last year in 7 months and one week (up through August 6), I wrote 13 novels.

    I didn’t write fiction at all from August 2021 through April of this year (life interfered) and I faltered through June, July and August. Finally around mid Septmber I started easing back into my writing habit. Yet I’ve written two novels this year, am about 1/3 of the way through a third at 20,000 words, and have set a modest goal to write two more before December 31.

    I’m always thrilled to begin a new journey with new characters or a new journey with old characters. I always grieve a little when the novel is finished and the journey’s over.

    All of that said, my novels are only a few hours entertainment. As such, they are not important in the slightest. Or rather, whether and how important (or not) they are is the readers’ call. Not mine, not some critic’s, and definitely not some 20-something in New York. I hope readers like my characters’ stories, but whether they do is out of my hands so I don’t fret over it.

    As far as waiting and watching for sales, reviews, etc., nope. I’m too busy writing the next story or novel.

  2. 4 million books published annually. WOW! I wonder what percentage of that is fiction? I am assuming that non-fiction takes up the greater percentage of that number. Either way, intimidating. All the more reason to keep the thrill going to pursue our writing!

  3. Color me jaded. Launch days aren’t particularly special for me. By the time my book is live, I’m working on the next book. Most of my promotion has been done already. I send a release day newsletter and post it on social media, but I can’t say it’s a ‘thrill.’ Hubster and I might break open a bottle of bubbly to mark the occasion, but as an indie, I have to do all the promotion work myself, and it’s … work. I do get a zing when my paperback author copies arrive, but again, as an indie, I’ve paid for them.
    Sure, I check sales and rankings, and it’s gratifying if my books hit the top 50 or better in the e-stores, but thrill? Not really. (Although I suppose if they hit #1 I might think differently.)

  4. JSB – It’s still a thrill. I hope it never gets old. Promoting my recent release, working with my editor on the next one, working on my WIP, and brainstorming the next, next one (thinking about writing from the middle. 🙂 )
    BTW, I set a reminder on my calendar to download your latest Romeo novel.

  5. Congratulations, Jim, on the release of Romeo’s Rage. I look forward to reading it, and thanks for the tip on the discount.

    As for thrills, the Stoics are pretty much sitting on me, keeping me from jumping up and down. But…I do get a thrill when each new book goes live on Amazon (and the others). I do get a thrill when the author copies are delivered and I can send off a copy to each grandchild who inspired a character in the series. And I do get a thrill when someone tells me they read my book and enjoyed it….It doesn’t take much to thrill me.

    And, I think I get even more excited when the muse plants an idea for the next book, and I start scratching and pecking to organize the ideas into a book. That’s probably the most exciting part of writing for me. A simple man. Simple pleasures.

    • Right on, Steve. I love the idea phase, too, the creation of characters, envisioning scenes, coming up with plot twists. When we’re in “flow” there’s no better feeling!

  6. Jim, thanks to you, I’ve adopted the Stoic attitude. I only worry about things within my control. As a result, my attitude is less fretful than it used to be.

    The other big lesson you taught me is to write the next book. When I’m working, I don’t worry about competing with four million other books being published each year–gaack!

    The biggest thrill for me is not the launch but rather the connection with readers. When I receive an email from a reader thanking me for keeping them up all night, it’s an endorphin rush. Talking with an enthusiastic book club lifts my spirits for days.

    If I ever hit #1 bestseller status, I’ll let you know if I feel the thrill!

    • Epictetus would be proud of you, Debbie.

      Thanks for mentioning reader feedback. That is, indeed, one of the biggest thrills of all. It’s always so nice to find out you’ve given someone a great fictional ride.

  7. Do I still get excited about a launch? Me, a retired project manager nearing seventy, who writes for the fun of it?

    Like a kid on Christmas Eve.

  8. As a READER, seeing a new Romeo book is a thrill. Great character and, to build on my comment yesterday on Rev’s post, at 233 printed pages, it’s the perfect length for pulp fans.

  9. Congratulations on Romeo’s Rage being out in the world, Jim! Just bought a copy. Looking forward to reading it.

    I do still feel the thrill on launch day, but, as you so well-noted in this post, I work to temper my expectations. Two weeks ago I published Rules Concerning Earthlighta story collection. I knew it would be a tough sell. It’s a story collection, ten all told, five flash fiction, three short stories, a novelette, and a novella. It’s a story collection that’s half science fiction, half fantasy stories. All but the novella had been previously published, seven in magazines, two self-published.

    But, it was a passion project to honor my late friend K.C. Ball, who co-wrote the novella and two other stories with me, and also, earlier, bought four of the flash fiction stories from me for her flash fiction magazine.

    Tempering expectations in stoic fashion has helped a great deal. Still, I’ll feel a thrill tomorrow when my box of paperback author copies arrives 🙂

    Have a great Sunday and enjoy launch day!

  10. Good morning, Jim. I had pre-ordered Romeo’s Rage. Just checked my iPad and there it is! Looking forward to seeing what Mike’s up to now.

    Having published only three novels to date, everything that happens in this writing world is still a shiny new experience for me. I love writing, revising, revising again, etc. And it is a thrill to see my books online, read the reviews, and think about where I fit in the millions of books that are out there.

    But my biggest thrill comes when I’m writing and suddenly the story “clicks.” The plot falls into place, the characters come alive, a new twist appears, and I’m riding the wave with a big smile on my face.

    • Oh yes, Kay. I love that “story clicks” feeling. For me it usually happens in my wild, pre-planning phase. You can almost hear the gears suddenly mesh.

      Thanks for the order. Glad to hear the pre-pub delivery works as it should!

  11. Congratulations, JSB, on your new book. Yes, I still feel the thrill when I open the box from my publisher. I know what the cover will look like, but it’s thrilling to see my baby in person, and admire its perfectly formed fingers and toes.

  12. Jim— Super post! Thanks. We all relate!

    Remember “Will The Thrill?” Will Clark was a first baseman for the San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, and St. Louis Cardinals. Clark was known by the nickname of “Will the Thrill.” He used that BBKing recording on his answering machine back in the day.

  13. It’s a bit like having a baby. The anticipation, the joy, and then there’s that moment “what am I going to do now?” For me, it is one reader at a time. One review. One acknowledgment. 😊

Comments are closed.