Hey! Screw you, obstacle! An interview with full-time author Rich Amooi

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shutterstock_183087548Rich writes fun, quirky romantic comedies from a guy’s perspective and has over 200,000 downloads from readers around the world. He is a former Silicon Valley radio personality and wedding DJ who now writes full-time. He published his first book “Five Minutes Late” in August of 2014 and was able to go full-time in July of 2015. Last year he published five books, and now he’s working on his sixth. This year he plans to publish five more as he continues growing his career and fan base.

Join Rich and me as we discuss:

  • The one thing that saved Rich from pulling out his hair and allowed him to write four books in one year.
  • How he maintains perpetual confidence in his new career as a full-time author.
  • His take on effortlessly overcoming obstacles in this industry.
  • Why writing romantic comedies fulfills him and gives him purpose.
  • How he handles distractions while working from home.
  • How his mindset has set him up for success.

What’s your favorite part about being a full-time author?

Setting my own rules and having complete control. To be able to focus on this on a daily basis and make it a priority without having to think about other things – like a day job. That’s been the number one thing I hear from other authors is that: “If I didn’t have this stinky day job then I would be able to do so much and write so much.” I do know some authors that have had stinky day jobs and have written two, three, or four books in a year. I think it’s all about priorities and eliminating distractions. Not everybody can do it, especially if you’re married with children. You have so much going on in your life that it’s not easy, but it is possible. It’s all about discipline. Discipline is number one for me because I get easily distracted.

Today, how are you generating revenue as a full-time author?

Right now I have five books that are available in three formats: ebook, paperback and audio. So I have three sources of revenue coming in. The paperbacks don’t bring in that much revenue. I’ve given them away to friends, my mom, and some close people. You also get some hardcore fans that may want the paperback version. I’ve sent some signed copies to different parts of the world. I’ve recently sent signed copies to fans in Latvia, the Philippines and even Afghanistan. The paperback part of it I love, and I love to see them on my shelf, but that’s a very small part of my sales – maybe like 1 in 100 books (1%). Then there are the audio books, which aren’t too bad. I know some people that are just killing it with audio book sales. So far I haven’t found that for myself. Although it’s decent, it’s a lot more than my paperbacks and brings in about 9% of my income. I’m making about 90% of my money through the Kindle store with my ebooks.

Share with us your worst moment as a full-time author or as you were on your way to becoming a full-time author.

Putting out that first book took awhile, and I did have some moments of wanting to pull my hair out. I think I may have actually pulled my hair out at one point. It was my first book so I “pantsed” it – I didn’t have an outline or anything. That was my debut novel “Five Minutes Late”. It was a short story that I wrote at a creative writing class at Stanford University. My wife read it and told me that I needed to make it into a novel. So that’s how writing my first novel came to be. Essentially taking this 5,000 word short story and turning it into a 75,000 word novel. I did it without an outline. I was just trying to expand it, and it was so difficult. I didn’t really have the experience. I did pretty well with writing short stories in a couple of classes that I took, but I didn’t have much experience with full length novels. I pretty much just dove in and started writing it, which was very difficult. It took me about eight months to write that first novel. There was even a six week period in there in the middle where I wrote nothing at all. I just completely stopped. I had come to a screeching halt. I was paralyzed, and I couldn’t wrap my brain around the story to keep moving.

What’s your biggest take away from that story?

I have five novels now, and two of them were each written in 30 days. So you can see the difference from the first novel and the other ones. The other four novels took less than a year. That difference for me was having an outline. Not a huge one though. I had a very light skeleton of what I wanted. Then I just used that to be a little more organized as I moved the story forward. Sometimes a scene was just one or two sentences to describe it, and that was it. Then I would take it from there. That helped me tremendously. For me, organization is so important. If I don’t have that organization it will just take me too long, and I’ll get frustrated with writing.

At what point did you realize you can make a living as an author?

Even before I started writing that first book I did research. I was watching other authors, and I was on Kboards soaking up as much information as I could about the industry. I looked into self publishing, what people were doing and how much they were writing. I had it in my mind before I even wrote that first book that I was going to be a full-time author. I had no doubts about it, at all. That was the goal. I was going to be a full-time author. This is my next career. I had a radio career where I was a DJ on the radio for many years. It was an amazing career, and I was successful, but I was ready to do something different. That’s when I decided to write romantic comedies full-time. I thought: “I’m going to do this.” In my mind, I knew I could do it in three to five years after publishing my first book. I was confident about it. I think having confidence in yourself and in what you’re doing is very important in this business. I’m not saying I thought I would be at the level of a world class author, but at a level where I could make money at it. While I was making money at it, I could continue to grow my craft, improve my writing, and get better and better with each book that I published. After I had published my first book “Five Minutes Late” and my second book “Dog Day Wedding” I started to do promotions. I was a full-time author six months after that. I just need to be focused – this author thing is a priority. My wife is my number one priority, but what’s after that? It’s my career and my books. I just really need to dig down deep and set goals, plan, and research. Even today, before we started this interview I was researching a few different things online. I haven’t stopped researching what other authors are doing because I’m still in the growing phase of my career, and I’m still in “fan building” mode. I have a long way to go.

How Rich maintains a positive mindset in this industry:

Number one for me is having a positive attitude through all of this. I know I can do this. Then I can figure out how I have to do it. Another thing is surrounding yourself with positive people who have the same frame of mind. I don’t have people in my life that are negative or look at what I do with an attitude like: “Oh, why are you doing that?” or ‘You can’t do that.” I don’t have time for those people in my life. I surround myself with positive people, and that helps me a lot. You surround yourself with people who believe in you. You also find people that you can watch what they’re doing. It’s funny, almost any of the successful authors out there, the majority, especially the self published ones, if you write to them for advice almost all of them will answer you and give you advice. So many people are scared to write to authors. People are writing to me all the time for advice even though I’m just starting out, and I think there are 15 to 20 levels above what I’m doing. They’re asking me, and I help them because why not? It’s that whole pay it forward thing. I’m a big believer in that. I’m grateful for what I have and what I’m doing. I feel that having the right mindset in this business is very important because it’s easy for people to drag you down. It’s also easy to drag yourself down and start having doubts about what you’re doing.

How were you so confident in the beginning before you even published your first book?

I don’t think I got that from one particular source, but I guess I’ve always been a believer of when people say: “You can do anything you want”. Parents tell their children: “You can do anything you put your mind to.” I’m a big believer in that. I’ve had obstacles in my life. When I was young I had problems with walking. I had braces on my legs, and I couldn’t walk properly. Then I ended up playing 25 years of competitive soccer. I also had a lisp as I talked when I was younger. It was really bad. All the kids would make fun of me, and it was a pretty heavy lisp. I had to go to speech therapy for a while. Well, I ended up doing 33 years on the air as a radio DJ who talked for a living. So I look at obstacles and I say: “Hey, obstacle, screw you!” “I’m going to find a way to get passed you.” That’s because I believe if you put your mind to it, and if you focus then you can do it. I’m also a big fan of: “Believe it, and you will see it.” I just knew that if I put my mind to this, really focused, and got rid of all the external things like: people whining about why they’re not selling books, or why they don’t have a career, or why can’t they be full-time. Then just eliminate all that and focus on me and what I need to do. That helps so much. At least I believe so. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but I like to keep my mind clean and clear with positive things at all times. That helps me get to where I need to go faster than if I don’t do that. You will rarely see me among friends or online complaining about anything at all because that’s just not me. It’s total wasted energy when you can use that energy to instead figure out what you need to do now. Not only will you be saving your energy and using it the right way, but you’re saving a lot of time. Those times of just sitting there whining or giving up – that’s just wasted time when you can immediately focus on what you need to do and move passed it. Nobody said becoming a full-time author is going to be easy. We’re at about 4-5 million books on Amazon. You have a lot of competition to get yourself out there, get published, and be seen. Nobody ever told me it was going to be easy, but that didn’t stop me from setting goals and moving forward.

What is it about writing romantic comedies that gets you up in the morning?

There are a couple of different things. Obviously, it’s a creative outlet. I mentioned earlier that I worked as a radio DJ for 33 years so now I’m moving into books. I like to entertain people. I think that makes sense that entertainment is joy. For me, there is a lot of drama in the world, and I tend to not even focus on it. Instead, I focus on bringing joy to people: people around me, family, friends, strangers that I meet on the street, etc. Wherever I go I try to be a good, positive, decent human being, and I love bringing joy to the world. For me, writing, especially romantic comedies, it make sense. If I was going to pick a genre that could bring lots of joy to the world and lots of fun, smiles, and laughter – romantic comedies are number one for me. It has love, and it has laughter. What more is there? That’s it! That’s my life; it’s a romantic comedy. I can watch romantic comedies every day of the week so to pick romantic comedies as a genre to write in was a no-brainer for me. This is an expression of my life and the way I view life – love and laughter.

When you finished your first manuscript did you know what to do with it? Did you have a plan?

I had a tentative plan, and my plan was – don’t expect too much from the first book. My plan was to wait for the second book before I really get going. So my plan was: get the first book out, do some things to build awareness about who I was, get my name out there, get some people to read it of course, but not focus too much on it. Realistically, based on all the research I did – the hours and hours, and days and days, and weeks and weeks worth of research that I did online – when you start building a fan base with only one book, where are they going to go after that? So my focus was to get my second book out as fast as I could. Then start promoting the first book. From there I could start building a fan base. Once they enjoyed the first book, which I hoped they did, they would sign up for my newsletter list, learn more about me, and then they would buy my second book. At that time I was getting close to publishing my third book, and then they could get that or if they were already on my newsletter list then they would hopefully wait for the third book. When I did publish my first book I went on a few blog tours to get my name out there. The intent was not to get sales. I didn’t do it expecting to become a bestseller. I only wanted to get my name out there in the romance industry, in the genre that I was writing, so some people would see it. I was able to sell some books that way, but, honestly, that wasn’t my goal at that time. My main goal was getting the second book out there and then focusing on marketing at that point. I think that’s the reason why I was able to have some level of success when the second book came out because of the plan I had in place for that.

It sounds like you had a well developed plan before you even hit that publish button for your first book. Can you explain a little more about your newsletter plan for those of us that may not be familiar with this tactic?

The newsletter was part of the plan from the start as soon as I published the first book I had the email list sign up available. This is part of the stuff I learned on Kboards and from Joanna Penn and from other people from the early days when it came to self published. I knew when I published that first book that the newsletter was going to be crucial. I had to have a newsletter, and I had to have links in my book. That was number one over every single thing. So the plan was to get the newsletter thing going and build the subscriber list. Organically, at the beginning, those are the people that are your true fans. They find you organically and sign up outside of you giving away something for free to get them on your list, which I’m OK with doing of course. You tend to have a higher engagement level with the people that have already read your stuff and already know who you are.

Other than the blog tours, what else did you do to really get your name out there?

I had my author Facebook page and my Twitter account. I was just engaging with other people online. I wasn’t trying to sell my book at that time. The plan was just to engage with other people whether they were authors in the romance industry or if they were people that just loved reading romance novels and romantic comedies in particular. If I saw something that they posted then I would comment. It was to keep myself out there where people could see me and maybe wonder: “Hey, who is this guy writing romance?” Like I said before the plan was not to sell book it was only to engage to meet people and establish relationships because it makes this a lot more fun. Some of those relationships can become beneficial; whether you help each other market or critique each other’s words, or whatever it is. The overall plan was getting out there so people could see me.

Did you have difficulty at first putting yourself out there when you were interacting with these different people?

No not really. I knew this was a new career that I had chosen, and I need to do things. If I sit around wondering what people are going to think or if something is too uncomfortable for me then it goes back to that idea of time wasted. You’re just wasting your time while you think about whether or not you want to do it. Or maybe you try to figure out something you can do that’s different. It takes work. You need to put yourself out there. I’m writing standalone romantic comedies. Most people write in a series, and those books are connected. So it actually ends up being more work for me because my books are not connected at all. Typically, when people write in series they get to hook people in the first book then the reader has to see what happens in the next book and the one after that. If they’re standalone novels that have happy endings then you’re not going to hook them into the next book. Instead, you have to hook them on who you are and your brand and the type of stories that you’re writing. It’s a little bit different, but it’s kind of the same in that it takes work. So I have to do and spend more on marketing than some authors though I do believe that most authors should spend money on marketing if they really want to get their name out there. Most people just think that they can do a couple of tweets and get on Facebook a few times a day and that’s going to be a career for them. Then they’re going to start selling a thousand books a day. It’s possible that you may be one of those lucky 1 in 500,000 that has a book that explodes right out of the gate, and everybody wants you and knows you, but that’s just not realistic. You can have a positive attitude about things, but that is a little unrealistic to think that: “Hey, I’m going to sell a million copies right out of the gate. Then I’ll write my second book from the Caribbean.”

What’s one habit that contributes to your success as an author?

I need to have deadlines. If I don’t have them it’s so easy to get distracted with everything. For me to put something down on my calendar or on paper or somewhere I can see it. Or at least have it glued in my mind that I really know what’s going on or when I need to do something. If I don’t do that then I’ll get distracted. And it can’t be a goal like: “Hey, I want to write a book this year.” Nope. It’s more like: the next book I want to publish it by April 1st, the second published by June 15th, and the third published by August 31st. I mean very specific goals. Not something that’s general. Having deadlines for me is very important because as I mentioned before I get easily distracted. I don’t have the greatest memory. I forget things all the time. If I don’t have something written down where I can see it and repeat it to myself after, out loud, there’s a good chance I’ll forget it. Sometimes I’ll be talking with my wife about something, and she’ll say something. Then I’ll ask: “When did I say that?” She’ll say: “This morning.” Then I’ll say: “Really? I said that this morning? I’ve got to write that down.” Sometimes she will tell me something, and then I have to tell her: “Don’t tell me that now. I have nothing to write it down with. Tell me when we get home.” I’ll even use a recorder on my iPhone and then send the message to my email for later. I need that discipline. I need to have everything organized and when it comes to sitting down to write I have to close Google Chrome. Then I have to shut off the internet because if I don’t then I’ll get distracted. As an example when I was writing a scene in my last book “An Eclair to Remember” there’s a scene about a cruise to Alaska. The cruise stops in Victoria BC, then I thought: “OK I need to do a little bit of research for this and find a good restaurant for them to eat in that’s down by the inner harbor.” Then: “Ah, well as long as I’m here on the internet let me just check my email real quick.” Then I see an email with someone that wants me to check something out real quick. “Oh, this will only take a second.” Then I’ll read what they sent me, and I’ll write an email back to them with my thoughts. Then I think: “Since I stopped writing I’ll go grab a glass of orange juice.” Then I get up and grab something from the fridge. All of a sudden I just lost an hour, and this happened to me many times. I finally said to myself: “If I want to do this for a career I need to be serious.” It’s like when you go into your day job, you sit down at your desk, and you focus on something then you get it done. So that became my mindset at home since it’s so easy to get distracted by a million things. So the big takeaway here is to stay disciplined, focused, and cutting out the distractions like the internet and Facebook by turning it off when you’re going to write. Just turn it off. After I did that my writing productivity peaked. I was able to write faster and more focused just by doing that.

What are you most excited about right now?

I don’t get tired of romantic comedies. So every book that I write I get excited about. The problem is I come up with new ideas, and I have to wait to write those because I have to work on something else. So I have this list of fun ideas and sometimes crazy romantic comedies that I want to write. But then I have to wait to write them! I think I’ve gotten better with patience. I’m working on a book right now, and I have another four more to go for this year. Then I have another 15 or 20 ideas after that. Having patience is crucial because I’m so excited about this. I think there’s going to be a certain point where people are going get tired with so much drama and so many things happening that they’re going to seek out more fun things to do. I feel like I haven’t even begun to see the possibilities with what’s going to happen with my career because I feel that people are going to turn more to the fun, cool, crazy stories that bring a lot of joy into your life. The types of stories that make you feel good and positive. I think there’s going to be a whole turning of the industry where people are going to get tired of certain stories, and they are going to move. By that point I’ll have about 20 or 30 books out, and I’ll be right in the middle of it. It will be so cool to watch.

What advice do you have for those of us starting out trying to become full-time authors?

I admit I feel a little bit strange answering this question because there are so many full-time authors out there that are at levels 100 times above my level, and I’m very happy where I am right now. I’m looking forward to growing my career. So it’s kind of funny answering this question, but I don’t mind answering it at all. The number one piece of advice is to have the confidence that you can do this. Forget about what other people are saying – the other people that are complaining about the industry. Focus on you and get it done. Write the books and keep writing. Also, have a plan of how many you want to write. If you’re focused and you’re disciplined it will come at a certain point. I think the discipline is one of the top things, and it’s not easy. You run into people all the time that say: “Oh, you’re an author that writes books? I want to write a book one day.” How many people say that? Well, why haven’t they? This is the difference between the 99% of the people that want to write a book and the other 1% that actually do it. It’s being disciplined and focused and actually having a plan, treating it as a new career even. Putting a plan in place and making it a priority. These things are huge instead of sitting around and complaining that: “Life is difficult, and I don’t have enough time to do this.” I bet in most cases for people that “can’t find the time” if I spent 48 hours with them then I could find the time in their life that they could use to write their book. But it’s not a priority for those people. Do you watch two hours of television every night? OK, there you go. That’s two hours a day that you could be writing your book. I’ll be honest, I don’t watch television. We don’t have television service. There are other things in life I would rather do that are higher level of quality for me. For example: going out for a walk with my wife after dinner every night, or reading a book on the patio with my wife outside by the fountain, or writing books and working on an author career. That stuff is more important to me.

Topic Teardown: Success driven by mindset

Without the proper mindset how are you going to enjoy what you do? How are you going to find ways to make it happen if you don’t have the confidence to do it? I’ve never seen myself thinking: “Well, I guess I’ll try this and see what happens. If it doesn’t work then I can always go back to doing something else.” I’ve never been that type of person. I’ve always been like: “This is good. I’m going to make this happen. I’m going to put a plan in place and do it.” Although I’m not an expert in mindset or positivity or self confidence, but I do believe it plays a huge part in the success of a lot of authors when they believe they can actually do it. There are plenty of people out there that will try to drag you down. Whether they think being an author is not a career or questioning your choice of genre. There will always be people who will try to bring you down and getting past that is huge.

I like to visualize what I’m doing or where I’m going to be. Everything that I write I see it in my mind as a picture in the movies. I use that formula in my everyday life when I’m thinking about things I want to do: plans, goals, etc. I visualize it. Even when I think of writing my novels, I see myself eventually writing them with a view of the ocean accompanied by the sound of waves. I can see that, and I think that’s going to help me get it faster because I can see it. When I see it then I can feel it. I feel a lot of these things in my system before they happen, and I think that helps with motivating me to actually do it. If I can get that feeling in my system then I want more of that feeling for real. It’s about seeing yourself doing that thing you want to do. Put yourself in that place and paint the picture. What do you see? Who is there? What are you wearing? What do you smell?

Imagine being in a room with ten authors, and they are all motivated, positive, confident, and they have a plan. Imagine being in that room with that energy. That’s why I try to fill my head with positive things on a daily basis, whether it’s motivational speakers on Ted Talks, a video, an article, a podcast, etc. I like to feed and nourish my brain to keep myself positive and motivated.

What’s the best way we can reach you?

My website: richamooi.com. You can also visit my Amazon author page here. I’m on Facebook and Twitter too. Anybody reading this can feel free to connect with me and say hello. If you ever have a question, I’m not sure I’ll have the answer, but I’m willing to help somebody if they ask.

Parting piece of advice?

I’m going to steal this from Nike – just do it! It really comes down to that. You can sit around and not do it or you can do it. We can talk about this whole confidence thing and how to believe in yourself all day long, but I believe that’s why a lot of writers don’t end up publishing a book or don’t end up making this a full-time career. It’s because they don’t have that mindset of believing that they can do it and just stick with it. So, just do it! Stick with it, and don’t give up.

If you enjoy laughter and happily ever after then check out Rich’s romantic comedies on his Amazon page here.

If you enjoyed the interview then please let me know! Email me at Brandon@buildyourauthorcareer.com or leave a comment below. I read every email and comment.

Feel free to check out my previous interviews with other inspiring authors:

Tammi Labrecque

Chris Fox

 

To your consistent progress,

-Brandon

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6 thoughts on “Hey! Screw you, obstacle! An interview with full-time author Rich Amooi”

  1. I’m not quite sure how I came across this interview today, but I needed to read it 🙂 Thanks for the positivity. I’m determined to surround myself with positive energy and with people who are achieving their goals.
    Thanks so much.

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