Author Archives: J Reid

The #1 Reason New Writers Fail


Here’s a formula for difficulty:

  • Take the over 1 million books published in the U.S. in 2016. To keep it simple, let’s not even think about the books published in the UK, Australia, etc.
  • Add the millions of previously published books still being sold today.

         Millions and millions of books = a hard road ahead.

If you want to write and sell stories to people outside of friends and family, you’ll face a ton of competition. Even writing a novel of bestseller-quality isn’t enough to succeed.

Many new authors give up writing because they don’t understand the process of creating, publishing, and marketing their books. They get overwhelmed and experiment with things the hard way, losing time and money. But they could have avoided many of those painful lessons by doing one thing:

Joining a writers’ group.

A good writers’ group provides critique sessions, special events, workshops, and networking opportunities that can help you avoid the obstacles keeping you from success.

What exactly does a writers’ group offer?

Support & Inspiration

  • Other writers understand the challenges of being a writer. The constant research. The quirky rituals. The self-doubt, where you think everyone will hate what you wrote. The soaring confidence, where you see Hollywood paying you millions for the film rights. Writers’ groups understand these peaks and valleys and encourage you at every step. Most importantly, they’ll help you keep reasonable expectations, so you aren’t tempted to give up when Oprah doesn’t come calling.


  • One of the best things about a writers’ group are the critique sessions. They provide helpful guidance, especially as you write your first book or try a different genre. You don’t want to rely on friends and family for this. If your writing needs work, they’ll gloss over problem areas so they won’t hurt your feelings. Critique groups give you the objective feedback you need. Plus, they can point you in the right direction for story research.
  • Critique groups aren’t the only way to tighten up your writing. I highly recommend attending writers’ conferences. They offer various workshops, and many conferences are organized by writers’ groups. These conferences are the best way to network and meet agents, publishers, and editors.

Promotional Tips

  • Writing the book is just the beginning. Promoting the book is where the work comes in. Unless you’re already famous or have a huge following, it’s going to take time and money to make a name for yourself. It’s possible to spend hundreds on Facebook and Amazon ads, only to sell a handful of books. Being in a writers’ group saves you trouble by allowing you to learn from those who’ve found marketing success.

Help with the Publishing Process

  • If you’re self-publishing, you’ll need to do everything. How do you find a developmental copy editor? Or a line editor or proofreader? Do you know the difference? How do you find a cover artist? How do you market your book or find professionals who can do it for you? How do you even know who you need? And if you find these people, how can you know they’re any good? Even if you’re seeking a traditional publisher, you’re still going to have to do most of these things anyway. You’ll need to submit a polished manuscript to convince an agent and publisher to sign you.
  • By now, you see the recurring theme. A writers’ group can get direct referrals for proven professionals. Most of them will already have been vetted by fellow authors, giving you greater assurances than if you randomly plucked someone from the internet.

With all of the benefits they provide, most writers’ groups charge only a small membership fee. Many are free to join. All of them will offer new and published authors a value they can’t get anywhere else. You can easily find groups on google or

Trying to become a published, successful author without connecting to a writers’ group is setting yourself up for failure. Don’t go at it alone. Join other writers by finding a group near you.


James Reid is the author of the police procedural Monsters Behind the Gates: A Detective Novel.

He is a Coast Guard veteran and marketing consultant in Dallas, TX. Spurred by the murder of a close relative, James has done extensive research into homicide investigations, including joining detectives on live police calls. He enjoys photography, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and international travel with his wife. He is currently finishing his second novel.

You can reach him at

Was it Cecil the Lion’s Fault?


photo borrowed from animal crossing wiki

Cecil, Cecil, Cecil.

There is so much outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion that the hunter is probably on the terrorist watch list at the moment. Everyone is angry at this guy. But while everyone wants everyone to be up in their feelings about this, I really need to research and hear both sides of the story to come to a conclusion about this travesty. For example,

  • It’s possible Cecil wasn’t as harmless as he looked. He might have been carrying a concealed weapon. His wild, unkempt mane made a perfect hiding spot for a pistol or knife. And knowing how animals move from time to time, Cecil might have made a sudden movement that could have been interpreted as him reaching for a weapon. The hunter might have been in fear for his life. In fact, some might even call him a hero. I don’t see anyone else volunteering to keep our community safe from these lions.

I mean, come on. Look at Cecil’s mug shot below, generously provided by the media. He looks dangerous to me and is likely under the influence of marijuana or bath salts. After all, he is a lion. Would you want to see THAT in your neighborhood? I don’t.

AnimalExtremeClose-up - angry lion

Photo borrowed from Animal Facts Encyclopedia

  • Cecil tried to run away from the hunter, who was only exercising his God-given right to express himself by killing something. But why? Why didn’t Cecil stand still to be slaughtered? Instead, he forced them to track him down for hours. Lions don’t run unless they’re guilty of something.
  • And what could he have been guilty of? Well, let’s talk about an uncomfortable topic. Lions kill other animals—and even other lions—all the time. Have you seen the stats of lion-on-lion killings? They’re deplorable. The lion culture propagates this behavior. They’ll even kill another lion’s cubs when they take over a pride, just to ensure that only their progeny will survive.

Now imagine if people did that.

Imagine if your mother remarried and your new stepfather suddenly took out a .40 caliber weapon and tried to plant a bullet in your forehead. That’s cold, isn’t it? Well, I guarantee Cecil did something like that back in the day. But no one wants to talk about how more lions are killed by other lions instead of hunters. So instead of sending this dentist death threats and trying to shut down his practice, we should be more concerned about Cecil’s past criminal record when it comes to cub-killing.

In fact, we should look at it another way. Imagine the dozens of cubs Cecil killed in the past, those poor, innocent kitties that never had a chance to live. If they’re in heaven right now, they’re watching justice being served and a violent killer being made to pay for his past sins. That is the moral of the story that should be shared.

  • And it’s quite possible Cecil’s behavior escalated things. If he had stopped and kept quiet the first time the hunter shot at him, the hunter might have had a change of heart and decided to let the lion—and his $50,000 fee—go. Yet, Cecil had the nerve to run and parade around like he was the king of the jungle or something. If Cecil didn’t display that arrogant attitude and knew his place in the hunter-lion pecking order, things wouldn’t have escalated and he might still be alive today.

So, unlike the rest of the world, I don’t believe Cecil is blameless in this affair. This is just more displaced outrage, channeled at a popular target without the benefit of knowing all the facts. What makes Cecil so important, relative to other pressing problems?

Did you know, that as of this moment, we’re only down to 4 northern white rhinos left on earth? And they’re unable to breed, so they’ll be extinct in about fifteen minutes. But the Cecil-lovers haven’t uttered a word of protest or concern. Instead, they’re spewing outrage about a lion with a past criminal history, a lion that was probably disrupting things by marching and protesting unfair poaching practices with other thug-lion friends. There are hundreds of lions left but only four northern white rhinos. And we’re focused on Cecil? What about dogs? Cats?

We can’t be worried about one single lion, no matter how unfortunate the circumstances that led to his death.

We need to understand that not all hunters are bloodthirsty killers.
And that #AllAnimalLivesMatter.