The Reality of the Breakout Book

We are delighted to welcome today’s guest, Aimie K. Runyan

Many authors share my tale of woe. I worked on the book of my heart off and on for a decade. I polished the heck out of it, landed and agent, polished more, then landed a book deal with a major independent publisher. Sounds like the stuff of dreams, right?

It was, until my book flopped with such an audible thud, I’m pretty sure it can still be heard in my publisher’s swanky New York high rise. Sorry about that.

Which of course, meant the second book I was contracted to write received little to no marketing support. I can’t say I blame them. They are a business, after all.

So what next? I licked my wounds, and as any good scribbler does, I started writing. I left behind my beloved French emigrant girls to embrace an era of Historical Fiction that has broader appeal—WWII.

Hold on, hold on, hold on… the advice is always ‘don’t cater to the market’ and ‘write what motivates you’. It’s true, but I’m a firm believer that certain niches have a solid reader base despite the market. WWII is one of those niches. Especially if you add in a hint of a love story.

The REALITY of the Breakout Book.png

But that isn’t enough—people have read zillions of WWII stories, and they crave something new. When I was deluged with articles by friends about the Night Witches after the last surviving pilot had passed, I knew this was going to fill a void in the marketplace. Which is great, but it’s not enough to write a stellar book.

I started my research, and fell in love with these women. They were fierce, driven, and took zero garbage from their commanding officers who resented their presence on the battlefield. These were my people.

I managed to sell the book to my dream house, Lake Union, and I could tell there was palpable excitement for the project. That was the greatest feeling in the world. And when I was selected for one of their key marketing tools, I knew it had the opportunity to break out.

And it did. #2 on the charts in the US and UK and #1 in Australia. I always knew the Aussies were a great bunch.

How does it feel? Surreal. I’m by turns elated and convinced I’m about to wake from a lovely dream.

So what does this mean for my career moving forward? Well, despite my fondest wish to write about 15th century Ireland, I’m going to be relegated to writing about the wars for the foreseeable future. Which is fine. There is so much ripe material to pull from—unmined gems—that I can make my own, that I don’t feel limited for the moment. And the market is bound to change, and my material with it. Which is just as it should be.


It means I now have a reader base who want more books like Daughters of the Night Sky, and it’s my job to produce them regularly. The days of spending a decade crafting a novel are done if I want to keep that fan base loyal.

Overall, the biggest perk of having a book “break out” is really the feeling that what I do is appreciated by a large number of readers. It’s such a lonely business, so rife with self-doubt, that any victory is a huge deal.

Of course, the old axiom is also true—you’re only as good as your next book. Success is just as fleeting as failure, so I have to strive to make each book better than the last.

So back to the purple fountain pen of fury, it won’t weald itself!



Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She has written four historical novels, including the internationally bestselling Daughters of the Night Sky. Her  next novel, Girls on the Line, which centers around the women who served as telephone operators overseas during WWI, will release in November of 2018. She is active as an educator and speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children.