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March, 2013

It was the best of times…

Scratch that. But it certainly qualifies as some of the most interesting of times.

Goodreads found a buyer for their site – Amazon. A savvy purchase for a player who’s serious about the ebook market.

What does it all mean? Will Goodreads now become some kind of lockstep robot used for Amazon’s evil purposes? Or did Amazon invest in them to curate the review side of their business?

Probably some of both.

If I were one of Amazon’s competitors right now, though, I’d be sweating some pretty big bullets. You have the most credible and largest book reviewing site now owned by the most credible and largest bookseller, which has worked hard to disintermediate the traditional publishing chain. I can already hear the howls of outrage that the business of reviewing will be forever compromised due to corporate sponsorship and agendas. Ahem.

Perhaps.

But my guess is that the cream will float to the top. Goodreads, like every other form of human interaction, has its flaws – one of the largest being that many of the reviewers there use the forum to push their agendas, bash those they view as competition or are simply envious of, and prove how overall smart they are. Just like pretty much all review sites – many have dogs in the fight, one way or another. And now that every third person in the country is writing a novel and publishing it through Amazon, you can bet that there are a lot of authors on there, some frustrated and eager to prove points rather than simply share books they liked or didn’t.

The truth is that I’ve never looked at Goodreads to select a new book to read. Maybe I’m deficient in that regard. Probably so. I generally go by word of mouth, go to Amazon and read the blurb and the first few pages of the Look Inside sample, and maybe check out a few reviews, which I assume are of questionable veracity.

I’m aware that many folks rate books lower on Goodreads than they do on Amazon. Beats me as to why. A crap book is still a crap book regardless of where you review it, and a great book is still a great one for the same reasons.

Having said that, from a channel standpoint, Amazon buying Goodreads is both smart as well as pretty obvious. What’s more surprising is that none of Amazon’s competitors thought of it.

On more mundane fronts, I’m back from vacation, and working like a madman on getting JET V out within the next 10 days. I have to say I love the cover. My guy outdid himself on this one, I think. Hopefully some of you will buy it so I can pay for my hefty bar tabs. I’ll post the cover in a new blog within seven or eight days, once I have the very final art. But it’s a stunner, I think.

Speaking of which, March was my largest sales month ever, with sales increasing by roughly 10% over my second largest month (January), and revenues increasing more like 20% due to a change in product mix as well as fewer borrows, which net lower than sales do. The final numbers will be in around tax time, but using the six week rolling tally I can say with a straight face that I’m extremely happy with the reception my work is getting, and am on target for hitting or exceeding my goal of doubling my 2012 sales. Thanks to all who have supported my scribbling. I’m a lucky fella. It’s pretty cool to be able to do this for a living. Although it would be cooler to just be rich and famous without having to work. That would actually be way better, now that I think about it. Too bad that only happens to reality TV celebs. Damn them all straight to hell.

April I’ll be reading screenplays to see if I can muster some enthusiasm for trying my hand at JET – The Movie! And then I’ll be diving into my trilogy, which was going to be called Gunner, but is now going to be called Black, for a host of obscure reasons I won’t bore you with as I’ll sound like I’m whining, and nobody likes a sniveling whiner, even if he does have a lovely singing voice and can lambada like nobody’s business.

Now go buy some of my crap so I can afford to get Bird a companion. I’m thinking a female canary to keep her company. Which she’ll probably hate, and will add to the seething resentment and barely-contained fury with which she regards me lately. Sort of like having an ex, without the sex. Never mind. I’ll go lie down now. I feel bloaty. I think I got some bad tacos or something. Urp.

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8 Mar 2013, by

I Care A Lot

There was a song back in the day by Faith No More, titled, “We Care A Lot.”

I often hear that playing in my head, which is one of the reasons I’ve taken to wearing a tinfoil hat, along with trying to stop the messages ordering me to kill being from broadcast through my fillings. Don’t get me started about that.

But back to the song. Specifically, I hear it when I am foolish enough to offer advice to one of the very few author friends I have. It seems like everyone wants to know how to sell a gazillion books, but few actually want to hear how to write a decent offering. I mean, when I go onto the forums, there are countless, “Please give me honest feedback” posts, but then when someone chimes in with the painful truth (which is usually that the work sucks, is barely readable, the cover looks horrible, the blurb pathetic), they get lambasted by the legions of feel-good fellow authors who believe everyone should get an A for effort, even if they put no effort into their work.

I suppose you can intuit by now where I land in that curve. As an author who is constantly striving to improve my game, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those who slap out a few words, photoshop a cover that looks like a second grade art project, then put it up to cash in on some of that easy self-publishing money. So I’m not the most sympathetic ear. My internal dialogue is mostly what could best be described as relentless tough love. I’m very hard on my own work, and it’s hard to switch that off. God knows I try. Mostly with tequila, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

I recently had the opportunity to offer my thoughts on a manuscript that, at the most charitable, sucked a big bag of goat dicks. And not in a good way. I tried to temper my input (WTF are you thinking? Did you even read this crap before you sent it to me? Keerist!!!) and be nice, but it didn’t quite come out the way I had hoped. Sort of like the Freudian slip where the wife asks, “Honey, do you want coffee?” and the husband replies, “You miserable bitch, you ruined my life!” I mean, we’ve all been there.

Anyhow, I wasn’t particularly glowing in my praise, and I suppose it might have offended the author. I know it did. The death threats being a fair metric to gauge that sort of thing by.

At one point I suggested reading my epic parody of all writing and self-help books, “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated)” – because within the pages of that worthy tome, couched in vitriol and black humor, is a lot of decent advice on what not to do. Unfortunately, writers are a busy lot who usually are far too busy to actually read anything, so that book sells fewer than any of my catalog, which is a shame, because it should be required reading for those just starting out. I wrote it about a month into my journey, disgusted by all the self-help guides that purported to advise would-be authors how to sell tons of books, or how to write hits. I thought those were all a load of BS then, and now that I’m actually selling tens of thousands of books a month, I know for a fact they were. As is much of the advice we are bombarded with. The only one I read that actually proved at all inspiring or grounded in an appreciation of craft was Scott Nicholson’s, and I’m not just saying that to suck up. Or mostly not. Unless I think it will buy me something.

What’s my point? Well, I think there’s been a kind of gold rush mentality to this whole process that’s now crashing in on many who are discovering that the best approach to anything is to do it because you love it, and because you want to expand your horizons, and not because you saw that movie with Johnny Depp about being a writer (even though I do look a lot like him, which gets annoying at bars when the ladies get grabby, but what can you do?) or because you read about how some talentless clod sold a bunch of books to equally undiscerning readers. Although God knows I’d like a piece of that action. So undiscerning readers, check out my books – you’re gonna LOVE them, even if many of the words are unfamiliar or make your head hurt like enraged hornets are stinging your brain, which is a great visual but wouldn’t actually hurt because your brain doesn’t have pain receptors, but that’s not the point.

I think those who are finding reward in their work are those who are pragmatic, understand the marketing side of this and can separate it from the craft side, but really, really love to write and tell stories and invent. My firm belief is that money will eventually come to those who pursue excellence, unless they’re unlucky or God hates them or they deserve nothing but misery. Seriously, though, even if the cash doesn’t come rolling in, there’s a pride of craftsmanship that I think drives most good writers to improve, which is why it’s a great vocation for someone like me – it never gets boring, because there’s always something new to learn and a better way to turn a phrase.

What’s the takeaway here? Obviously, that you should rush out and buy my Gazillions book, because otherwise you’ll fail miserably and be mocked by your enemies as they dance on your cold, lonely pauper’s grave. I hope you were able to read between the lines and got that part of my message, because the tequila’s not going to buy itself, and Pappy gets a little parched after writing all those words.

For those playing along at home (and wagering, I’m sure, even though I advise against it), the launch of Blood of the Assassin went well, with nearly a thousand sold in a matter of 72 hours. I personally like the book a lot, so if you’re looking for somewhere to start with my writing, you could do worse. If you’re too cheap to buy it, I completely understand, but you’re going to have to wait till hell freezes over to see it free – I’m not going to be doing any more freebie promotions on books that aren’t the first in a series or a standalone I want to give a boost. I’ve come to the conclusion that free is counterproductive and a generally bad idea for any but authors who can place in the top 20 – for us, it’s still great, but for the other 30,000 poor slobs who can’t on any given day, it’s worthless or worse. So I’m pulling back from that as a marketing strategy, even as some of my esteemed peers seem to be just discovering it and waxing enthusiastic about their results. I’ve given away probably close to a million books by now, which means that maybe fifty thousand of them might get read at some point. Which is fine. But I don’t see the value of continuing to give em away – that is so 2012.

That’s all I have for now, but if I think of anything else, as always, I’ll post it. I’m taking three weeks off and going walkabout, trying to catch up on some reading and recharging my batteries. JET V should launch around the end of the month, so stay tuned for that. April, I’ll start work on my new series, and we’ll see where that goes. In the meantime, be nice to each other, and don’t offer to help anyone with their writing – they likely don’t want to hear what you’ll tell them, unless you can be more political than I. Which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be all that hard.

Never mind. Carry on. And go buy a bunch of my crap. As always.

 

 

 

 

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It’s been 60 days since my last book launch, and that must mean that it’s time for…another novel!

Blood of the Assassin launches March 5. As part of the kick-off, I’m taking part in a mega book launch with six other cool authors, many of whom are offering specials on their new books, as well as free swag. See the banner and the blurbs at the end of this blog for more on that.

But back to Blood. I’m particularly proud of it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because of the approach I took writing it. I wrote it differently than my other sequel novels – Blood can be read as a stand-alone novel, much as Da Vinci could be read as a stand-alone, not requiring you to read the four prior books in the series, and it worked nicely. That’s a departure for me, in that you don’t really want to read JET IV until you’ve read the first three.

Not so, Blood.

In it, I pit El Rey, the Mexican super-assassin known as the King of Swords, against a German assassin who is going to execute a visiting head of state. Much of the interest, for me, comes not only from the character development of El Rey during the book, but also the character development of Captain Romero Cruz of the Federales, who is forced to work with his nemesis, El Rey, to stop the unthinkable from occurring on his watch. It’s the interplay between Cruz and El Rey, as well as with his wife, and the bureaucracy he’s saddled with, that adds the depth I had hoped for.

It’s also the longest in the Assassin series, coming in at around 95K words – edited down from 110, as is my style. But it moves like a racehorse right out of the gate, and doesn’t quit until the last page, so my existing readership shouldn’t be disappointed. My editor says she thinks this is my best to date, other than Geronimo Breach, which is a favorite with many because of the MC, Al Ross. I tend to think she might be right. Which would be nice – one is expected to improve over time if one’s applying oneself, no? Be a shame if my books started sucking after a certain point, although there will always be the odd reader who thinks they all do – and I don’t begrudge them their opinion, sitting in their single-wide surrounded by cats, swigging generic bourbon from a coffee mug while scraping hardened Twinkie filling from the kindle screen. After all – I’m not here to judge.

Much.

See below for the promo for the launch. Click on the banner to go to the launch site.

KillerThriller Russell copy copy

It’s Finally HERE!

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Monday, Mar. 5 – Wednesday Mar. 7

WHAT CRITICS ARE SAYING


“[TRACES OF KARA] Psychological suspense at its best, weaving a tight-knit plot, unrelenting action, and tense moments that don’t let up, ending in a fiery, unpredictable revelation.”  Midwest Book Reviews

“…she really stepped up her craft skills if that were even possible. [Roland] is really, really just a terrific talented writer.” Joni Rodgers, NY Times bestselling author

 

“Russell Blake writes with a brisk intensity and pulse-pounding power. Jump in and hang on for a nonstop thrill ride.”  Scott Nicholson, Liquid Fear

 

“Giacomo Giammatteo may be the Mario Puzo of our time.” eNovel Reviews

“Claude Bouchard guides you step by step through a seamy, dangerous world, while never allowing you to lose hope.” John Locke, NYT Best-selling author

 

“Submerged reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl.” Andrew Gross, New York Times Bestselling Author

 

“Rivaling both Stephen King and Thomas Harris, without doubt, the edgy and provocative Luke Romyn is destined to emerge as the 21st Century’s new Master-of-Horror.” Dee Marie, Award-winning author

 

 

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