Finally, the seventh installment in the JET saga is live. JET – Sanctuary has launched into the world, for better or for worse.
NEWS: Forbes mentioned me as an example of indies changing the playing field. Great article!
MORE NEWS: A wonderful article on why everyone must read JET now, dammit.
I’m really pleased with both JET VI and VII. I wanted to pick up the story right where we left off in JET VI, with the entire book taking place over a span of hours. The compressed timeline really forced me to move it along, and there was no fat on the bone by the time I was done.
The next JET will probably hit around November or December, so until then, enjoy this one. It’s a fun read, with villainous bad guys, conflicted allies, and more action than you can shake a stick at.
That’s all I have. I’m writing away, as always (maybe next year is the one I slow down…), and hope to have some exciting news soon. Until then, enjoy your summer and don’t do anything I wouldn’t…
I’ve been working on a NA romantic adventure, and writing it first person, present tense. And I’ve got to say, wow, what a difference in writing speed. I’m typically a turtle, managing 600-700 words per hour. On this? More like 1500.
I have no idea why that is. Could be because with NA I don’t have to spend nearly as much time considering word choice, trying to find the perfect fit to achieve the cadence I’m after. NA is simpler in terms of sentence structure and vocabulary, so a lot of the heavy lifting doesn’t have to take place – in fact, from what I can gather, you’d be writing over your audience’s head after a certain point, so it defeats the purpose. There are exceptions, like John Green’s latest, but that’s a notable exception, and I have a feeling if I went down that road I’d sell two copies. At least that’s what my research and beta readers have indicated.
Normally, when I write, I write prose, where I’m unconsciously trying to get a certain lyricism and musicality to the words. Whether I achieve that is besides the point, but that’s the goal.
Which is kind of silly, I suppose, given that I write action thrillers. I mean, how lyrical does a car chase have to be, right? Turns out, pretty lyrical. At least in my books.
Some readers hate that. Mainly other authors, who come from a school that was wildly popular in the U.S., where Hemingway’s lean, sparse prose was considered the ideal, and anything more than the absolute bare minimum was branded purple or flowery.
I have no problem with that school, and understand it well. But it’s just a preference, not a set of rules carved in stone. Unfortunately, as with Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, a whole group of silly preferences masquerading as rules (many contradictory, if you’ve read EOS recently) were taught in a dogmatic fashion, where that was the only way you could write “well,” and there are plenty of adherents. They, by and large, know what “good” writing is, and anything outside of the narrow parameters they learned is to be eschewed.
Those readers are almost always authors, because everyone but an author pretty much forgets most of that crap by the time the third beer’s poured on graduation day and they move on to shit that matters, like making a living or finding someone to cohabitate with or getting that damned car to start.
But back to first person, present tense. My customary approach is third person, past tense. It’s just how I naturally write, no doubt a function of the thousands of books I’ve read, almost all of which were written that way. But it does demand more thought, at least from me.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying I’m kind of digging the breezy quality of first person, present.
Of course, writing as a teenage girl is a little daunting, but that’s a whole nother story. Guess we’ll soon know whether that was a bad idea. OMG, LOL.
In other news, JET – Sanctuary has a gazillion sales on preorder, so June will be berry berry good to me. Oh, and Requiem for the Assassin just went on preorder, too, for a Sept release – which will also be when my co-authored tome with Clive Cussler, The Eye of Heaven, will go live. Other than that, the weather’s dependably in the low 90’s every day, the water’s warm and the beer’s cold, so I’m spending less time at the keyboard for a few weeks and more courting wildfire melanoma and cirrhosis. Which is as it should be. Live to work or work to live, right? Got to have a little fun every now and then…
Hope your summer’s kicking off nicely. Mine sure is.
Much has been written of late maligning the big publishing companies.
The nasty rumor is that a while ago they colluded to illegally fix prices, and the spoilsports at the DOJ slapped their wrists, as well as Apple’s. At least that’s the spin some have put on it. I prefer to think of it as the publishers were trying to protect the perceived value of literature from being denigrated by ruthless discounters who would see us all living under an overpass, if they had their way. Of course, the storm troopers with guns and badges thought differently, but they’re ass hats – what is one person’s mega-conglomerates colluding to price fix is another’s courageous blow for freedom from Amazon’s tyranny. Remember to the Brits, the colonists were behaving illegally during the American revolution.
This is a lot like that, only different.
I’ve read countless blogs and articles on the latest Hachette/Amazon kerfuffle, with more hyperbole and tortured rhetoric in both directions than a Chicago election. Big name authors are calling for the government that just got done fining those same mega-billion dollar conglomerates for collusion, to do something to stop Amazon from picking on the poor, publicly-traded French multinational company, Hachette (perhaps those authors are confusing France’s socialist system of government intervention for privileged corporations – think Airbus, for starters – or perhaps Hachette’s French management team is unclear on how free markets work), and I’ve stayed silent about it. But I can remain silent no longer.
Now that the smoke has cleared, I want to go on record supporting Hachette, and in fact, all traditional publishers, in their thankless battle to maintain premium pricing in the face of precarious record profits.
Here’s my thinking in a nutshell: Let the big publishers collude to keep ebook prices high all they want. In fact, force Amazon to let their vendors dictate the prices they should sell books for, a la “the agency model.” Screw Amazon’s right to set their own prices. I want to see $15, $18, $20 ebooks from Patterson, Silva, King, whoever.
Why? Because it’s good for publishers, it’s good for readers, and it’s good for me.
Why publishers? I’m not going to go into all the technical details, but suffice it to say they really want it in the worst way, so use your head – it’s not because it’s bad for them.
Why good for readers? Because it will force those for whom price is an issue to look at less expensive alternatives, creating more opportunity for authors like me. And having found those authors, the readers will likely get more quality books for less money, which is a huge win for them.
Why good for me? Because my offerings at $5-$6 look like bargains next to the new Thor or Grisham at $15. So I’ll sell a lot more books, which is really good for my bar tab, my taste for the finer things in life, and the service sector where I live, as my generosity increases exponentially after a few pops if I’ve got a fat wad in my pocket.
Contrary to all the articles bemoaning the price fixing and the crap royalty rates the big publishers pay, I celebrate them. I frigging love the idea of 25% ebook royalties that work out to be more like an effective 12.5%, and I literally dance in the streets at the thought that all big publisher ebooks should cost $12-$20. Of course they should. There’s a lot of overhead to support, a venerated way of life, a whole galaxy of people who love books and earn their livings by publishing them – not writing them, God forbid, as that’s so pedestrian – but who appreciate them as only MFAs dealing with empty nest issues or investor banking husbands who don’t spend enough time at home, can. Let them gatekeep the shit out of the supplicants who are willing to take scraps in exchange for their work. Why is that good? Because it ensures that my competition stays relatively small, and that those who do make it through the gauntlet and get picked up quickly discover it pays crap, and either quit, or kill themselves.
That translates into me having a long, fat, happy career. Do I want smart, nimble competitors who’re paying top dollar to encourage the best talent to write thrilling, compelling tomes that men’s fiction fans will gobble up? Hell no. I want publishers who continue to spew forth hundreds of thousands of screeds nobody cares about or wants to buy. I want them to be unable or unwilling to sell these masterpieces for under nosebleed pricing, and I want them to continue to make the hurdles higher for those who choose to go the trad route, while simultaneously convincing the majority of authors there is no other “real” way to be an author than that approach.
I want that more than a toddler wants a pony from Santa.
Because as long as that continues, my nice little interstitial business can build, my readership can expand, and I can solidify my hold on my chunk of the market.
The worst thing on the planet for me would be where trad publishers start paying 50% or more to their authors, and lose their battle with Amazon, only to see their books priced in the weeds.
I’m known for holding heterodox opinions, some of which border on obliquity. But stay with me on this one – if we give the publishers what they really want, it’s a huge win for everyone, starting with me. The dedicated workers in Manhattan will continue being able to afford their expense account dinners at Nobu, readers will have a financial incentive to look to authors like yours truly, and my author competitors will be able to sneer in smug superiority as they serve my non-fat latte whilst eye-rolling my sad self-publishing desperation move.
Everyone wins in that scenario.
Here’s what I propose. Someone start a petition supporting the rights of the big publishers to price fix. I’ll be front and center to sign it. In fact, I’ll devote endless space on my vast social media platforms to advancing its agenda, and I’ll gladly rub shoulders with a bunch of venerated big name authors whose opinions are aligned with mine. Don’t allow Amazon to bully the poor French conglomerate, or any other publishing titans. It’s bad for America, it’s bad for puppies and grandma, and I’m pretty sure it will cause brain cancer and cannibalism. Stop Amazon from doing that, and get the DOJ off big publishing’s ass and instead protecting us from real threats, like Russia or global warming or Iraqi WMDs or something.
Don’t be a selfish douche. If not for me, then do it for the children. Because if Amazon’s allowed to continue dictating terms as a monopoly (and before you start in with that, “but they’ve got a ton of massive competitors” pedantry, I mean a monopoly in the sense that any successful company is sort of one, if they get really popular and want to determine how to operate their business) to the five remaining publishing conglomerates, the terrorists have already won.
And then we’ll never be safe. Or eat freedom fries without looking over our shoulders. You know what I mean. Hachette fries. Wink.
Now on to still more of my favorite topic: me. JET – Ops Files is now free for a limited period of time, so go download it before you it reverts to paid and you have to actually part with $4, God forbid. Oh, and JET got its first new cover from German wunderkind Michael Schubert, which I present below. The rest of the series will follow in that theme’s footsteps. I’m totally stoked about it, and am hoping it causes a stir. It was either that or an image of a kitty swatting at a yarn ball whilst playing in a basket filled with chocolate held by a shirtless tanned, tattooed hunk with abs of steel.
That’s next if this doesn’t fly.
Here’s the cover.
Why do some succeed, but most fail? Is it random chance, or is there more to it? Are there habits that successful people have, that their less successful brethren don’t? Sure. There are countless books on the topic. They involve things like being driven, focused, organized, hard working, etc.
So that’s not what this blog’s about. Instead, I thought I’d list the seven habits of highly ineffective people – people who don’t seem to accomplish nearly what their successful peers do, no matter the timing, or the industry. I’m using self-publishing as an example, but these are constants in any industry. Just look around and you’ll find plentiful examples.
NEWS: Requiem for the Assassin, the next in the Assassin series, just went on preorder at Amazon!
1) Spend lots of time on the Internet instead of working. Facebook, Twitter, dumbass blogs like this one, chat groups, forums, Youtube. According to numerous studies I mostly made up just now, those who express the desire to be successful authors (meaning top selling, respected authors) but fail to make inroads spend large amounts of time being social butterflies, and very little time actually writing.
2) Shun marketing. If you want to sell few to no books, ensure that nobody knows they’re available, much less worth reading, and do little or nothing to create visibility. Those who are ineffective book sellers seem uniquely focused on avoiding anything that would sell their books, which makes a kind of sense. They generally believe marketing and promotions are a pain, or beneath them, or that they shouldn’t have to because they’re special snowflakes. They’ll cite plentiful examples of unrelated authors with completely different circumstances who made it without having to sully their hands with the vagaries of filthy commerce, ignoring that these were exceptions, sort of the guy who jumped off the Golden Gate bridge or jumped out of a plane but had their chute fail to open, and lived. Tut tut, they’ll insist, it can still happen. Sure it can. Bridge is right over there. Have at it.
3) Treat your muse as though it were an uncontrollable force of nature, like rain or snow. Completely outside of your ability to make it dance for you. Another aspect of this odd view is that everyone’s different, and not everyone can be creative on command, or work up the motivation to write on a regular schedule. Tell that to the countless Hollywood script writers, journalists, ad copy and web content creators who do in fact create to a schedule in order to be paid. There’s a word for those who can’t master their muse: Unemployed, at least if they’re writers. Or broke, if you prefer brevity.
4) Fail to have a production schedule. It’s sort of like going on a road trip from NY to LA. A production schedule is a map. Apparently the idea that you’re far likelier to get to your destination, on time, and on budget, with a map, is a novel idea to the ineffective. Best to just see what happens. It’ll sort itself out.
5) Have no consistency to your work. Jump around a lot of different genres and ignore what’s working. Keep your readers guessing what your next one’s going to be about, how long or short it will be, when it will be released, or even whether there will be a next one. The ineffective seem to mistake the liberty to fail in multiple genres or form factors with freedom of expression. They ignore the avisos to stick to your knitting, preferring to write whatever their illusive and mercurial muse dictates. Generally to empty seats. A good warning sign is if you’re asking questions like, “Why don’t my short stories sell?” or “Who says you have to do a series to make a decent living at this?” on author forums.
6) Surround yourself with those who aren’t performing. Misery loves company, and if you’re going to spend a lot of time on social media, who better to do it with than other kindred spirits who also aren’t accomplishing anything? See number 1 above for the best way to do so.
7) Nickel and dime everything. Ineffective people will generally spend an hour to save a dime, instead of earning twenty dollars. Everything will be do-it-yourself, and it will be a point of pride at how little their work cost to produce. Of course, they will also seem incapable of grasping that most are discerning consumers who won’t pay for do-it-yourself, amateur efforts. This results in a circle of mediocrity and failure – everything’s done on the cheap, nobody wants to buy it, no money comes in, resulting in everything having to be done on the cheap. Many proponents of the wisdom of this approach are also broke, which is usually directly related to taking this approach in every aspect of their lives. But they don’t seem to see the causality.
So there you have it. If you want to be ineffective as an author, I’ve just handed you the keys to the kingdom. In fact, if you want to be ineffective in most things, these suggestions will prove helpful – using genre as an example, imagine one’s effectiveness to an employer if instead of spending years honing a discipline, like, say, accounting, you jumped around every few months to try something different because you felt limited by that one thing – because everyone respects and wants to employ a dilettante. Or imagine your effectiveness as a business owner if you just can’t seem to work up the motivation to go in today to open the doors, much less get things done. Or as a manufacturer if you failed to have production schedules, preferring to let everyone just sort it out and work at their own pace. In fact, these simple techniques can be used to be ineffective at almost anything, and provide a wonderful window into the soul of failure as leitmotif.
I left out the one about arguing with those who have done well, as though by disagreeing you can make your unsuccessful approach a winner, but ran out of numbers. We can tackle that one next time. Now I’m off to tell the chef at the wildly popular restaurant down the street how there’s more than one way to run an eatery, after which I’ll follow by arguing with my doctor that I read contradictory information from his recommendations on the web, and announce to my engineer that I don’t need to spend years in school learning a bunch of BS, but have decided that I can just sort of tell how much structural steel needs to be in a beam to support a certain amount of stress and weight.
UPDATE: In the interest of clarity, here are some definitions of terms: When I use the term ineffective, I mean ineffective at operating a successful self-publishing business (or really any sort of business, business being defined as commerce, where success is measured in terms of net profit dollars). Ineffective is another word for inefficient in this instance.
When I use the term success, I mean selling boatloads of books for oodles of money. Success has a very narrow definition for the purposes of this blog – it doesn’t mean how you might define it (the joy in your puppy’s eyes at seeing you again, the pride of a job well done, persevering in spite of overwhelming odds, self-actualization, the warming rays of a sunset, modest progress with marginal results, etc.). For the purposes of this blog, success is selling hundreds of thousands of books per year for many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you disagree with the specific definitions I’ve set out for these terms, I’d suggest you find a group that cares about your definition, and write your own blog.
Phoenix Sullivan reached out to be about participating in a bundle, and given her stature, how could I say no?
The result is Force Majeure, a collection of six epic novels about, well…disaster, plague, biblical-level-end-of-the-world shit, and so on.
Why should you care? Because Upon A Pale Horse, my bio-thriller, is the lead novel, which is really akin to you buying it for under a buck and getting five other great reads for free.
Which is really the perfect summer read. Mankind meeting the apocalypse book after book. I prefer my plague with a margarita, but you may be thinking Corona. Tomato, tomahto.
The authors are top shelf. Freezing Point by Karen Dionne, who’s an RT Best First Mystery Nominee, has gotten rave reviews, as have Toni Dwiggins’ bestselling Volcano Watch and USA Today Bestselling Author Melissa F Miller’s Indispensable Party. Sector C, by Phoenix Sullivan, as been an Amazon Top 100 novel, and The Rift, by Nebula Award Winner Walter Jon Williams, are gripping reads. So how can you go wrong? Answer: you can’t.
So go forth and get the bundle. It’s the right price, Upon A Pale Horse is one of my favorite, and certainly, one of my most important novels dealing with a topic so shocking that it’s been banned in nine countries (none of which you can probably pronounce, as they require clicks and pops instead of consonants and vowels, but still) and burned in three Kentucky school districts, or will be once they discover fire.
Don’t delay. This baby will only be on sale for a very limited time, and Phoenix has assured me that one of the lucky purchasers will get a car or a private plane or something through mysterious and yet undeniable cosmic forces. I wouldn’t F with that. If you wind up in August with no car or private plane, it’s kind of your fault, not mine, because you were alerted, so quit whining, take life by the reins, and do something for yourself for once. Buy. My. Crap.
There. I said it. It’s out in the open.
In other news, I’m super excited about the German cover for JET, and it looks like I’ll be able to get it with some modifications for the English language version. How cool is that? I’m pretty stoked. Maybe I’ll even sell a few. Fingers crossed…
JET – Ops Files. My latest book. Reviews say it’s one of my best. Sold many thousands in two months. Still selling strong.
So what to do?
Why not just give it away?
“But why would you do this, Russell? I mean, you’re wasting away to nothing, trying to make it week to week, your bar tab mounting as we speak…”
Fair question, inner dialogue. I’m doing it because I received a message from my higher power that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that the world needs to read JET – Ops Files, and that for me to withhold it from anxious readers who were too frigging cheap to buy it for $4 makes me an asshat. And I don’t want to be one of those. Of course the higher power could have well been the tequila talking, but who am I to question the way the cosmos works? The voice said make it free, so that’s what I did. At least I think that’s what it said. Could have been get the flame thrower and go on an alcohol-fueled anti-clown rampage. But I think it was make JET – Ops Files, free. Pretty sure, anyway.
What have we learned in all this? That there are cheapskates for whom $4 is a vast fortune and they can’t possibly part with it? Perhaps. That I need to stay away from my friend’s special mushrooms when the mescal comes out? Don’t judge me.
No, I think the takeaway is that we are all part of a unified field of energy, and that our perception of ourselves as separate from each other, and from the field itself, is an illusion – the wave mistaking itself as separate from the sea. Or maybe that’s not it. Maybe it’s that the world would be a better place if the downtrodden, the oppressed, the sexually frustrated and the marginalized, the up and comers as well as those fading away, the disenfranchised and the mainstream, read a Russell Blake book, which teach us many lessons about ourselves, our world, love, laughter, sadness, and loss. And of course kick-ass hotties in leather with more gun skills than Rambo and more weapons than the NRA.
So that’s what I’ve done. It’s free for God knows how long. Download it with my compliments. If action thrillers aren’t your cup of tea, download it anyway and read it to your beloved pet or something. Get creative. Live a little. Expand your horizons. Spread your wings.
Ooh, and the German publisher of JET just did a cover that’s so kick-ass I get dizzy just looking at it, and I’m hopeful I can convince them to let me use it or I’ll fly over there and make an ass out of myself, completely killing the odds of making a sale. Here it is below. Tell me that doesn’t make you want to read it cover to cover in the not-so-original German! I love it. Really love it, and I’m super excited to be working with them.