I’m asked fairly regularly why I continue cranking out books like the devil’s on my tail. I have a sufficiently large backlist that sells steadily enough to earn a more than generous living, so why continue the pace?
The truth, like most truths, is complex and nuanced.
I lied. It isn’t.
I do it because I love writing. I also do it because I wake up every day afraid I might not have another good word left in me – that it was all a fluke, and I’ve written my last readable book. So I write, in part, to reassure myself that I haven’t completely lost it (in a literary sense). Whether I ever had it is certainly debatable, but tentative as any gift might be, I don’t want my last book to be my…last book.
Additionally, I’m constantly afraid that the market’s going to change and I won’t have a business. Then it’s back to the male burlesque gig at Jalapeno Heat.
Also, some part of me needs a pursuit. I require something to keep me stimulated or I get into trouble. Like a nervous herding dog, if I don’t have a project, I’ll create one, and it’s not always what’s in my best interests. Researching a new book, working on the outline, gives me a sense of forward motion, which helps with the hallucination that any of this really matters – a comfort for me as my peers drop around me (mainly from alcoholism and sexually transmitted diseases, but hey).
There’s also the matter of craft. You’re never good enough, so that gives me something to aspire to. Maybe the next one I’ll finally do something I feel is amazing, rather than close, but no cigar. I’m not talking about polishing the work until every word glitters like a diamond – I’m talking that miraculous convergence of ideas and words that, when you get it right, takes your breath away.
So there’s your answer.
On the new book front, sales of my latest one, The Day After Never – Blood Honor, have been brisk, and it continues to hold in the low hundreds on Amazon. Reviews have been glowing, which is heartening. I love that story, as well as the way the novel turned out, and it’s probably my best writing to date. I’m getting ready to start the third in the series, which I thought would be a trilogy, but is turning out to require four books for a complete arc unless I want each novel to be War and Peace length. Anyhow, I’m thrilled that so many have enjoyed my entry into the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre, and am especially delighted that authors like Hugh Howey, Steven Konkoly, Tom Abrahams, Toby Neal, and Nicholas Sansbury Smith said such amazingly positive things about the book
If you haven’t read it yet, you should. If you think it sucks, return it for a refund. At $3, your risk is pretty low, and you never know – you may find that my take on the genre is something you enjoy.
Thanks again for the support, and for allowing me to continue working the best job in the world.
April 18th, 2016, a day that shall live in infamy. Or perhaps not. But it’s still a special one considering my first novel in the post-apocalyptic epic trilogy The Day After Never goes live on Amazon today! Titled Blood Honor, it’s very different than any of my prior books, in a good way. My hunch is my loyal readers will love it, and it should convince a whole mess of those who’ve never heard of me to give it a shot. All I can say to describe the style is take the good bits of JET and the Assassin novels, and mix them with a dystopian western feel (imagine Clint Eastwood circa The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and you’re not far off) for an interesting approach to the post-apocalyptic world.
The product description is simple, at its core: one man in a post-collapse wasteland gets reluctantly dragged into a fight he doesn’t want, and winds up paying a horrific price. With humanity’s future in the balance and the life of a child in his hands, he must take on impossible odds and battle an evil now manifest on the earth.
Other authors who know a thing or two about the genre have chimed in, and the early reviews are the stuff dreams are made of:
“Best post-apocalyptic book I’ve read in ages. When the world ends, I hope this book survives. Can’t wait for the sequel.”
– Hugh Howey, bestselling author of Wool, Sand, Dust, and Beacon 23
“In Russell Blake’s The Day After Never, the world has ended but the adventure has just begun. It’s part survivalist fiction, part techno-thriller, part western – and much more. You won’t be able to stop turning the pages…even if the world collapses around you. A must read for any fan of post-apocalyptic fiction.”
– Tom Abrahams, bestselling author of HOME: A Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Adventure
“Russell Blake takes the post-apocalyptic genre by storm with The Day After Never – Blood Honor, a relentlessly paced, exquisitely crafted story of survival and redemption in a hellacious landscape forged after the fall of mankind. Blake hits the right dystopian notes from the very start, catapulting the reader into an unforgiving world: part Mad Max, part Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and part Magnificent Seven.”
– Steven Konkoly, bestselling author of The Perseid Collapse and The Jakarta Pandemic
“Highly enjoyable dystopian thriller with a Western twist set in the feral badlands of a post-apocalyptic Texas. Russell Blake’s Lucas is a hard bitten hero I enjoyed rooting for as he reluctantly rescues a woman and child mysteriously important enough to kill whole villages over. Great beginning to a series that looks to be a first-rate gallop into a dark sunset.”
– Toby Neal, author of the bestselling Lei Crime Series
“The Day After Never is the new standard for post-apocalyptic fiction. Easily my favorite of 2016. No one writes this stuff better than Russell Blake.”
– Nicholas Sansbury Smith, author of The Extinction Cycle, Orbs, and Hell Divers
So what are you waiting for? I have the first book specially priced at $2.99, so there’s virtually no barrier to trying it. Go ahead, and if you like it, tell a friend or six. I believe this is going to be the series that puts things over the top – I’m that excited. Last time I felt that way was with JET, and that didn’t go too badly, so I have very high hopes for it, and can’t wait to see what readers think. The sequel, The Day After Never – Purgatory Road, will release end of May, so you won’t have long to wait to pick up the story, which will likely go three to four installments.
But for now, give Blood Honor a read – satisfaction guaranteed, or your money, er, invested in my bar tab to soften the blow to my ego.
I get asked a lot of craft and trade questions, so I thought I’d answer a few of them here to reduce my inbox clutter. Here goes, in no particular order:
1. What’s your approach to pricing?
The answer is, I price based on length. Shorter books cost less, longer ones cost more, because the cost to edit and proof them is greater the longer they are. Pretty simple. I make exceptions once a book’s a few years old, because by that time it’s recouped its costs and I consider it backlist, which is priced accordingly. In my genres, I find $4.99 for older titles, regardless of length, works well. $5.99 to $6.99 for new releases, depending on length. As an example, my Ramsey’s adventure books are considerably longer than, say, a JET, so priced higher to reflect the additional time and cost of producing them.
There are exceptions. We’re about to see one with the pricing of my new post-apocalyptic series, The Day After Never. I’m pricing the first installment at $2.99, which is absurdly low for the page count and the quality from an established brand (as well as for some of the best writing I’ve ever done). Why would I do that? For strategic reasons. It’s a new genre, and I want to penetrate it – bluntly, I want as many people as possible to read the book, in the hopes that those who are unfamiliar with my work will like it, and go on to other books, like the JET or Assassin series. The first book is about 70K words, and the second will finish out more like 80K words, so book 2 will go out at $3.99 – also absurdly low, and far lower than any of my new releases over the last four years. One of the reasons for continuing the low price strategy is genre norms – that genre tends to have lower pricing, so if you want to play in it, you price accordingly.
2. Where is the market going?
Beats me. I believe things will continue to get tougher. I also believe we’re headed for the mother of all recessions, so cheap entertainment will be in demand as crushing financial chaos causes folks to reevaluate their spending. Price fairly and hang on for the ride.
3. You don’t have a lot of books in Kindle Unlimited. Why? Is it the devil?
Subscription services are more important in some genres than in others. In romance, and sci fi, for instance, a lot of voracious readers seem to be in KU, so if you’re in those genres, it’s probably pretty important to look at it hard as part of your mix. In my genres, I don’t see it being such a big factor, and because about 35% of my revenue comes from non-Zon platforms, I wouldn’t make up the difference by being exclusive to Amazon and seeing subscription-based revenue. So it’s not philosophical for me, it’s monetary.
4. You still give away a few books for free. Does that work as well as it used to?
Nothing does. But a free taste still has some appeal on iTunes and B&N, even if Amazon has gutted visibility of free titles. So it’s not as effective on Zon, but still a good strategy on the others. Shrug. Nothing lasts forever, but the way I see it is the more folks who read my work, the better the chance someone thinks it’s worth paying for. It’s a numbers game, nothing more.
5. Do you advertise much?
Hardly at all. My demographic doesn’t seem to select their books based on FB ads. Some do in other genres. Your mileage may vary. I’ve tried it a fair number of times, and didn’t see sufficient ROI to justify the combination of cost, and time to administer it. Plus, I’m lazy. So I’ve got that going for me.
6. When is X book coming out?
My production schedule for this year is The Day After Never – Blood Honor, April 18th. The next one, The Day After Never – Purgatory Road, will come out about six weeks later. The third about six weeks after that. Then we have another Ramsey’s, and probably the fourth in the DAN series, and then another JET in the Nov time frame. Beyond that, in 2017, I’m considering a third installment in the Fatal series, another Black, another Ramsey’s, and another BLACK for next year, with some more DAN if the story evolves into something requiring more than four installments. And the mother of all conspiracy novels, which I’m debating whether or not I should write, as I don’t want my car to flip over on a sunny day, or my plane to go down. Puts a damper on one’s career, no matter how big it sells.
7. Do you really drink as much tequila as you say?
That’s between me, my doctor, and the local police. I don’t answer personal questions. Mind your own business.
8. I’m a co-ed nympho working on my daddy issues, and you seem wise and experienced. Do you do in-person consultations?
OK, I never got that question. But I’m open. Call. Please. I’m serious. Any time. I’ll pick up.
That’s about it for now. Working hard on the second book in The Day After Never series, as well as launch-related stuff for the first volume, Blood Honor, which will go live on April 18th!