It’s Xmas, and today, JET volume X – Incarceration, releases, which is a sort of miracle in itself, in that I’d decided to end the series with installment nine. But readers guilt tripped me into continuing it, so you have nobody but yourselves to blame.
Having said that, it’s a barn burner of a book that follows Jet on another adventure, running from ruthless adversaries while seeking to turn the tables and bring the pain. Fans of the series should find everything they love about it in this volume, which is one of my faves, now that I’ve had a chance to reread it with fresh eyes.
To all my readers, thanks for supporting me yet another year. I have some pretty cool surprises in store for 2016, none of which I can talk about just yet, but all of which are as unexpected as a Kardashian doing charity work. Be nice to each other over the holidays, and remember that the liver is the most forgiving organ in the body, mostly.
Happy Holidays, one and all. Be nice to each other.
That’s right, the first prequel to the popular JET series, JET – Ops Files, is now live.
Why a prequel, you ask?
Good question. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to learn more about how Maya became Jet – the Mossad’s most lethal operative. I was so busy writing other stuff it took a while to get to it, but I decided to chronicle the formative period when she was a lowly private in the Israeli Defense Force, doing her compulsory stint, and explore what happened that resulted in her joining the Mossad. As with all the JET novels, if you’re expecting Tolstoy or Proust, you’d do best to look elsewhere. If you enjoy a good heaping serving of kick-ass female heroine taking on the world with over-the-top action, this is for you.
I’m thinking it will be the first of two or three books that document her adventures while in the life. As I finished this one I realized that there were more stories worth telling, so you can look forward to another Ops Files book in about nine to twelve months. My production schedule is pretty much booked through then, so I’m having to think a year out now, which is a little weird because I’m used to just writing whatever I want, whenever I feel like it.
In the how cool is this department, the German translation of King of Swords released today in Germany, and is in the top 100 of the kindle store there. Woohoo!
I’m in the midst of redoing the covers for the whole JET series, and will unveil those shortly. They will adopt the new theme I developed in Ops Files, and they’re already looking awesome, if I do say so myself.
Enjoy JET – Ops Files. For fans of the series, I think it’s an essential read. But it’s also written as a good introduction to the character, and it’s structured so it can be the first of the JET books one reads. No matter what the sequence I think it’s a barn burner, with more action per page than most novels see in a chapter. That could be a slight exaggeration, but then again, I am a liar by vocation, so hey…
Oh, and for a wonderful, in-depth review of the original JET novel, you can’t beat this new one from John Daulton. It’s a must read.
And just in case anyone thinks I don’t put a lot of time and thought into my covers, I just found one of the original concept drawings for Upon A Pale Horse, also drawn by John Daulton. In retrospect I think I should have used it. I was just a little uncomfortable with the cross-dressing stallion. My bad.
I’ve been promising to unveil my big news for what seems like forever (November’s big news became December’s big news, and, well, here we are), and it’s finally time.
This week, oh nobody, just the Wall Street Journal, broke the story on page one.
NEWS: A new blog on how to be a prolific writer, at All That’s Written. Worth taking a look at if you’re an author.
The article itself is humbling in and of itself, but the news is also big: I’m co-authoring a novel with none other than the legendary Clive Cussler, appropriately monikered the “Grand Master of Adventure.” It will be the next installment in the bestselling Fargo series, and I’m excited by the opportunity to work with a master of the genre.
My name will be on the cover, along with his. I’m arguing to make it almost all me, in raised, neon red lettering, but it remains to be seen how persuasive I am. As always, please, those at home, no wagering.
Why is this news significant, other than because it will be published by a Big 5 publisher? Because an indie author has been selected by a household name to collaborate on a novel. As you might imagine, someone like Cussler can have whoever he likes – he has authors begging for the opportunity.
But for him to have teamed up with lil ol me…well, you get the point. It’s a watershed moment for indies, because there has long been this sentiment that the reason authors are indies is because they can’t cut the quality at the trad pub level, and so have to release their material themselves. This handily rebuts that belief.
The truth is that there are plenty of terrible indie releases. And there are plenty of great ones. Just as there are plenty of good and bad in any of the arts. But with authors like Hugh Howey, Colleen Hoover, and H.M. Ward scorching the charts, indies have clearly arrived, and the market’s embraced them – or at least, some of them.
I went the indie route because I’m impatient. I didn’t feel like waiting years to find an agent that would “get” my work, and then another year for a publisher to decide whether it fit in one of the slots they had for that season. Not to mention another year for it to actually reach readers. That just didn’t seem worth it to me. For others, it did, and I have no issue with their choice. I just didn’t see it as a productive use of my time.
When Amazon broke big with 70% royalties, I understood the game had changed. Now I could release books written the way I wanted to write them, on a schedule that worked for me, and I could keep most of the money, assuming I made any. After hearing about authors like Hocking and Locke breaking the bank and selling tons in this new paradigm, I decided to jump in. Now, 25 books in 30 months later, I feel like my decision was vindicated, not the least because I’m writing with one of the most successful authors in the world and having a ball in the process. If you’d told me years ago that I’d be writing with the author of Sahara and Raise The Titanic I would have laughed you out of the room. Now, not so much.
What a long, strange trip it’s been. 30 months of basically non-stop work on a crippling schedule of my own devising. Has it been worth it? Absolutely. No question. Will I keep it up? Not a chance. You can only run an engine in the red for so long, and it starts to come apart. 2014 will involve fewer Russell Blake releases and more attention to each, with forays into romance and NA as RE Blake (following my own counsel to brand different genre offerings differently so Russell Blake fans don’t mistakenly pick up an RE Blake “Lust on the Range” tome, or RE Blake readers don’t buy an Assassin or JET book and go, “Where’s the sex, and why is everyone getting killed?”) By branding each genre’s offering in an unmistakably distinct way with a different name, I hope to avoid that, and build a readership in other genres based on the merits of my stories. Only time will tell whether that’s deluded or brilliant.
The WSJ article is a must read. It’s a good capsule summary of some of the high points of my career, such as it is. I wish it had mentioned that I take considerable pride in the plot and prose, and not just the rate of release, but hey, everyone’s a critic. The only thing I dislike about it is that my privacy is now going to be harder to maintain, but I can always get plastic surgery or wear a fake nose or move to Ecuador or something. A sex change isn’t out of the question, either. Small price, I suppose.
For those who are new to my work, I’d suggest taking a look at JET, which is my most popular series. Pure escapist action adventure with a female protag battling for survival. Think Bourne crossed with Kill Bill seasoned with a little Bond, and you’re not far off.
That’s right, JET VI – Justice, the eagerly anticipated sequel in the bestselling JET series is now out – a day and a half earlier than planned!
I know, I know, you’re thinking about how the little ones’ eyes will light up when another graphically violent thriller romp hits their kindles. Better than a puppy, and way more gun battles! And now, just in time for last minute Xmas shopping!!! And if you couldn’t give a damn about the children, isn’t it about time you rewarded yourself for all the BS you’ve put up with this year? Go on. Buy it. You know it will make you richer and thinner, and add at least five years to your life.
I have to say I’m pleased with how this installment turned out. I was shooting for a more compressed timeline than my usual JET novels, and squeezed the entire thing into 36 hours of non-stop action. The result worked nicely, I think, and makes the story move along like a runaway train, which was the effect I was after.
Special thanks to my editing team for superhuman effort to get it done over the holidays: Stef, Dorothy, David, Pauline, and my beta readers. Without your tireless and unflagging support I’d be broke, living in a discarded refrigerator carton under an overpass, drinking rubbing alcohol and cough syrup. Or worse yet, be halfway through my Mr. Mittens trilogy.
The world is thankful for your efforts, as am I.
Hope everyone has a happy holiday. Stay away from clowns, no matter what the occasion, and buy loads of my crap for everyone you know. The planet will be a better place for it – all my novels are now green, as well as being perfect for the celiacs, lactose intolerant, peanut allergic, or whatever else might ail you among us. Making them the perfect thoughtful gift for everyone from Grandma to your newborn.
Here’s the cover reveal. Have a safe one.
It’s officially April, and I’ve only released one new novel so far in 2013. While there’s no excuse for this slacking, I can only hope that you are looking forward to reading the next in the JET series as much as I’m looking forward to releasing it.
To that end, I’m happy to say announce that JET V – Legacy is now live.
Readers of the series will find all the elements they’ve come to enjoy, along with some twists and a few surprises. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that if you’re looking for something to read to help you nod off at night, this ain’t it. I’m particularly proud of the way the language shaped up, and believe that’s a trend now that I’ve crossed the two million words mark on my fledgling writing career. Seems like not only can old dogs learn new tricks, but also the odd bit of wisdom on the use of punctuation, adverbials, adjectives, and so on. Blood of the Assassin, JET IV, and now JET V all typify this hopefully elevated approach.
In JET IV we had Jet fleeing the country after taking on her nemesis. JET V picks up as she’s on the road, a few days later – or more accurately, less than 48 hours later.
It’s been a ball writing this, and I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, simply lie to protect my delicate feelings. I won’t know the difference. Ask any of my exes.
In other news, I fleshed out Night of the Assassin some more, and added around 4K words, retooling some paragraphs and adding depth to El Rey’s early romantic dalliance. In fact, I got so carried away, I actually went back and re-edited all the tomes in that series, and they’re the better for it. I’ve already done that with Fatal Exchange, so next up will probably be The Geronimo Breach, although I started on that one and found that as of four chapters in, there wasn’t anything I could think of to change that would improve it. That’s a good sign, as I’m always scheming about how to make things a little better.
I also just finished a short story titled Clay for an anthology – The End of the Road. That was a new experience, as I’ve only written one other short story, and it involved Hollywood, sex, drugs, and a chimp. This is much darker – think No Country for Old Men kind of dark. It’s interesting, trying to hit a number of emotional beats all within 2000 words, and make them tangible and real. I’m very excited by that, and might just write one short story a month until I have a book’s worth. Stay tuned.
March was now officially my biggest month ever. 22K books sold. Can’t complain. As of now, it looks like April will be more of the same, so 2013 is being very kind to me, for which I’m grateful.
Anyhow, here’s the cover for JET V. I think it’s a stunner.
Everybody that follows me knows that my new action thriller series JET has been wildly successful, far surpassing my expectations in its first 90 days of release. It’s gotten about 145 reviews during that time, the overwhelming number of which have been enthusiastically positive (and which I didn’t even have to pay for!), and not a day goes by now when I don’t get an e-mail from a reader asking me when the hell I’m going to stop slacking and write JET V.
JET, for those who aren’t familiar with the tale, is the story of an ex-Mossad operative who fakes her own death to get out of the game, but gets sucked back in when her past comes back to haunt her. It’s written in a breakneck style – I wanted to write the fastest-paced action thriller I’d ever heard of; something that launched from the first pages and kept accelerating right through to the end. I sort of envisioned a kind of literary equivalent to the TV show 24 – except with a female Jack Bauer, a cross between Bourne and Kill Bill, with some Lisbeth Salander seasoning and with a little Bond (shaken, not stirred) twist. In other words, a female main character with a whole lotta kick ass who can take names and deal with business.
NEWS: Great new interview at Free Kindle Books and Tips with, well, you know who. Worth a look!
NEWS: An awesome new interview from Cellardoorians on my craft and creations. A classic. Sort of.
I also wanted all the books to be big books that moved from exotic locale to exotic locale – as did the Bond books. I can honestly say that when I came up with the rough idea, I had no sense that I would be penning the fifth installment within as many months, and be eagerly looking forward to doing so. But there it is. That Jet. She kinda grows on you.
Some have said that JET is my best work. It’s certainly sold enough – 20K copies in 90 days – so why the hell would I ever want to give it away for free? I mean, it’s a real novel – almost 90K words, not some teaser. A book that earns substantial revenue. So what, have I lost my mind? Do I just hate money? Have I gone altruistic on your ass? Am I swearing off all worldly reward?
Not hardly. The way I see it, 2013 is the year where I need to broaden my audience, and increase my visibility – my reach. My novels have found acceptance with a decent sized crowd, for which I am grateful, and I believe that if more people knew about them, they would do even better. But how to gain broad market visibility absent Random House coming in, offering me a whopping contract, and then spending millions advertising them? Simple. Give one of my best books away.
My confidence in the work is such that I’m betting that most who read JET will want to read more, if only to see whether the writing and pacing was a fluke. My second bet is that once they finish with the series and realize that it’s not a fluke, they’ll move to my other series (the Assassin series), which begins with King of Swords. And then once they devour that, they’ll give my stand-alone novels a whirl.
And hopefully, tell a friend or two.
I also want to have 2013 be the year where my sales on platforms other than Amazon take off, and by keeping the JET series available across all vendors, I believe I can begin to really see some movement in the Apple, Kobo, Sony and B&N stores. Time will tell whether this was a good strategy – as of this writing, my giving away JET equates to investing about $250 a day in making it free. That seems like a lot, and I man have second thoughts after a month, but for now, I’m going to give it a whirl. My thinking is I’ll need to give away 250K copies to get 10K new readers. I’ve already given away 75K from promos, so I’m almost halfway there. Frankly, I’d just as soon have a million copies of JET out there, as I’m not as interested in sales as I am in getting readers. A sale is a one-time event. A reader is a relationship.
And I want that relationship.
If you haven’t picked up JET yet on Amazon, or on B&N or Apple or Smashwords, to see what all the fuss is about, please do, with my compliments. And here’s to hoping 2013 is as good as 2012 was. So far, so good.
Ho ho ho, I say.
Okay, perhaps I don’t say it out loud, sober, but in my head I do. The point is that it’s Xmas, and that means I’m going to take a break from writing. Not voluntarily, and no, it had nothing to do with a restraining order or anyone in my neighborhood disappearing. Don’t go all McAfee on me. No, it has more to do with eye fatigue and needing to get out and about after 18 solid months of sitting around, writing for 12 hours a day. Sometimes more. That may be good for one’s writing career, but it ain’t so good for one’s physiology, so I’m forcing myself to take a month or so off.
Which brings me to reading. I’m now able to catch up on my backlog, which is embarrassingly large. I’m reading Lawrence Block’s new one (which I’m enjoying no end) and then RS Guthrie’s soon-to-be-released follow up to Blood Land, appropriately titled Money Land. After that, I will be plowing through the roughly 60 books I’ve been sent or downloaded or been asked to read. Chances are slim I’ll get to them all. Probably more like a few dozen, but for me, that’s progress.
One of the things that I find consistently amazing as I read is how great the kindle is. Wow. I mean, I’m used to reading on a computer screen, and it sort of sucks after a while. But the kindle just rocks. What a great innovation by a company that continues to lead the pack in ebook technology, in my opinion – Amazon knew what it was doing, and still does.
That being the case, what does the future hold for readers? Will the iPad upset Amazon’s ruling the roost with the kindle? Will Amazon have to come out with an iPad killer to keep growing? Or will the kindle drop to $49.95 soon? I hope both. The more ereaders in peoples’ hands, the better, not just from my own grubby self-interested standpoint as an author, but also as a world citizen. A literate population is one for which I have more hope than an illiterate one. If the kindle, or iPad, or whatever, can turn the tide of rising functional illiteracy that’s been the legacy of the TV culture, then I’m all for it.
I believe that TV dumbs you down, and one of the things I’m thankful for as a child is that I didn’t ever get into TV – mostly because I was locked in a basement, chained to the wall, but that’s another story. My point is that reading gave me the means to educate myself (ultimately on the corrosive effects of some household chemicals on chain links, to my considerable relief) and learn to reason, rather than staring dully at entertainment presented to me with no thinking required.
And of course, it also means that readers will grow in numbers, which hopefully will translate into a more discerning audience, which as it is exposed to more advanced sorts of reading material, will begin to appreciate books that aren’t written at a second grade level – which is where I come in. Hopefully. All hopefully.
Instead of going off on a mean-spirited rant about the current state of the market, and what the biggest selling novels being some of the most puerile crap I’ve ever read says about us as a civilization, I think I’ll just wish everyone happy holidays, and suggest with a nod and a wink that nothing says Merry Christmas like some Russell Blake books, unless you’re planning on showing up with a bottle of tequila wearing nothing but a Santa hat and some mistletoe. And I’m willing to forgo the mistletoe, to be truthful. Never mind. This is getting off track again.
I think my point is that as both readers and authors, these are the best of times. Readers now have a universe of reasonably-priced material to choose from, and authors have the ability to price their offerings to reach the maximum possible readership while retaining a decent profit. That’s sort of a first during my lifetime. I say we all enjoy it and hope it continues. Because we’ve seen the alternative, and it kind of sucks – high-priced novels of marginal quality by only a handful of names, with virtually no interest within the publishing industry of finding and nurturing new talents – the Ludlums and Cusslers and Forsyths of tomorrow – and with the vast majority of the profit sticking to the middlemen instead of the author.
Amazon changed all that, for which I think we, as authors and readers, owe a lot. For what it’s worth, I buy all my ebooks via Amazon for that reason, as well as because I haven’t gotten the hang of how to get Smashwords to send stuff to my kindle in a click.
So what is the takeaway from all this? Have a happy, happy holiday season, avoid clowns as they’re all alcoholic pedophile cannibals, and buy my crap so you can sneer at your acquaintances when they ask you what you’re reading, and you can smugly respond, “Russell Blake! Oh, you haven’t heard of him? Hmm. I suppose you don’t get much chance to keep current on things, do you?” I imagine a hint of arrogance as you say it, the mistletoe shaking ever so subtly, keeping silent time to the swinging of the Santa hat’s jolly faux-snowball as you sashay to my front porch with the bottle of Cuervo.
Hey. It’s my fantasy. Just let me have that, okay? Don’t be a hater. It’s Christmas, after all.
JET – my breakout novel about a young female ex-Mossad agent who faked her own death to escape her past – has been selling briskly, thank heavens. So have the sequels, JET II and JET III. So what can I do to bring the year to a close with a resounding bang, you ask?
JET IV, of course.
JET IV – Reckoning, wrote itself, and after a trip to the editor, is now ready for prime time. The novel is a bit longer than the others in the series, and continues the legacy of unexpected twists, earth-shattering conspiracies, chases, action, and general mayhem – and even a little romance.
Yes, you read that right.
The R word. It’s a bit of a departure from its predecessors in that respect, but I believe the romantic entanglement expands our understanding of the character and provides an additional dimension. It’s not going to give any of the popular books with bare-chested cowboys on the cover a run for their money, but hey, 50 Shades of JET sounded kind of dumb as a working title anyway, so I didn’t go there. Thankfully. But there are some intriguing conflicts in this one that take her to the next level. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this latest installment as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I’m knee deep in writing the fifth in the Assassin series, Requiem for the Assassin, but have gotten sidetracked, so it won’t be releasing on the 27 as I had hoped. I could probably make it, but I’d have to rush the editing, and that’s never a good idea. In wine parlance, we shall release no novel before its time. Which is my way of saying that instead of finishing the year with 19 novels, it will be 18. I know. I’m a slacker. It is what it is.
I’m really excited about 2013. It will bring JET V, tentatively scheduled for Feb, and then in no particular order, another Assassin book (#6), possibly JET VI, and a Silver Justice sequel. And maybe a Fatal Exchange Sequel. And that’s it. Unless I decide to write Assassin #7. We’ll see.
My thinking is that I’ll put out 4 novels – one per quarter. That will seem like vacation after this year (seven novels). But that’s a ridiculous pace to try to sustain. And I can’t feel my feet anymore. Not that they ever felt particularly noteworthy. But still. Sitting for long periods isn’t to be done for years on end. Unless you’re a guru or a 500 pound shut-in, or lost a bet. None of which describe me.
So that’s all I have for you. JET IV, and holiday cheer, which is code for binge drinking and screaming incoherent obscenities at the circling gangs of clowns cleverly disguised as my neighbors. Which is all I have left now that my relatives stopped visiting.
For which I am endlessly thankful. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Oh, and the JET series is now available in paperback, as is Silver Justice, and within the next week or so, The Geronimo Breach, Fatal Exchange, and the Assassin series. Which means that if you’re wondering what to get that idiot you hate at work you got stuck with for Secret Santa, or want to ruin the minds of some young ones, or are tired of gifting your loser drunk sibling with Starbucks cards he’ll just sell for fifty cents on the dollar so he can buy booze, you can get him a Russell Blake novel or two. It’s the perfect gift. Really. And way cheaper than a pony.
On a serious note, it’s been another incredible year, and I will easily surpass my 100K books sold in 2012 goal. I thank all of you for your continued support and patronage. Except for those of you who hate me and left barely-comprehensible one star snipes disguised as legit reviews. You will die cold and alone in a drainage ditch, your dreams dead, while your enemies mock you.
Which you brought on yourself.
But in this season of celebration and joy, let’s not dwell on that. Better to reach out for someone you love, unless there’s a restraining order involved, in which case…oh, never mind. You’ll just make that sound ugly, too.
Don’t be haters. Now go read something.
I have made no secret about how difficult it is to make it as a writer. And as an indie author, it’s doubly hard, because you are not only writing, but also marketing your work, choosing covers, selecting editors, acting as salesperson, marketing pro, designer, etc.
But there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of success.
I’ll give you several basic ground rules I use. These are things I do to keep myself on track and selling well. If I was going to advise new or seasoned authors who are thinking about self-publishing, these would be engraved in stone.
The first thing is to set a publishing schedule for yourself over the next year. Plug in release dates, then write to meet your deadlines. You would be surprised at what a powerful tool that is. Looking at your calendar and realizing you only have 45 days before your next release can be a powerful catalyst – 45 days to complete your WIP, schedule book covers, allow time for editing, organize blog tours, target reviewers for advance copies, etc. If that doesn’t create a sense of urgency and get you motivated, I don’t know what will.
The concept of discipline, and working at writing like it’s a second job (or a first if you don’t have a job), with hard dates you have to hit, is crucial to maintaining productivity. Writing may be art, but producing and selling books is a business, and businesses have to be run in a business-like way, or they generally fail.
Another obvious rule I’m guilty of forgetting: do everything you can think of to get your name out there. That means spend time in chat rooms that your target reader demographic would frequent – not to place thinly veiled ads for your books, but rather to contribute. Perhaps you can tag your signature with a link to your website. Nothing more overt than that. People don’t want to interact with a salesman. They can smell duplicity a mile away. So join groups where you’re genuinely interested in the topic, and contribute content that’s worth reading. And always try to give more than you’re receiving. Being selfless with your expertise is never a bad thing. On twitter, try to get across a sense of what makes you interesting and unique – be you, not some sanitized caricature of you. Same with Facebook.
If you don’t have a blog, start one. Your readers and target demographic will be a lot more receptive to you if you periodically share your thoughts with them. Contrary to some tomes that advise attempting to glom onto some celebrity in an effort to go viral, I would say just write about what interests you – really interests you. You can’t fake it. Enthusiasm is infectious, and I personally would rather buy a book from someone with unique insights, who seems enthusiastic and knowledgeable, than someone who seems boring. So don’t be boring.
On the marketing side, try different types of promotions. I’ve done cross promotions with other authors. I advertise, and when I do, I push the envelope in the type of advertising I do – I recently did a month on a site devoted to drunk driver arrests – just to see if it would get any traction (it didn’t, but the point is I tried, and continue to look at creative or unorthodox options). I do free book giveaways. I experiment with pricing. I do .99 books or free books for the first in a series.
I never, ever get complacent. You’re either shrinking or growing. Stasis is the beginning of decline.
Divide your writing day up with a set amount of time for writing – no internet, no kids, no distractions – and also allocate time for marketing. Make it disciplined and regular. It takes 30 days to create a habit. Figure out what your routine should be, something sustainable, then stick to it for a month. If you do that, the second month will be easier. And the third, even easier.
Finally, don’t wait for the muse to come to you. Go barging in, bravely, and force her to dance for you. Start writing, and something will come up. It always does.
Do these things, and you’ll be ahead of 99% of your fellow authors. And your odds of success will have just gotten better.
Now for gratuitous self-promotion. I will be releasing JET IV – Reckoning, on December 8, if all goes well. Then, I’m going to take a little break. I was going to try to get Requiem for the Assassin done in time to release December 27, but I don’t think I’m going to make it, so it will be a mid-January release, with JET V targeted for a Feb. 20 or so release. But I have to say I love the new cover for JET IV, and I had to share it with you. When you look at the whole series, it’s pretty cool, I think. JET is selling like cipro during an anthrax scare, so I am grateful for that. If you haven’t given it a whirl, please do. It’s promo priced through year end at .99, so don’t be a cheapskate. Find out what all the buzz is about, and discover why I will have sold over 100K books by year end. JET is a good example of what I do, and I think if you try it, you’ll like it.
Readers judge books by their covers, and then, ultimately, the writing…but not just the writing. A book is an entire set of attributes – a bundle, if you will, of qualities and characteristics, one of which is the story and writing, another of which is the cover, and another of which is…the formatting.
Formatting, you say incredulously? How hard can that be? A monkey could do it!
Not really. When a reader gets a book, if it’s horribly formatted, or even just marginally formatted, the reader will deduct points, consciously or not, for what appears to be a shoddy product. Irregular spacing, non-justified text, oversized indents, changing or inconsistent font sizes, no TOC or NCX (navigation control without returning to the ToC). My motto is, give the readers what they want. Not a bad one for you to adopt, if you’re an author trying to make it.
I could go on and on, but the truth is that I don’t want to. I’m not an expert at formatting. I hire a guy to do that for me. He’s a specialist, and knows how to provide readers with a smooth experience, in a traditional publishing house style, no matter what device they read on. I spend my time writing. That’s what I do best. I pay him a few bucks, and he fixes my manuscript so that it’s ready for prime time.
NEW INTERVIEW: A must read new interview with Ryan Schneider on JET, writing, craft. 10 Questions.
NEWS: A brilliant new book review for JET by Kate’s Reads and The Kindle Book Review! Nice!
That’s an intelligent division of labor. I delegate the things I don’t have time or interest in becoming adept at, so that I can devote my time to the things I’ll get the highest return from. Seems simple to me. Money value of my time/time value of my money.
And yet, I see countless indie authors skipping this critical step, and half-assing their novel into the world. Which lends an air of mediocrity to an otherwise presumably decent book.
It’s mind-blowing to me how many will take something they worked on for many months, and then skip the step that makes it look professional. And to save, what, $75 or so? (I know, I know, you can get “formatting” done for half that and up, but it looks it. Many “formatted” books look like garbage – what most authors don’t realize is that the cheapo formatters are generally giving them nothing more than heading tags and a quick conversion of whatever they receive – in other words the fastest and easiest job possible, regardless of how the finished product comes out.) Does that make a lot of sense? Better to find someone who cares about the end result and spends time formatting your MS before converting it to mobi – the only way to upload your book to Amazon if you want the preview to look as good as the book itself. Yes, I’m aware you can just upload a word doc or an htm, but it’s a poor idea. Very poor.
I routinely read author forum comments and receive e-mails from other authors to the effect of, “I can’t afford proper editing or professional covers or good formatting,” usually in the same breath as bemoaning that they aren’t selling squat. Hmmm. I wonder if there’s a correlation between paying for a top notch product and packaging, and readers feeling they’re receiving good value, and thus being happier? Crazy idea, I know. It’s a shame, because I’ve found there are no shortcuts. None. The reason the big publishers spend money on those things is because it creates a superior product, and they recognize they’re in a highly-competitive game, so every edge they can get, matters.
The mistake I see many newbies making is to believe that the editing, packaging and formatting doesn’t matter. It’s akin to a software engineer, who can’t understand why his home-grown software isn’t selling, when the slickly-produced, finely-tuned offerings of the big companies are. Guess what? It’s more than just the content. It’s the whole shooting match that adds up to the reader’s experience. Authors who think they can skip any of these items are going to be part of the 99% that don’t make any money publishing. That simple. There may be exceptions, but my hunch is, not many, and not for very long.
Now for some gratuitous pimping. My formatter/converter is firstname.lastname@example.org – he’s done all my books, and I’m nothing but happy. If you are smart, you’ll use him or someone like him.
My advice for my fellow authors is to pay attention to this seemingly small stuff. It’s all cumulative, and it all matters. And I want you to make it. The more indies who are doing well and putting quality product out there, the more viable the indie business will grow. The more dross and poorly-edited, poorly formatted screeds clutter the market, the worse for us all.
End of sermon.
And finally, a bit of shameless self-promotion. How could it be a Blake blog without a little of that? First, I’m on track to hit my goal of 100K books sold in 2012. And probably 350K more given away from free promotions. That’s an amazing number to me, and if you had asked at the start of the year what sales would be, I would have been surprised and delighted at a quarter of that.
The JET series is surpassing my wildest aspirations (OK, a bit of an exaggeration, because I can sure as hell dream pretty big) and the trilogy has now sold well over 10K copies in the first six weeks, and is chugging along nicely. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about,check out book 1, JET. Just read the first 10 pages, and you’ll understand.
To everyone who bought a JET book, or all three currently out, thanks for your support. I’m hard at work on JET IV, and it should release in December, just in time for the elves to get it to your kindle or nook or whatever you read on these days. Oh, and that reminds me, I finally got off my dead A and published all my books hard copy, so if you want to pay way too much and kill a bunch of trees, you know how to do it. Perhaps buy the entire Russell Blake library for that loved one, or the hot guy or gal you hope to have your way with at the Xmas party, or whatnot. Just an idea.
Oh, and finally, if you want an idea of what the JET book trailer should be like, without me having to spend a million bucks making it, check out this clip and ignore the computer in the mix. If this doesn’t give you an idea of what reading JET is like, nothing will. And it does make you wonder – are Lenovo execs fans of JET? Stranger things have happened…