16 April 2013 by Published in: Uncategorized 34 comments

I was talking to someone the other day – alright, I’ll admit, it was to my reflection (I’m the only one who really understands me…sniff) – and the subject came up about whether it took talent to make it, or tenacity, the question being which was more important.

Gotta say, talent is important, but a solid work ethic is more so. I know lots of talented people who never reached their potential, but I don’t know a lot who failed to achieve at least some success who worked long hours at whatever they were doing, and did so in an even vaguely intelligent manner.

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HUGE NEWS: King of Swords was made the Amazon Kindle Daily Deal Monday, April 22, at $1.99! WOW! That’s a first!!!

BREAKING NEWS: The Voynich Cypher will be .99 Monday, the 22! Come on, cheapskates, belly up to the trough!

NEWS: I was just featured in the Wrightforbucks blog, in which he talks about how great I am. Some of it’s even true.

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In the arts, it’s tough to make it. That’s no secret. My little 22 month journey is surprisingly upbeat, but it’s also atypical. I looked at the market when I was getting ready to throw my hat into the ring, and figured that I could either write a blockbuster YA romance that would sweep the nation, or would need to have a good dozen books out to earn anything even approaching the kind of money that would make this worthwhile to me. Because I’ve learned that while money is nice, time is the most precious resource, and writing well is a time-intensive process, so it would take a lot of it.

I calculated what it would take to make a splash, and quickly realized that if I didn’t work 15 hour days for the first two years, to make up for the lost time (from when the whole kindle revolution really got traction and it seemed like anyone could do well), my odds of hitting it were pretty long.

I resigned myself to that schedule, and put nose to the grindstone, keeping it up seven days a week, with no breaks. I remember Xmas, 2011, and I was writing. New Years Day 2012, as well as 2013. Writing. No exceptions.

22 months later, I’ve got 20 novels out and another underway. I’ll finish this year with 25, maybe more. That’s the equivalent of two decades worth of production, and I don’t feel apologetic about any of the books I’ve released. There isn’t one that I feel like, “wow, I just phoned that one in.” I’m particularly proud of the JET and Assassin series, but then I go back and reread Fatal Exchange or Geronimo Breach and I realize that those are good books too – possibly even better books. Hard for me to gauge accurately – I’m just too close to it.

Point being that a lot of hard work went into this, and will continue to go into it. I took my first real 14 days off last month, and by the end I was itching to get back to writing – I’ve conditioned myself to where if I’m not writing at least three or four thousand words a day, I feel like I’m slacking.

They say once you do anything for 30 consecutive days, it becomes a habit.

I maintain that success is equal parts talent, luck and habit. It’s important to keep that in mind.

What’s the takeaway for writers? Everyone’s journey is different, but one thing I’ve noticed about every success I’ve looked at – and by success I mean authors who have long, productive, lucrative careers – is that they work their asses off. Even once they’ve hit. They still write a lot, or are polishing something, or are constantly looking for new plot ideas or better ways to skin the cat. They have conditioned themselves to be what they are – successes.

Sure, it helps that many are talented, but plenty are mediocre. Some are even plain old bad. But they’re consistent, and their fans like them, and they work hard churning out product to keep their fans happy and engaged.

Talent isn’t enough. Not by a country mile.

Hard work is as big, or bigger, a piece of the pie.

Sorry to have to be the bearer of bad news for those of you who bought into the image of the drunk writer who scribbles a thousand words every few days and hits the lottery on his first book. That’s about as realistic as me expecting the Rolling Stones to show up and play my next BBQ. It’s theoretically possible, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

In the good news department, April looks good to be another 20K unit sale month, with a daily average of more than 650 sales a day, so thank you Amazon! And this, without any books in Select. I have to say that it’s never been a better time to be an author, at least not that I’ve heard. But it takes diligence and determination, and a sprinkle of talent, as well.

Perhaps as important, it takes consistency. Consistency in your craft, consistency in productivity, consistency in application, consistency in demanding only the best out of yourself, consistency in marketing your wares – because contrary to the spectacularly bad advice masquerading as wisdom on the internet, your work’s not going to get itself discovered through some miracle. Sure, it’s possible, but so are many things that will never happen to you. You could be discovered by Spielberg while sucking on a milk shake in San Rafael. Anything’s possible. But I wouldn’t make that my business plan.

What’s the takeaway? Set realistic goals, develop a routine that you can live with and stick to for a period of years, pay attention to what’s working and what isn’t, don’t waste your time with busy work that doesn’t produce results, and write every day, no matter what, even if it’s only 500 or 1000 words. Get into the habit of aping success, and your odds of being one are much improved. The business of selling books takes a lot of work, so best to condition yourself to do it and love it, or you won’t last.

Will that guarantee you make it? Of course not. You want guarantees, get government work. But it will increase the likelihood that you make decent money at it. Which for many is all they want – to augment their income with some extra cash, or supplement their retirement with a little bonus every month. I know many, many authors doing that, some to the tune of $5-$20K a month or more. Many to the tune of $500, but they’re happy with that, as they were making zero a year or two ago, and they aren’t thinking of quitting their day job. Everyone’s different, and there’s no one size fits all. But there are some reasonable guidelines to improving your chances, and I just gave you most of em. Oh, and write a love story with some steamy scenes featuring a vampire. That can’t hurt.

As always: The book is dead…long live the book.

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Comments

  1. Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 3:32 pm

    RB-
    I think hard work is the best possible advice for a new author. I’d be interested to know how much time you spend marketing versus writing. Congrats on your great sales and the great example of hard work paying off.
    W4$

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 4:53 pm

      I used to spend about 80/20, but nowadays it’s more like 90/10 writing to marketing. But I now pay for ads, whereas before I was trying to do it all on the cheap or free. For me, the extra 10% writing time is worth paying to buy for myself – if you calculate what each novel makes, and then calculate the number of hours it takes to write one, do three drafts, then edit it, it’s a no brainer to pay for ads where they are effective. So I do. My time is much more valuable writing than anything else, but only because I’m selling. If not, it would be worth it to spend more time marketing so that I can start selling, and then my 90/10 rule kicks back in.

      If I was going to make a recommendation, it would be to do 75/25, but be highly disciplined about ensuring that you do the 25. And don’t waste a bunch of time on Facebook or Twitter – it’s a time suck. Limit your time with social media, choose your battles carefully, and try to maximize your writing time without foregoing all your marketing. I know many pundits recommend “just writing” and letting sales take care of themselves, but then some of them have suddenly discovered that running free promotions and paying for advertising and blogging more regularly actually sells more books, so those that do as they say, rather than as they do, are screwing themselves.

      I’ve been very up front all along on how I divide my time, and what promotional approaches I’ve tried, including what works, and what doesn’t. If I had a friend just starting out, or who hasn’t attained the success they want, I would still reco that 75/25 ratio, and point out that if they’re not investing at least two to three hours a day, they can’t expect much if any result. If you write two hours a day and spend a half hour on your marketing, that’s probably about the right mix, but recognize that you’re investing about as much time as a very limited part time job, so you can’t really expect much more than what a very limited part time job will pay.

      There’s never such a thing as a free lunch. That’s the lesson.

      Reply
      • Wright Forbucks  –  Wed 17th Apr 2013 at 7:08 pm

        TY. RB!

        Reply
      • lynda filler  –  Sun 28th Apr 2013 at 1:32 am

        Thanks. that’s great advice. Playing with Twitter but I think it’s a black hole…although it can be fun.
        Two novels done, published poetry, disciplined. Time to pull out the novels, Read again. Edit. Edit. Edit. Then go for it. Kindle is the way to go I see.
        You are a generous man to put so much time into sharing your guidelines for success.
        thanks again.
        Lynda

        Reply
  2. Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 5:01 pm

    True dat and amen, brother. Calvin Coolige’s famous quote: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

    Preach the word and keep writing.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 6:10 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. It’s not what many want to hear, but it is the truth.

      Peace, out.

      Reply
  3. Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 5:26 pm

    The idea of marketing myself is like trying to look over the edge of the cliff for me. I get all queasy and light headed. The idea of that seems harder to me than writing the books. I’m going with the plan of having a bunch of things ready to sell when I finally get off my butt and try to do that. I know… I’m a slow writer compared to you – I’ve only managed nine books in two years. I promised myself that I’d look at marketing when I hit an even dozen. Then I’ll actually have to learn how since I’ve no real idea of where to even start. Meanwhile, when I hear the word, I’ll stick my fingers in my ears and sing dirty limericks while I plan the demise of another character.

    Thanks as always for the insight. You make the word a little less onerous and frightening.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 5:59 pm

      You need to get as comfortable with marketing as you are with vowels and consonants, because a library of work that goes unread is criminal and self-defeating. It can take years to build sufficient awareness to break decently, so you’re allowing yourself a luxury of fear you can’t afford, IMO, unless you’re selling at the rate you’d like. The only way you learn to swim is to get into the pool, and writing is only a part of the job. Selling your writing is the other part, and it won’t happen unless you make it happen. If you’ve got nine books out in two years, I’m pretty sure that your career isn’t going to be changed by numbers ten through twelve, but it well could be by devoting some serious time to learning and then working a marketing strategy.

      Think of it as investing. Many entrepreneurs think that if they build it, they will come. It doesn’t happen. If I see a business plan that amounts to, I intend to build it, and hope they somehow come, I lose interest regardless of the promise of the product, because in my experience, creating the product is only part of the job. If I invest, I expect to see an entire plan, not just a plan to build, which is what only writing amounts to. I want to see a marketing plan, with a budget, that shows some thought behind it, and resources devoted to making it work. Otherwise I’m just throwing my money away.

      The other aspect you might want to consider is that it’s NOT a stagnant market. It’s dynamic, and constantly changing, and the odds of making it are growing longer as more time goes by. Put another way, when I first started releasing books 22 months ago, it was much easier to get noticed and secure a readership than it is now. Amazon’s Select program turbo-charged that trend, and I took advantage of it while it was viable, going from selling only a few novels to selling what I do now, which is on a strongly positive trend. Now, it would be much harder to get that traction, because it’s a different world, and things have moved on. My message is that by waiting to learn what you need to and execute WRT marketing, you’re doing yourself an extreme disservice – one that could be the difference between success and obscurity. So much of this is timing, and none of us knows when lady luck is going to knock. I wouldn’t wait another second to start. To do so is misguided in the extreme, in my opinion.

      For whatever my advice is worth. Everyone hates marketing, and everyone would rather just write. I wouldn’t let your fear of the unknown cripple your chances, which is what it’s doing now if you aren’t spending a decent chunk of your time marketing. My .02.

      Reply
      • R.E. McDermott  –  Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 8:14 pm

        Lynne, anyone that’s got nine books out in two years is way ahead of me (and Russell, your output is just off the chart). I’m shooting for a third book by the close of my second year, but I’m still making a decent living from writing, primarily on the strength of marketing.

        I totally concur that I need to write more, but I also agree with Russell that while the gurus who minimize the need for marketing may be sincere, the advice is suspect. However, I also maintain you don’t really need to do marketing that you hate. I’m successful by marketing in a way I find enjoyable, specifically, interacting with readers on a one to one basis via email.

        I don’t spend much time on Twitter or Facebook, and my blog has cobwebs on it — I go months between posts. However, at the end of each of my books, I invite readers to contact me, and promise to respond. I’m not deluged with reader email, but I get five or six a week, and maybe half of them leave reviews. More to the point, I’ve made a lot of friends that way, and they recommend my books to others, and some of them DO Tweet, and use Facebook, etc.

        This isn’t rocket science, and I’ve always amazed at how many self published authors don’t use the back of their ebooks to invite contact. Many folks that are totally clueless about Twitter and other social media still carry on an active email correspondence with friends and relatives.

        So my advice would be to find some method of marketing you enjoy to devote your marketing time to that. Finances allowing, the paid promotions now and again are helpful as well.

        Like the man said, my $.02. Your mileage may vary.

        Reply
        • Russell Blake  –  Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 8:52 pm

          Agreed, but I would go one step further. Practice learning to like the most effective marketing. You can learn to like almost anything if you try. That’s where the expression “acquired taste” comes from. So work on acquiring the taste for marketing that works, and you’ll have a much more lucrative literary career.

          This is a retail business, and like it or not, retail is all about short attention spans and attracting attention today, not tomorrow. It’s a business where you’re only as good as your last sale. The point of marketing is increasing discoverability. Anything that increases discoverability is good. Anything that doesn’t is a waste of time, IMO.

          It’s like medicine. There is no such thing as alternative medicine. There’s simply medicine that has been scientifically proven to work, and that which hasn’t. Strip away all the BS and that’s the truth. In marketing, if it isn’t getting you sales, it’s not working. I understand more than I care to about platform building, and creating a brand, and establishing a presence, etc., but in the end, the litmus test is, does it sell books? If it doesn’t, shitcan it and move to something that does. I think if authors did that, they would be far ahead of the game, rather than using techniques that haven’t been effective for years, and confusing working hard with working smart.

          Work smart, learn to enjoy being an effective marketer, and you have a considerable edge.

          Reply
  4. Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Your .02 is always worth it. And I know you’re right. I’m behind the power curve. I’ll stop singing (it was a good damn limerick too) and sally forth. Time to do some homework and figure out that next step. I stepped off a cliff when I put the first book out, guess I can do it again. Thanks for the nudge.

    Reply
  5. Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Just when one is having the worst day, one can read about Russell Blake talking to himself in the mirror and one can be laughing hysterically again.
    Marketing: I never believed that advice of write and the sales will take care of themselves, then again, I’ve been in sales all my life, some if it within the jewelry business, where I witnessed first hand women losing their minds over a little blue box.
    One mega mistake I made, and have just realized it by reading back posts in this blog, was not sticking to a genre. First book was animal short stories, next book is a women’s fiction novel. Now I’m working on another animal novella, hoping to get into the Kindle single program, then going back to write another women’s fiction novel. This makes keeping readers buying tough, and I just discovered that the hard way. All cause I want to give money to animals. Going forward I will stick to women’s fiction, and hope with hard work and a little Edward Bernays magic it will be a break out like The Help. I’d be in a better position to help animals by actually making enough money to donate the required amount to make a difference.
    And I have to spend a little on a facial too. My reflection isn’t very nice looking these last few days.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 16th Apr 2013 at 8:45 pm

      One learns the perils of genre jumping the hard way. If you look at it as keeping on point, and not confusing the reader, then it all makes sense. Readers don’t have unlimited bandwidth, and fiction novels for most are rather like gelato – an occasional treat. If the consumer goes into the gelato store and never knows what the hell flavors the proprietor has cooked up, and gets a fave, chocolate, once, then gets told there’s no chocolate, but there is nutmeg, the next, they’re going to be less likely to go back, because they can get reliable chocolate gelato every time elsewhere, and dislike the random element of chance they’re subjected to by the store deciding not to carry their favorite for long bursts.

      I buy a James Lee Burke novel when I want a particular thing. A New Orleans mystery with richly evocative imagery and haunting characters. I don’t want a legal thriller, or a horror novel – although he might write either really well, I would prefer other authors who do those reliably. In other words, don’t waste my time by providing me something that is outside my comfort level, or I’ll be reluctant to buy your work again, because I’m uncertain about what I’m getting, and life’s too short.

      If we stop thinking like authors and view it from the reader’s perspective, genre jumping being a big mistake makes perfect sense. I advise against it. I’ve seen careers go nowhere for that specific reason – the author wasn’t paying attention to the result the market was giving him. The market does NOT reward genre jumping, and it’s a conceit that is very expensive for an author to maintain. I recommend using pen names for other genres. For that reason. Keep it simple. Don’t confuse the reader. Give the nice customer what he came for, and if it’s chocolate, then focus on making really good chocolate so he’ll come back again and again.

      Reply
  6. Wed 17th Apr 2013 at 1:30 am

    Thank you for saying this. I work to a 3000 words per day schedule and think I’m being a slacker. Meanwhile, when I wrote on my blog about an easy method for habitually writing 1000 words per day, I was attacked by people who claimed that daily writing targets would only result in boring books written purely to achieve wordcount goals.

    If writing is a skill, then it must be exercised. Waiting for inspiration to strike isn’t exercise. Hard work and habit is what creates great artists.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 17th Apr 2013 at 1:45 am

      Sure, there are plenty of boring books that are written to achieve wordcount goals. That’s where editing and rewrite comes in. I completely agree that you have to have a goal, and that practice improves most everything, including storytelling.

      Reply
  7. Robert Jones
    Wed 17th Apr 2013 at 10:57 am

    Hi Russell,

    As usual, there’s a huge amount of truth in what you say here. I think if people were to look around at everything involving the art–and entertainment industry, sometimes not thought of as art by the snobbery of hierarchy–there are any number of points on the scale that most view as talent. There are always those dripping with skillful resonance, and those who seem to just drip. Most of us fall somewhere in between. But the importance of this little exercise in observation, or if you’re lucky enough to know other professionals, you’ll very often hear the old 90% perspiration model being used. It might be said in a slightly altered way, like “Persistence pays,” or “Keep marching your work in front of people no matter what they may say to the contrary,” but it all pretty much equals exactly what’s been said here.

    I have some other questions that always interests me personally: How much planning do you do before plunging into writing a novel, and what does the planning consist of? It would seem, from previous posts, you have some combination of planning and pantsing going on. And though this is something that seems to differ from writer to writer, I’m just curious as to the “Blake Method.”

    I like to try different things from story to story in my practice, just to keep it interesting and fresh. My motto is, if I discover something I’m not doing, I’ll give it a shot. But eventually, once it comes down to meeting a regular publishing deadline, I think everyone gravitates to whatever get the job done for them. So, how did you arrive at whatever the current plan of action that is working for you?

    Mostly, this is more of a “discovered through experience” thing. Once you take the plunge in a traditional publishing setting and have a schedule and a deadline, these things fall into place, or you learn by doing it on a daily basis with that publisher’s push always at your back. But I think it takes a very self motivated person to keep it up as an independent. How do you motivate yourself? Is there a mortgage hanging over your head like an axe, the buzz of success, money, or sheer love, residing at the heart of your craft?

    And my final question in the mini Blake interview…what advice would you give someone taking the plunge into indy publishing today, as opposed to nearly two years ago when you got started?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 17th Apr 2013 at 12:28 pm

      You know, I used to do a decent amount of planning, but now I just think about it for a day or two, jot down maybe two to three paragraphs describing the whole idea, then create single sentence descriptions of the first ten to fifteen chapters and start writing. By the time I run out of chapter headings, I have a pretty good idea for the next bunch, so I wing it and do another fifteen headings. That allows me to let the story sort of go where it wants to without trying to rigidly adhere to a set pacing and schedule. In the end, I go back and cut at least 10% (generally speaking) to suit pacing needs, so the outline, such as it is, doesn’t dictate all that much by the end of the day. It’s more just a general guideline of how I want the beats to work.

      I am fortunate enough to have retired early (very early) so it’s not really the financial thing that drives me, more personal bests, be they financial, number of novels, or raising the bar and experimenting with each new book. Having said that, who doesn’t like big piles of cash coming through the door? Makes attending to my bar tab way easier, that’s for sure. And it is a reasonable way of understanding how the market’s reacting to your work.

      Boy, if I had to advise someone, it would be to understand your odds of making it, first and foremost. They’re horrible. Worse than horrible. If you can’t deal with that, or need to convince yourself that somehow those don’t apply to you, you’re delusional and you don’t have a chance. Just accept that they suck, and then write in spite of it, rather than because you believe in fairy tales. And work every day to improve your odds by applying yourself to a marketing plan that will increase your odds of being discovered by readers, as well as writing at a high quality level, and hopefully, prolifically. You will need to have at least three to four books out, IMO, to have a good shot at it. There are exceptions, like Colleen Hoover, but they are exceptions for a reason. For most, you won’t make a million bucks off a book, so you will need to establish yourself as a reliable storyteller who can produce quality work at least once every four to six months, so your audience doesn’t lose interest. And experiment – what worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow. So buying some crap how to book on what might have worked two or three years ago is a waste of time and energy. You should create a website and blog and write about whatever interests you (and do it well – people will evaluate your basic skill from those blogs), and make it fascinating. By all means do twitter and facebook, but in moderation. Again, do 75% writing, 25% marketing, which includes blogging, twitter, facebook, etc.

      I could write a book on what to do, but it would be obsolete by the time I finished it, and wouldn’t sell well, so I won’t. And the world doesn’t need another “How to make it self-pubbing” tome to mislead the masses.

      Reply
  8. Tarrin
    Thu 18th Apr 2013 at 3:49 am

    I am not a writer, just observant. Thought you should know that you are 100% talent. No amount of hard slog could buy you the richly woven personality that shines through your work, that comes only from life experience. Don’t forget to live a little. It would be a waste if you spent your entire existence inside a work of fiction when you have so much to share with the world in reality.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 18th Apr 2013 at 10:08 am

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m not so sure my organs could take much more living, but your point is a good one.

      Reply
  9. Thu 18th Apr 2013 at 1:59 pm

    A great read as always Russell,

    Without your humor, I would just be a pile of dust in front of the computer. I still don’t know how you can have a bar tab and write 22 books at the same time?

    Your statement; gone from free promotion to now paying for ads.

    Question 1: What did you find the best free promotion?
    Free Book sights you have to add your books to daily, vs Twitter and Facebook. Are there others apart from the blog sites that give you a feature?
    Question 2:
    Press Release sites, Facebook paid promotions, paying for regularity on Twitter. Others?
    Without giving your secrets away, which ways do you consider the best to pay for promotion?
    Also how much? I know that you don’t or won’t pay with your 75/25 rule, but maybe bequest 1- 10 percent of your income, but what percentage of income; say a regular $10,000 a month from Amazon, would you invest into paid ads, and who gets your hard-written dollars?

    Any sober answer would be appreciated, and it interests me that John Locke (free) is again up there. It must be talent?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 18th Apr 2013 at 4:44 pm

      Free doesn’t really work particularly well any more, so I haven’t done any for a few months, and everything changes on what works within that time, so it’s a moot point. I usually hit all the usual big sites to carry my free books, and would have a great run if Pixel of Ink or ENT picked me up.

      I have never used a press release site. My experience with Facebook paid promos is that they’re lousy ROI and not worth it. I never paid for regularity on Twitter, either, so unsure how that would even work.

      I would say that ENT .99 specials are good, and Bookbub .99 specials, although they are pricey, at almost $500 now, I believe. Having said that, I think there are now at least two other sites offering the same kinds of approach, so even that is changing real time.

      I spend around 2% of my monthly income on promotions right now, down from about 5% last year. I would probably spread my money around the paid sites each month, maybe doing Freebooksy, Kindle Book Review, etc. one month, then maybe doing Bookbub another, so as to continue reaching different audiences.

      Mr. Locke has the advantage of having been in most of the major NY papers a year or so ago. That kind of visibility tends to create name recognition, even if the later coverage wasn’t flattering. His books aren’t my thing, so I’m unable to say what his fans find winning about them, but he does seem to continue to sell, albeit not at the levels he once did.

      Over time, I believe quality will matter. If his work has quality, it will last. If not, it won’t. That simple.

      Reply
  10. Fri 19th Apr 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Got an email the other day from Pixel of Ink that they’re offering the 99 cent book thing too. Thought it was for their elusive book of the day feature, but I guess something is better than nothing.
    Agree with you on having to have several books, because once you’ve made the rounds at the ad sites, and sales have gone up and down, you’re kind of left scratching your head on what to do next with advertising.
    Most authors I track will do the tour each month, featuring a different book, adjusting pricing. probably helps their other titles sell too.
    For people with book club type offerings, Melissa Foster sent me over to an author named M.J. Rose. She specializes in promoting to them. She has a variety of packages. A bit pricier than Indie ads, though.

    Reply
  11. Sat 20th Apr 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Great post, Russell.

    You’re absolutely right.

    I just finished reading a book called MASTERY by Robert Greene. He discusses the path to becoming a Master of one’s field, whatever it may be. It all comes down to persistence over time and a lengthy period of study & apprenticeship (typically 7-10 years), lots of hard work and focus, and then the “overnight” success most people believe to be “genius.”

    Einstein, for example, was slow to begin speaking as a toddler. So his parents took him to a doctor because they thought he was “slow.” He hated school, hated math, hated memorizing stuff. He graduated college at the bottom of his class. But he was always thinking about how things work. General Relativity was what burst him onto the scene after it was proven experimentally during an eclipse. He was labeled a genius. But it took him 20 YEARS of thought, study, and focus to come up with that theory.

    He was also a violinist and loved to play Mozart.

    The point is that he busted his ass for 20 years.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 20th Apr 2013 at 6:58 pm

      I clocked at least a million words before I published my first novel. I didn’t consider my work worthy of publication until I’d already invested a ton of time into learning the craft. While I constantly strive to raise the bar and create better work, the point is that I wasn’t in a huge rush to get product out there just to do it. I think that’s a failing that the market has now. Too many are publishing books that really should have been their practice runs, stuck in a drawer and only read by Mom.

      Busting one’s ass. A huge odds-improver. Not a guarantee, but certainly gives one a leg up on those who believe that this business, unlike all others, can be mastered in a lackadaisical fashion. In my experience, not so much.

      There will always be exceptions. But banking on being one isn’t a particularly good strategy, in my opinion.

      Reply
  12. John Lisle
    Sun 21st Apr 2013 at 3:24 am

    For what it is worth for your marketing study, I picked up a free copy of Jet I recently and have bought and read whole series this week.

    I try out lots of authors through free copies of first books in series and buy rest when I like what the author has done.

    So, will we see a Jet VI?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 21st Apr 2013 at 10:28 am

      Glad you liked it.

      I’ll be releasing JET VI right around the holidays. Already kind of got the plot in my noggin. Just have to write it down…

      Reply
  13. Sun 21st Apr 2013 at 12:27 pm

    This is SO what I needed to hear. For too long, I’ve been treating my writing as a hobby rather than a career. It’s time I buckled down and devised a plan, which I’ve finally begun! I don’t care so much about how long it takes. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep persevering. And I need to do the necessary research–AND EFFORT–to get my work out there when I’m finally ready to publish it. So thank you for the kick in the pants. I’ve needed it for a long time. I have to take my writing seriously. If I don’t, who will?

    And I’m about to head over to Amazon to pick up the latest Assassin novel. One of my favorite series, and I can’t recommend them highly enough!

    Reply
  14. LEe
    Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 10:47 am

    Congratulations on the KDD today. Guess Amazon is picking any old hack these days! I kid of course. Mostly. I hope it carries you to #1 overall. You deserve the visibility you’ll receive from it.

    It is great to follow along with your success. When I began my journey a year ago, you were one of the first indie authors I took note of, and for the reasons in this post. You have obvious talent, bust your ass, and care about your readers.

    I’m amazed at what I’ve achieved in 11 months following a similar path, minus the talent. I think I’m proof that “plain old bad” mixed with a lot of persistence and tenacity can pay off. I’ve continued to work hard on craft, and I think that I’ve become a better writer with every release. I know that I owe that to the people who read my books.

    Enjoy the ride today!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 22nd Apr 2013 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks! It’s never bad to wake up and discover that you’re one of the Kindle Daily Deals. That definitely can put you on a different map. My fingers are firmly crossed.

      Congrats on your success. We all have to do it our own way, but a lot of sweat never hurts.

      Reply
  15. Marcella Carrera
    Fri 05th Jul 2013 at 9:57 am

    I need Jet 6. I finish reading the previous book and can’t find the 6th book

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 05th Jul 2013 at 10:51 am

      Because it hasn’t been written yet. The plan is to have it done in time for Xmas.

      Reply
  16. Wed 31st Aug 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Russell, while I envy your ability to stay at the keyboard for so many consecutive hours, and your fantabulous success, I just don’t have that kind of staying power. I’ve published eight novels in the past five years, and have been somewhat fortunate to have them all become Amazon category bestsellers, and half of them B & N “Top 100” books, but for me a banner writing session is 1500 words tops. I’m what I call a “grinder.” Another thing that slows me down is coming up with story ideas that I feel will be worth a 60 or 70 thousand word commitment. Do you have any tips that might make coming up with worthwhile story lines a bit easier?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 31st Aug 2016 at 4:19 pm

      I stick to high concept first, as in if I can’t articulate it in a single sentence, it probably doesn’t have legs. “Female Bourne against the world!” is what I originally came up with for JET. “Day of the Jackal in the cartel underworld of Mexico!” was the idea for the Assassin series. “End of the world in the West!” was The Day After Never. “Me & Bobby McGee with starcrossed teen lovers!” for Less Than Nothing series. And so on.

      I then sit down and outline, as I describe in my Outlining Made Simple blog, which you can search for on this site. It makes it pretty straightforward to tell whether a story has sufficient beats and length, at a glance. My average chapter’s probably 1800 words, so if I don’t have 45-50 chapters, I need more story, which I can accomplish by either mining additional depth in any situation, exploring secondary and tertiary plot lines, or inventing new ones. I can churn out a pretty complete single sentence chapter summary of the story in that fashion in a week of 8 hour days. If I’m convinced the high concept’s decent, but haven’t got a story really in mind, I commit to writing a single paragraph that hits the main story points so I stay on track. “Myanmar’s counterfeiting $100 bills with the aid of a Wall St criminal. A million sample dollars goes missing, and Myanmar must get them back as they aren’t perfect. Meanwhile a serial killer is offing female bike messengers in NY. Money exchanged for watches by the female protag’s dad, and now she’s a target of both the killer, and a Myanmar hit team, all in the seedy underbelly of Manhattan. Shit hits the fan as the two story lines converge and resolve.” That would be Fatal Exchange, as an example. Once I sort of have those high notes identified, I build the outline focused on one or two main characters, and three to four plot lines interweaving with the characters’ arcs.

      Hope that helps. Not the only way, but it’s my way, and it’s worked for me. 50 novels into it, I’m comfortable with how it holds up time and time again.

      Reply
      • Tom Winton  –  Wed 31st Aug 2016 at 5:31 pm

        Thanks heaps for the in depth reply, Russell. I truly appreciate it, and I’ll surely give your suggestions a try. I’m going to copy and save your thoughts right now. Wishing you lots of continued success.

        Reply

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