13 August 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 15 comments

I was reminded yesterday by a friend that my third year of self-publishing passed in June and I didn’t even blog about it.

That should tell you how busy I’ve been lately. Next year I swear on a stack of bibles I slow down. And I mean it this time. Really.

Belatedly, here’s my three year anniversary blog.

Three years ago, in June, 2011, I released Fatal Exchange upon the world. I followed it within six weeks with The Geronimo Breach, and six weeks after that with the Zero Sum trilogy. Then came How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) and An Angel With Fur, and then in an orgiastic flurry of writing, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, King of Swords, and Night of the Assassin. All released by December, 2011. That’s a lot of books. 12 if you count the trilogies as trilogies, 8 if you count them as single volumes as I now have them bundled (in omnibus editions).

Little did I know that pace would be the one I stuck to for 38 months and counting. In 2012, I released Return and Revenge of the Assassin, The Voynich Cypher, Silver Justice, and in another flurry of writing, the first four JET novels. In 2013 came JET 5 and 6, Blood of the Assassin, Upon A Pale Horse, and BLACK 1-3. Somewhere in there I also managed to co-author a novel.

2014 has seen JET 7, BLACK 4, JET – Ops Files, Requiem for the Assassin in Sept, three R.E. Blake tomes, another co-authored novel, and another JET at the end of the year. Oh, and one I’m shopping to trad pub that I haven’t published yet, that is the first of a new series.

Notice a trend? On average, 8-9 novels a year. Or one about every five weeks.

Anyway, here are my thoughts about this business, after 38 months at it: 1) Everything I know about how to operate a book selling business is contained in a few blogs at this site, most notably the “How To Sell Loads of Books” blog, and the “Three Ds” blog. 2) If writing is your recreation and fun, it doesn’t seem like work to write a million words a year. 3) Asking yourself questions like, “How do I make this next chapter/story/series the best I’ve ever written and have fun doing it?” gets you far different answers than negative ones, and virtually eradicates writers block. 4) If you believe you can do it, you’re right. 5) If you believe you can’t, you’re right. Motivation is your greatest asset, and motivation is fueled by enthusiasm over the long haul. Love what you do, and you’ll always have the necessary motivation to do it.

Sales have been stellar. I crossed the 750K units sold point, and will close on 850K by year end, if not more. I’ve branded my offerings as being in the $5-$6 range, and consumers seem comfortable with that value proposition. I don’t see any need to charge more, nor less. All’s well.

Since I started at this, I’ve been fortunate enough to co-author with the legendary Clive Cussler on his Fargo series, appeared above the fold on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, as well as in The Times and The Chicago Tribune (and Huffington, The Examiner, yadda yadda), my work has been translated into German (King of Swords by Amazon Crossing, JET by Lucifer Press) and Bulgarian (The Voynich Cypher). I’ve been a Kindle Daily Deal with King of Swords, and a Kindle weekly deal (or whatever they call that) with BLACK.

Amazon has treated me well, and despite my constant skepticism of all corporations, I have no complaints about them. I know they’ve taken some steps I didn’t like (lowering ACX royalties and doing away with the effectiveness of free Select promos being the biggies) but on the whole, I have a career because of them. Yes, I know the other platforms were also there for me, but let’s not kid ourselves – it’s the acceptance of the kindle by readers that fueled this opportunity, not of Nook or iPad. So to Amazon, I say, muchas gracias.

Readers seem eager for my next releases, and I’m living the writing dream from a beach in Mexico, where the weather’s warm, the beer’s cold, the sky and sea are blue, and the living’s easy.

Hard to whine about any of it.

And to think that three and a half years ago it would have never occurred to me to do any of this. I had zero interest in spending years submitting work to NY in the hopes someone would figure it out. Instead, I wrote for pleasure and busied myself with other endeavors (designing and building custom homes, making and importing wine in Argentina) during my purported retirement.

Here’s what I now know: Readers are the most important thing a writer has. Readers are the ones that consume an author’s work, and without them, we have nothing. If you concentrate on writing stories your readers want to read, you’ll probably have a far easier time of it than if you lose sight of them and write what some committee thinks will be the next big thing. They don’t have the faintest. Only the readers know what the readers want, and often they have no idea, either.

I’ve also learned that you can make serious money going direct to the consumer. Maybe not King or Grisham level loot, but more than enough to live your fantasies, presuming they don’t involved G-550 ownership or multiple wives.

To readers: Thank you for the opportunity. Mmmwah! To other authors: I’ve never had a breakout hit (yet), and my business model doesn’t require one. My point is that one can have a sustainable business that pays more than fairly, where one answers to nobody, and which is entirely your own, by self-publishing. Is it as good as getting deci-million dollar advances? Not a chance. Is it as good as getting million dollar advances? So far, I’d have to say yes. But as to the deci-million dollar advances, friends of mine like Holly Ward would probably say that as long as the cash hits the bank, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, and in a big way they’d be right. Maybe next year. Anything can happen. Anything.

I love what I’m doing for a living. I was doing it for free for my own pleasure, and I love it even more now that I’m doing it for readers. My final words of advice for budding authors is to always keep readers at the forefront of your thoughts, and to focus on improving your craft every day, like using a muscle. If you do that, you’ve got an advantage over most of your peers, who are in this for other reasons than to tell the best story they can as well as they can. Make that your priority and you can’t go wrong, whether or not you hit the sales lottery.

Again, thanks to all for the support. It’s been a hell of a three year run, and I actually can’t wait to see what the next three will be like. I’m sure there will be challenges and obstacles, but with all peaks will come valleys. Goes with the territory. If you can have higher highs and higher lows, that’s a good trend. So far so good.

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Comments

  1. Wed 13th Aug 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks for switching to writing. I now have a favorite author who’s actually alive. I’ve read almost everything you’ve written, and only have half of Voynich to finish and the Delphi trilogy before I’m caught up.

    Congratulations on all your success! 🙂

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 13th Aug 2014 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks, Kim.

      Reply
  2. Tim Stevens
    Wed 13th Aug 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Congratulations, Russell, and thanks. You’re one of the three biggest sources of inspiration to me as an author (the others being Howey and the guys at the Self-Publishing Podcast).

    Your message finally hit home with me a few months ago. Productivity is key. I had eight novels up over two years, an enthusiastic and growing readership… but I was lazy, trundling out a new book every so often, and irregularly. Since my epiphany, it’s been nose to the grindstone. My schedule is eight novels for 2014, ten next year. It’s a tall order, given that I work a demanding full-time day job and have a young family. But I’m going to do it.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 13th Aug 2014 at 4:49 pm

      I wouldn’t be able to keep that up working a day job. More like 3-4 books a year, which is sufficient. If you can even come close to your goal, hat’s off to you. Having said that, I’ve had numerous people say things like, “You can’t maintain quality at that pace” or “You’ll burn out.” Meaning, “I can’t maintain quality if I tried to do that,” or “I’d burn out.”

      Like I said, if you believe that, you’re right. Good luck with it.

      Reply
  3. Wed 13th Aug 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Russell, thanks for the effort – the finished products are worth it. The WSJ article caught my attention and I was a fan from the first book. I appreciate your frequent blogs to keep indies motivated. Keep it up! And enjoy the beach/drinking/dogs/fun stuff in life. It goes by fast!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 13th Aug 2014 at 4:50 pm

      It does indeed, Bill. It does indeed.

      Reply
  4. Wed 13th Aug 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Congrats on hitting 3 years. You are a huge inspiration! I have downloaded several of your books and plug away at writing my own. I barely publish one a year, though I’m trying. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Thu 14th Aug 2014 at 7:18 am

    You’re an inspiration, Russell. Seeing success such as yours gives me motivation to continue writing.

    Reply
  6. Thu 14th Aug 2014 at 8:21 am

    Hello Blake,

    It’s nice to see a young man off to a good start…

    As the above comment says, you give me motivation. Mostly its motivation to go on a three day bender, but
    that’s neither here nor there.

    Work is its own reward, Blake. I also have a this nifty bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn if you’re interested.

    But seriously (nah, probably not), seriously you have inspired many people, some of whom write as good or better than you (someone had to say it), and inspiration breeds perspiration, which breeds bad hygiene, so you’re to blame for my the case of the crabs my sister-in-law brought back to…oh never mind.

    Salut, Blake. Congrats!
    When you wake up you’ll thank me.

    Reply
  7. Thu 14th Aug 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Congratulations on your well-deserved (through hard work) success.
    Your output is amazing. Once my distraction is back in school, I plan on feeding my readers more. Readers do feed the machine.

    Reply
  8. Sat 16th Aug 2014 at 1:56 pm

    A huge congrats!

    And a huge thanks for your hard-nosed perspective on making this a positive business.

    Reply
  9. Sat 16th Aug 2014 at 2:00 pm

    BTW, where’s the post where you expanded on the positive question approach?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 16th Aug 2014 at 4:28 pm

      I don’t remember which one it was. Back a while ago. Sorry.

      Reply
  10. Sat 16th Aug 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for this inspirational post. As a new author trying to decide whether to take the indie publishing plunge, your story is so encouraging. Success takes hard work, and you definitely deserve yours.

    Reply
  11. cinisajoy
    Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for writing fantastic books and appreciating your readers.

    Reply

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