03 December 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 100 comments

I was talking with another author, who does extremely well as an indie, and we started comparing numbers. He/she will earn close to two million dollars this year. Most have never heard of him/her.

I had an email exchange with another indie a few days ago who clears a cool half mil a year. You’ve likely never heard of him/her, either. He/she is friends with another author who works the same genre, who does a little better than he/she does – probably close to three quarters of a mil this year. We all trade tips and help each other – there’s no competitive snarkiness between any of us.

I’m part of a group of authors on Facebook, have been for about two years. In that time, more than a few have gone from earning a few hundred a year to tens of thousands, and in several cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. You’ve probably never heard of any of them, either. As with the above buddies of mine, everyone is supportive of each other regardless of the stage of their career. One of the reasons might be because we’ve all been alive long enough to have learned that you meet all the same people going up as you do coming back down. Another might be that we don’t feel competitive – there’s no limit to how well any of us might do, other than the market’s fickle nature and our own abilities and drive.

I thought it was fitting as we wind up the year to comment on this, and to point out that as much as we whine about the impact of Kindle Unlimited on our sales, and on the dearth of decent ad sites, and the constantly shifting marketplace, more of us than ever before are earning decent, and in some cases, magnificent, incomes, from writing and publishing, without any help from the traditional channels that used to have the book selling business locked up.

What do all of these authors have in common, though? All these indies who are making serious, and in some cases, insane, bank? First, they publish regularly. As in once every few months, and in some cases, once every month. Second, they work in genres that will support them. While most of the top earners are in romance or one of its offshoots, others are in science fiction, which voraciously consumes indie work; some are in my genre (action thrillers), some in mystery, some in fantasy. Third, they all work long hours and take this extremely seriously. Fourth, they operate their publishing businesses like businesses, not like hobbies. They have production schedules they stick to. They market and promote. They invest in professional help when necessary and grasp that you have to spend money to make it. Fifth, they write books readers enjoy reading, as opposed to books their muse dictates they write. That’s an important distinction, because what we as authors often want to write might not be all that marketable. So we compromise based on our understanding of the market. And sixth, they’re constantly adjusting their sails to best negotiate treacherous water and ever-shifting winds. They’re pragmatic. And most have great senses of humor, as well as a keen appreciation of irony. That goes with the gig, I suppose. As does pragmatism.

Some of them write magnificently original novels that push the envelope. But most don’t. They write genre fiction that supplies what their consumers want to buy. Some do it with remarkable prose, some with workmanlike sentences, but the point is that it doesn’t matter to their fans – they write the prose their audience wants.

I’ve been extremely lucky in my career thus far. Writing with Clive Cussler, I’ve learned a lot. Working with my agent, I’ve learned still more. But mostly, being paid by readers to write as many novels as I have has allowed me to hone my skill in a manner most couldn’t only a few short years ago. And seeing what readers respond to has shown me where the path to growth lies.

Most have never heard of Russell Blake. Probably 99% of my target audience has no frigging idea who I am. I find that exciting and motivating. It means that there’s a whole world out there to conquer, of potential readers who might enjoy one or more of my yarns, and might tell a friend.

Most importantly to me, I’ve been able to write novels that I would read, the way I like to write them. The good news is there are plenty of viable styles, and all of them sell well, if delivered with conviction. Certainly, as with reality TV, some fiction is written for folks who can barely make it through TV Guide, and that’s fine. I don’t read that style, but that doesn’t make it inferior. Other fiction is written so densely I can’t get more than a few pages through it without yawning. That can sell well, too. Whether you favor prose that’s more monosyllabic, or that pushes the boundaries of what language is capable of, it’s all good – do it well, and there’s someone who will buy it. In many cases, a lot of someones.

That’s my early wrap-up for the year as I wind it down in preparation for 2015. It’s been a hell of a ride, starting with being above the fold in the WSJ in early January, and continuing from there. How many authors are ever featured on the front page of the WSJ? That alone I could retire on (and some hoped I would). Fortunately, folks still buy my stories so I don’t have to, yet. But the point is I’ve already surpassed any expectations I had for this little writing thing I do.

I find it humbling, as well as inspiring, that so many authors, some of whom were traditionally published and have all the usual horror stories that go with it, but most of whom who never were, are earning incredible livings publishing their own work. It’s a wonderful and ever-evolving literary world that I’m glad to be a part of.

Here’s to 2015! Now get to work. 2015 could well be your year, but if you look at the six things the bestselling indies I know all have in common, you’ll see that hoping doesn’t feature. Hard work, application, being very smart about what you publish and how you publish it, constantly striving to improve your craft…these are the things that make your career. Sure, luck plays a role, but not nearly as large a role as many seem to believe.

There are no guarantees, except that if you don’t do whatever it takes to succeed, you won’t.

That’s been my life lesson so far. I see nothing to change my view now that I write for my dinner.

We live in a magical time, when self-determination as authors is within reach. Revel in it.

And of course, buy my crap.



  1. Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Really quick, before I serve dinner to the masses at my house. One of the most salient points you made is that 1.) You, along with many of us are making serious money doing this. 2.) NOBODY has heard of us. Two points actually. This is crazy, because it really shows the potential of even the slightest bit of discovery. I can roam all of Maine and query thousands of readers. A few will recognize your name. Fewer will recognize mine…but we’re making a good living at this. It’s insane to think that we haven’t hit more than 1% of our target market. Even some of the biggest Indie/hybrid names are unknown in the general public. We see ups and downs in sales, and fear the worst, but the best is still ahead of us. Keep writing.

    • Julia Kent  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 9:37 pm

      Yes. This. According to most publishing industry professionals, I don’t exist. I’m an indie who started 2 years ago with no backlist, no platform, no books and no fans. Yet I’m quietly killing it in romance and have AMAZING readers who love my books. I quit my job, my healthcare IT developer husband quit *his* job, we’ve paid off debt, built savings — all with money that isn’t supposed to exist. πŸ™‚

      That said, I work 100+ hour weeks. My husband manages the family (3 kids, one with special needs) and is my tech person. I stay on top of all kinds of industry news, pattern match, manage a small business and a ton of freelancers, market like crazy, look for emerging opportunities, and — of course — write.

      But I don’t exist. πŸ˜‰

      • Russell Blake  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 10:20 pm

        Julia: They say that the best trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

        Hard to top that.

        And congrats.

        • Bill Koller  –  Mon 15th Dec 2014 at 12:55 pm

          And all the best wishes to the the fresh young new exciting Indie Authors out there. You have given much pleasure to this old Trad writer. Now I am about to retire from casaplayamaya.com Selling and going off to travel and pick up my writing again. An inspiration to imagine that I might actually be able to publish from a Tramp Steamer somewhere in the backwaters of the Solomon Islands. but fist I will go to Cabo and buy Russell a Maggie!. Merry Christmas to all and Happy Holidays.

      • Steven Konkoly  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 7:04 am

        That’s awesome, Julia. It’s hard to explain this to someone outside of the Indie circle. I still get those sympathetic looks from friends, neighbors, former (quit day job) colleagues that think my wife is supporting me. LOL! She’s an attorney, so it makes sense…what they don’t know is that she’s on the verge of joining the Steve Konkoly writing team as our business manager…because I desperately need someone to take over managing the non-existent money I’m making.

        • Russell Blake  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 8:54 am

          Congrats, Steven. It’s amazing how quickly that non-existent money accumulates into non-existent cars, homes, retirement savings, etc.

          Living well is always the best revenge. Assuming you can’t dance in jackboots on the cold graves of your enemies. Not that the two are mutually exclusive…

        • Julia Kent  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 9:27 am

          Steven, congratulations! It was very hard for me to agree with my husband that having him quit was the right thing to do. He had a stable job, decent salary, solid benefits, and I am risk averse (which is a contradiction, because in business I’m not — but personal finance is a completely different psychological risk situation).

          What my husband and I both enjoy is the complete schedule freedom. It’s not just the absence of a boss/being told what to do with time. It’s the pleasure of making choices without someone else constraining them.

          On the other hand, if sales drop, that’s all on us, too. Planning for inevitable market changes means time becomes a commodity in a completely different way.

          Russell: love that devil quote. Ahaha.

          • Steven Konkoly  –  Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 6:37 am

            That’s right, Russell. I feel like Wonder Woman (don’t judge) flying around in her invisible jet. All of these non-existent riches. Well, I’m not splurging just yet. We’re saving most of the excess, because as Julia points out…it’s all on us when the weather turns. Right now, many of us are seeking cover from the KU storm. Having a diversified portfolio spread out through audiobooks, foreign titles, multiple platforms, Kindle Worlds (in my case) is like tightening the tarps covering your investment. It can rain all it wants.. Sorry to bring up the topic of storms.

          • Russell Blake  –  Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 9:36 am

            Um…I’m still trying to get the image of you as Wonder Woman out of my head. I feel like I need to take a shower now.


    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 10:47 pm

      And you as well. One never knows which book will be “THE” book. But the most heartening part is that we don’t even necessarily need to have that book. Just a loyal and growing following that supports us and enjoys what we do. Will we be household names in that case? Nope. Does it matter if we can write for a living and celebrate our existence every day with a glass or two of decent wine? Not really.

      I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse, or a coffin with pockets. I feel like my cup already runneth over. If a few million people want to buy my crap to improve the quality of my booze, super. If not, well, that’s the way the ball bounces. I’m fine either way.

      And yes, I share your belief that the best is yet ahead.

    • Wayne Stinnett  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 12:34 pm

      I too am a total unknown. I only started on this journey a year and a half ago. Last month I bought a new (to me) non-existent pickup using the invisible disposable income from my non-existent August royalties. You see, I quit my job last May, so obviously I’m a pauper. I was an over the road truck driver for 12 years and before that I worked in construction management for 20 years. Last week, I got an email from one of the other drivers I worked with. He wanted to know who I was driving for now. When I replied that I was working full time as a writer, he wrote back saying, and I quote, “Unemployment won’t last long.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was making more in a quarter than he was in a year. My wife will be quitting soon to help out. Financially, she can at any time. Since she’s a teacher, though, she’s going to wait until the end of the school year. To be honest, I’d like nothing more than to dwell in this non-existent world forever. I harbor no desire for fame. Well, with the exception of spending a little time in a non-existent condo on Maui this winter.

      • Steve Konkoly  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 4:19 pm

        Wayne, just make sure to keep your pants on in that non-existent pickup truck. To most of the population, you just look like a man floating down the street. Congrats on your transition to the unemployed sector. You’ll be getting emails and sad looks for years to come wondering how you manage to scrape buy. Seriously, your story is amazing. With the momentum you’re building, you’ll be looking back with wonder at why you didn’t start sooner. I’m about 15 months out from quitting my day job (lucrative pharmaceutical rep position that required about 1% of my brainpower), and will never look back. I started writing because I was BORED. Never in a million years would I have anticipated that I’d be sitting on a book empire…and I use that term loosely. I’m not one of the million dollars per year authors, but I don’t drink my wine out of a box either…not that there’s anything wrong with that. They’ve made a lot of strides in boxed wines lately, and it’s nearly impossible for my wife to tell that I’ve consumed a bottle and a half without the bottles littering the counter. πŸ˜‰

        • Wayne Stinnett  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 7:48 pm

          You just placed an indelible picture in at least a few people’s minds that may require therapy to get over. I’ve had a few people who know how I’m doing comment on how lucky I was. True luck plays a big part, but many times fortune drives right by because a person isn’t ready to snatch the gold ring when it appears. Chance favors the prepared mind, Louis Pasteur once said. While I no longer eat alone in a truck stop diner, my work day now is much longer than when I went up and down our nations highways and I haven’t taken a day off in seven months. Planning and preparing for success is the biggest part of becoming successful. Plenty of people work hard at their craft, but without a plan, a vision for the future, much of that hard work is for the most part, wasted. Those who set goals and prepare a plan to achieve them succeed. Setting a goal and not planning the steps needed to achieve it is called a wish.

          • Russell Blake  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 8:03 pm

            Wayne, I make no secret that I consider it every author’s obligation to figure out how they are going to be exceptions and beat the odds of failing, which are almost overwhelming. They always have been, and always will be. That’s just the way it is. Better to stare the beast in the face and accept that which simply is, and then start figuring out how you’re going to buck that system and be one of the exceptions. My recipe involves massive effort, constant reinvention, endlessly demanding more out of oneself and one’s understanding of craft, raising the bar as a pursuit rather than a destination, and creating something that readers can’t find elsewhere. I am a huge believer in self-determination. Which usually involves working harder than everyone else as a reasonable starting point.

            Luck is involved at all times. Just as it is in all of life. You decide not to go to the store today, and a drunk slams into someone else instead of your car. Or you do go to the store, but the drunk trips and bonks his head instead of climbing behind the wheel. There are endless variations. But where luck ends and planning begins is when you put your seat belt on, stay off your cell phone, regularly maintain your brakes, drive defensively, ensure your tires are up to snuff, and on and on. Luck is part of life, whether good or bad. What I’ve learned is that good old fashioned hard work can drag Lady Luck to your corner more often than bemoaning your lot in life or hoping and wishing. Does that mean everyone who works hard will make it? No. Just as in any other business it doesn’t mean they will. Just as in all the other arts, there are infinite numbers of talented guitar players out there, but very very few ever make it. You want guarantees, this is the wrong business. It’s all a crap shoot, but it’s one where application and talent can sway the odds in your favor – mostly application, because the level of talent required isn’t nearly as high as the level of effort required. That’s been my experience. Create a plan to obtain your objective, identify the resources required (time, money, skills, etc.), determine whether you’re willing to do whatever it takes to obtain the objective, and then work the plan, modifying it as necessary and as more data becomes available. Just like any business.

            Glad you’re doing well.

          • Steven Konkoly  –  Sun 07th Dec 2014 at 10:47 am

            I won’t reiterate what Russell has tirelessly preached about “luck,” and I certainly can’t be held responsible for therapy bills…so readers beware. Wayne, I know Russell will agree that you…and I’ll echo the sentiment…in order to make this work, most Indie writers will work harder than they’ve ever worked before. I’ve experienced the same thing upon making this a full time gig. I’ve never worked longer hours…except in the Navy…at sea. Sort of a captive environment πŸ˜‰ Even when I did this part time, I wrote every morning (including weekends and holidays) at 4:00AM…I’ve eased up on that early morning wake up somewhat, but it’s still a part of my daily jumpstart. That said, I wouldn’t trade these hours for anything.

  2. Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Treating it like a business. That’s the takeaway here. I get fed up with the “I can’t write, the muse has left me” wails. They’re only words. Put some together, make a sentence. Put some sentences together, make a story.
    How many airline pilots don’t turn up for work stating that they don’t feel ‘inspired’ to fly a plane. Do it, do it often, and do it better.

    • Suzie O'Connell  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 11:54 pm

      Exactly! If the muse isn’t cooperating, it’s a sure sign there’s a problem with the book you’re writing. As Russell has suggested, ask yourself why you’re not excited. Why isn’t the book working? And how do I fix it? I had the problem with my current WIP that I just couldn’t seem to make any headway. The characters were acting out of character, every time I sat down to write, I’d struggle to get 300-400 words out only to end up wanting to rip them to shreds moments later. So, I asked myself what wasn’t working, ended up taking my book all the way back to bare bones… and I found the problem. Now, I have a solid outline and everything is falling in place. Muse be damned!

      This truly is a great time for writers. I’m one of those who went from making a few hundred dollars my first year publishing to the high five-figure range this year… and well on track for six figures next year. It is AMAZING. Two years ago, my husband I were lucky to have pennies left over at the end of each month, and while we still had food and a roof over our heads, there were months when we weren’t sure we would. Then, hard work started paying off, and like Julia, we were BOTH able to quit our jobs, and now he gets to pursue his dream just like I’m pursuing mine. Most days, I still can’t believe it.

      • Russell Blake  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 8:54 am

        Always nice to see it in action. Congratulations to you.

  3. Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks Russell for a very inspiring post.

    Re KU: would you please give us your insights, particularly in light of Holly Ward’s post? I’m sure I speak for many when I say we’d like to hear your take on KU vs. going wide etc.

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 10:18 pm

      I responded to that before. I have about a third of my books in KU, and two thirds out. By Jan/Feb, it will be more like 25% in, 75% out. I believe in diversification. Then again, if I have seven or ten or twelve books in, and twenty-something out, that doesn’t really serve as much of a guidepost for anyone that doesn’t have that sort of backlist. If you’re asking how I feel about KU, I have mixed feelings. Sales of every author I know except one are down since it started, as is income. That’s bad, as far as I can tell. I also don’t like exclusivity, as there’a a whole world out there that doesn’t shop at Amazon. So if you have a ton of books, sure, put a few in and see how they do. If it’s a question of do it or don’t with, say, an author with fewer than five books? Can’t see the point.

      • Karen Mueller Bryson  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 6:19 pm

        Thanks for the article! I agree completely with your points about writing in a popular genre and releasing books on a frequent basis. My sales have been up since KU started, but I attribute it to a few factors. I write and release books fairly quickly (a new book every six weeks, if possible). I’ve also spent a lot more time and money on marketing and promotion than I have in the past. I also made several of my books permafree, which has greatly helped the sales of my other titles. I don’t currently have any of my romance novels in KU, but in the New Year I want to do an experiment. I plan to release two new novels on the same day, one in KU and one with wide distribution. I’ll market them equally upon their release. It will be interesting to see how the sales of the two books differ as a result of one being in KU and one having wide distribution.

        • Russell Blake  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 6:35 pm

          That does sound interesting. I’d expect it to do better on Amazon, obviously, but I’d also predict after the first month that you wind up netting more from the one in wide distribution. That’s been the story from the authors I know.

  4. Darren Wearmouth
    Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Congratulations on your year, Russell. I always jab a finger toward the Atlantic when anyone asks me where my inspiration came from. I’m not sucking up more than that. I’ll have a tequila for you over Christmas πŸ™‚

    • Gerald  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 8:56 pm

      I really must try tequila one day. I did, once. Except I didn’t try it. I swam in it. Not good.

      • Russell Blake  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 10:48 pm

        It’s a bit akin to trying prison rape, I suppose.

        Tequila can be a harsh mistress. As all my Mexican friends say, you learn to “Respect the Tequila.” The devil’s urine, but diverting, that’s for sure…

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 10:19 pm

      Excellent behavior! And it seems like you’re selling a book or two, so perhaps have one for yourself as well!

  5. Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Excellent post, Russell. I’m relieved you weren’t talking about me since we haven’t chatted recently. However, a whole lot of folks don’t know me either yet, this biz is paying the bills. As fickle as it may be, it’s still the best job I’ve ever had to date.

    All the best in 2015. πŸ™‚

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 10:19 pm

      Tambien, my friend, tambien.

  6. Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Inspiring post! I’ve also noticed that successful authors are often the most helpful. I haven’t been killing it yet, but making strides. Much bigger percentage increases per year than at my old job. In fact, we never got increases. They cut our hours. Anyway, I don’t mind working a lot when it’s for me.

    It’s hard to believe 99% of the people haven’t heard of my favorite author. πŸ™‚

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 10:21 pm

      Hopefully next year I can narrow that to 98.5%. I mean, believe it or not, most of America doesn’t look to the front page of the Journal for its literary tips…

      • Steven Konkoly  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 7:07 am

        That .5% will put you in a position to buy a tequila factory…or wherever they make tequila.

    • Larry Bonner  –  Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 9:12 am

      Maybe you’re not killing it with all the big bucks that are referenced in this thread, but I read On The Inside, and trust me–you’re miles above everyone in this crowd in the quality department.

      • Kim Cano  –  Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 10:21 am

        Oh my goodness. That was kind of you to say, Larry.

        I haven’t read all the authors in this thread, but I’ve read all Russell’s books and think he’s the best. πŸ™‚

        • Larry Bonner  –  Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 11:42 am

          I stand by my assessment above.
          Have a happy holiday season…

      • Cj Lehi  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 1:30 pm

        And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a recommendation that gets people to buy your book. Which I’m about to do. Thank you Larry, and well done, Kim.

        • Kim Cano  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 4:08 pm

          Thanks CJ. Hope you enjoy it. πŸ™‚

  7. Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I love reading your blog posts almost as much as I love your books. Now I think I’ll go buy some more of your crap. Here’s to 2015, don’t bleed in the Tequila (something a Mexican friend of mine once said, mistranslating cry for bleed and of course I’ll never let him live that down).

  8. Wed 03rd Dec 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Inspiring stuff. Some of those old horror stories are hard to believe, and you wonder why or how anyone wrote at all. Today, anyone with the wit and will can be master of their own publications. The internet has ushered in a golden era of change, no matter what anyone else says.

  9. Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 2:28 am

    You’ve probably never heard of any of them, either

    Is anyone tracking this stuff, reviewing their work, or otherwise posting any information about these writers in a centralized location?

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 8:51 am

      I think Hugh’s AuthorEarnings tracks self-reported income as well as trends. That’s the only thing I know of. Reviewing their work? Nope. Posting about them in a centralized location? Nope.

  10. Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 8:26 am

    Russell, you are always an encouragement. Your words are not just for authors. At 47, I’ve learned long ago that hard work is the only way to get ahead. I’m in a facebook group as well, Christian Indie Authors. You’ve shared some time with us. These are the hardest working people I know. The best of them aren’t getting rich, but they’re making a living, which to most of us is the ultimate goal. I appreciate the time you take to post these blogs. Thanks, God bless, and I pray you have an outstanding 2015.

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 8:57 am

      Thanks. I think the interesting thing is that most I know aren’t getting rich, but they’re making nice livings, improving their circumstances, all doing something they love. Hard to imagine it getting much better than that.

  11. Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 10:17 am

    I bought your crap, then I will read your crap, and finally I will review your crap. I found out about your crap via your blog. Who says blogs don’t sell crap. Big fist bump on the shared information on writing, marketing, and publishing crap. Drink one for me, I have been banned from drinking because of the uncontrolled crying that follows.

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 6:07 pm

      Sounds like we share the same bartender. Hope you enjoy the crap!

  12. Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement and wise points. i went Indie 21/2 years ago and love it. Not making a killing yet, but I am learning and putting books and novella’s out. Working on number 8 and thinking about next year and what I need to do. The word the Lord has given me for next year is consistent which goes with your first point. Thanks again

  13. Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 4:55 pm

    So happy for you, Russell. I always envied your opportunity to write all day while I had to fit it in between the day job and bringing up twin girls.

    That changed this month when I decided to give full time writing a go. Rather than one book a year, I’m hoping for at least 4, and hopefully more.

    I’m sure 2015 will be the year EVERYONE knows who you are πŸ™‚

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 6:08 pm

      I have a story about “bringing up twin girls,” but I’m afraid it’s not suitable for public consumption.

      Congratulations on going full time!

  14. Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I’m fine with being one of the lower-end unknowns who’s happily putting a roof on the house, buying a new car, funding the depleted retirement account and working madly at the best job ever on the planet!
    As always you’re one of my heroes Russell.
    Toby Neal

    • Toby Neal  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 6:07 pm

      PS I sent this in to The Passive Guy. Hope he lists it on his mega-blog…

  15. Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Do you think this “publish a lot as fast as you can” and make a decent living thing would work *nowadays* for a genre like humor or parody, or author-biographical snarky memoir stuff, where it’s non-fic or more … personality-driven? I blog goofy author interviews etc, and seven people say it’s a hoot, so I want to try self pubbing that sort of stuff. Just wondering if the “making a living” genres are limited pretty much to romance or thrillers etc. Who knows, right? Congrats though!!!

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 8:46 pm

      I would say, publish as often as you can while maintaining high quality, not publish a lot as fast as you can.

      Beats me whether humor or parody could support you, but my hunch is, not. It’s a tough sell even if you’re hilarious, which few actually are.

      • Sheri Savill  –  Sun 07th Dec 2014 at 9:55 pm

        Thanks Russell, for the kind reply. I’m just crazy enough to do as you say … “publish as often as you can while maintaining high quality.” As for money, I’d be happy to make enough to cover expenses (covers, editing, etc.) and I just love people telling me they laughed or leaving “LMAO” comments on my blog posts (lately I’m doing a series of waaaay outside-the-box author “interrogations” aka interviews). I’m told that humor (or personal memoir/essay/snark) is probably THE toughest market. What a blast if I can make it happen, even a little, eh? I do love proving people wrong.

  16. Thu 04th Dec 2014 at 8:52 pm

    “First, they publish regularly. As in once every few months, and in some cases, once every month. Second, they work in genres that will support them… Third, they all work long hours and take this extremely seriously. Fourth, they operate their publishing businesses like businesses, not like hobbies… Fifth, they write books readers enjoy reading, as opposed to books their muse dictates they write.”

    This is all it takes. It’s so simple that it’s hard to grasp.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 9:36 am

      Well, in all fairness, it also helps if you have some chops and a modicum of talent, but it’s not obligatory.

      • Michael Coorlim  –  Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 9:37 pm

        I don’t disagree with you, but I’d rank drive and a professional attitude well above talent. I had the latter for years, but it was only when I developed the former that I was able to find any success.

        • Russell Blake  –  Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 10:46 pm

          Talent without application is called wasted potential. Seems like many writers don’t get that part. But they do eventually, or they fade away.

  17. Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 10:16 am

    “He/she will earn close to two million dollars this year.” – Wow! Surely some form of Indie Black Magic is in action:-)

  18. cinisajoy
    Fri 05th Dec 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I’m sorry. I will scream your name louder in 2015. Now who’s name should I scream? Or how many names? I just want to say thank you to the authors that have posted here or were otherwise named/not named here for writing good books. This reader appreciates it.

  19. Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 1:10 am

    I’m one of the “lucky” ones. I started this trip in late January and have since published six books. Since the second month this gift has supported me, my wife, and our dogs and guinea pigs. It gets better each month. Now I’m embarking on writing my most ambitious book yet and love the challenge and opportunity to learn new stuff as I’m in the research phase. This is definitely the best job on the planet. “Lucky” us.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 10:03 am

      That’s awesome!

      • John Ellsworth  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 11:15 am

        Well, you were actually the inspiration. I read your post How to Sell a Gazillion Books and you inspired me. So I decided I too could publish every couple of months–and did. So here’s one person your post set free. And I am so grateful for that! Thanks again.

  20. L.L. Akers
    Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 3:24 am

    You were one of the first writers that inspired me to write after lurking at the place you don’t hang out anymore. I miss you there. As many do. And without even knowing me, you answered a pm (several) about a personal issue. That kindness will never be forgotten. Peeps that don’t ‘know’ you might think you have a hard front, but you truly are a super nice guy with a huge heart. ????

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 10:03 am

      Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

  21. L.L. Akers
    Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 3:25 am

    That ???? Was S’posed to be a heart. FacePalm.

  22. dragon
    Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 5:24 am

    Wow this is great πŸ™‚ Do you guys think fantasy is profitable to write about? I am just getting done with my first fantasy story. It is about dragons and wizards πŸ™‚ I am writing a long series on it and building a mailing list.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 10:04 am

      Could be. One never knows until one tries. I hear a little book called Harry Potter did okay, as did Game of Thrones…

  23. Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 7:50 am

    I drank in every word of this post and it’s comments, it’s so encouraging. I’m close to giving up the ‘day job’ as my books are selling regularly and with the extra time I could easily double my output. I’m quite new to this as I only started writing novels two years ago. What you say about writing in popular genres is so true. My second book (Historical Romance) just took off and is the one that made me the most money, the sequel is just out now and looking to go the same way. I treat my writing as a business and set deadlines for my book releases, which helps me to be more disciplined. It’s hard work and if you don’t love it, you won’t stick with it, like any chosen career, I suppose. I wish you and your books all the very best, Russell, for 2015 and thanks again for blazing a trail for the rest of us.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 10:05 am

      Glad to hear it. Sounds like you’ve got it nailed. Hope you have a great 2015 as well!

  24. Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 8:58 am


    I’m currently reading “Write. Publish. Repeat” by Sean Platt and Johnny Truant. One thing that they harp on is to move away from “digital sharecropping.” Meaning an indie author shouldn’t totally rely on Amazon, Kobo and others for their income. By driving sales through their own platforms, they say, their entire harvest isn’t in someone else’s fields.

    I wondered what your thoughts on that are and if you have or are planning on moving in that direction?

    Thank you

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 10:02 am

      In theory it’s fine, but in practice, far harder. What they term digital sharecropping, I view as having multiple distribution channels. If you can sell from your site directly, deal with sales tax and VAT, and convince readers to buy their books differently than they currently do, super, I salute you. But that’s a lot of heavy lifting. I’d prefer to be in every channel instead, and possibly farm out having direct sales from my site. There are only so many hours in a day, and the question is, is my time better spent writing, or trying to administer all that for 35+ books?

  25. Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Distribution through your own platform must now deal with VAT in the EU.

    BTW, RB, why the secrecy with the names of the authors highlighted in your post? Who are they? I want to read more books by successful writers.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Their income is their business to share, not mine. If they want to write blogs saying “I’m making millions now,” then you’ll know who they are. If not, then you won’t. It’s a confidence I guard jealously, as if I shared it, there’s a lot I wouldn’t be told anymore.

  26. Sat 06th Dec 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Well I’m trying to get there despite the obstacles…..oddly, since KU, I haven’t done too badly. My latest book, not part of my regular series of which only two books are out, seems to have sparked a lot of interest, which has resulted in residual sales of my other books. Not huge numbers, but steady numbers. This year my goal was to earn $200 in royalties; I will actually earn closer to $300 by the time the year ends. My previous best year for royalties was $100 in 2011, so we’re going in the right direction. I’m building a stockpile of new manuscripts while I save for custom covers, so I’ll be releasing once-a-month by the middle of 2015. Hopefully that will make 2015 my new “best year”.

  27. Sun 07th Dec 2014 at 8:22 am

    Inspiring blog. Thanks, Russell. I wouldn’t qualify for membership of your exclusive club. My WW2 thrillers are doing okay, but I think the genre has limited appeal. It takes me about a year to get each book out, what with editor’s input and inevitable rewrites. I’d love to up my game, but I’m probably too old now! Tell us how you got to work with Clive Cussler. JJ

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 07th Dec 2014 at 10:06 am

      I contacted Clive’s agent. Sent him samples. Sent him more. Once they’d read five or six of my tomes, I was invited to meet. The rest is history.

  28. Dana
    Sun 07th Dec 2014 at 9:52 am

    I thought I’d give you my reaction as I believe I am the type of writer you hope to inspire with your blog posts. And may I say that I really appreciate all you do for other authors, and the time you take to keep this blog going when you could so easily let it go.

    When I first read this entry, I was motivated and inspired as I always am when I read your stuff. “I’m going to do everything this says, and more, and my books will sell!” Then I read it again today and while still inspired, I thought, “Wait a minute, you’ve already done most of this and it doesn’t work.”

    It seems to me that what’s missing is the promotion and publicity aspects, the part of the writing game that I hate. I have writing friends whose Twitter feeds are a constant stream of “buy my book” tweets, a practice I abhor and cannot do. I believe you are saying, write great books, write a lot of them, be professional in all you do and they will sell eventually. Forgive me for the oversimplification – I know there’s more in your advice than that. I have seen you and John Locke write about what not to do to promote, but really, what is “the secret” now?

    Now, because as you point out, Amazon has changed the rules. The Zon used to be my friend, helping me sell my books, helping promote, sending out emails on behalf of my books. Now? As far as I can tell, they do nothing except take my royalties.

    So, what does one do now if you are not Russell Blake or one of your successful friends? Write a blog? Blog tours? Pay a publicist? Get an agent? If you were starting out today, would you do it differently? Or exactly the same?

    Mr. Blake, thank you again for taking the time to share your experiences and insight with others. And continued good luck with your writing.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 07th Dec 2014 at 10:22 am

      The problem is you are asking, “What formula do I follow to be an exception?” It doesn’t work that way. It turns out Locke’s secret was buying hundreds of reviews when that mattered a lot. His counsel is worse than useless, as far as I can tell, and was when it came out. I don’t know a single author who is making any kind of serious money who followed it.

      The obvious you’ll pick up within an hour of web surfing is create a website, engage on social media (FB, Twitter), blog if you have something to say. Does any of that sell books? Questionable. Very questionable.

      The only marketing I do other than interacting with readers on Facebook is Bookbub and an occasional ad to verify the other pubs do little or nothing. I used to tweet a lot, but now I don’t, because that seems to do nothing anymore. I wish there were a magic bullet. I know of none.

      If I were starting today, I would stick to one genre, get four books out in a series as quickly as I could while maintaining quality, make the first one perma-free, and avail myself of all the sites that list free books. I wouldn’t write the stand-alones I did. I wouldn’t genre jump. That’s about it. I had no agent. Publicists are a waste of time (I had a top one tell me for ten grand a month she couldn’t really guarantee anything. I decided to do it myself instead, and three months later was on the front page of the WSJ. Enough said.).

      I’m truly sorry, but I know of no mechanism to narrow the odds other than writing books readers find worthy of their patronage, and writing a lot of em. Would that it were different…

      • Heidi Kneale (Her Grace)  –  Mon 08th Dec 2014 at 1:20 am

        I, and a whole lotta others, would be interested in your marketing plan.

        I’m a traditionally published author (with small press) who’s thinking of going hybrid. I know indie authors who are doing well.

        I’m not a marketing genius, but wish I was. I’m doing a crash course through the SoHK (School of Hard Knocks).

        Writing an excellent book is one of the best forms of marketing, as it word of mouth. However, one must get the book into readers’ hands before this comes to fruition.

        How much of your success could you attribute to your marketing plan (as opposed to having really good product)? Has your plan changed much since the beginning?

  29. Dana
    Sun 07th Dec 2014 at 11:06 am

    Thanks for the reply, and so fast too! You and Diana Gabaldon amaze me with your ability to accomplish so much in a day and so quickly. Maybe it’s the southern climate.

    The second last paragraph of your response is of great interest to me, so thank you. It is often useful to know what NOT to do, just as much as what works.

    This is what I know for certain: Twitter and Facebook don’t help at all and , in fact, hurt, because they suck up one’s time. Google ads are a waste of money. I don’t even think a website is all that valuable. Blogs, blog tours, blog interviews, free promotions don’t matter much at all. Reviews? I’m not sure they make much difference.

    Gotta get known, as a good or interesting or different writer. I wonder how Stieg Larsson did it? You can write the books buy how to get them read?

    BTW, do you have an opinion on Smashwords? Does your guy use that to distribute to the other platforms?

    Anyway, thanks again for taking the time.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 07th Dec 2014 at 2:56 pm

      I do use Smashwords, and am shifting some titles over to D2D. Saves me time. With 35+ titles, I can’t spend hours uploading directly, so the tradeoff on money is made up in time saved.

      I do think that interacting with fans on FB is valuable, but most of the rest of it is busywork mostly designed to make authors feel as though they’re doing something to help their careers, when in fact they’re just spinning their wheels.

      There is no substitute for writing a lot of good books. That’s my primary focus, and I’d guess I now spend 10% of my time on promotions and marketing and none-writing stuff like this blog. Hope that helps.

    • Ken  –  Mon 08th Dec 2014 at 9:28 am

      “I wonder how Stieg Larsson did it?”

      Think he did it by dying. I don’t recommend that route.

      Also, what’s D2D? And with your foreign translations, was that for digital only or did you go with someone who did paper editions?

      • Dana  –  Mon 08th Dec 2014 at 9:41 am

        I can answer the D2D part for Russell because I was stumped too so I looked it up. It’s Draft2Digital dot com, an alternative to Smashwords, and it looks appealing – as in simple. SW drives me crazy with its slowness and complexity.

      • steven Konkoly  –  Mon 08th Dec 2014 at 10:34 am

        D2D is unbelievably easy, with a crazy simple interface. Highly recommended.

        • Dana  –  Mon 08th Dec 2014 at 10:49 am

          Mr. K., they take a bit more commission, though, isn’t that right? Well worth it, I guess, if it’s easier.

          • steven Konkoly  –  Mon 08th Dec 2014 at 10:53 am

            Yes. They take a 10% cut…but their system is so easy, I almost feel like I owe them money. Then again, I just took a series into wider distribution…I might feel differently if I were raking in cash. Russell makes a great point (as always) about the hassle factor. With his bevy of titles, he could spend the better part of a day working on this.

  30. Mon 08th Dec 2014 at 1:44 am


  31. Mon 08th Dec 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks for all the indie advice. It was a fun 2014. Glad to hear you’ll be writing like mad in 2015. I think I’ll go buy some of your crap πŸ™‚

  32. Zee
    Tue 09th Dec 2014 at 4:09 pm

    I came across this blog from The Book Designer.

    I’m glad I did. Thanks for confirming my (cautious) optimism, Russell – that it’s not just possible, but likely to at least earn a decent part-time wage if we keep writing, and run our work like a business. Because it is.

    And, if you’ve got luck on your side as well, you could actually do fairly well.

    Onwards and upwards πŸ™‚

    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 09th Dec 2014 at 7:20 pm

      Of course it depends on whether you write well enough to engage readers, and in a genre that’s large enough to have sufficient readers to support your efforts. But the odds have never been better, and yes, if luck’s on your side…

      Best of luck. Glad the post helped.

  33. Sat 13th Dec 2014 at 10:08 am

    You are right, Russell – I never heard of you. I totally agree about the regularity of publication and the type of genre one chooses. I am curious about series too. What’s your opinion – are series selling more than non series? I found out one can write series without the same plot and characters, just the same theme. What do you think about it?

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 13th Dec 2014 at 10:29 am

      Series are the only way to go, and yes, you can write books with the same characters, making them episodic, and not necessarily tied to the same story. Works well.

      • Antara Man  –  Sat 13th Dec 2014 at 1:55 pm

        Are you sure, series are really the only way? I think one should experiment and diversify. For example, I listened to Hugh Howey on James Altucher’s podcast and Hugh said he didn’t publish in series, he wrote new books. After Wool took off, he continued the saga. No doubt, if the first one in a serie is interesting, it will bring some of its readers to buy the next one. One thing I dislike about series is the repetition of the plot/idea – it’s purely a commercial strategy.

        • Russell Blake  –  Sat 13th Dec 2014 at 2:06 pm

          I’ve done a podcast with Hugh, and like him very much. He’s the first to admit he has no real idea why he hit huge, and we agree that luck is involved in every equation to some degree or another. I can tell you that if your business plan is essentially, “Be Hugh Howie,” you may find it a difficult road. I can also tell you that of the dozens of authors I know who are making serious money, every single one is doing so with multiple series. Do what you will with that information. It’s your career.

      • Heidi Kneale (Her Grace)  –  Sun 14th Dec 2014 at 7:52 pm

        Do you prefer purely episodic, or do you combine standalone episodes and an uberplot?

        I write Romance, and episodic might not be the best structure for my stories. However, from a marketing point of view, I can see the value of episodes, as they have a resolution at the end of one book. Such a resolution gives the reader satisfaction.

        Am thinking, make the non-romantic storylines episodic, but make the main love story the uberplot, only fully resolved at the end of the series.

        P.S.: curse you for making me consider going hybrid!

        • Russell Blake  –  Sun 14th Dec 2014 at 10:35 pm

          In romance, I would go episodic. In sci fi, perhaps with an overarching plot. In thrillers, my bestseller is the JET series, which is really sort of a set of novel serials, a la The Bourne Trilogy.

          There are no set answers. Look at Harry Potter. Or the Girl W Dragon Tattoo series. Or for that matter, Dan Brown’s stuff. Episodic, for the most part. If I were a betting man, that’s what I’d bet on.

  34. Sat 13th Dec 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Can you provide please the link/page with Hugh Howey’s podcast?
    I don’t intend to follow his path, actually I intend to try series as well. I just wonder how one can write in series without the same characters. I also notice some series’ second books don’t take off. However, I’ll have personal experience in one year time

  35. Sun 14th Dec 2014 at 7:05 pm


    Thanks for writing this. It, and the comments, are both motivating and enlightening. My ‘long term’ goal is to write enough to help support my retirement through the hobby that I love.

    Thanks, and Merry Christmas!



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