24 January 2015 by Published in: Uncategorized 22 comments

It was about the end of January, 2011, when I first started seriously contemplating self-publishing.

It took another five months to get my ass in gear, set up the infrastructure to do so (find a cover artist, create a website, interview editors, create a Facebook and Twitter presence, decide what to even write about as my preferred genre), and then produce the first book, which I released in early June – Fatal Exchange, which still reads well, I think, if a bit grittier than my later work.

My, how the landscape has changed since those heady times. Gone are the stories of overnight sensation authors and two million dollar deals, of coming out of nowhere and being discovered at the drugstore, only to have one’s name in lights days later.

Gone too are the easy money promotional aids Amazon seemingly handed out like Viagra at a porn shoot, that could make virtually any book a 10K seller after a free run.

It’s a different world now. A tougher, more challenging world. Many of those who were giddy with success four years ago aren’t doing much anymore – they got accustomed to the crack hit of Select and its resultant high, and never moved beyond it, only to watch their work fade into obscurity once the promotional visibility dried up.

Indie authors now have to contend with services like Kindle Unlimited, with traditional publishers pricing down in the weeds, with a glut of content and a dearth of effective promotional tools. The brave new world we face is one whose promise of endless bounty has been replaced by sobering reality: selling books is frigging hard even in the best of times, and these are no longer the best of times for indies.

My solution is to continue doing what I’ve been doing for 42 months: coming up with what I think are compelling story ideas, and writing them, aiming for a release every couple of months, if not more often, so I’m not forgotten by the time the next one comes down the chute.

It would be super-duper awesome to have one of my series picked up for a movie, be handed F-you money for the privilege, and then sell gazillions of copies when my creation makes it to the big screen.

That happens about once a year. With Hugh Howey. Now with Blake Crouch. Good for them. I wish for nothing more than to be them, only richer and thinner. But that’s a wish, not a plan. And for the other million or so folks toiling away at this, pushing publish every eighth of a second (I totally made that up, but it could be right), it’s not likely.

I have no answers. My purpose in writing this blog is to articulate my approach, offer my thoughts and moody deliberations, and of course, berate my tasteless critics, who can all die whilst suffering horribly. My approach has worked for a number of other authors who are enjoying more success than ever before. It does not mean it’s a surefire winner for everyone, or for most. It simply is one way that seems to work for those who really apply themselves and follow all the guidance in my “How To Sell Loads Of Books” blog (not only a few of the points they like, while ignoring the rest).

This year I have a more relaxed publication schedule. I’ll put out a new JET – Ops Files novel in March, a new Assassin in May, a new JET in June. Second half of the year is a bit murkier. Perhaps a BLACK. Probably one more Ops Files, with another JET for Xmas. Somewhere in there I also have a modern treasure hunt series of which I’ve written the first installment and plan on writing more of, as well as two plot ideas for conspiracy novels tentatively outlined, likely also in a new series – and the conspiracies are stunners. And should that not keep me busy, I have the sequel to Fatal Exchange outlined and wating, and a dystopian trilogy I’m sort of toying with.

In other words, there aren’t enough hours. But the days have significance, are enjoyable, and there seems to be a point to waking up every morning. I’m delighted that I’m earning my keep writing, and hope to continue doing so for some time to come. But resting on my laurels ain’t how I roll, so got to keep mining the writing vein or it might peter out, leaving me with only tequila, meaningless flings with tipsy tourist women off the cruise ships, dancing in a sequin man thong as featured soloist in the Jalapeno Heat all male burlesque review, and dodging creditors and exes as the primary way of frittering away the time.

I think we can all agree that writing is preferable, although don’t you dare judge me. Until you’ve walked a mile in my thong you don’t know what it’s like, and I’m not just talking about cheap synthetics chafing delicate skin.

So buy my crap so the world’s spared that final indignity. If not for me, do it for U.S./Mexican relations. The Mexican people really don’t deserve any further stains on their reputation.

That’s all I have. Except for the idea that my fine work makes a wonderful gift for birthdays, funerals, circumcisions, V-day, or really any occasion where you want to appear to give a rat’s ass. So buy early and often.




  1. Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Glad you’re thinking of doing another Black book this year.

    “Until you’ve walked a mile in my thong, you don’t know what it’s like.” – That’s hysterical. πŸ™‚

  2. Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 4:31 pm

    This was one of the more enjoyable Russell-Blake-Blog-Posts. Particularly loved “Until you’ve walked a mile in my thong” — hah. Interesting, informative, fun.

  3. Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I feel somewhat privileged as Russell has been sending me his thong every year when he buys a new one and the great thing is, he has it dry-cleaned before shipping. πŸ™‚

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 6:58 pm

      So you believe, Claude, so you believe…

  4. Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Ummm, I ain’t watchin’ anyone, not even you, dance in a man-thong. Sorry babe.
    But you are discovered. Maybe not Hollywood discovered and maybe that’s okay. You are definitely discovered, and as Rainman would say– a good driver, definitely a good driver…
    Your books do make great gifts for any brit milah! Always a hit!
    Yeah, new world. Everyday is a new world. Some of us plan to stick with it. Because this is what we do.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 6:58 pm

      You have no idea what you’re missing.

  5. Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 6:19 pm

    I don’t agree that it was ever easy or a gravy train in the last four years. You and I started around the same time. I had my first book out Dec. 2011, but unlike you I was still beating the trad pub dead horse, and delayed release of my next 3 books by a critical 6 months while my agent still tried to get a deal. But, it allowed me to edit the books better and build a solid social media author platform, which has been the basis of my slower, steady growth ever since.
    I have worked as hard as I can, putting out books every 3-4 months since, the best I can manage in terms of my quality of life and health. Just this morning I was thinking of you and Melissa Foster, two people whose success and work ethic I admire–and I was sipping my tea, and watching the java finches on the feeder and letting my mind wander over the many plot threads of my latest new mystery which, once AGAIN I’m going to delay releasing myself in hopes my agent can sell it… Wondering if I’m making another mistake, still trying to Have it All and a big trad pub deal too… and I just thought that, if I can’t keep up this pace, it’s okay. It’s still been amazing, and better than my wildest dreams. But for me, I don’t want to spend my every waking moment on this new hamster wheel. I want to really live, and that has to enrich the narrative too. For me, it’s been a steady growth as an author that you can watch by the numbers of titles I have out, and it was never a gravy train that has now pulled out of the station. It’s now about grabbing those readers that love my work through my email list, so no matter what happens in the marketplace, I can communicate with them. That’s my top marketing priority this year–building the email list.
    Just another perspective…Back to my tea and birdwatching. I may use it for a a scene, after all. πŸ™‚
    Aloha Toby Neal

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 6:58 pm

      Well, I recall back around Feb or 2012 it seemed like any indie who could manage a free run could sell thousands of books in the days after, which was actually the case. I remember it well. Every ten days I’d run another Select freebie special and watch as I sold thousands, and in some cases, tens of thousands, of books, solely due to that visibility. Bookbub is a pale shadow of those days.

      Production speed varies by individual, and by genre, as well as by personality type. An OCD author writing romance might be able to knock out a book in ten days. I know several who can do that regularly. I can’t. Action thrillers take me longer, as in couple to three weeks of ten to twelve hour writing days. 150-200 hours for first draft, 100 or so for second (the hardest for me), and say 50-75 for third. Outlining typically takes me anywhere from a few days to a week or so, depending on the complexity of the concept. But I put in very long hours at every stage, so it compresses the apparent time it takes, because I’m putting in seriously focused hours and lots of them.

      That’s not for everyone. I have buddies who write code, and that’s how some of them work, too. They simply can’t write it as well if they don’t completely immerse themselves in it. Others can’t do that – they’re wired differently. They need time away from the screen to recalibrate. I believe that might be genetic, or at least weirdly environmental. I’ve always been like that – when I was designing custom homes, same thing. Producing music, same thing. Probably highly dysfunctional. But, as Popeye said, Iyam wut Iyam.

      When we make choices, like holding titles during a crucial period when it was way easier to build an audience quickly due to Amazon algo magic, there’s of course a cost to doing so. That’s spilt milk. My experience has been that getting a trad deal you wouldn’t fall down laughing at has never been harder, and your odds of scoring it are much better as a successful indie than shopping the trad route. Witness Blake Crouch – his fat money deals are happening because of the sales momentum he built as an indie, and then as a T&M author, but mostly because Hollywood stepped in with a checkbook. The lesson? It’s only once you go mega big (or are about to get the kind of exposure only Hollywood will give you) that they want you, because at that point it’s as close to a sure thing as they get.

      I think as long as you focus on what works best for you, and the reader, the rest is sound and fury. Whether you do or don’t land the fat trad deal won’t matter. You’ll make plenty of money, get to be your own boss, and make readers happy while doing things on your own terms. How does that suck?

      I don’t view it as a hamster wheel. I view it as getting to pursue my dream as many hours a day as I possibly can. Perhaps if I viewed it as a treadmill (even though I am in fact standing on a treadmill as I write this) it would be harder for me to manage. Dunno. But when I’m not writing I’m getting into trouble, or at the very least, contemplating what to write next, so I’ve been bitten by the bug. When it stops being that enjoyable, I’ll do something else.

      But as a good friend of mine who has done well with the trad game said to me a while ago when I asked why he/she still put in the hours he/she did, the answer was simple: “It’s what I do.”

      Much of life is spent trying to figure out what it is you do. God knows I spent about five decades figuring it out. Now that I have, I feel like it’s time to make up for lost time. So I don’t begrudge the investment required.

      For now, that’s my answer as well. “It’s what I do.” I’d probably also add, “What the hell else would I do?” But that’s just me…

      • Toby Neal  –  Sun 25th Jan 2015 at 1:40 am

        I agree.
        Me and the hubby are considering shedding everything and adopting a totally mobile lifestyle, and today I realized that might be too stimulating, I might not be able to concentrate enough to get immersed…and immersion in those imaginary worlds has become totally necessary to me now. Like you in that way, the writing life has taken on its own habitual grace and necessity and I MUST be writing, and cant imagine not having some new WIP… You continue to challenge and inspire me and I thank you for sharing your compulsivity. It’s kicked up my game as I’ve said before and so have others. I found a new cover and format team that keep up with me better, and I’m shooting for releases in mystery, YA or romance every 2 months now… so I can take a road trip to Alaska this summer and do nothing but write rapturous literary travel blogs and take gorgeous photos. My idea of vacation!
        Thanks for your generous reply. I turned 50 last week and I’ve never been so vitally alive in my whole life. πŸ™‚
        T πŸ™‚

        • Russell Blake  –  Sun 25th Jan 2015 at 2:11 am

          The real problem, if there is one, with this, is it’s an entirely selfish pursuit, in that it doesn’t invite others, except for the reader after the fact, into the process. For me, anything besides the page is a distraction, and I find myself when in a novel viewing those annoying periods involving eating and sleeping as unwelcome interruptions in what’s otherwise a seamless process. A trance state, if you will, where once you’re in the zone, time stands still, even as it rushes by. So one decides whether to sacrifice that for the periods in between, or the periods in between for that. I have no perspective so can’t offer guidance, only experience. So far it’s been totally worth it from a self-actualization standpoint. But I also recognize that climbing inside your own head and living there isn’t a substitute for life. Fortunately I’ve done enough living where I can afford a time out without feeling like I got the short end.

          Everyone’s different. There’s no empirically right answer, just the right one for you, right now. I can tell you that having been living out of a suitcase for the last four months is disruptive to my flow, but not as much as I feared. So there’s that…

          • Toby Neal  –  Sun 25th Jan 2015 at 3:28 am

            So that answers my next question, which was…are you “home” yet? and how goes the traveling lifestyle? I really want to know.Maybe you could update us with a post hurricane update blog? My friend Emily Kimelman (also successful in mysteries) and her husband have no fixed address and she writes anywhere and everywhere, is coming to visit me in Maui and we’re talking co-projects. I’m in love with the idea but actually find traveling pretty disruptive to that addictive flow state, and it’s not just an avocation it’s a vocation, this storymaking life.
            Everything else has to come around that.
            And for that reason, I don’t believe your tequila myth. Booze impairs performance.
            Red Bull, now…that’s another matter.

          • Russell Blake  –  Sun 25th Jan 2015 at 1:53 pm

            Traveling is, well, hard, but by the same token, I’m used to it, so not that terrible.

            Order has been restored to Los Cabos, however the infrastructure is still frayed, and repairs on my home there continue.

            Don’t underestimate the power of tequila. It’s a kind of miracle. Wink.

      • gabby  –  Mon 26th Jan 2015 at 12:01 pm

        I’m still a new reader of the blog and I must say, inspiring words as always!

        ” I view it as getting to pursue my dream as many hours a day as I possibly can. “

  6. gabby
    Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I vote dystopian trilogy- that would be awesome πŸ™‚

  7. Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Oh and I’m happy to see some signs of enjoying life more. In your thong and all. πŸ™‚

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 7:04 pm

      I’m not sure my organs can handle any more enjoyment of life than I have already subjected them to.

      • Toby Neal  –  Sun 25th Jan 2015 at 1:52 am

        The mind boggles. And it takes a lot to boggle my mind. πŸ™‚

  8. Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks for the laughs. I wish I could have been there in the early days, but I was noble and published wide. Ugh. Keep rockin’ fella.

  9. rebecca
    Sat 24th Jan 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Another BLACK??!!!! YES!!! Please, please, please!!!!

  10. James Patterson's Toupee
    Sun 25th Jan 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Which of your books do you recommend for circumcision gifts? The ones that are half off?

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 25th Jan 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Don’t lose that sense of wonder. It’s precious.

  11. cinisajoy
    Sun 25th Jan 2015 at 8:14 pm

    I was hoping you were good as a Mother’s Day present.


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