16 May 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 46 comments

You know, as surprising as this may seem, I have my pet peeves.

Yes, even a figure of Gandhian tolerance and understanding like myself, a shining example to children and recidivists alike, sometimes gets annoyed with stupid shit.

This time, it’s with asinine author marketing.

NEWS: A new interview with Tim Knox at Interviewing Authors. Worth a listen.

What do I mean? Well, I actually bothered to look at a bunch of my spam folder emails, and there are countless Goodreads book launches, .99 sales, and free book announcements. When I go to those authors’ Facebook pages, every post is a pitch for their books. Ditto their tweets.

Does anyone really believe that plastering the equivalent of “buy my book” all over the internet does anything but make you look like a desperate douche? I mean, really? Is it not obvious that 99.999% of the planet is resistant to hucksters trying to sell them crap, and thus if your communication stream is an unending series of advertisements for your book, you look not only clueless, but like the type of self-involved twat who tries to convert every statement or discussion into a pitch for their shitty screed? In other words, like exactly the type most want to avoid at all costs?

Guess what. Trad pub releases something like 300K books a year. Indies easily release double that. Which makes the fact that you wrote a book about as rare as people who have bought a cup of Starbucks coffee at some point in their lives. Contrary to what you might think, the fact that you were able to tap out a few thoughts, slap your slow cousin’s drawing from the refrigerator on it and figure out how to upload it to Amazon, does not make you interesting, and nobody’s going to buy your book if all you can manage for creativity is “5 Stars! Beaver Team Bravo a critic’s fave!” or “Now only .99 – Billionaire Werewolf Bondage!!!” as your communication strategy.

I believe that the only way social media works is if you interact with people. I was asked during an interview today what my social media mix is, and I said about 95% interaction, 5% alerting folks to sales or new releases. Why? Because I don’t believe anyone buys books because some blowhard tweeted in his stream about his own work (if others genuinely like a book and are recommending it, that’s different), or because they saw it on someone’s author blog, or because there’s a Facebook page dedicated to aphorisms about the author’s books, written by, you guessed it, the author. I especially hate the silliness wherein authors tweet a sentence from their own book with the wonder reserved for new parents posting photos of their ugly brat. Get. Over. It. Nobody cares.

Being a self-published author is about as rare as liars in Congress. Every third person has now published their memoir, or the WIP they had in a drawer for 15 years, or a collection of their thoughts on aging, or parenting, or breathing. There is ZERO barrier to being an author. If you can fall against the keyboard and claw out a few lines of sub-custodial drivel, presto, you’re an author. So it’s not fascinating to anyone but you. Honest. It takes more.

If you want to sell books using social media, here’s my suggestion: develop an interesting personality, blog, tweet and Facebook about things that genuinely interest you (that don’t involve you trying to sell someone your stupid book), and maybe, just maybe, if you demonstrate that you can write, are relevant, and have interesting things to say, some folks might think, “hey, maybe I should check out one of his/her books – they might not completely suck, like most of the rest of the dross clogging the drain these days!”

BTW, being as my interests run to writing, publishing, animals, and boozing, that’s what I blog and Facebook about. Actually, I don’t write about boozing, because it’s kind of like telling your mates about your night with a hot chick you met in a bar – they don’t care, and it’s really only interesting to you. So that leaves pets, publishing, and writing.

I’m pretty sure that few or no books have been sold as a result of my blogging. Mostly I’ve pissed off authors who want to believe that if you only slap a big sticker that says clueless sycophant on your forehead and follow some completely bogus three year old How To book’s misleading guidance, you’ll sell a bunch. No you won’t. I know exactly ZERO authors who have sold even reasonably well following the best known example of the How To ilk’s spurious advice. I said three years ago when I started, that if anyone could point to authors who have hit by writing heartfelt blogs about celebrities or declaring themselves to be, Joe Blow, Author, or any of the rest of the stupidity being advocated like penny stocks in a boiler room, I’d eat my bandana. So far, bandana’s intact.

If you’re an author, here’s your newsflash: everyone is lying to you so you’ll spend money on their course, book or whatnot. Exactly none of the How To books or guides I’ve seen will help you sell books. At best they encourage some harmless practices that amount to positive thinking mantras or advice that’s about as useful as, “pray.” At worst they fill your day with tripe, with meaningless activity and silliness, to make you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile. They are as false a god as if I scraped together a bundle of sticks and mud, formed a cow head out of it, and declared it to be Basamor, the creator of the known universe. They demean you because they assume you’re an idiot, and their authors should be hunted down and driven from the land on a rail. There should be a zero tolerance in the community for people who mislead in order to separate you from your money, especially peddling silliness that’s as realistic as a guide to unicorn hunting or a list of honest bankers and politicians.

I’ve told you everything I know about publishing, for free. I haven’t told you to manipulate people or view them as rubes or marks, I haven’t advised you to treat your potential readership as cretins, or any of the other mumpsimus that passes for wisdom. I’ve counseled you to improve your craft, spend much of your time writing or reading decent books, to write out of love rather than because you think you’ll make a dime at it, to package and polish your work professionally, to publish regularly, to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about your abilities and the quality of your work, and to hold your audience in the highest possible regard (unless you’re targeting idiots, in which case, never mind that last bit). I recognize that’s a kind of blasphemy to those who are looking for the yellow brick road to publishing success, but it’s the truth. Anything else is obliquity. Silliness. And a complete waste of your time.

I was also asked about my writing and rewrite process, so I’ll share my rewrite approach in a few words, because it should be yours, too: Assume everything you wrote is complete garbage, be extremely suspicious of every word, every sentence, every thought, simile, trope, observation, idea, and make it your mission to fix it. If it seems okay to you it’s because you’re either lazy, ignorant, or delusional. No it isn’t. Do the work, make it good, and if you think it is, learn more, come back, and you’ll see it ain’t by a long shot.

That’s my rewrite process in a nutshell. It’s not forgiving, but it does cut down on the output of complete crap (my work notwithstanding – do as I say, and all). It isn’t designed to make you feel good about yourself, or self-actualized, or talented or special. It’s designed to ensure you create readable prose your audience might actually like, and which might have a chance.

No charge. Although I’m pretty sure if I put this into a How To book nobody would want to buy it, so it’s worth what you paid for it.

There. I got that off my chest. Mr. Buzz Kill hard at work. Now back to the WIP, which is what you should be doing, too, instead of wasting your time with stupid blogs.




  1. Fri 16th May 2014 at 4:36 pm

    I share mostly animal links and petitions, which annoyed almost everyone I know, so now I mostly share other books I like on sale, or if I get a particularly nice review from a blogger I’ll post it. That’s about it for FB.

  2. Fri 16th May 2014 at 5:01 pm

    This was the perfect cap to a great writing week…not that I stop writing on Fridays. Time for a margarita and a thirty minute Twitter session jamming as many links to my 5 star reviews as possible.

  3. Fri 16th May 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Don’t hold back; tell us how you really feel!

    A refreshing bit of honesty on a Friday afternoon.

  4. Fri 16th May 2014 at 5:48 pm

    I know what got me to buy try your first book was chatting with you about Mexico, tequila, and girls. Wow that was over 2 years ago and I still recall those gist of the first few twitter chats I joined in on. I buy others because I enjoy your writing.

    On Amazon, if the author sets it up, I can sign up to be notified of new books by clicking a link on their author page. So I don’t need spam!

    I use http://ereaderIQ.com to keep track of kindle sales for authors I love & specific books I’m interested in. I also sign up for authors newsletters and keep them coming if it includes more than just book info. Some authors include recipes, introduce me to books/authors they are reading, offer free shorts, beta reads, special sales, swag, and other things that make getting email from them fun/interesting/not spam.

    You are so right that no reader needs more spam in their inbox or spread across their social media. Be sociable not a bot 😀

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 6:33 pm

      We’ve been social media buds for some time. Two years? Yikes. Seems like only yesterday.

      Be sociable indeed. Life’s too short to be a spam pimp.

  5. Fri 16th May 2014 at 5:59 pm

    I think Basamor is a Rockin God. Just saying. 🙂

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Bahhh. Bleat, bleat.

  6. J D Adams
    Fri 16th May 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Billionaire Werewolf Bondage? Sheeeeet man, I wanna read that one!

    Seriously, I think authors should pretend they’re trying to get a date with the (potential future) love of their life:

    Be Interesting!

    I can just imagine what my result would have been if I’d walked up to my future wife and whispered softly:
    “Today only, until midnight…99 cents!”

    I’m sure she would have stopped laughing eventually.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Trust me, if I thought I could write it without triggering my gag reflex, I would.

      Then I’d shop it to trad pub. I can hear the feedback already.

      “Mmm, well, it just seems like it’s so derivative, and the market for billionaire werewolf bondage is untested/fading/difficult to compete in/saturated/passe. Could you set it in Afghanistan and have it more to do with the teen protag’s self-confidence issues in a kind of poignant coming-of-age way that gives us a new take on it? Sort of a Kite Running Billionaire Shape-Shifting Chick-lit Dorian Gray thing, only with cuffs and some saccharine S&M, but racially diverse and self-affirming and totally respectful of alternative lifestyles while reinforcing traditional values, where the kink’s meaningful but not misogynistic, and absolutely not pandering, but also accessible? That’s what we’re really looking for – I mean, not exactly that, but you know, like that – something fresh and well written but not arch or over anyone’s heads, maybe in a dystopian future, or from the perspective of a handicapped PI with sass. Unless you appear on a reality show, in which case it can be written in Sanskrit and we’ll sign it!”

  7. Fri 16th May 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Hey Russell. First time commenter, long time observer. You made me laugh and I needed it today, so just wanted to say thanks for keeping us all real. Will you guest on my mindless blog? And if not, will you buy me a martini? It’s a tough biz and all I can say is TGIF. Thanks, really.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 6:38 pm

      De nada. Glad it tickled your funny bone. Or whatever.

  8. Jan
    Fri 16th May 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Oh boy! Even your rant is interesting to read and actually makes sense. Thanks.

  9. Fri 16th May 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Wow, grumpy today, aren’t you?

    Mostly I agree although to tell you the truth, except for my blog which is pretty much only about my books with snippets from a WIP or announcement of a new release, I use social media… well, to be social. Shocking, I know but authors are known for being weirdos.

    And I particularly hate the tweeting a sentence thing. Irritates the hell out of me. lol

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Many authors use social media intelligently. Hugh is a good example, in the sense that he’s interacting, not trying to sell his books to those he’s interacting with. I almost feel like we should just be barred from checking sales to remove that temptation to sell from the mix. It’s a paradoxical business. On the one hand, trying to sell people crap clearly doesn’t work and just annoys them. On the other hand, there’s this tremendous pressure to do stuff that will result in sales. The problem comes in because so many sources focus on flawed strategies for selling via a push strategy, versus simply acknowledging that most if this is a pull business, where readers spread the word NOT because of any pushing the author does, but almost in spite of it.

      Let’s say there are 100K new authors this year. If 10K use social media correctly, and 90K use it poorly with a ham-fisted push approach, that’s a tremendous amount of reader irritation that’s going to happen, which is good for nobody. I’m an author, but, and here’s the key, I’m also a reader, and I don’t respond well to interaction that treats me as a sap to be sold shit to. And that’s how most push approaches feel. Like really poorly done homemade infomercials by people with no experience selling and no finesse, who have been indoctrinated into this kind of mindless, crass hucksterism, which probably feels wrong to them, because it’s the equivalent of the gold-digger or the social climber who is only viewing others in terms of what they can do for him/her.

      And yet they persist, because they’re either too stupid to know better, or have gotten spectacularly poor counsel from all these pundits and experts, or because they just don’t know what else to do, and that is at least something, even if it doesn’t work. You can go to plenty of author boards and hear and see plenty of this mentality at work. It’s self-defeating, silly, and self-destructive, but hey, so are people.

  10. cinisajoy
    Fri 16th May 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Russell, you have always been easy to talk to. You also never once tried to sell me a book. I discovered you because you were just being you.
    But the reason I buy your books is because you are a fantastic author.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 11:06 pm

      Now I just need to find a million like-minded souls, and I can get that liver transplant and Johnny Depp makeover. With my luck it would turn out to be Mel Gibson’s liver and Mickey Rourke’s surgeon…

      • cinisajoy  –  Sat 17th May 2014 at 12:33 am

        I prefer Vin Diesel or Jason Statum. I know I misspelled his name but it is late.

  11. cinisajoy
    Fri 16th May 2014 at 9:45 pm

    I appreciate that you are not pushy and that you do respect your readers.

  12. EC Sheedy
    Fri 16th May 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Russell, this blog was worth it for one word, mumpsimus. So thank you for that.

    Oh, and for your wise words, too. 🙂

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 10:12 pm

      Always trying to push the limits with my vituperative polemics.

      I’ve wanted to use mumpsimus in a blog or book for the longest time. My work here is done.

  13. Fri 16th May 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I nearly spit perfectly good wine all over an also perfectly good keyboard reading this. I’ve been saying the same things for so long my fingers are hoarse. (From shouting). There are publishers who act just like the authors you mention… They all wonder why they aren’t rich. One thing though… people who don’t have an interesting personality aren’t really all that likely to develop one online just to sell their books… Luckily (or not) they also aren’t likely to believe what you say, and will continue to write about dinosaur porn until the cows would have come home (if not eaten in a sexual frenzy by cyborg raptors).

  14. Sat 17th May 2014 at 7:52 am

    Reading some of the comments here reminded me how I “found” you. Twitter. Your Tweets had me laughing so damn hard that I had to check out your books. The rest is history. That’s the right way to do this thing called social media.

  15. Sat 17th May 2014 at 7:58 am

    Your problem may be that by its nature, Tequila in itself is insufficient to quench your rage.
    Suggestion: Replace your regular Tequila regimen for a week or two with Vodka, but not in baby steps. (If you must counter its initial effects because of a fragile constitution, do so with a tumbler of pickle juice in the morning if they can dig some up at the station house).
    After a couple weeks you will find you can no longer even say phrases like “social media” without cracking up (forget Tvitter). You may even find yourself eliminating all indefinite articles in your work and then replacing all the words in your next novel ending in “-ing” with “-ink.”
    Tequila. Ha.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 17th May 2014 at 11:52 am

      What’s that old saying? Vodka for breakfast, tequila for lunch, whiskey for dinner, sleep in a pool of one’s own sick whilst risking pulmonary aspiration and swatting at imaginary insects?

      • Larry Bonner  –  Sat 17th May 2014 at 12:25 pm

        There you go quoting Shakespeare again…

  16. Sat 17th May 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Bravo! I just finished the first draft of my third book. I was going to write a blog but have now decided to take a walk.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 17th May 2014 at 5:25 pm

      If you have a dog to go with you, it would be even better. If not, pet one for no reason.

  17. Peter Prasad
    Sun 18th May 2014 at 10:11 am

    Most of us manage to scratch out a polemic or two. You consistently write with a blow torch. Luv it!

  18. Sun 18th May 2014 at 11:29 am

    May I play Keanu Reeves for a moment and ask you if you believe you would feel the same way had you not had the success you’ve had?

    And I dare you to write a worse sentence than I just wrote.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 18th May 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Yep. I would. Because I’m foremost about noting what works and what doesn’t, and modifying my approach accordingly. If you eliminate the feedback point of what works (and any attendant success), you’re still left with what doesn’t. And it doesn’t take all that long to determine that being a massive spam machine doesn’t work. So, as Sherlock Holmes used to say, what remains once you eliminate all the things that don’t work, is what does.

      Sort of. Apologies to ACD.

      I think the real issue is that 90% of all budding authors have no real background in sales and marketing. So they are grasping at straws, and they make the rookie mistake of believing that selling means high pressure push strategy, and marketing means getting your name out even if it’s in a manner that obviously irritates the target audience. Both couldn’t be less true. And the books that offer 200 pages of rah rah and idiotic con game tactics should be buried in a compost heap where they belong, not touted on Amazon as must reads for anyone starting out.

  19. Wed 21st May 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I found you when my Kindle suggested your book Jet for free. I believe I have read all of your books now. By the way, it has been at least a month since your last book, aren’t you due for another soon?

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 21st May 2014 at 3:57 pm

      You’re absolutely correct. I originally had JET VII scheduled for end of May release, but my broken hand forced me to push it 4 weeks to end of June.

      I look for every opportunity to slack.

  20. Mon 26th May 2014 at 1:17 am

    Hurts so fuckin’ bad. I feel so slapped.

  21. Sat 07th Jun 2014 at 3:28 pm

    This is an addemdum to the post I left on “How to sell loads of books” earlier today. The article above gives me a ‘sorta’ answer to my question, but it is more about promotion than content. All the experts say, “get a following” before publishing a book. Setup a website and start a blog. Okay, but I have nothing to write about. If a writer doesn’t write about writing, what else is worth her time? Unless I am Dear Abby (I write about human behavior), how do I make it a part of my personality as a fiction novelist? (Yeah, I can pontificate along with the best of them, but I’m not Pope Francis.) Suggestions are appreciated.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 07th Jun 2014 at 6:24 pm

      I sort of answered that on your other message.

  22. Sat 07th Jun 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Short of saying, “Buy the fucking book, damnit. It’s fun and cheap.” I am fresh out of ideas. Build a following? I am forever going off on political and moral tangents and I can have 300+ hits a day. Has no affect on sales. Like anyone from Mises.org reads love stories. The only promo that has any effect is book blogs.ning and announcing freebies. Goodreads and Amazon forums are scary as hell troll warrens. I am actually thinking of paying for an ad next one up. I somehow got selected for one of those Kindle affiliate blurb sites once and that did give me a huge bump.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 09th Jun 2014 at 12:08 pm

      You got me, Virginia. I run a BB ad once a month, and a ENT ad whenever I can, and that’s about it for marketing. Nothing else seems to have any effect, so why waste my time?

  23. True Black
    Mon 09th Jun 2014 at 11:40 am

    You might be interested to know that I bought King of Swords last night just after reading one of your blog posts (the one Randy Ingermansen recommended) and started reading it late in the evening. I’ve been looking forward to getting back to it all day.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 09th Jun 2014 at 12:07 pm

      Oh, good. Hope you enjoy it.

  24. Wed 25th Jun 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Sure sure all good and all that BUT how can you Sell a GADZILLION E Books? Now that would be interesting, Mr. Cabo.

    And I’ll just bet you drink as well!

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 26th Jun 2014 at 5:36 pm

      I’ve been known to from time to time. And what of it?

      • Bill Koller  –  Thu 26th Jun 2014 at 11:34 pm

        From time to time? What time can I join you. I will the head of Clarabelle!

  25. Tue 01st Jul 2014 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for this post (I learned of it through Molly Greene’s website). Yes, these days, anyone who has what it takes to write his name in the dirt with a stick can publish a book. And yes, the burgeoning cottage industry in the write-by-numbers biz is made up mostly of hucksters. But tell me this: if you are “pretty sure that few or no books [of yours] have been sold as a result of my blogging,” what does this mean? That you blog to see electrons at work? Because you’re a philanthropist? Or, because people who keep doing something over and over that doesn’t work are–not to put too fine a point on it–crazy? Or is it Drink? Or pet dander? Please advise.

    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 01st Jul 2014 at 10:46 am

      Not everything I do is aimed at driving book sales. For instance, writing a blog that largely is concerned with author matters doesn’t sell books, because authors don’t generally buy many, that I’ve found. I do it because I enjoy it and when I’m bored it passes the time.

  26. Tue 01st Jul 2014 at 12:27 pm


    Just to wish you a fine July, a non hospitalizationed 4th and continued happiness and madness. I trust the hand has healed.

    FYI I was fooling around and asked Amazon for anything by Author William D Koller, and low and behold they had two of my books Trad Published back in 1980 still listed! And a collector’s item no less, much as I am.

    Now, what do you want me to do with the head of Clarabelle?

    Bill on the Bay

    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 01st Jul 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks, Bill. Hand’s fine, am generating about 100K words a month, so all good.

      Put the head on a pike. Or sell it on Ebay. There’s an ass for every seat, as they say…


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