BREAKING NEWS: Acclaimed author Steven Konkoly, whose new thriller Black Flagged just hit stores and whose Jakarta Pandemic just got its 100th review on Amazon, just published an in-depth review of the Zero Sum trilogy that’s the best analysis of the books I’ve seen. A must read. And please, distribute it and tweet it, as it’s honest, accurate and engaging.

UPDATE: An Angel With Fur and the Pet Wall get spotlight coverage at Justin Bogdanovitch’s blog. Great pooch photos too. And the book is currently back in the #2 position in Animal Essays on Amazon UK!


It’s been an interesting few days.

My Wall Street thriller Zero Sum, Book 1, Kotov Syndrome, has been free on Amazon for a little over a week, and after a truly stunning first week downloads have slowed, as I’d been warned they would. Conversely, sales of the bundled Book 2 and Book 3 have picked up, and it’s bounced around between #1500 and #3000 on Amazon Kindle books for that same period, so that’s good. The free Book 1 bounces between #10 and #5 on Action Adventure in free downloads, so it’s still seeing decent traffic. The question is of course, how many readers who download free books ultimately will be willing to pay for content – I can see a sort of sub-culture that believes that writers should do so for free and that books aren’t worth buying – although of course those in that culture wouldn’t dream of doing a ton of work for free themselves. It’s an interesting question, and I suppose we’ll see the answer soon enough.

I had a hitch in the gitty-up over the size of the excerpts in Book 1, so trimmed them to just a couple. This is a learning experience, as once they loaded in David Lender’s excerpts and mine, it bloated the file so over 40% of the download was excerpts, which I was unaware of until alerted (my tech guy does the excerpts and formatting – I just write the books and wash the bottles). That’s fixed now by cutting back on the excerpts, so it’s a brave new world. Also, since making the book available free, I’ve gotten a few one star reviews – a first out of 100 or so reviews for my work, and all on the free book. I guess John Locke’s observation that people will either love or hate your work is true, and you have to expect some haters to get mixed in with the lovers, especially as the numbers climb. It’s all par for the course, and the road’s been walked before.

As an aside, comedian Louis CK has a wonderful bit about how some folks feel a sense of entitlement, no matter how good things are, and will always be disappointed. He tells the tale of a flight where free in-flight internet was being tested, and after half an hour it stopped working, and the guy next to him began fuming, saying, “Man, this is bullshit!” The bit is funny because the guy is annoyed and feels entitled to something he didn’t even know existed until a few minutes prior. That seems to be human nature for some. Point is you can’t please everyone. Louis CK is amazingly funny, for those who haven’t seen his work, and you should look for him on YouTube for a laugh.

I’m currently chugging away at my next WIP, which will be The Delphi Chronicle. I hope to have the whole thing finished up in a week or so, at which point it will be polish time, and then off for editing and a cover. This one is scaring even me a bit, as the underlying conspiracy is frighteningly plausible and is based on an amazing piece of investigative journalism I stumbled across while researching book titles.

After that, I’ve got the next book featuring Dr. Steven Archer/Cross from Zero Sum, and then three other book ideas for next year, all of which I’m pretty excited about as they’re novel premises.

The Pet Wall is growing slowly, and An Angel With Fur continues to receive rave reviews, all of which comment on how touching the book is. That feels good for me, as I’m so close to the story sometimes I lose perspective on whether it really is moving for someone who wasn’t there.

So I will be relatively quiet over the next week or two as I finish my current WIP, and then will come up for air and chew the fat more. Thanks again to all who have retweeted my tweets about Zero Sum Book 1 being free on Amazon, and who have been supportive as I experiment with different marketing approaches. It seems there is no one magic bullet, but there’s at least a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully it’s not a train coming at me.

Until next time…




  1. Wed 02nd Nov 2011 at 8:24 am

    I find it hard to believe that someone who gets a book for nothing has the hide to review it and give it ONE star! What sort of person does that?
    Ignoring the idiots, congratulations on how your marketing ploy has worked. I’m in awe of your work ethic!

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 02nd Nov 2011 at 2:21 pm

      Well, I know some folks who, if given a free ride in a car, will complain endlessly about how much it sucked, because they expected they deserved a free car, not a free ride. It’s a certain type of person. I especially liked the poster who rated it two stars without reading it. When you get a certain number of downloads, you are bound to get all kinds. Just occupational hazard, I guess. I don’t let it affect me, For every million people who understand coffee is served hot, there will be one who sues a restaurant because the coffee they spilled on themselves was hot.

      Just another reason I moved to Mexico. If you give someone something free here, they’re like, “Thank you for the free thing.” Apparently for some in the U.S., it’s “F#ck you, you sh#trat, you shouldda given me a lot more or something way different.” Wild, but it is what it is.

    • Andy H  –  Sun 06th Nov 2011 at 7:05 pm

      Isn’t the point to be honest to your thoughts on the book rather than than giving a high review just because you had something for free?

      • Russell Blake  –  Sun 06th Nov 2011 at 7:21 pm

        I would imagine so. The only reviews I’ve ever gotten that weren’t five star or four star, ironically, were from those who disliked the free book, though, for one reason or another – two of the three of which had zero to do with the writing or story or plot – i.e. the book. One thought there were too many excerpts at the end (which has nothing to do with the book quality, as he admitted the book was well written and gripped his attention), one reviewed the book without reading it (due to reading that review that there were a lot of excerpts) and one felt it was too predictable (the cars consumed gasoline, the upright bipeds had legs and arms, etc.).

        So as much as you might think there would be glowing reviews for the free book, those are the only negative ones I’ve gotten in over 100 reviews now. One person who wasn’t reviewing the book but rather just spewing venom, another who was disgruntled due to excerpts, and one who supposedly disliked the book (but whose review came in right around the same time as the other two negatives, and so is highly suspect, IMO). So go figure. In the meanwhile, legitimate, known authors and book reviewers have given the same work their highest accolades. So what to make of that? My take is you get enough reviews, some are going to be nutcases, and some are going to be just angry at life, and a few are going to hate your work or you for unknown reasons. I think it helps to look at the overall reaction of the majority as the true reaction. If the majority think your book sucks, it may well suck.

        At 100 and something reviews, I’ve had one where the reviewer was reviewing the book (claimed to have read it and disliked it) and gave it less than four or five stars. I’ve had two cranks (reviewed their dislike of excerpts, or general dislike of indie books but not mine specifically/expect all books to be free and aren’t going to be “tricked” into buying one). That’s a pretty good ratio, I think. Better than some million selling indie authors, to be fair.

  2. Wed 02nd Nov 2011 at 1:28 pm

    “I have learned much while observing you.”- some guy

    Louis CK is one funny mother-brother. Looking forward to your return.

  3. Amee
    Thu 03rd Nov 2011 at 5:30 am

    As we Mexicans say “A Caballo dado no se le ve colmillo” or in english say ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’.

    Many people don’t know how to be grateful.

  4. Thu 03rd Nov 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Read the review on Konkoly’s page. Glad Sum Zero is doing so well. But would you PLEASE stop tormenting me? I won’t get my Kindle until Christmas, no matter what kind of treatment Santa gets between now and then.

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 03rd Nov 2011 at 9:12 pm

      Marsha. Try downloading the free “Kindle for PC” SW from Amazon. It allows you to read Kindle books like on a kindle, on your PC.


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