Thanks for returning to expend your valuable time answering my questions, Mr. Blake.
Producing eight well-received, quality thrillers in just a few months is something of a superhuman undertaking (and there are those among us who wonder whether you’re actually a native to this planet). How on Earth do you manage it?
I found that if you forego eating and sleeping there are a lot more hours in the day with which to write. Seriously, that’s not far from the truth. My writing schedule looked something like this: 7 am, start writing. Midnight, stop writing. Figure if each novel took roughly 200 hours for first draft, and then another 100 or so for second, and roughly the same for third, then off to editing, the hours to craft a quality product are there.
Many authors write two to three hours a day, so it would be the equivalent of six to nine months of writing packed into a very narrow time frame. What’s odd is that once you get used to that pace, it gets easier to just move to the next one. As an example, look at the timeframe to write Silver and the four JET books. That’s almost half a million finish-quality words in, what, five months? Edited, too. And proofed. Very, very aggressive, but I figured while the muse was dancing it would be poor form to interrupt...
And yet you still have time to host an interesting and informative website for readers and aspiring authors alike, which has garnered a cult following – in a recent article there, you allude to the benefits of Amazon, contrary to the cynical musings of many on this corporate leviathan.
In your opinion, how have they affected the state of the art for both reader and author – and how effective in comparison are their competitors, such as B&N and Smashwords?
Amazon single-handedly created the indie revolution we’re now seeing move from infancy stage to something approaching toddler stage. It’s still all so new that the playing field is changing literally weekly. On the pro side, Amazon created a commission scheme that enables an author like me to make a nice living writing, without hitting massive numbers that would be required in a traditional publishing world. And for all their faults, and they do have plenty, they are still much better than the rest, from both an author as well as reader standpoint.
They got it right with the Kindle when the rest of the tech gurus were laughing at the idea of people reading eBooks. They got it right on the delivery system. Their site is easy to navigate and their lists make it easy to find books that interest you. Barnes is so busy kowtowing to the traditional publishers that they keep shooting their own foot off. Their site is crummy, in a word. They sequester indie books to a ghetto. They are in bed with trad pub, which unfortunately means, in my eye, that they put the interests of the big publishers first, and those of the reader second. That’s a lousy business philosophy, and it shows in their numbers. As to Smashwords, they make uploading to all the sites simple, but their reaction time is abysmal and their formatting requirements are a joke. Not that I have an opinion or anything.
From where I’m sitting, your recipe for success needs no condiments or garnish – in the spirit of your parody How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time, for an aspiring indie author, what is the perfect “Recipe for Failure”?
Now that’s an easy one: do what the vast majority of indie authors do.
First, dust off whatever crappy manuscript you’ve had in a drawer for years, or alternatively, decide that writing a book is easy, requires little to no study or understanding of craft, and is something anyone can do without any sort of preparation or effort.
Second, eschew professional editing, preferring to upload the screed without any proofreading or editing of any competent sort – better yet, complain that it costs money to do it right, and nobody’s made out of gold, so maybe once the book sells a ton, then you’ll consider fixing it.
Next, go amateur on the cover, figuring that if you have to spend any kind of real money making your work look professional you just won’t do it, preferring to create something that looks like a second-grader’s art project.
And finally, save the paltry bucks on getting your work formatted, instead just hoping for the best as a do-it-yourselfer.
Once it’s live, spend no time on your blurb – typos, incoherent or illiterate rants, meandering indecipherable jabber – all are good and will lure readers in. Put in hours sending out impersonal “Buy my book” tweets to an audience of other authors who don’t buy books and are only on Twitter to hawk their books, equally ineffectively.
When it’s all done and you aren’t selling, whine and bemoan your fate rather than looking at all the things you did wrong, and learn nothing in the process. Then repeat. Because there aren’t nearly enough crappy books in the world.
A lot has changed in the publishing industry since Bill Gates took over the world. Such as for typing and editing: gone are the days of reams of paper scarred with correction fluid – and those not lost in the parcel post returned (eventually) with a load of red, esoteric squiggles for the author to decipher – and then re-type the whole thing to go through the whole process again.
What are your favourite technological advancements for the author and reader?
Boy, the ability to store hundreds of books on a small, easily-readable device is number one.
A universe of reasonably-priced books is number two. Note those are both from the reader’s perspective.
From an author’s, eReaders have made reading fashionable again. Amazon’s commission scheme (followed by others) has made it possible for mid-list authors to earn attractive livings.
Real-time uploading means that any changes an author wants to make (fixing stuff, incorporating reader feedback or suggestions) can happen instantly, improving overall quality (at least in theory).
Print on Demand gives one the ability to create hard copy books without having to do huge print runs, at relatively reasonable prices.
Outsourcing editing, cover design, formatting enables authors to run all the quality control a big publishing house would at fractions of the costs.
I can honestly say there’s never been as exciting a time to be an author. The world has changed for us, fundamentally, and we, as well as readers, win big.
Rumour has it that you sold over 100,000 copies of your novels during 2012, not counting almost 500,000 free downloads. So, for 2013, are you tempted to take a gap year and spend some of your royalties on designer drugs, loose cars, and fast women – or do you intend to keep up your relentless pace until you do a face-plant on your keyboard?
The rumor you heard is not far off the mark, if a little understated…though I suppose not all the free downloads will actually be read.
I’m actually hoping that the fast women bring the drugs when arriving in their loose cars, thereby saving me the expense.
Seriously, the pace I’ve worked at – 18 novels in 18 months – is an insane one, and I have to slow down. 2013 will be 4 to 5 novels, max. The world now has enough Russell Blake thrillers. I’m not sure that what would really put me over the top would be those sixth and seventh 2013 novels. A little decompression between books would be a welcome relief, and one I plan to avail myself of this coming year. Then again, I think I said that at the start of last year, too, so I lie. Nature of the beast, and all.
One final question, Russell: now that you are rubbing shoulders in the Amazon best-sellers list with the likes of Ian Fleming and James Patterson you have a certain amount of game – game which attracts those alpha females like a smiling baby attracts a politician. Of all the eye-candy in the store, which female celebs have the sort of honeypot that would float your boat? You can fill a hot tub with them, if you’re feeling reaaal hungry…
Once one gets to a certain age, as long as the women are breathing, have most of their limbs and no obviously-contagious diseases, it’s all good. Of course, if Jessica Alba or Mila Kunis wanted to come over and sponge bathe me, I wouldn’t fight it. I might even be convinced to buy the first rounds of drinks. One has to remain open to new experiences, after all.
Thanks, Russell. Thanks to you readers, too – now, go buy something salient from Blake’s thoroughbred stable! Click HERE to be magically spirited to Aunty Amazon. But not before you take a spin through Russell’s 2012 writing year below:
The Voynich Cypher, March, 2012
When a sacred relic is stolen from its subterranean guarded vault, Dr. Steven Cross, amateur cryptographer, becomes embroiled in a deadly quest to decipher one of history’s most enigmatic documents – a 15th century parchment written entirely in unbreakable code; The Voynich Manuscript. Stalked by secret societies, and aided by the daughter of a murdered colleague, a trail of riddles catapults Cross from England to Italy to the Middle East, where a Byzantine web of ancient secrets leads him to a revelation so profound it will change the world order.
Revenge of the Assassin, May, 2012
Revenge of the Assassin is the breakneck-paced sequel to the bestselling international thriller King of Swords. When El Rey, the super assassin responsible for Latin America’s most spectacular hits, returns to Mexico for one final sanction, the race is on for Captain Romero Cruz of the Federales to stop him before he can fulfill his contract to kill the president. Revenge will delight fans of King of Swords, and offers the same gritty, unpredictable ride of thrills, twists and surprises before arriving at a conclusion that is sure to leave readers gasping.
Return of the Assassin, June, 2012
Return of the Assassin is the shocking continuation of the saga of El Rey, the notorious Mexican cartel super-assassin whose legacy of impossible kills has earned him the reputation as the most lethally effective hit man in the world. Faced with impossible choices as he races against time, El Rey must return to a cartel underworld where the smallest slip means instant death, on a suicide mission to save the life of a young woman whose escape and survival is inexorably linked to his own.
Silver Justice, August, 2012
Manhattan. A ruthless serial killer is butchering financial industry high rollers. FBI Special Agent Silver Cassidy, the head of a task force that’s on a collision course with disaster, finds herself fighting impossible odds to stop the murderer before he can kill again. Struggling to balance the hunt for a savage predator with the challenges of being a single parent, Silver finds herself thrust into a nightmare of brutality that will demand every ounce of determination she possesses to survive.
JET, October, 2012
Code name: Jet. Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad’s most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn’t give up on its secrets easily. When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold. Fans of Lisbeth Salander, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at Lamborghini speed to a conclusion as jarring and surprising as the story’s heroine is unconventional.
JET II – Betrayal, October, 2012
Twenty-eight year old Jet, the former Mossad operative from the eponymous novel JET, must battle insurmountable odds to protect those she loves in a deadly race that stretches from the heartland of Nebraska to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., from the lurid streets of Bangkok to the deadly jungles of Laos and Myanmar. Fans of Kill Bill, the Bourne trilogy, and 24 will be delighted by this roller-coaster of action, intrigue and suspense.
JET III – Vengeance, November, 2012
Jet III – Vengeance finds Jet settled down, trying to return to a somewhat normal life of stability and safety. But fate has other plans for her when she becomes embroiled in a terrifying terrorism plot involving figures from her past, whose thirst for revenge forces her back into the kill-or-be-killed world she’d hoped to put behind her forever.
JET IV – Reckoning, December, 2012
JET IV – Reckoning pits Jet against the deadliest threat yet – an enemy with endless resources who will stop at nothing to destroy her. From the mountains of Indonesia to the streets of Washington, Jet discovers in a breakneck-paced roller-coaster of action that danger lurks in the unlikeliest of places and nothing is as it seems.
Click HERE to visit Russell’s Amazon author page