The Wall Street Journal has found another independent publishing phenom to trumpet: Russell Blake. The WSJ loves these guys and gals, writers who hit it big selling novels through Amazon's Kindle program. Thriller Guy loves these stories too. Why?
TG works with first-time writers who want to be published; who have the dream. And as much as TG tries to stifle these folks, tries to make them understand that writing is a lonely brutal business where every deck is stacked against them, they keep popping up with their manuscripts no matter how much the publishing business whacks them over the head. So when the WSJ or any other media finds another success story to emblazon, TG says yes, fine, even though it’s not going to happen to most of you, let’s see it and read it and…
TG recently read a short newspaper article that said that 40% of all authors who have put their books up as Kindles never have made even one dollar from their work. Other statistics followed, but TG, who was out of town, neglected to tear out the article. Suffice it to say, the results were not very promising.
It was always thus, and in many ways even worse in bygone days. We authors who are considered “successes” in that we’ve had a book or even many books published by legacy publishers have mostly found only limited financiall rewards. Very few live on what they make or have made from their books. And even though many writers lament the loss of the publishing of the past, TG thinks it was worse for most writers in the days before independent publishing. It was always tough to find an agent and tougher yet to find a publisher, and even after you sold a book or two if you hadn’t achieved fairly major success, measured by copies sold and money earned, you knew you would have a tough time selling your next book and an even tougher time for the one after that. And then the bottom fell out of the publishing business for everyone except the exalted few. But with this disaster, came a brand new business: self publishing. And with it,…
You wrote your book, you went to Amazon and got the tools and you put it up so people could find it and buy it. And 40% of you didn’t make a dime on it. But along came guys like Russell Blake, Amanda Hocking, and Fifty Shades of Grey author E. L. James. And scores more of science fiction, horror, dinosaur sex, vampire novelists who couldn’t get published by legacy publishers who put their books up and kept writing and putting them up until their list ignited like a nuclear pile reaching critical mass and they started making money, and in some cases lots of money.
Back to Russell Blake. From the Wall Street Journal article: “Some novelists are obsessed by plot pacing and character development, others by a literary turn of phrase. For Mr. Blake, it is about speed, and volume. Mr. Blake, who self-publishes his books, has released 25 books in the last 30 months.
“He wrote one of his best-selling books, the 229-page thriller ‘JET,’ in just 16 days. He churns out 7,000 to 10,000 words a day and often works from eight in the morning until midnight. He spends many of those hours on a treadmill desk, clocking eight to 10 miles. ‘Being an author is like being a shark, you have to keep swimming or you die,’ he says. ‘People don't want to wait a year and a half for the next book in the series, they want instant gratification.’ The hours and miles are paying off. Mr. Blake discovered that one way to sell a lot of books is to write a lot of books. He says he has sold more than 435,000 copies of his books, at around $5 to $6 each, and under Amazon's self-publishing program, he keeps 70%.” And besides this, he’s just been chosen for that ultimate snatch at the brass ring: he’s going to co-author a book with Clive Cussler.
Is he any good? Not that it matters much. Turns out he is; TG read the first chapter of his Jet series and found it fast and as well written as it needed to be. He has an excellent feel for the pulse of an action thriller. But what he has mostly is the drive and ability to work. Work. Work. Thirty months, 25 books. And that seems to be the key, or at least one of the keys, to success.
So take a lesson from all these folks and from TG: Shut up, sit down, and get to work.
It is possible.