September 29th, 2011 | 5 Comments
Russell Blake is the author of Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach and Zero Sum (fiction), and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) – a parody of everything writing and self-publishing. Blake lives on the Pacific coast of Mexico with his 3 dogs and a bad attitude. His blog, contains samples of his humor and thoughts on writing.
You appeared out of nowhere last June with Fatal Exchange, and have since published another 2 books, How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time in July and The Geronimo Breach in August. What did you do too shoot so high in Amazon so fast, and with genres as different as parodies and thrillers?
I think the blog and my unique approach to twittering helped set a tone that got folks curious. My humor is often random, eclectic and irreverent, so folks that like that style quickly found me, with some help from authors like Lawrence Block, David Lender and John Lescroart. On the thriller side, it’s largely been allowing the work to speak for itself. My fans are largely other writers, to date, who seem to appreciate the quality of the work in terms of character development, voice, plot, structure, and so on. I’m hoping the integrity of the work will carry through to readers in a broader market as they hear of me. My feeling’s that if you try one of my thrillers, you’ll be convinced, so the hurdle is to get the reader to make that leap and get my name visibility so they can sample my wares.
How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time is a parody of John Locke best seller How I Sold 1 Million eBooks In 5 Months and of all things related to marketing one’s ebook. Did the former success of Locke’s books have a role to play in the success of your parody?
I think that it did, to a certain extent, although it wasn’t intended as simply a parody of Locke’s book. I wanted to mock everything related to the pretentions of the writing/self-publishing crowd (my own included) as well as slam the crass self-promotional tone of most of the communiqués I get. It just seemed that there’s a gold rush mentality where everyone’s a winner and can sell a ton in no time, and all these self-help blogs and books are pretending there’s a magic formula, and yet nobody had stepped back and sort of said, this smells like bullsh#t to me. So I did, and got this idea that was originally going to be a blog, but then as I wrote the blog it went from 1500 words to 4500 and kept getting funnier, until pretty soon I realized I had a book on my hands. So I think it was a bit of a timing win, given that my parody came out shortly after Locke’s self-help book did, as it naturally got mentioned in context with his and so wound up riding its coat tails for visibility. But the book stands on its own as just funny, and I suspect it will still be funny 5 years from now, because we as a species won’t have changed, thus the parody will still ring true.
You once said that Gazillions had been written in 60 hours, and that it takes you anywhere from 140 to 200 hours to write an 80k to 110k words fiction book. Does that include rewriting time, if any, and editing time?
Editing on non-fiction takes maybe 30% of the time it took me to write the book. I’m fortunate to have a great editor who understands my voice, and whose efforts are complimentary to mine – Stef at WriteIntoPrint in the UK. I’ll typically go back for one polish round once I’m done, and that generally takes a few days, and then it’s off to edit. I work fast, and my first drafts are fairly close to being ready for edit, so I’ve been fortunate so far. As an example, my new dog book (non-fiction), An Angel With Fur, just took 55 hours to complete. I’m going through polishing it this week, and then it’s off to be edited.
The fiction estimated time includes rewrite time and editing time, however one of the next ones I write will take longer as there’s a lot of research involved. But I have yet to take more than 14 to 18 days of hard-charging to write a novel. It’s just my process, which is OCD – sit down for 8-10 hour days of writing until the story’s out.
As Marketing goes out of the window while you are busy writing, do you see a difference in sales numbers during writing periods?
I haven’t really done any marketing as I’ve been writing solidly since May, so other than the odd blog and some tweets, I haven’t done much. I’d intended to really hit it after writing Geronimo, but then I got caught up in more writing, so made the decision to keep at it while the muse is calling. I’d imagine somewhat of a dip versus what will happen once I start, but since I’ve been writing nearly constantly since June, it’s hard to evaluate. It will be interesting to see what happens once I do some. Maybe around November I’ll start pushing. I wanted to have a reasonable body of work before I really started touting it, as I think in today’s environment it’s easier to have gravitas in the reader’s mind if you have 5 or 6 books out than only one, stupid as that seems on its face. I think the Locke lesson is that people commit easier if they think they are discovering a trove of work they’ll like versus a singularity.
Zero Sum, the first volume of your trilogy, is about to come out. What is your marketing strategy?
I’m releasing the entire trilogy at once, and making the first book either 99 cents, or free. It’s written as a serial, so my bet is once the reader’s made the commitment and gotten immersed in the story, they’ll want to find out how everything plays out. Zero Sum is more lyrical as thrillers go than Fatal Exchange, which is short, punchy scenes organized like a season of 24. Zero Sum’s more of an odyssey, a saga. If I go the free route on the first book, that should spur some serious downloads, and right now the hurdle is not to sell a bunch, but to reach a bunch. Reach a bunch, and the quality will carry the day as the readers learn to trust your voice and purchase the rest.
I also just started a cross promotion in all the thrillers, Zero Sum included, with NY Times featured author David Lender, with excerpts of each others’ work in his three, Gravy Train, Trojan Horse and Bull Street, as well as all mine. That shows promise, and it’s a way to promote another author’s work I like. There are commonalities in our audience, so it’s a good fit. Hopefully we’ll see mutual lift out of that, but everything takes time. It’s a process.
What do you think of “trailers” for books? Do you intend to create some for your own books?
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
Well, I’ve been propositioned by both men and women, and I’m pretty sure by an ID claiming to be a burro, on Twitter, which I thought was amusing. BTW, Mister Burro? If you’re reading this…Call me. Really. Any time. I’m serious.
Is there any marketing mistake against which you would warn beginners?
It’s still early in the fist inning for me, but if I had any counsel it would be to use social media and blogging to establish a strong sense of yourself for readers to get to know, not to just mindlessly tout your wares. I don’t like to read content that’s all promotion, and I don’t think anyone else does, either. That’s one of the reasons I created this self-mocking, over the top persona for Gazillions who did nothing but tout and self-promote at every turn – to demonstrate how bombastic marketing is not only annoying, but ineffective. I would have commenters coming on the blog going, “Interesting point, but as my teen vampire sex slave trilogy “Bloodthirst Orgy” underscores, blah blah blah.” It’s annoying and doesn’t work, so just stop it.
I think people are sophisticated enough to see through the ham-handed promotional attempts, so it’s far better to let yourself shine through, and to initially be marketing that. If you are interesting and articulate and amusing, chances are your work is, too, so then I’m far more likely to give it a read.
Thank you very much Russell, and best of luck with your trilogy.
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