It was a real pleasure to be able to talk to Russell Blake this week. We talk about treating Kindle publishing as a business and how much this helped him when he was just starting out, and how it helps him shape the future decisions he makes about his writing career. We also touch on his production process and how he writes so much so quickly.
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10,000 hours – Popularised by Malcolm Gladwell
James Lee Burke – Russell’s example of an author who constantly raises the bar in the genre
BookBub – One of the few marketing channels that have been effective consistently over the last year.
Melissa Foster – Author who Russell Blake will be co-authoring a book with in the summer.
Russell retired early and moved to Mexico, without too much intellectual stimulation he decided to do something else. He heard about the success people were having with Kindle publishing and realized that he could make money writing, which was something he had enjoyed doing for a while.
Russell says that he clocked his 10,000 hours of practice well before he published anything. For more info on 10,000 hours check out Malcolm Gladwell’s outliers (a book I would also personally recommend).
Russell sees Kindle Publishing, not as a ‘writing career’ but as a ‘book business.’ He is very careful to separate the two, seeing writing as art and business as necessary. Russell has been in many different businesses before and says that writing is by far the hardest to make money in.
June 2011 was when he started and by January 2012 he was in the black. He was spending between $1000 and $2000 dollars per book and was $15-20k in the red before he started seeing a return. He looked at it as a business investment and expected to sink money into it at the start. To get the money back within 8 months was a big win, he expected to see a return with 12-18 months, as he would expect with any restaurant.
Not expecting to be successful for this amount of time made it easier as he wasn’t put off when Kindle publishing didn’t start making money immediately.
Russell believes that in this market being a fast mover is a big advantage. Putting in long days and just doing writing is going to move you much faster and increase your chances of success. Russell says that the authors he knows who are making a lot of money Kindle publishing are working really hard. Regular listeners of the show will know this to be the case.
Russell estimated the size of the market, realised he was happy only getting a small percentage of it to read his book. That meant that he didn’t have to pander to the whole market, just the small percentage that he wanted to write for – essentially not the “airport crowd.”
Stick with a genre because the chances are your readers won’t follow you elsewhere. Russell experimented with different genres and quickly found that he should stick to one.
Russell says that most paid for marketing is a bit of a waste of time. He only pursues marketing that will make a direct return – he has no interest in “creating visibility.” It is also important to bear in mind that the market is always changing and something that worked this month is not going to work next month. The only things that have been really consistently effective for Russell’s Kindle publishing has been perma-free and BookBub. He has found the perma-free is less effective than it used to be, but largely put this down to the fact that he now has a huge number of free books floating around out there, and says “if I already have 2 million free books out there, is another million really going to make a difference?”
Russell does three drafts of the book and then it goes off to his built up team of editors and proof readers and the book will come back finished and ready to go. He does look at all of the changes that they return, but he approved 90-95% of the changes that the editor makes. This established team makes producing a lot of work easier. By the time the book comes back Russell thinks “I wrote that!?”
Russell is about to co-author a book with Clive Cussler and he says that at that level of book sales, there are things that a traditional publisher can do for you that you can’t do yourself being self-published. He doesn’t see the self-published/traditional thing as adversarial – if in the future going traditionally published makes business sense, he will do it, he is not completely tied to Kindle publishing.
“I bore easily”
“If you aren’t prepared to put at least 3 years of your life into it, it probably isn’t going to go”
“You can drag luck, kicking and screaming, to your door … you can create your own lucky breaks”
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