Nick Russell’s debut novel Big Lake was one of the indie hits of 2011. The book was one of Amazon’s 100 Top Paid Kindle books for over 78 days, and to date has sold more than 100,000 copies. The sequel, Big Lake Lynching, was released in 2012. Here, Nick talks about his approach to writing, his success with Big Lake and his plans for the future.
First, congratulations on Big Lake. It seems to have been a big hit. Why do you think sales of the book exploded towards the end of 2011?
Thank you, John, it’s been quite a ride. Since I uploaded Big Lake to the Kindle bookstore the end of May 2011 it has sold over 104,000 copies, most of them on Amazon.
I sold a couple of hundred copies a month, and then in October sales really started to pick up. In November I sold over 5,000 copies, and in December over 35,000 copies. I’m not sure why things went so wild, though I give a lot of credit to the beautiful new cover that Dale Roberts designed for me to replace the original bland cover I started with. I think that my ongoing marketing efforts and a lot of luck all came together at just the right time to make it happen.
I know you also publish a newspaper, the Gypsy Journal, and before Big Lake you’d written a number of non-fiction books. Why did you wait so long to publish your first novel?
I actually wrote Big Lake back about 1998 or so, and then sat on it because, while I have a nice following for my nonfiction work, I had no confidence in my ability to write fiction. It was only after years of encouragement (nagging?) by my wife and a couple of friends who had read the manuscript that I finally decided to take advantage of e-book technology and give it a shot. Nobody has been more surprised by its success than me.
Do you think your experience publishing the newspaper and other books helped you when it came time to market Big Lake?
No question about that, I have a good readership base from my other publishing activities, which helped get Big Lake off to a good start. I know what sells my newspaper and my RV / travel books, and I expanded that method to a wider audience to market my mysteries.
How did you market Big Lake? Most authors use Twitter and Facebook, but did you do anything that you think particularly helped?
I use Facebook and Twitter to promote my books, and I have a Facebook author’s page where I post updates about my books, and also promote other authors’ work when I can. In addition, I publish a daily blog that is primarily aimed at the RV community and gets thousands of readers, as well as a separate Bad Nick Blog which is kind of my soapbox to talk about current events or whatever else I want to spout off about, and an occasional self-publishing blog. My blog following has really helped me spread the word about my books. Many of my readers also have blogs and use Facebook, and they have been very good about giving me plugs that tell their families and friends about my books. It’s like dropping a pebble into a pool of water; the ripple effect spreads out far beyond my own reach.
Did you submit Big Lake to any agents or traditional publishers before putting it out yourself?
No I have never been a fan of the traditional publishing model and have no interest in dealing with agents or any of that crowd.
You recently released a sequel, Big Lake Lynching. Did you always plan to write a sequel to Big Lake, and are there more books coming in the series?
By the time I published Big Lake, I knew that there would be a sequel. There’s a lot more happening in that little mountain town that needs to be shared with the rest of the world.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
Too many to list. I’m a big fan of J.A. Jance, Michael McGarrity, Stephen Hunter, Lee Child, C.J. Box, the Mary Daheim Alpine advocate series… I could go on all day. I’ve also become a fan of some of the new Kindle authors who are making a name for themselves, such as Dale Robert and Michael Meyer.
How do you write? For example, do you make yourself write a certain number of words a day?
I make my living writing. I write a 500+ word blog every day, 7 days a week. Sometimes I’ll write a post for one of my other blogs, or a story for an upcoming issue of the Gypsy Journal. As for my fiction writing, I may go a week or more without touching my current work in progress, then again, it’s not uncommon for me to sit down and crank out 3,500 to 5,000 words in a day.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
I am not a fan of monopolies, which is why I chose not to get involved in the KDP Select program. I only sell a few copies of my books on Smashwords every month, but I resent anybody telling me that I can’t do so. I believe that Amazon already dominates the market, and I would not be surprised to see Barnes & Noble go the way of Borders. But I believe competition is a good thing and that any industry needs it.
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2012? Do you have any more books coming out? Are you working on anything new?
I’m always working on something. I have started the third book in the Big Lake series, tentatively titled Crazy Days in Big Lake, and I hope to have it out by early summer. And I think there may be more to follow. I also have another nonfiction book about halfway done, and a separate mystery series I’ve been kicking around in the back of my head. I see only good things ahead for e-books and authors and I’m excited to be a part of all of it.
Nick Russell’s Big Lake, Big Lake Lynching and other books are available at Amazon, and also at other booksellers including Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. You can also visit his Publishing 4 Profit site, the Gypsy Journal site. his Facebook page and his Bad Nick Blog.
Interview courtesy of indiebookspot.com.