While researching successful indie authors I came across Lindsay Buroker’s website. Her site is filled with great advice for other writers and authors. She also talks about her journey of writing and why she chose the path of self-publishing vs. traditional means -Lindsay really understands how to market her books and is selling over 2,000 eBooks a month on Amazon and other online bookstores. Not bad at all! I had a chance to speak to her about why she chose to self-publish and tips for writer’s looking to be successful in this competitive market.
Tell us why you decided to become an indie author instead of going the more traditional route?
In the fall of 2010, I had my second manuscript, (Encrypted) ready to publish, and my first one (The Emperor’s Edge) had been sitting completed on the hard drive for a year because I didn’t think it was the sort of thing that would snag an agent’s eye. I was, quite frankly, dreading the process of querying agents. I knew it would take forever, and from everything I’d heard, it sounded like more of a lottery than a meritocracy. Sure, good books get picked up, but lots of others are passed over because they don’t happen to appeal to a certain agent or they’re just not “hot” in publishing at the moment.
Around that time, I stumbled across JA Konrath’s blog. I’d never heard of him before but learned he’d ditched traditional publishing to independently e-publish the work he had the rights to, and he was making good money doing it. He pointed out some authors who’d never traditionally published but who were doing well self-publishing ebooks. As I soon discovered, it isn’t hard to get one’s work into the Kindle Store and other e-stores as well.
It only took me a couple of weeks to forget about querying agents and to decide to give this e-publishing thing a try. I’d been making a living online for some years anyway and figured what I knew about internet marketing would apply to books. It’d be a piece of cake! Well… there was actually quite a bit to learn, but I had fun with it and kept writing and publishing along the way.
Now, it’s a little over two years later, and I’ve just published my seventh novel (along with several shorter works). I quit the day job last year, and I’m making a living from writing stories. I’ve passed up offers from publishers, too, because it’s actually more lucrative right now to self-publish (you might pay for your own editing and cover art design, but, after those “start up” costs, there’s nobody to split the earnings with). And I like calling all the shots too!
For those looking to self-publish, what are a few recommendations you would offer?
A lot of people jump in too early, before their work is ready to be exposed to strangers (sometimes before they are ready to be exposed to strangers!). Before publishing anything, it’s a good idea to take some writing classes and/or join a critique group full of other writers who work in your niche or genre. In these groups (and you can find online ones if you prefer that to meeting locally), you critique their work, and they critique yours. You get a lot of great feedback, and it helps you grow as a writer. You may find (as I did) that your first book isn’t anything that belongs in a store. The process of writing it, and getting feedback from others, is invaluable, but you may write three or four books before you have one you want to publish.
When you’re truly ready to put your work out there, hire a freelance editor to give it another pass, and, unless you have experience in the area, have a professional design a cover for you. The formatting you can learn to do yourself if you have a little time, though I pay someone to do that too. My best use of time is to write more books!
I read that you are selling over 2,000 eBooks a month! What do you think have been some of your more popular strategies on getting the word out there about your books?
I’ve probably tried just about everything, but it’s most worthwhile to partake in things with lasting impact. As an example, I decided early on to have audiobook versions of my Emperor’s Edge novels made and to put them out there for free on Podiobooks and iTunes. I figured that it was a do-once-and-reap-the-rewards-indefinitely type of thing, as, years later, people could stumble across my work on those sites and become fans.
On the flip side, any tweets you make on Twitter will disappear from people’s radars within minutes, so, if that’s your book promotion method, you have to keep posting your links every hour every day. Some people do this or find services that do it for them, but I haven’t seen this to be particularly effective and consider it a waste of time. I am on Twitter, but more to chat with readers and other authors than to try and sell my books (though, you’ll find I have links to my website and my first book in my Twitter profile, of course!).
Speaking of my first book, I made The Emperor’s Edge free a little over a year ago, so people can try it at Amazon, Barnes, & Noble, Apple, and other sites without spending a dime. That makes it easier to run promotions, as I just direct people to the free ebook instead of trying to get them to plunk down $5 for one of the others (though, when people like the first book, they’re often willing to pay for the others in the series).
Any news you want to share with Penelope’s mates?
I’ve just released a new book, Decrypted, a steam-age fantasy with mystery, adventure, humor, and even a killer octopus mixed in. Since it’s a sequel, I’d love to offer your readers a chance to try the first book, Encrypted, at no cost (sorry, no octopus in the first one, but there are plenty of other deadly monsters and artifacts to keep things interesting). You can grab the ebook in any format at Smashwords and plug in coupon code UG77Z (good through May 31st, 2013) to get the novel for free.
If you want to know more about me, please visit my blog (a mix of information on self-publishing and promotion with some extras from my fantasy novels as well) or on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for reading! http://www.lindsayburoker.com/
Thank you Lindsay for your insight! We live in a time that allows people to self-publish and to be successful at it as your story demonstrates!