Happy Monday! It’s an uncharacteristically soggy beginning of the week here in Arizona. Today, Ruminating in the Desert is honored to have a very special guest. Lindsay Buroker, esteemed writer of high fantasy and steampunk series Emperor’s Edge and Flash Gold, respectively, has graced us with her literary presence.
Lindsay shares her view of the self-publishing world, including the ways in which new writers can stand out. She also expresses, in an indirect rebuttal to our last post, why writers should shelve those first and (gasp!) second novels. At RITD, we’re all about promoting varying perspectives and opinions, so no hard feelings!
Without further ado…
RITD: Can you tell us what you were doing before you became an author? What made you decide to write?
LB: I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. I recently found a handwritten adventure buried in a box at my parents’ house. I wrote it when I was seven, and it featured a boy and a horse stranded on a desert island. It’s possible it was sliiiightly derivative of The Black Stallion, but, hey, we all have to start somewhere.
It did take me a long time to “get serious” about writing because, even though my parents are great and very supportive, I always had the impression that one went to school for business or computer science if one wanted to make a good living. You probably couldn’t make it as a writer unless you became a journalist (interviewing people for stories sounded like a horrible job to my introvert mind) or a technical writer (somehow I doubted my snarky sense of humor and love of writing dialogue would be appreciated by people who wanted how-to guides for their software).
So I did other things for a while, but I kept coming back to writing. A few years ago, I joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Online Writing Workshop, wrote a bunch of bad fiction, critiqued a lot of other people’s fiction, and eventually became a better writer. I still have plenty of room for improvement, but by the time I got wind of the e-publishing craze, I felt like I was ready to jump in.
RITD: Why did you ultimately choose to publish your work independently?
LB: I’d been dreading the idea of querying agents, in part because I didn’t see anyone asking for high fantasy (in fact, there was a lot of, “For the love of God, don’t send us that crap” on agents’ submissions pages – it’s possible I’m paraphrasing there), and in part because it seemed like such a lottery. I hated the idea of going in and trying to sell my books on the merits of a two-paragraph letter. I figured I’d have a lot more negotiating power (and appeal for an agent) if I could build up a fan base first. But, how the heck does an unknown author do that?
Those thoughts were in my head when I got my first ebook reader in September of 2010. In October, I stumbled across JA Konrath’s blog and learned a) it’s pretty darned easy to turn one’s work into an ebook and get it uploaded into the big bookstores and b) independent authors get a much bigger cut of the sales price than traditionally published authors do.
By November, I’d contacted an editor and a cover artist, and I’d started my official fantasy author blog. In December, I published my first ebook. Now I have four full-length novels out and several shorter works. Over the course of the last year, I’ve worked my tail off at promotion (and I’ve written a lot of new stuff too), and I’m now making enough to do this full-time.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve thought about writing a query letter.
RITD: What were some of your greatest challenges when you embarked on your career as an independent author? How did you overcome them?
LB: The hardest thing when you’re getting started is overcoming obscurity. People can’t buy your book, no matter how wonderful it is, if they don’t know it exists.