Lindsay Buroker is a full-time independent fantasy author who loves travel, hiking, tennis, and vizslas. She grew up in the Seattle area but moved to Arizona when she realized she was solar-powered. You can find her at http://www.lindsayburoker.com where she blogs about her adventures in self-publishing and shares character interviews and excerpts from her latest books. Some of her recent releases are Warrior Mage (epic fantasy) and The Blade’s Memory (steampunk).
Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.
I’ve been a lifeguard, a fast food jockey, a soldier in the U.S. Army, a systems administrator, and a professional blogger. I’ve been writing off and on since I was a kid, but got “serious” about being an author back in 2009 or so. By 2010, I had finished my first couple of novels (The Emperor’s Edge and Encrypted), but was dreading the agent-querying process. That fall, I got my first Kindle, and soon after, I stumbled across J.A. Konrath’s blog, specifically an article where he shared his self-publishing success. Within less than a week, I tossed aside all of my thoughts of seeking an agent and committed to self-publishing. I published my first two novels in December 2010 and January 2011.
I wasn’t an overnight success, but I managed to sell some books, and I got some nice feedback from readers. Encouraged, I published two more novels in my Emperor’s Edge series in 2011, along with some shorter works. By 2012, I was making enough to quit the day job, and by the time I was doing my taxes for 2013, I realized I was making more as an author than I ever had in any of my previous professions. Things have been going along well ever since, and I have over twenty novels out now, between my name and a pen name.
What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job. What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?
I was already self-employed, so I didn’t have as hard a time as many authors do, but I’m lucky things went well, because I mentally checked out of the day job before I was really there with the author income. 🙂
As far as balance goes, I love writing and publishing and pleasing my readers, so it’s easy for me to work more than I should. I also see this as the golden age of self-publishing, so there’s a little “better save up what I can and invest it while the going is good” in the back of my mind. I feel guilty if I don’t get X number of words done a day, so I’m often plugging away well into the night. I have to remind myself to go out and play with friends and take non-working vacations now and then!
Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).
If I’m working on a new manuscript, I’ll usually get up, make a latte, and try to get some words done before heading out for some exercise. I have dogs and live up the street from the national forest, so that’s often a morning hike. I’ll work through the afternoons and try to get to my word count goals before dinner and any evening activities. If I make my goal, I might relax a bit at night and answer some emails, but I have been known to put my head down and ignore email until I finish a manuscript. It’s hard for me to take my eyes off the end goal, and I can usually get a rough draft done in 2-3 weeks these days.
If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?
There weren’t many places to advertise back in 2010/early 2011, but I tried a Goodreads campaign and was able to get a couple sales a day that way. I still remember getting Encrypted reviewed at The Fantasy Book Critic, a big site that usually sticks to traditionally published stuff (or at least it did back then) and that I got a nice boost in sales that February. When I released the second book in my EE series in May, I dropped the price of the first from $2.99 to $0.99, and that helped bring in more readers. In November, when I released the third book, I made the first one permafree, and that also helped a lot, especially with sales in other stores, such as Barnes & Noble.
I never really had any huge best sellers until I got lucky with a 99-cent boxed set this year, so a lot of my success has just been from continuing to put books out and from gradually building up a fan base. One of the cool things about self-publishing right now is that it’s very possible for a “mid-list” author to make a good income.
At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?
Early on, probably earlier than I should have, but I still had some income coming in from my blogs, so it wasn’t as much of a leap of faith as for people who have a regular job and walk away from it. You are motivated to succeed, though, when you cut the cord a little early, because there aren’t many other options!
What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?
I kind of tell it all in my blog and on various podcasts, so I’m not sure if people who follow along are missing anything. I probably make more than people would guess (that’s the one thing I stopped talking about openly, since it seemed like bragging once it was more than paper route money :D), and that’s probably true for a lot of indies who aren’t mega sellers but who have a few series out that are selling moderately well.
I play tennis, hike, take road trips, and this year, I’m hoping to spend the winter some place where I’m closer to skiing, since that’s a hobby I miss.
What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?
Writing and publishing a lot of books is a good plan, but you have to be ready, too. I was a little lucky that I didn’t find out about ebooks and self-publishing right away, because I joined a workshop and worked on selling some short stories and such (basically following the old route to finding an agent). I got those rejections and abandoned a few novels and learned a lot before coming back to the EE series. I might have rushed to publish if it had been as easy as it is now, and that probably wouldn’t have been a good idea.
You usually only get one chance with a reader, so you want to make sure the book they pick up is a good one. Having a lot of books out there only helps if people go on to buy and read the other ones and tell their friends about them.