What Does It Take to Become a Full-Time Indie Author?

25 June 2012

From Lindsay Buroker, author of the Emperor’s edge:

A few months ago, I changed my Twitter bio from “indie fantasy/steampunk author” to “full-time indie fantasy/steampunk author.” Apparently a couple of people actually read that Twitter bio, because I’ve had questions about it.

–You really earn a living from your ebooks?
–How many books do you have to write to do that?
–Are you a bestseller?
–If not, how many do you have to sell?
–How do I sell that many books?

I’m going to try to answer some of those questions today, though before I get started, let me admit that I’m not really there yet, insofar as being confident that writing books is all I’ll ever need to do to pay the bills and eventually purchase a suitable super-villain lair.

I feel like I’m on the right path, but I currently rely heavily on Amazon for my income (sales in the Kindle Store make up about 85% of my earnings with Barnes & Noble accounting for 10% and Smashwords and partners making up the last 5%). If Amazon decided to cut its royalty rates tomorrow, giving indie authors 35% instead of 70% for instance, that would make a huge difference in my income. Or, if Amazon made a change in its algorithms to favor traditionally published authors over indies or some such, that could make a big difference too.

Because of that potential for volatility, and the fact that I’ve only been at this publishing thing for 18 months or so, I’m not going to make any claims that this is the definitive guide to quitting the day job and becoming a career writer. I’ll just share what I’ve been doing and what my grand plan is (yeah, I have a grand plan — what, you thought someone scoping out villain lairs wouldn’t?).

What I’ve done so far:

Write books, short stories, and novellas

Read the rest here:  Lindsay Buroker

Julia Barrett


Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Amazon, Books in General, Ebooks, Fantasy/SciFi, Kindle, Pricing, Reviews, Self-Publishing, Social Media, Writing Advice ,

19 Comments to “What Does It Take to Become a Full-Time Indie Author?”

  1. Be sure to click the link for the super-villain lair, which is hilarious!

    • My father is a henchman for a security company and he doesn’t have any of the cool stuff.


    • Thanks for the tip as I had failed to click over and that would have been a shame. 🙂

      I remember seeing a documentary or article on someone who lives in an old missile silo, so I wonder if they gave the true price; I got the idea that they were actually cheaper.

      • Just checked at http://www.missilebases.com and most are less than $1,000,000.


        • The problem is that the US and Russian governments already know where all the missile silos are, so they’d be better used as a decoy while you built your real lair somewhere inconspicuous. I recently saw an ad for an old Scandinavian underground naval base for sale, but it suffers from the same problems. If you’re going to beat James Bond, practical is more important than cool.

          • I’m afraid even 1 million is a little out of my price range. I guess I’ll just have to go dig my own hole, in an undisclosed location. Which is going to have to be no where near my current house or with dynamite as it is on top of a rock. I know that too well as we keep trying to plant things. 🙂

    • I sometimes do technical translations for a shipyard specializing in luxury yachts and have seen the strangest modifications. One guy actually had his luxury yacht equipped with a mini submarine, which prompted me to ask my contact person at the company, “Who the hell is your customer? Blofield?”

      That said, I was always partial to Blofield’s volcano lair in You Only Live Twice. The first time I saw that film, I said to my parents, “When I’m grown up, I want to live there.”

    • Remember, when choosing the location of you Villainous Lair consider the logistics of not only establishing the base but ongoing operations as well. Being near a UPS or FedEx hub is suggested.


  2. That was pretty good. I read in her comments about the best thing you can do for readers is get out more books. That is apart of my grand plan. I’m going to write four novels and a couple of novellas before I start to publish. It will give me some inventory while I write more.

    • I may make a suggestion from past experience. Don’t wait till you already have several books. Start publishing them now. Why do I say this? Because learning to format your books for ebook is at first difficult but gets easy fast. Formatting for print is a BEAR and an expletive ridden process for your first couple times. It will be time consuming when your learning, and will take away from your writing time. Besides, while your writing the next book, people can start finding you. And if they don’t, it won’t matter anyway.

      • Ramon, This is the path I just started down. Good to get some confirmation for my plan of action as my first book continues to just kind of sit there…. It is difficult to let it do that, but I intend to not try to market until I put the polishing touches on at least my second book. The third is very close to being done as well.

  3. I have the answer: HARD WORK. Now that that’s sorted, I’m off to tidy up the 10th (11th) installment of one of my old (but popular) series. Ciao!

    (I won’t ruin it by saying that hard work in writing means lots of books, clever promotion that doesn’t focus on try-hard social media techniques, the ability to become a good storyteller, a day/night job that will hold you until you get good enough or discoverable enough to get paid, strong technical skills and creativity, a good knowledge of the industry, a ‘run it on a shoe-string’ attitude, a stomach for stress, good to improvable English [etc.], discipline and about 1 zillion other things. Also, if you are going the traditional route, all of the above and be masochist.)

    • Probably if I had to pick one it would be being a good storyteller. You can get by with no skills, except passable English, if you are good to excellent and above. (The more I wirte, the more I see that this is the something that should/must be focused on. It’s also the one thing that can guarantee you a future in this game.)

      • By the way, I read this author’s book Flash Gold when it was free. The writer can write well, aside from a limited plot and a clear attempt to sell future books or others in that series (it sort of felt like the author was new to writing short fiction – I could be wrong; however, that’s a writer thing and readers wouldn’t even notice at all). I did really enjoy the book. I also think I reviewed it (?) very positively (4-5 stars).

        • Update: it had a heavy start that was a novel start, but by mid to end it was more like a short. Short stories need a bit of balance. She did really well in the later parts, which is where people who write novels generally stuff it up big time. I’ll have to make sure I reviewed her work later. That book was definitely a ‘buy now as its excellent’ book and I usually make sure I review that kind because the more good books readers read that are indie the better our rep gets with the masses.

  4. This is an excellent post and a great insight into the author’s most vulnerable hopes and dreams. I’ve recently made the same decision: I always wanted to be a writer, so it’s now or never. I’m not as far down the path as Lindsay (or Pike Mike, who has not posted a link to get a better idea of who he is), but I’ve made a similar long-range plan and I’ve run the numbers.

    My most controversial post so far has been “On Writing 5: Cash is Good” in which I layout one scenario for investment and cash flow. And obviously, as John Locke reported and so many before him knew: the cash is in the back list.

    Pike Mike’s comment about being a good story teller is the heart of it though. You can sell everyone something once, but if you want to remain successful you have to have a compelling story.

    Peace, Seeley

  5. Julia –

    Thank you, thank you! For referring to this post. I follow Lindsay’s blog but this came the last week of school and birthdays for my kids and I missed it.

  6. Useful article. Not much to say bar that 🙂

    Thanks for posting it.

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