Writing And Investing For A Long Term Indie Author Career With Lindsay Buroker

What are the core fundamentals of a successful independent author business? How can you focus on writing, as well as sell more books, and stay healthy? Prolific fantasy author Lindsay Buroker shares her tips.

In the intro, YouTube gets into audio-only podcasts; Seth Godin’s book marketing for The Song of Significance; How to make more money than the average author [Ask ALLi]; Independent author income survey from ALLi; The Authors Guild updated their model contract with a new clause: No Generative AI Training Use.

Plus, my photos from Washington D.C.; I’m on the Write Now with Scrivener Podcast; Pictures from signing hardbacks at Bookvault in Peterborough.

Findaway Voices

Today’s podcast sponsor is Findaway Voices, which gives you access to the world’s largest network of audiobook sellers and everything you need to create and sell professional audiobooks. Take back your freedom. Choose your price, choose how you sell, choose how you distribute audio. Check it out at FindawayVoices.com.

Lindsay Buroker is the author of over 100 books across epic fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and more.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • How Lindsay’s current business works, and how she’s ready to pivot and is considering other things, like Kickstarter
  • The core fundamentals for a long-term author business
  • What changes and what stays the same
  • Pros and cons of writing under a pen name
  • Dealing with negative feedback
  • Investing, and thinking about the future for our intellectual property

You can find Lindsay at LindsayBuroker.com and listen to the backlist at https://6figureauthors.com/.

Header image created by Joanna Penn on Midjourney.

Transcript of Interview with Lindsay Buroker

Joanna: Lindsay Buroker is the author of over 100 books across epic fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and more. So welcome back to the show, Lindsay.

Lindsay: Hey, thanks for having me. It’s been a couple years. So we’ll see what’s going on.

Joanna: It’s so exciting to talk to you because lots of people miss you, and they miss the Six Figure Authors Podcast. I do. I used to listen to that show every week, whenever it was, and we have not heard your news for a while.

So you did the last main episode of Six Figure Authors in April 2022, and did a surprise extra in October 2022, but give us an update. 

What does your book business look like now? And what have you been writing in the last year?

Lindsay: I feel a little bad about that October episode because it was super doom and gloom.

Joanna: It was really good.

Lindsay: We’re probably going to do another one, just pop into update. For my book business, I haven’t changed a lot. I’ve slowed down a little bit, which it may not look like from the outside because the series I’m working on their shorter, like 80 – 90,000 words, which, compared to some of my epic fantasy stuff that’s short.

So I’m writing fewer words a day, I used to shoot for like 7,000 to 10,000. And now I’m just like, yeah, screw that, maybe 5,000. But because they’re shorter books, I’ve still been publishing as much. I don’t know if that will continue.

I haven’t made a lot of changes. I’m still launching new stuff into Kindle Unlimited. Things are still working pretty well for me, but I’m definitely keeping an eye on what’s going on. You know, you were talking about selling direct and the people that are just doing other things, and Kickstarters, and I do have the Patreon.

So I’m always ready. If I have to pivot, I want to be prepared.

I might do a Kickstarter and try some stuff, regardless, but it’s a lot of work as I think you’ve been talking about the Kickstarter you did. And until you actually know how much you’re going to make from it, it’s a bit of a question mark. Like if I’m not going to make more than I’m making a month from Amazon, do I really want to put all this extra work above and beyond what I usually do? So that’s why I haven’t done it yet. 

I am excited about all the things that people are doing now and all the ways you can make money from your books. It’s pretty fun to watch all the various ways people succeed and contemplate trying some things myself.

Joanna: Well, just on the Kickstarter, I mean, your social media posts are often just interesting things with dragons on them, right, like lamps and random stuff with dragons. And if you did a Kickstarter, you would have to do merchandise of some kind because everyone will want some kind of dragon thing.

Lindsay: It’s true. And I don’t really have a go-to person for creating things like that for art, other than cover designs and such. So that’s extra work, finding that.

I think people want a hardback, like a signed hardback edition, which I’d be open to, but again, I haven’t done it yet. Everything would be like the first time it’d be the hardest. And I’m sure you could become like Kris and Dean (WMG Publishing) doing their monthly Kickstarter, like the way I am releasing on Amazon, like, oh, it’s no big deal, it’s just another series.

So I think it’s just that first time that’s got me hesitating a little bit because I know it will be a learning curve.

I did do a Kickstarter like 10 years ago, so I do have some experience with it, but now I actually have fans.

I had a few back then, like it worked out. It was good.

Joanna: What did you make? Do you remember? What did you make on that?

Lindsay: I was just funding my audiobooks, because early on, it cost quite a bit to have those done. And in those days, I was doing like free audiobooks, and gosh, I can’t even remember, was ACX a thing? I feel like it might have been, but that was the only game in town. So audiobooks weren’t profitable for me, but people wanted them. So I was funding a couple of those. 

I give away the audiobooks, but I also gave away sign paperbacks of this series. Those were very popular. So I had to sign all this stuff. Everybody wanted a custom message from one of the characters. And I’m like, of course, of course!

So that was a lot of work. And I found out how much international shipping was the hard way. Like there weren’t as many calculators and stuff to warn you back then that it was going to be $50 to ship a couple books to Australia. So I ended up doing okay, but it was definitely a lot of work.

Joanna: Well, as we’re recording this, I’m going to the printer next week, my books are printing right now, but things have definitely changed in terms of the technology. I’m kind of keeping this list at the moment of the new jobs that we need virtual assistants for. And I think running a Kickstarter campaign for authors, maybe Monica and Russell, in their group, they have people who are going to do this. But you would have a massive Kickstarter now, and you could actually hire someone to run it

I actually think that type of job is going to be an emergent one in the future because it’s like a project manager role, really. There’s so much to organize, and for people who actually can drive the back end of Kickstarter and the backer kit and all that, I think that’s a real skill. I mean—

Would you hire someone like that if you were going to do a Kickstarter? I mean, you wouldn’t do all yourself.

Lindsay: It’s funny because I’ve actually asked someone, and she said yes. So I won’t out her on this show because I don’t know if she wants to be like, oh, that’s going to be my new job, everybody’s going to want me to run one, because I think they’ve done a couple of now. So I am keeping that in mind, I agree.

Maybe you do it yourself the first time or with guidance so you kind of learn everything, but yeah, I could definitely see that just then you make a list, right. Here’s what I need done, and you hand it off to someone.

I think there are more jobs that are going to be available for people that are willing to help, you know, there are already lots of author assistants, editing, cover art, but we are seeing more opportunities. You know, just like you don’t want to manage your ads, maybe you don’t want to manage your Kickstarter. And it does make sense for anyone that thinks they’re going to make enough.

Maybe you’ve already got an established fan base, and you’re doing a new installment in a series that you know people will say yes because they already like it. In that case, you might know you’re going to make enough to pay someone and make it worth their time.

Joanna: It’s interesting what changes. I feel like when we both went full-time, both of us it was 2011, wasn’t it?

Lindsay: It might have been 2012 for me by the time I was like, oh, I’m actually making more than the old day job. But I kind of had a year where I was sort of checked out on what I was doing before and really focused on writing.

Joanna: I mean, and back then, there just wasn’t the ecosystem for authors. There wasn’t the technology that we have now.

Like you said, I mean, Kickstarter was around back then, but it wasn’t a place really for publishing and authors, whereas that’s definitely really changed. Is there anything else that you’re looking at now that you think, okay, maybe this is something more interesting, this is a way that I could do? I mean, the thing is, your business is running so well, like you said.

When do you think you might just go, right, I need to pivot? Is it when the income drops?

Lindsay: Right. Amazon, they’ve been cutting corners in this supposed recession we’re having, or going to have. Amazon’s been laying people off and cutting out some things.

So I’m just watching like, well, let’s see if they cut on KU or change the royalty rate or something. Hopefully not. But I always try to think, well, what would I do if that happened?

I think I’ll try some things regardless of whether that happens eventually, just, you know, it’s kind of fun. You go through different phases where you’re like, ‘I’m just tired, I can’t do anything, like I can’t handle anything else’.

And other times when you have more energy, it sounds fun. I am also interested, like selling direct, I know is something you’re doing a lot of and there are so many more tools now to make it easy. I think you have a Shopify store, [CreativePennBooks.com]like we didn’t have that.

I actually sold direct an early release of one of my Emperor’s Edge books, my first series. I think it was like, between book five and six or something, there was a cliffhanger, and people really wanted the next one.

So for $10, you could buy on my site for one weekend, you’d get the manuscript. I don’t think it had been edited yet, and then you also get the eBook when it released. I had to do this with Pay Pal. And there was no BookFunnel, so I had to email them the documents. And I had to do it like when I saw the money come in.

I remember, for whatever reason, I was at the US Open, the tennis thing in New York when I was doing this, because why wouldn’t you be on vacation while you’re trying to do something like this?

And so I’m sitting there in the seats, watching Roger Federer, a new order came in, I have to email the eBooks to this person, and then hope they know how to sideload it. So that’s come a long way. So I’m a little more interested now in selling direct that there are a lot more tools for that.

Joanna: That’s so funny. I was at Superstars in Colorado with Damon Courtney, and I introduced him to someone who had never heard of BookFunnel. And I was like, BookFunnel changed our lives!

We used to have to direct people to download this Mobi file and then teach them how to sideload it.

No one even uses the phrase ‘sideload’ anymore. We’re so old!

Lindsay: I know, I don’t even know how to do it anymore. Like my phone just opens up whatever, or I think most people’s phones are like that now. So yeah, and then BookFunnel has their app.

Joanna: I mean, remember the customer support. It’s like, well, I didn’t know how to get this on my Samsung granny tablet. And it’s like, I’m sorry, I’ll just give you your money back.

Lindsay: I think I had like bookmarked a forum post from like smart eReader, one of those kinds of things, and I just directed people there. Maybe this will help you because I don’t know anything about your device.

Joanna: Exactly. So thank you, Damon from BookFunnel. And I did say to Damon, it’s about time you came back on the show because there are just so many things now that BookFunnel does.

Again, this is the other thing with you and I, right, so we’ve been doing this a long time, we both have our processes, and there are things we might not have revisited for a long time.

So for me, one of the things I’m really questioning at the moment is social media. I think we even met on Twitter back in the day, and now it seems that Twitter is just spiraling the drain and I don’t necessarily want to replace it, but I find myself going more into Facebook, for example. Or people are going into LinkedIn, which is kind of scary.

Are there things that you’re questioning or revisiting in your business? Is social media something you’re questioning?

Lindsay: Well, I’ve actually never successfully sold books on Twitter, so I don’t really care. Everybody that was signing off, like, oh, I’m going to Mastodon. I’m like, have fun, see you later. I probably just will never leave Twitter or not check it as much, maybe. I didn’t feel like, oh, I got to go replace this and find some way to sell books again.

Facebook, on the other hand, has been a good way to sell books for me. It’s number two, after my newsletter, when I post the links there. I think it’s just that I have that demographic, that sort of mid-30s and up, that’s more on Facebook. A lot of my characters are that age, so it makes sense.

So that one works well, for me, and I like that, and I shouldn’t like it maybe, but they separated your book profile page from your personal account. So I never have to log on to my personal account anymore, and I don’t. I will once in a while, and there’s a bunch of messages. I’m like, guys, I haven’t posted on here since 2019, why are you sending me messages this way? I actually answer emails better than this thing. Yeah, I’m still quite active on the Facebook page.

I’m happy that everybody that’s done well with TikTok, that’s awesome. Like I’ve been saying for years, like just wait, a new thing will come, like a new tactic, and you can get in early and use it. And people have. And I don’t know what the next thing will be, but it’s not really for me. I even gave it a shot.

I hired a VA because it was very easy to hand that to someone because I didn’t care. I didn’t even have an account on there at the time. And nothing happened, she did it for like five months. It wasn’t surprising to me because I think the people who I see on there are on there with their faces, and being funny, and doing little bits, and showing off their books. And I see why it works for them.

If somebody does the book flip thing where they’re just showing quotes is working for somebody else too, great, awesome. But I don’t feel compelled to jump on every new thing. What I’m doing, like the core fundamental stuff, doesn’t ever seem to change.

Like maybe you try new things as they come along, and if something comes along that suits you, yay, I would be happy to. Like the next introvert social media thing… Yeah, I think that’s an oxymoron. I’ll be all over that.

Joanna: Okay, so you said the ‘core fundamental things’ there.

What are those core fundamentals for your author business?

Lindsay: So releasing series as a foundation.

Every now and then I divert, and I do one offs or something that’s not quite the same. Sometimes it works fabulously and launches a new series, sometimes it doesn’t work. So having the series that I build with like an arc, and I know this doesn’t work in every genre, romances have to have a new couple in each one, so they have to like make their town or something. You know, really create a setting that brings in the cohesiveness and gets people to want to stay in that setting.

But it follows an arc, and in my case, I have to do like this slow-burn romance over the series. And there’s like maybe a mystery of something that’s going around in the background. So something that keeps people wanting to read book after book until it’s complete. So I have that at the core. 

Then the marketing, no matter what I do, no matter what tactics change, I’m always trying to get people to try book one, and I often make book one free. So I’ve got the newsletter, and I’ve never gone into building a newsletter solely on throwing stuff out there and trying to get people to sign up in order to try something, which I know people have, worked fabulous for them, and awesome.

I’ve always been like, here’s the sign-up at the end of the book. Like at the end of the book, if you want the free prequel, or if you want the other POV, like here’s the hero romantic lead that we never get to see in his head in the main series. If you want some scenes from his POV, sign up for the newsletter. And that works very well.

I can tell which extra ones are super effective of those because people will email me because they couldn’t get it.

The technology is still not perfect, right? A lot of stuff goes through those spam folders and things. They’re like, I need this. So I know that one was good because people care that they signed up for the newsletter and it never came. So that’s at the core.

I’m always trying to get more fans onto the newsletter. I’m not as good about it. I used to do something for every series. And now when you sign up, you get like 10 things. I figure some of that’s good because it can get them interested in the series they haven’t tried yet.

So that’s always at the core, whether it’s spending money advertising book one or whether it’s just a perma-free. With all my wide series that are in all the bookstores, I’ve got a book one free if it’s five books or more.

Since I’ve been releasing more into KU, those have fallen off, but they still are selling some, even though I may forget for a long time to try to get a BookBub. I don’t get the BookBubs as much anymore, I have to say. My career is not dependent on BookBub in any way anymore. And it’s not that I don’t like them, they just don’t like me as much anymore.

Joanna: Yes, I mean, things have obviously changed. I found a blog post about the launch of my first novel back when it was called Pentecost in 2011. If people are interested, it’s at thecreativepenn.com/firstnovel. And it’s like there are all these posts about writing this novel and stuff.

And that book launched at 340 in the whole Amazon.com store. This is before paid ads, this is before all of this stuff, right? And I was laughing going, gosh—

How much effort does it take to launch a book into under 500 on the Amazon.com store now?

I mean, it’s just a completely different world, isn’t it?

Lindsay: Well, it’s funny, because a lot of people are not happy that it’s pay-to-play, right? You have to advertise probably to get any visibility on Amazon.

And I’m like, well, when I started, there was no way to get visibility on Amazon, either, because there wasn’t a way to advertise. And I did not have that experience. My books went out there and nobody bought them. And it wasn’t until Book Three, like I managed to get a few sales. I still remember, thank you to the guy that runs the Fantasy Book Critic for reviewing one of my books. And I remember I got a bunch of sales on Smashwords from that. And it was like, yay!

But it wasn’t until I started putting stuff out for free, first, a short story, and later, I made Book One free when Book Three came out, that finally people started finding stuff.

I will say, at least when I got started, the free list on Amazon was easier to find. And there was no Kindle Unlimited, so people that were budget conscious were definitely skimming through the free list to look for books.

So things change, you know, but having that series, and at least for me, for fiction, is kind of core.

And then you can figure out each year, there’s some new way that you’re going to try to sell that first book.  Having that newsletter, continuing to build the fan base, of course, is the most reliable thing because those are all these people that are going to go out and buy your new book and support you. I’m thankful for them big time.

I have a kind of quirky sense of humor. It’s not for everyone, but the people that it’s for, you know, I’ve had a lot of them say like, “Oh, you’re my favorite author. I’m reading some other author now, but only because I’m waiting for your next book.” So it’s good.

It’s hard to find your tribe, but over time, it’s kind of cumulative. The efforts do pay off over time.

Joanna: Yes, exactly. It is absolutely that.

Now, before you mentioned phases of our careers and when we get bored with something, we try something new.

So for example, a few years back, you created a new pen name, which you then outted, like it’s not a secret pen name anymore. It was at the beginning, right. And you wrote more the steamy romance under that name.

Looking back now, are you happy that you wrote under another name? Or has it just become more hassle than it’s worth?

As in you set up a second newsletter, you set up all that other stuff for another name. What are the pros and cons, I guess? What do you advise people now?

Lindsay: I think it was worth it at the time. Like it was part of an experiment too. I wanted to see, like this was probably the end of 2014, like, can you still start from scratch and succeed? Because there were a lot of people saying you couldn’t get started in 2014. And now people getting started like, ‘oh, I wish it was 2014.’

So I don’t regret it, but I actually probably will, I keep thinking about this, I need to get the covers redone, and I’ll probably do Ruby Lionsdrake, that was the name, and Lindsay Buroker, and put them on my author page too. So people realize that, okay, these are something different, but they’ll find them. 

I haven’t done a new book for Ruby in probably like four years. So sales are like way fallen off, of course. Every now and then I mention, oh, by the way, I have these other books, and people are like, “you have a pen name?” And they’ll go out and buy them.

But if they can find them by searching me on Amazon, my regular name, I think, you know, because I still I thought they were good stories, most of them. There might have been a couple, you know, you get experimental. Like I have so much respect for romance authors that can keep writing basically the same formula, in that he and she get together and they have the same kind of sex.

Joanna: I mean, some people do she and she, or he and he, or a whole tribe or the harem.

Lindsay: But whatever you start doing, you have to do that thing, or your readers are like, I’m not interested in that, and it flops.

You get kind of locked in with romance, I feel like. Whereas maybe some genres are a little more accepting of straying a little bit from exactly what they thought they signed up for. But yeah, I was like, oh, let’s do a threesome in this book, why wouldn’t you, and my readers were like, what?

Joanna: Oh, we don’t want that!

Lindsay: Yeah, that was like the least well-rated. So I did it, I did a couple series with them, and then I was ready to go back to my main stuff.

One of the reasons I had started it was because I felt like I might be publishing too often under my regular name because I started writing more quickly at that point. So that was another one of the reasons. I thought, well, I’ll alternate. I’ll do the pen name and then my regular name. But yeah, at this point, I’m like, nobody cares. They’ll just catch up when they catch up, or some of them read a book a day, and they’ll read it and be like, when’s the next one coming out? So nobody seems to care as much.

There was also a lot of negative, like people talking about, ‘oh, if you write fast, you must be just throwing out crap.’ So that might have been in the back of my head too, like, oh, I shouldn’t do more than a book every three or four months.

Joanna: Are you over that now, do you think?

Lindsay: Yeah, I just do whatever at this point.

I think part of it is you get to a stage in your career, and also in your life, where you stop caring as much.

You’re always going to have your detractors, right?

And I just delete those emails these days. I used to feel you had to be really good and a good customer service person and write back some polite, well, thank you for sharing your opinion, I will take this into consideration. Now I’m like, delete. I don’t have time, I don’t have the bandwidth that I want to spend on responding to the critics.

Joanna: Oh, I’m glad you said that. And people listening, I hope you can hear that we’ve been doing this for a while now, and I still have difficult days. Like today, I had a bit of a difficult day, I got a whole load of very negative comments on my blog. And my first response was, I was like, no, you’re wrong, I want to argue with you. And then I was like, no, it’s my blog. Delete, delete, delete.

Lindsay: I know, there’s a lot of blogs where they start to get more popular, and all of a sudden—well, not so much today, because who blogs anymore, right?

Joanna: They are just show notes of the podcast.

Lindsay: Yeah, they would just turn the comments off. And you’re like, well, they got tired of dealing with it. So you can tell, you get more popular, and you probably get like 90 – 95% great feedback, love the books, you know, and then there’s those couple.

Joanna: And you only remember the difficult ones.

So I went for a walk, and I was like, look, you think of all the people who are lovely and want this content, or whatever, this book or whatever, but it’s the negative ones that are difficult to get out your head.

I mean, I say things change, but are there any sort of things that you feel you haven’t achieved? Like you’ve sold tons of books, you’ve made lots of cash. I mean—

Are there things that you still want to achieve as an author?

Lindsay: I will probably keep doing the same things, but I would still enjoy if somebody came and said like, hey, we’d like to do a movie, or a Netflix series, or something. And I know it’d be horrible because they’re never true to the books. And all my fans would be like, oh, they’re awful, the book was better, but I would enjoy it. That’d be kind of neat to have somebody make something. 

I think sort of fantasy and sci fi are really expensive to make, so I don’t know what the odds are. Every now and then you hear somebody got picked up. And then will the movie ever get made? That’s really rare, right? They’ll option it, but not make it.

So that would be fun, but it’s not something that I can control. I’m not going to go knocking on doors and try to pitch my novel or hire someone to. That’s not me. I’m very much, if they want it, they’ll come to me and we’ll talk.

Joanna: I love this about you. I often use you as an example of a relaxed author who mainly focuses on writing. I mean, your main marketing is, like you said, releasing a series. And for you, that’s like an eight-book series of over 120,000 words each or something. It’s not like one of my series when they’re like 60,000 words. So that’s kind of one of the main things you’ve done. But you also said that you’re writing less now, 5000 to 7000 words per day, as opposed to over sort of 10,000. 

Tell us how do you write. What is your writing process? And has that changed over time?

Lindsay: Well, it’s not very romantic, or what you imagine with writers, but I feel like I’m kind of a factory, I write my rough draft in maybe two or three weeks, do an editing pass, send it off to my beta readers, and then I start working on the next thing while they have it.

And they’ll send it back, and I do some tweaks and usually another quick editing pass, and send it to my editor, and get back to the other thing. By the time it’s ready to go eventually to my typo hunters and Patreon and eventually out to Amazon for the exclusive stuff, I’m usually sending the next book off to the beta readers.

So I just kind of keep cycling through, and maybe I take a few days off between projects here and there. I just keep things rolling along, and book cover artists and editors well in advance. I don’t always know what they’re going to get. Like the editor will be like, I wonder when I’m getting the summer? And I’m like, something, I’ll keep you working. So they’re very nice to be flexible with that stuff.

As far as like ideas and sort of the process, this is one of the reasons I’m still writing a lot, is I still have like three or four ideas ahead that I want to get to. Like when I finish this series, I want to do this and this, and then I’m going to do a new sci fi. And so that’s why I haven’t really slowed down that much. And I figured someday, maybe, I don’t know that I’ll ever run out of ideas. I feel like some people are just like that.

I try to mostly read other people’s fiction in between my projects, because it gives me ideas. I’m just reading their story, and I’m like, oh, yeah, I would do that, but I would do it this way. And then I’m like, I should do that. Of course, I should write one like that.

It’s like, you’re still working on another series, stop. You’re not going to jump off right now and start that. I listen to nonfiction anytime, but for some reason, fiction, I just start reading somebody’s book and I’m off on, ooh, this is what I want to do. So I have to be careful.

Joanna: Do you still just sit down and type? Is that how you write? Or do you dictate?

Lindsay: I do type. I have never gotten into dictation. I’ve tried it hiking, but my dogs have always been like, umm, no. I’ve always had like hunting breeds, I don’t hunt, but they’re that breed, and so they’re always off. Like, I have to pay attention to them when I’m out there. Then there are so many errors when I’ve tried it that I’m like, what is this, when I tried to go back and do it.

I think you just talked about this somewhere, you can do it on the nonfiction more easily than on the fiction. But I actually type pretty quickly, so I’m not sure, even if I got good at it. And then your voice gets tired. Like, I go to a conference or something and I’m dying after because I never have to talk to anyone as an introvert. Now and then you go out into the world and speak with people, but not like these long, extended things. So you end up having to kind of train your voice to be able to handle that much too.

After so many years, I don’t really think about the typing of the words, I’m just kind of seeing the story playing out in my head. And it makes for some interesting typos and stuff later. I tend to revert back to like the words I learned when I was younger, they’re really drilled in there.

And so if I learned something incorrectly, like which sheer to use, whether it’s S-H-E-E-R, S-H-E-A-R. Yeah, my brain doesn’t know that when I’m just writing the script for the story playing in my head. So I get a lot of errors. Thank goodness for my editors and beta readers. And every now and then they get some entertainment when I did not find the correct word or cannot remember. You know, ricocheted has two T’s or is it one T? See, I can’t even remember.

Yeah, and who cares because we have editors, and we have ProWritingAid, and we have all of that.

Joanna: Do you have a full-time editor and a full-time cover designer?

Lindsay: Well, I think I give them enough work. Actually with my audiobook narrator I’ve joked like I paid her enough last year she could buy a new car. I mean, I know she pays her producer and stuff out of that too.

Just like us, we have expenses beyond just the top line income we get. But I have people that I’ve been working with so long that they usually just make a slot for me every month, like my editor does. They’re not full-time with me, but I definitely keep them busy.

Joanna: For sure. And then just on health, I want to mention health because you said you’re ‘a factory.’

Lindsay: Is that not healthy, Joanna?!

Joanna: It doesn’t sound too healthy, Lindsay!

How do you keep your factory-self healthy?

Lindsay: Well, 5000 to 7000 words is about three hours of work, of solid work. You know as a writer you wander off often. so I’m not really working more than a normal day anymore. Like I used to early on because I was doing the writing, and the day job, and you’re learning everything, and doing everything you can with marketing because just nothing’s working in the beginning. It’s just like, ah, how do I make this work? How do I sell books?

Now it’s more of a system, so I don’t have to spend much time on the marketing side anymore. The writing is thing I enjoy the most, so it’s less onerous.

I actually get upset on days when like I have a couple appointments or something, and it’s like, oh, I can’t write, or it’s going to be all broken up so it’s just no good. I’m just not going to write that day. I love my days where I just don’t have anything else to do and I can just have my laptop and get cozy with a dog under the blankets and work from an unergonomic position on the couch.

Joanna: But you do walk with your dogs?

Lindsay: I walk a lot. Like most of my health stuff is like from exercise. Like right now, my IT bands are all messed up. It’s like, oh stop walking. The IT band is bad because I was running and walking so much I had plantar fasciitis, so I got a peloton and started riding, and like well, now I get the IT band thing from that.

Joanna: You need a foam roller.

Lindsay: I do all the things. I do all the trigger point and rolling and working on stuff. I do take breaks, but I find that a lot of times in the days where I’m trying to take off, I’m just like, oh, this stuff sucks. I’d rather be writing because usually you end up doing all your errands and things on your suppose it off day. 

I could be better about taking vacations though, but I always end up thinking about stuff. Like I said, once  I start relaxing and reading somebody else’s book, pretty soon I’ve got my phone out and I’m taking notes with ideas. So I’m not the best at that. Like I do try to have a good diet and exercise every day and make sure I’m not like sitting for hours and hours or anything like that.

But I’m probably not the best model of work-life balance. You have to decide that, people have to decide that.

Are you going to have work-life balance or are you going to be successful?

Like, it’s really rare for somebody that’s really chill and just working a little bit when they feel motivated to also be successful and reach their financial goals. I guess we don’t want to believe that, especially some generations don’t want to believe that, but you have to pick. Like, which do you want? It’s very rare for somebody to really get both.

Joanna: I think that is a good tip. And I mean, I certainly have worked harder since I left my day job.

Lindsay: Well, that’s just it. I used to work like three hours a day when I was doing blogging and writing content. I made money from Amazon ads, or not Amazon, but Amazon affiliate programs and other affiliate programs and Google AdSense ads. And I used to work a lot less and play a lot more World of Warcraft.

Joanna: You gave that up, didn’t you?

Lindsay: I had to give it up. I was too addicted. So I had to give it up to start finishing books. 

I actually used to work less, but I was less happy because I was writing about crap I didn’t care that much about. Like, I was able to work from home, so that was cool, but it wasn’t fulfilling writing. Like I really enjoyed that I can tell stories for a living now, but that’s the trap.

Once you’re doing what you love, you never stop working. You want to just keep doing it.

I talk about like retiring, I really just say, this my goal where I’ll consider myself completely financially independent, and then I don’t care about book sales and stuff, but I wouldn’t stop writing. What else would you do? It’s fun for you, and it helps other people.

Like you get emails from people that are like, I’m having a really hard time, I just got through chemotherapy or lost somebody, and I really needed the laughs. So you feel like, oh, it’s not just about me and how much money I can make, I’m actually helping people in a small way.

Joanna: Yes, it’s an escape from your life into a story. And I totally agree with you. I mean, you and I have also always been interested in money and finance and investing.

And this is not any kind of investment advice, we’re not financial advisors, blah, blah, blah, but both of us have always thought about that side of things. We’ve never just said, right, this is cashflow money. We have also tried to put money away in investments, in like property, and you’ve done more of that than me. So when we talk about retirement, I guess like you say, we’re not talking about giving it all up, but we might change the amount of time on it.

Would you even bother book marketing if you were financially independent?

Lindsay: I’d probably do what I’m doing now, which is emailing the newsletter, maintaining the newsletter, and then throwing some money into Amazon ads. That’s sort of in the last couple of years about all I’ve done for that stuff.

Maybe I would write less, I probably would, but I don’t know, we’ll see. It’s not like I couldn’t slow down now, but I haven’t yet.

Like I said, there are always like four things waiting in the wings that I want to work on. So, I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I always, as somebody, and I know you don’t have kids either, and then I don’t have siblings or anything like that, and I’m not married.

So I’ve never had a safety net, so I’ve always been conscious of that and it’s that’s what’s made me like okay, while the getting is good, get—whatever the saying is—while you can, make extra to put away for the future. In America, we have to Social Security, but it’s pretty lame, so I don’t want to depend on that.

Joanna: I don’t think you’re going to need that! It’s interesting because you’re exactly right. I mean, this is another thing that’s missing really in the community is dead indie author estate management, which is interesting.

I was very interested that Justin Bieber, the Beeb, is one of the musicians who has sold his entire backlist. Now he’s a young man, like he’s in his 30s, I guess. So he’s got the rest of his life, he can literally just say, well, it’s day one, and I’m going to start all over again. So he sold his IP, and everything in the future, I guess is his again.

What are your thoughts on licensing or even packaging up and selling your IP as a backlist?

Or what are we going to do with dead indie authors like ourselves at some point?

Lindsay: Yeah, it is a question mark. Like, obviously, in his case, he’s super popular. So there’s a lot of money there. In our case, I don’t know, because there’s so much content being put out right now. I don’t know how many books that we’re producing are going to really outlive us.

You know, even when you look back in the 20th century, there were so few books that remained in print and became kind of perennial things that the publishers kept selling, or the estates did.

I’m not saying it can’t happen, especially if you’ve got somebody that would take over, maybe even keep publishing new titles under your name, like if you had a kid or something. But yeah, it’s a little bit of a question mark when you don’t have somebody. Like, right now, I’m just like, somebody’s going to get my passwords and like they can do what they want. I don’t want to say I don’t care, but I’m maybe realistic in believing that.

I see how much things drop off when I stopped publishing, and I’m like, well, if I stopped publishing for a year, or three or four years, how much can Amazon ads alone, or whatever, keep things going?

And maybe there’d be some, but I don’t know that it would be at such a level that it’s worth having somebody full-time managing your estate. And I don’t know, like, if somebody came and said, “Hey, I want to buy your backlist,” maybe I’d entertain that. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a hit or been popular enough that that’s going to happen.

Joanna: I also think you were a very quiet success. Partly because you’re an introvert and you don’t particularly care or you don’t want fame or attention. You’d rather just stay quiet where you are. But you’re very successful.

And I feel like at some point, a bit like these music industry people have been going around buying backlists, that’s going to be the future. Especially if you think about how big publishing is, the Penguin Random House thing, they’re not allowed to buy Simon and Schuster.

I know a lot of indie authors who have had offers for their backlists. And most of them say no, because they know how much money they can make over the next few decades if things continue as they are. But given how fast you can write, like you said, if someone gave you a good offer for a chunk of cash, then I don’t know, why not?

Lindsay: Well, maybe, but would it be a good offer? Because publishers never want to give you very much.

Joanna: It’d have to be a good offer. That’s what I mean. I presume the Beeb got a decent offer.

Lindsay: I would think so. I’m also like, I don’t want a whole lot. Like, I’m just like, what would I do? You know, I just want to make sure I don’t need anything in retirement, and that I don’t have to like step down my standard of living. So that’s one point. But I’m almost there now, so I’m like, what am I going to do with $10 million, or something? I’m like, well, I’ll buy some more dividend stocks, I guess. I actually kind of geek out on that stuff.

Right now, I’m planning, well, what charities do I leave stuff to eventually? And maybe you find a charity that they can manage your IP. Maybe there’ll be more of an industry around this stuff going forward. Like, I feel like it’s still hard to find somebody who can run your Amazon ads effectively. But things are evolving, maybe the AIs will run our estates, and they want to charge a fee.

Joanna: Yeah, well, I mean, and again, totally another topic, but I have sort of postulated a blockchain where if you set things up right on blockchain and have smart contracts, that should just be able to go to whatever wallet you set up in the future. So it could be more automatic in the future than it is now. [Covered in my book, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Virtual Worlds.]

Whereas if you go to these agencies, they’re literally manually still running all these reports and sending out money, but that’s completely unrealistic for the future. I mean, so many interesting things have happened since we’ve known each other, and so much ahead. So just as we finish up now—

Anything you’re particularly excited about other than dividend stocks!?

Lindsay: This is funny. This is actually why I watch your show because you’re so positive. And I’m a bit of a glass-half-empty person, like I feel there’s a lot of collective anxiety in the world right now about everything. So it’s hard for me to pick, well, what’s happening that’s super exciting.

Like I like that there are more tools, so especially new indie authors that don’t have money for editor and cover designer, they’re going to be able to go to whatever AI and go make me a cover, and it’s going to be good enough.

I guess I’m excited to, I don’t know, be more introverted going forward and maybe eventually back off answering emails. I still like that, and the fans like it, so it’s hard. I think you’ve tried to get away from answering emails at one point too.

Joanna: It didn’t work out really.

Lindsay: Yeah, it’s hard to find somebody. You know, the readers get so excited sometimes. Some of them are so excited when you answer them, and, you know, write something that says you read their email. So it’s hard to want to just push that off on someone else. I think there are just more tools coming along, and it’s going to be a lot easier to just sort of focus on the thing you like and that you’re really good at.

And like, I already do only auto ads, almost exclusively, for Amazon. And like, there’s people that they’re in there making their 5000 keywords. I’m like, well, if that’s working for you, great.

But honestly, I get charged more when I try to pick keywords than if I just let the auto ads run and give it a max bid. And it’s doing pretty good, but I obviously don’t have to worry too much about the budget.

I find that if you’re selling enough, you get organic sales too, so it kind of evens things out. If you’re doing $5 a day or something, you’re not going to get any charts, and you’re not going to get any organic sales, so you have to be really careful about what you’re spending.

 I’m seeing all this stuff improving and getting easier. So you no longer have to be a marketing major, as well as an author, and even managing the finances and everything gets easier. There are so many more tools these days for that stuff. So that’s one thing, I guess I’m enjoying watching where things are going and finding more tools to help us.

Joanna: Where can people find you and your books online?

Lindsay: LindsayBuroker.com, I need to update that.

Joanna: And you mentioned the Six Figure Authors might return again.

Lindsay: Well, for like a one-off, I want to do something positive, like how to handle the recession in a happy way. Like how to keep the books selling. Because I am still seeing books are doing well. Maybe there are more KU reads right now than purchases, or maybe people who are wide are finding that their free stuff is doing better and there are a little fewer sales, but those times don’t last. So just survive, and then we can thrive in the future.

Joanna: Fantastic. well, we will look forward to that. Thank you so much for your time. It was lovely to talk.

Lindsay: Thank you and happy writing everyone.

The post Writing And Investing For A Long Term Indie Author Career With Lindsay Buroker first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • March 5, 2023