B.V. Larson is a name becoming recognized in the world of indie authors, especially as he now has 14 digital e-books available for reading on the Amazon Kindle.
On his blog, indie author B.V. Larson claims more than 1,000 downloads a week for his e-books, and that’s no surprise considering the diversity of his work. Unlike many writers, Larson writes and publishes in a variety of genres, including fantasy, horror, thrillers and more.
His most recent e-book releases are Velocity, a collection of short stories mixing science fiction and horror, and Blood of Silver, the second book in his paranormal romance sequence, the Seeker Series
Recently I e-mailed him asking if he would be willing to answer some questions for a short online interview. What follows are the questions and his answers.
Here's what everyone seems to want to know: Is it possible today to make a living as an indie writer? What are your thoughts?
Thanks for this opportunity to talk directly to the readers. I think it is possible to make a living as an Indie writer; there are quite a few of us doing it (Joe Konrath being an obvious example). I would expect that goal would only be achievable for perhaps one percent of the Indies, but that’s still better than it was in the past. I recall reading that the average pro fiction author made less than $10k per year, and that there were less than five hundred people in the entire U.S. living on fiction sales. That doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize there are more pro football players than that. A lot more. To live off fiction, you had to be nearly one in a million. Now the odds are better. The improved odds are due to two simple changes: much higher royalty percentages and the removal of the gatekeepers.
For myself, I doubt I’ll be reaching that goal soon, mostly due to my position in life. I have a lot of kids and payments. A younger person just starting out could reach the goal sooner. But no one should expect it to come from one hit book. You will probably have to write a lot of good books to do it.
You write in multiple genres, which is uncommon for many authors. Do you find this limiting in any way, perhaps in promotions? Do you love the freedom of it? Basically, what gives?
In this area, I’m a weirdo. I didn’t know it for a long time, but after comparing myself to the majority, it’s abundantly clear. In my defense, when I look around at other authors’ works, I shake my head in bewilderment. How can so many writers stand to write what amounts to the same book over and over? Yes, that is often what the fans want, but it would drive me nuts. Perhaps I’m an ADD case, but I love to try new things. I’m easily bored, and worse, when I see something interesting, a desire grows in my heart to try it. When I play an MMO (like World of Warcraft, for instance), I’m the oddball who has to try every race/class combo the game has. In my own career, this has resulted in a lot of variety as well: I’ve worked in 38 states and 15 countries, for over 75 companies... Okay, a lot of that was short-term contract work, but still, you get the picture.
When it comes to fiction, the results have been the same. I like multiple genres and feel compelled to write in them. When I get bored, I switch. The result is I have books in YA, middle-grade children’s, paranormal romance, horror, science fiction, fantasy and thriller-crime fiction. Worse, many of my titles are cross-genre. I’ve got something for everyone!
In short, there was no grand plan; I’m a victim of a flawed personality.
What do you hope your e-books bring to readers that they can't find elsewhere? In other words, what makes you unique as a writer?
Finally, a hard question. I would say my books have a higher pace than most, things happen fast and often, but always for a reason. There is always a lot of energy, a lot of tension, a lot of conflict. No one gets along happily. My heroes are generally driven people, tormented by dilemmas and obstacles to their goals.
Besides pace and conflict, another consistent element of my style is an effort to move the reader emotionally. Almost any emotion will do, but I try to get a response out of the reader with each story. Some of my books reflect this with strong reviews, both positive and negative. People love it or hate it, but they always have an opinion. Few are feeling “blah” at the end. As I’ve said, I’m easily bored and hate a boring read. My stories rarely bore people. Being boring is the ultimate sin as a writer, in my opinion. People aren’t paying me to yawn and fall asleep.
One of the genres you write a lot in is fantasy. Why fantasy? What draws you to the genre?
I think I have more fantasy titles than any other genre, unless you count all the cross-overs mixed with horror. Quite simply, I love fantasy. When I read a book, play a game or watch a movie, it is most likely to be SF, fantasy or horror. To me, these are closely-related genres. They deliver a similar experience, but with different settings and tones. What is a light-saber, after all, but a magic sword?
Who are some of your favorite authors, and favorite books?
Stephen King, Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance ... Favorite books (from the same authors in the same order): Salem’s Lot, The Amber Series, Maske: Thaery. Those are books I’ve reread excessively. If you can get a squirrel like me to re-read your book for years, you must be doing something right. That’s a very thin list, however. Looking over my head as I type this, I see at least five hundred titles looming above. They aren’t all dusty.
There often seems to be a lot of conflict, sometimes even vileness, directed toward indie authors in various online venues. How do you feel about this? How do you deal with it? Or do you ignore it?
I have not yet personally experienced this, but I suppose I will if I continue to be successful. I plan to nod, smile and try to be gentle with those I’m replacing. I think their anger is very easy to understand. If all the current trends continue, we stand ready to inherit an industry. We represent the end of the old regime, the changing of a tide that has lasted at least a century. Imagine if you were a teacher, and someone started selling a robot that did a better job. You would hate it and slander it at every opportunity.
For the most part, we threaten the legions of middle-men. By the old system, the author got a pittance for their work. Seven or eight percent. The other ninety-plus percent went to a very long line of reaching hands: editors, stock-holders, sales people, printers, delivery truck people, etc. (And yes, I get regular royalty checks for print books I’ve sold under another name, so I know the biz.) Now, in a vastly stream-lined process, there is only the author, the reader, and an online retailer. The customer gets the product, the author creates it and markets it, the online retailer provides the platform. The money is split two ways, and there is no more fuss about over-printing and “returns”.
Google is killing research libraries. Netflix is killing video stores. In the same manner, ebooks and online booksellers will likely kill mega-bookstores and mega-publishers. It’s simply a better approach to solving a distribution problem. Naturally, existing authors don’t want the competition. Publishers and bookstores don’t want to be replaced.
I wouldn’t like the robot, either ...