B.V. Larson has skyrocketed to success with over 200,000 eBooks sold on Kindle. He’s a prolific writer with a broad spectrum of genre, which is unusual. Conventional publishers would never tolerate such nonsense. They wouldn’t know how to market. Tor would go bonkers if Greg Bear wrote a romance.
The game is changing. If you’re your own publisher you decide what is best for you. That doesn’t mean you’ll make all the right choices. My own frustrations in marketing made me want to learn how to make the right choices since I’ve had a tendency to be a little bull headed, and thus my blogging about other authors.
B. V.’s success however didn’t just happen. Like most writers he’s spent years developing and honing his craft. He realized he didn’t want to gamble success on a single novel, and thus in a relatively short span has ePublished 21 titles.
If you want to know what B. V. stands for, it’s a secret. You might note that there are no author photos on his website. Writers use pens names for a purpose, and B. V. is a college professor and admits he doesn’t want to be seen as an author pressuring students to buy his books.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, B.V. is now in the spotlight. Amazon is flying B.V. out to give a talk on self-publishing at the Book Expo America DIY conference in New York City on May 21st. He hopes to meet some of you there!
1. I read about Amanda Hocking’s success just a few months ago, and now yours. I’ve been predicting this game changer for 15 years. For me, it has been like waiting on the digital camera. Still, not that many new authors are having your eBook success. How do you think your audience found you and what triggered your boom in sales?
I really think having a fair number of inexpensive, fun, readable stories was my secret. Looking at the big successes in Indie writing, I usually see two types of people, ones with one hit book, or ones with a slew of books that are doing well and help each other. I took this second, safer route. There is more to it than writing a lot of entertaining fiction, you have to market it properly too, and you can’t make any mistakes. You have to have an interesting cover and title, have a subject that intrigues and do a nice free sample/book blurb. To keep selling, you have to have a good book, or the reviews will sink you even if everything else is right. One last point: make sure you never mislead your readers. They will tear you up!
2. From an author’s point of view, enough good cannot be said about Amazon who is truly the leader. Do you think Barnes & Noble or Apple will ever catch up?
I’m not sure. Historically, when new major paradigm shifts hit an industry, usually due to tech changes, the big company who gets there first keeps winning. Look at Microsoft, and their thirty-year run. Barnes & Noble was the killer that destroyed all the little bookstores in 1990, and now, 20 years later, Amazon is doing it to them. At least they recognize the danger, unlike Borders, who have pretty much been trashed. One thing I’m sure of, when new tech comes, you can’t just hide and hope the bad man goes away. You have to get up and fight, or it will be over. I hope B&N makes it, if only for the sake of the authors. Competition in the distribution channels is key to not getting locked up in onerous contracts as we have been for the last century or so.
3. You truly seem like a prolific writer and willing to explore various genres. What is your favorite to write?
I wrote and sent out my first short stories at age 17, and writing is my life-long dream job. So for me, I write a lot because I’m spoiling myself. I’m also a person who is easily bored. As a kid, I was called “hyperactive” which has been updated to newer terms. This has a lot to do with my broad range of fiction. I tend to read random things, and if I like genre and get an idea, I want to write something in that genre. Sometimes, I have to stop a project, write a short story, novella or even a book, then go back to the project I’m supposed to be working on. At times, I write two books at once, because I keep thinking of ideas for both. All that said, I probably feel the most at home writing slightly horrific fantasy or slightly horrific SF. But I read and write practically everything, and I write every day.
4. I always envision my work on the silver screen. Do you have those aspirations?
I’ve actually been talking to Hollywood people over the last two months about doing something with SWARM. I was approached for film rights by a production company, and I’ve talked to agents, etc. Nothing signed yet. Also, I have written a number of screenplays in the past. So yes, I do think I’ll put something on the screen eventually.
5. You say your main focus is to entertain your reader. Do you ever try and make a point in your stories that might influence readers to be more conscience of the world and man’s place in the universe?
Now, that is a good question. First time I’ve seen that one. I don’t like to put “messages” into my work. One might sneak in now and then, I suppose, because we all have opinions and biases. I’ve always been annoyed, however, when an author breaks my suspension of disbelief by inserting things for such a purpose, when I sense the writer is forcing a story to go a certain way just to make some private point of his/hers. Often, this ruins fiction for me. I recall playing role-playing games as a kid, and there was one game-master who controlled everything you could do in his world, rather than letting it flow and letting the players participate freely. It was incredibly irritating. I never want to foist myself in such a fashion upon my readers. If you want to put a message in, it must be done in such a way that it is intrinsic to the story; it must fit there without intruding.
6. I self published in 2001/02 with 2 hardcover books. It was a total disaster. Looking back I wished I’d waited. With eBook publishing being such a better deal, how long do you predict it will be before there are as many authors as readers?
Clearly, there are going to be many more authors out there. But there are a lot of garage bands, too. I would predict there will be 10x as many who are making a living writing as there are now. But last time I read a stat, there were less than 500 authors in the US that lived from fiction. Maybe in the future, we will reach 5000. Mostly, the increase will be due to one thing: we are getting about 10x the royalty when compared to traditional pub contracts. This means more variety for the readers, and a greater chance of success as a writer. Fan numbers will be lower on average, but with more money going to the author per sale, people will do well. Still, just like the music industry, only one a hundred who try will make it. This business requires as much sacrifice as it would to be a sports pro, or first chair in a pro symphony. Literally. It has to be what you do, and you have to have the talent, and you might not make it anyway. These are the same realities every artist has faced, but with better odds in the future.
7. Most want-a-be authors I know have the attitude that they have to be published by a big publisher or they are no good. How long do you think it will be before that mindset changes?
I hope it takes a looooong time before they figure it out! I do think it will take a while. In 1990, cable TV was considered not “real” TV. When I got a cellphone in 1995, everybody at work made a big deal about how I was showing off. When paperbacks came out, people sneered at them and those who wrote such trash. In Shakespeare’s time, people who went to plays were considered riff-raff—people of substance went to the opera. And so it goes. The real change will come when the money supply shifts. When we take more than they do, we will be important by definition.