Indie fantasy author Lindsay Buroker has built a huge fan base over the past couple of years by self-publishing her unique brand of Emperor’s Edge novels, novellas, short stories and audiobooks.

lindsay1One reviewer called the series the “A-team of Steam,” and it fits. This is a steam-age fantasy world where the main characters are outlaws who don’t quite deserve the bounties on their heads. They’re trying to clear their names and thwart some plots against the emperor as well. Instead of “Hannibal” for the head schemer, this team is led by a woman, Amaranthe Lokdon, and she’s got just enough charisma to talk her fellow outlaws into going along with her crazy ideas.

Lindsay is a child of the 80s who grew up watching TV shows like the A-team and MacGyver, the sort of campy action stories that are nearly extinct nowadays. As a youngster, she also read tons of historical fiction, especially colonial and frontier era stuff (Jack London, Mark Twain), and a whole lot of middle-grade novels starring sled dogs and wolves. As a teen, Lindsay devoured fantasy, and not necessarily the highbrow kind.

Reaching adulthood and becoming pickier about reading material, it dawned on her that nobody was writing those beloved, campy — yet not totally-silly — high fantasy stories she loved reading. Bookstore shelves that had once been filled with swords-and-sorcery and heroic fantasy were overrun with paranormal romances and urban fantasy. Fine stuff for those who enjoy it, but not Lindsay’s cup of tea.

“I figured if there were stories I wanted to see, the only way I could make sure they came into existence was to write them myself,” Lindsay told me yesterday.

So she did. She got serious about it in 2009, buckling down and finishing Book 1 (which tops today’s Buffet). She was all ready to start writing Book 2, then realized that there was no plan for selling the first one yet. She wasn’t sure if she had the patience to shop it around to agents for a couple of years — and really doubted she’d find one at all. The book couldn’t be pigeonholed into any of the categories literary scouts look for these days. Steampunk? High Fantasy? Really? No, Lindsay’s stuff didn’t fit into the formula of what today’s literary agent assumes will sell.

Around that time, Lindsay bought a Kindle, and she also stumbled onto the popular self-publishing how-to blog by J.A. Konrath. She thought things over and figured that if she was going to get lots of people to read Emperor’s Edge within a couple of years, self publishing was her best shot.

It’s worked out pretty well. And Lindsay encourages other writers with unusual styles to do the same thing — to write what you love, without worrying if it fits into someone else’s preconceived notion of what’s good.

“Writers should write the kinds of stories they want to read, and not worry about whether those tales fit into a certain genre — or whether that genre is popular right now,” she said. “The Internet makes it possible to find an audience for anything.”

The recent shift toward eBooks gave Lindsay a good tailwind, too. She’s moving thousands of eBooks per month, while her paperback sales are fewer than 100 most months.  And therein lies the quandary for those fledgling authors clinging to an obsolete model of the “successful” career — waiting around a couple years for an agent to bite, waiting another year for your editor to finish (if you’re serious about publishing yourself, you can hire your own editor and give them your deadline), the production of tons of paper books which decorate the shelves of chain bookstores for a few months and then are mostly pulped or tossed into the bargain bin. Huh? That’s success? The truth is, readers expect paperbacks to cost less than $10, which is nearly impossible when you’re self-publishing longer-form fiction. But with eBooks, Lindsay can price novels at $4.95, undercut the New York publishers, and still reap generous royalties exceeding $3 per download.

The runaway digital success now possible for offbeat artists like Lindsay isn’t quite within reach of nonfiction authors, not yet. Nonfiction readers, especially with reference or how-to books, still prefer having a physical copy in their hands or within reach on their bookshelf. Sure, widely read nonfiction is starting to sell on the Kindle, but most nonfiction authors still earn the lion’s share of their royalties with paperback sales. Besides, for nonfiction writers, making a profit on the book isn’t necessarily the point. The nonfiction book is often a lead-generation tool, a gateway to the author’s webinars, consulting, video courses, and other higher-ticket products and services.

The professionally produced audiobook versions of her Emperor’s Edge novels clearly place Lindsay into the category of elite indie because she’s made the investment. Certainly she could have narrated and produced the audio herself. Instead, Lindsay shelled out the cash for a pro, Starla Huchton at Darkfire Productions, a Colorado firm that produces audiobooks, working directly with many indie authors. They handle the distribution and production, and in Lindsay’s case it’s been well worth the money. All her audio content is offered free in the form of chapter-by-chapter podcast episodes through iTunes or Podiobooks.com. Alternatively, fans can buy the complete audiobooks, sans the repetitive intros and outros, by using their membership credits at Audible.com.

So the audio, which Lindsay originally assumed would 100 percent free, has turned into a publicity tool and revenue stream. “I’d originally intended to just keep everything free, as a way to get more people to check out my world, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the audiobooks are selling on Audible since we put them up there,” she told me.

The Emperor’s Edge

Fantasy
Author: Lindsay Buroker
The Emperor's Edge

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin, is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.

Forward From this Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2008

Commentary

Author: Leonard Pitts
Forward From this Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2008

Since 1976, when he began writing while still attending the University of Southern California, Leonard Pitts’ columns have been winning awards, including the Pulitzer and five National Headliner Awards.

This book collects his best newspaper pieces, along with selected longer works. The book is arranged chronologically under three broad subject headings: “Waiting for Someday to Come,” about children and family; “White Men Can’t Jump (and Other Stupid Myths),” about race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other fault lines of American culture; and “Forward from this Moment,” about life after the September 11 attacks, spirituality, American identity, and Britney Spears.

This is the essential collection from one of America’s most recognized and treasured voices.