Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Brian Anderson, the indie fantasy author who just made a record-breaking deal. Read on to see what happened and why it's such a big deal for all indie authors!
RSM: Welcome, Brian! You recently received some great news! Can you share with us what happened and why it's such a big deal for the indie community?
BA: Absolutely. I recently signed a contract with a six-figure advance for an audio-only deal with Audible Studios. After a bit of research, my agent believes I’m the first INDIE AUTHOR to earn six figures for audio rights only.
I think it shouts to the world what we as indies can achieve. When I say that I’m surprised to be the first, it’s not false modesty. There are scores of indies who are far more popular than I am and who are as talented as any writer you are likely to come across.
My hope is that it changes the conversation about what we are all worth as writers. And that it gives us, whether indie or traditional, more bargaining power. After all, we are all in the same boat, regardless of the way we choose to publish. You see, I don’t give much thought to my status as an “indie author”. It’s a designation critics use to categorize us. Among my peers, I’m just another writer. Still, I would be extremely proud if this paves the way for others like myself. The talent out there is amazing. And they certainly deserve the recognition and respect.
RSM: Congratulations on your major accomplishment! What made this book special/different from your other titles?
BA: Actually, it’s the sequel to my first series, The Godling Chronicles, which did very well as an audio book and was the series that launched my career. I’ve been promising my readers for a couple of years to delve back into that world. But I didn’t want to do it until I could come up with the right story-line. A few months back, it came to me and I decided it was time. I had just wrapped up the Dragonvein series, so the opportunity presented itself.
I guess what made this deal different is that it’s four years later and my steady sales have shown the publishers that I am worth the risk. Also, the popularity of audio books has exploded. Readers who love a good story, but simply don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a book, are finding audio to be a wonderful alternative. The narrators are incredible and the production is tip-top.
RSM: This is a great reminder to all of us to continue making our books available in all formats, not just ebooks. How did this awesome deal come about?
BA: When I told my agent that I was writing a Godling Chronicles sequel, she contacted the audiobook publisher for the original series. I wanted to give them first shot at an offer. We had asked for a modest advance and a decent royalty rate. Unfortunately, they weren’t as receptive as we had hoped, and countered with something I just couldn’t accept.
She then sent it to two other audiobook publishers. One made an offer that contained a nice royalty rate, but the advance was far less than what we wanted. So Laurie thanked them, explaining our reasons for declining. To my amazement, an hour later they returned with a far more generous offer, along with a request to counter any further offers made by other publishers. I must say, I was taken aback. And I started to think that we might get exactly what we were asking for. Audible had requested the weekend to put something together, so we agreed to wait, and asked the other publishers to give us until then.
Let me tell you, that was one long weekend. By the time Monday rolled around, I was on pins and needles. Of course, the entire day went by and I didn’t hear a peep. Finally, I gave up and sat down on the floor in my living room with a bowl of ice cream, trying to take my mind off it. It was then my agent called.
She told me that Audible had just contacted her about their offer. The words that came out of her mouth were so stunning that I had to make her repeated them three times before I was sure I had heard her correctly. Six-figure deal…two books…audio rights only. I burst into tears at that point. Yeah…big tough guy. The other publishers naturally bowed out.
RSM: Hey, it's a big, big deal! I'm sure it took a while to sink in. How did your expectations differ from the results?
BA: I realized that audio was becoming a true force in the literary world. My income from it has increased dramatically over the past few years. And after Dragonvein Book One became a top-five finalist in 2015 for Audible Fantasy Book of the Year, I figured I had a good enough track record to get a decent offer. But this….it was completely unexpected. Though it shows how both audio books as well as indie works are becoming more important. They wouldn’t have made the offer if they didn’t think they could get a return. They’re really stepping up their game. And I think it’s great.
RSM: Who is your agent and how did you two find each other in the great big literary world?
BA: Laurie Mclean with Fuse Literary. They are true innovators who see the value in indie authors and are willing to work with them on their terms. Mark my words, other agencies will be following their model in a few years.
I was introduced to Laurie through Michael J. Sullivan. I was on a blog radio show with Michael and Hugh Howey and had contacted Michael afterward to ask for some career advice. He graciously agreed. Coincidentally, he was familiar with my work through the success of my audio books. I owe Michael a debt for the introduction. Laurie is not only a wonderful agent, but a great person in general.
RSM: I'm so happy you've found someone who can be a champion for your books! What would you like to tell other indie authors who are just starting on the road to publishing?
BA: This is the part where I’m supposed to say something like, “Never give up,” or “If you keep chasing your dream, you’ll make it.” Instead, I’ll tell it like it is.
If you want commercial success, be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked in your life. Most writers cannot keep up with the grueling pace of indie. Hell, there are times I feel like I want to quit. You can’t simply write a book and hope for the best. Independent publishing means you are the one responsible for everything. Where the Big Five have teams of people working on a single release, you have yourself and those who you have the money to pay. To make it as an indie author will test all of your abilities to the extreme.
You see, things have changed in indie publishing. With access to professional editing, top-notch cover art, innovative marketing tools, and a wealth of practical knowledge at your fingertips, indies are producing books that are as good as anything the big publishing houses release. The bar is much higher than it was only a few years ago. And the level of talent is staggering. If you want to succeed, you must be willing to sacrifice time and resources. Because if you don’t, the next writer will. “Good enough” is no longer good enough.
But as hard as it is, the rewards are wonderful. The indie community is filled with some of the best people I’ve met in my life. And the fans are awesome too. I’ve made some great friends and had experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. So if you are wondering if it’s all worth it? Definitely.
RSM: If you could change anything about your publishing path, what would it be?
BA: I really don’t think I’d change much, if anything. The mistakes I made along the way were not bad enough to derail my career. And I was able to learn from them rather than repeat them.
When I started out, indie books were just beginning to gain popularity. Most of the resources available today simply did not exist. Some of my missteps were nothing more than trying something new and finding out it didn’t work.
RSM: What are you currently working on and what's next for you?
BA: Naturally, I’m working on the sequels. But I’m also about to release two more Akiri novels with my co-author, Steven Savile. Also, I’m working on a new project entitled The Vale Chronicles. This one is a bit of a departure from my typical work. It combines a bit of Urban Fantasy with many of the familiar tropes of an RPG. I’m pretty excited about it.
RSM: Sounds like an interesting read, for sure. Anything else you'd like to share?
BA: Only that without the readers who love and follow indie fantasy, none of this would be possible. I cannot adequately express my appreciation of them. When the traditional world was treating indies like the poor cousins of literature, they told us to ignore the insults and keep going. In the end, they give me all the validation I’ll ever need.
Thank you so much for sharing your books, your journey, and your success with us, Brian! I hope you'll keep us posted on all your future endeavors!