14 November 2014

How author Kiersi Burkhart defines success as a writer

It's been a big year for my friend Kiersi Burkhart (aka the Prolific Novelista), co-author of the middle-grade series Second Chance Ranch. Not only did the series, which she co-writes with her friend Amber J. Keyser, get picked up by publishers in both the U.S. and Europe, but she also signed on with agent Fiona Kenshole at Transatlantic Agency. To many an aspiring author, this sounds like the Holy Grail of writerly success. Does Kiersi consider it won and done? Read on to find out!

How do you define success for yourself as a writer? How do you know when you're successful?
For me, success is writing for a living—subsidizing my life with my work and being able to write (and do all my blogging, social media, promo, etc.) full time. At least, that's what it looks like from this vantage point; I think what counts as "success" tends to change according to where you are in the process. A while ago, "success" was having a book contract. I imagine in a few years, my idea of what makes success will change again. I'm excited for that.

Is it something achieved and done with, or does it have to be maintained?
I think success is always evolving. In my version, it needs to be maintained, because one needs an ongoing income in order to survive; so just one book deal isn't going to cut it long term, unless your book somehow magically sells gangbusters forever. (I am prepared for this should it happen!) 

This is probably my favorite thing about writing a series—besides being able to explore a particular world, set of characters, and story for more than a single volume—is the ongoing income potential (haha!). It sounds a little money-grubby, maybe, but I think a steady income (see: basic survival) is important even for us dreamy creative types. It allows us to focus on the really important stuff, which is writing!

How does getting signed with an agent and how do your book contracts fit into your vision of success as a writer?
Well, I'm particularly lucky because my agent is a bloodhound for projects, and is always on the lookout for opportunities that will make us money and keep my writing career afloat. She wants me to write full-time because she, too, has a vested interest in my success, and so together we come up with ideas and projects that can accomplish that for both of us. Really, it's not even my success—it's our success.

I see the really tricky thing being balancing new projects with ongoing projects, and taking into consideration that royalty payments won't arrive sometimes for years after a book contract is signed. I have to be careful about over-committing myself, knowing I'll have to write additional books in my ongoing series, revise any new projects, and save time for my daily writing (and allow for fun new ideas to blossom when I have them).

But with some careful planning, I think it'll all work out. I have some great people on my team and in my court. I know one thing for certain: I wouldn't be here at all, doing this kind of interview with you, if it weren't for my agent Fiona Kenshole, my co-author Amber Keyser, and the friends and family that have provided unlimited support and love during this whole crazy journey.

Kiersi grew up riding horses in Colorado. At sixteen, she attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where she now lives and works as an author and freelance writer. With a background in Political Science and Constitutional Law, she does nothing with her degree and instead writes contemporary fiction for children and young adults. She also has a dragon tattoo with which she consults for inspiration. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, her website and her blog.

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