Six Elementals Author Interviews will introduce prospective readers to some of the best writers in their genre you may, or may not, have heard of, via a series of six questions. I encourage you to check out the work of these phenomenal creatives! Links to their websites and purchase links will always appear, accompanying the interview. Check them out!
Today I get the honour of speaking to one of the earliest and most well-established and well-known stars and influencers in the Indie fantasy writing community, Ben Galley! Ben’s published works are almost too numerous to list, and it is more fitting they be mentioned in series as opposed to individual work. These include: The Emaneska Series; The Scalussen Chronicles; The Chasing Graves Trilogy; The Scarlet Star Trilogy.
P.L.: So honoured to be able to interview you, Ben, for Six Elementals Interviews! You are one of the first truly successful self-published fantasy authors, finding acclaim for your books long before self-published fantasy was truly considered credible. What was it like in those early days as a self-published fantasy author, in terms of the landscape back then? Our readers would love to hear how you broke into the field, including why you chose the self-publishing route as opposed to traditional publishing early on, before self-publishing was a popular option.
Ben: The good old Dark Ages! I do remember them fondly, even though they make me feel old AF. Back when I first published in 2010, the landscape was definitely sparser in terms of quality indie fantasy. It was earlier days for stores like Amazon, so the algorithms were a lot cleaner and you potentially had a lot more visibility through good old fashioned marketing techniques. However, it was more difficult to publish and harder to find experienced pros like cover designers and editors. The thriving community we have now was also a lot smaller and quieter, and finding the right advice was very difficult. It’s what led a lot of people (myself almost included) to go down the route of vanity publishing rather than expensive publishing providers than the powerful true DIY methods that have become standardized today. Luckily, my research into these companies and my background in being an independent musician revealed that I could do it all myself, keep higher royalties, have supreme control, and do it all much faster than via traditional publishing. I was working dead-end jobs that I desperately wanted to break out of, so speed and achieving my dreams swiftly was a huge driving factor.
P.L.: Oh wow! From music to writing! Your creativeness has paid off! You also have the benefit of being represented by one of the most seasoned and well-respected fantasy agents in John Jarrold. It’s quite an accomplishment to secure any agent much less one as heralded as John. Is having John as your agent more about having someone of that calibre in your corner to support your very successful self-publishing career, or more about the potential for future book deals?
Ben: Essentially both as I believe they’re intertwined. My goal for having an agent was to seek out the deals and opportunities that I either had no experience in or couldn’t organize myself. John and other agents like him also bring some expert experience in negotiations, contracts, contacts, and skills I don’t have, so that with any deals that do pop up, I can be sure I’m getting the best possible experience. My rule is I do whatever is best for my books, and going hybrid allows you to make the best of both worlds. An agent is a huge help when trying to do that.
P.L.: Great reasons for having an agent in your corner! As an influencer and industry insider, what is your opinion about where the publishing industry is going in terms of self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
Ben: A lot of people still believe in a versus mentality as if there is only one choice out of two. I think it’s down to what an author’s picture of success looks like, but the lines between indie and trad are becoming very blurred. I believe we’ll continue to see a blurring of the lines, with indies negotiating their own foreign rights deals, game, adaptation, or audiobook deals, and essentially becoming hybrid. We’re also seeing many authors taking on more roles of larger companies, such as creating their own audiobooks, or diversifying with video, special editions, and other income streams like serialization or subscriptions. Creativity really has become democratized, and we’re seeing the rise of the individual across all industries thanks to technology, and I think it will continue in the future. We’re also seeing some publishers, particularly in fantasy changing how they do business, and often moving towards indie-style strategies. Successful indies are also being offered trad contracts while trad authors are self-publishing books outside their publishing contracts. There’s a huge amount of opportunity and plenty more choices than there used to be, back in those dark ages, where audiobooks were incredibly hard to publish and self-publishing stigma was rife.
P.L.: That’s a fascinating take on the future of the industry! You’ve won numerous writing awards, and are considered an expert on writing fantasy, as evidenced by all the guest speaker invites including speaking at prestigious institutions such as The London School of Economics, Book Expo America, and the London Book Fair. As a lauded veteran of the game, any advice for new authors breaking into fantasy writing in 2022?
Ben: I would say write what you enjoy and what turns your mind on. That will bring passion to your writing that shines through words. You can also write to market and chase trends, but be careful you don’t miss them. You also need to work on your skills by reading successful books and practicing by writing regularly. It’s an incredible achievement writing a book, but it can be difficult to do, but keep going. It’s worth it.
When it comes to publishing, be part of the community from the outset. You can get very far supporting your fellow authors and making friends with reviewers and bookish professionals. Aim for professionalism in everything you do. While this doesn’t mean being all boring and corporate, make sure you’ve got a solid cover and immaculate editing. Learn marketing and focus a lot of effort on your initial launch. It can forge a path for your future books. Make it easy for readers to find you after reading your book. That way you create a fanbase that will support you as you grow through future books. Keep writing, as there’s nothing more important when it comes to marketing than your next book, and keeping release dates short can help as long as you don’t make them impossible and stressful. This is the best job in the world. You want to have fun with it. Most of all, keep going. It can be slow and tough, but once more with feeling: it’s worth it.
P.L.: Great advice! So, inquiring minds want to know: what’s on the go for Ben Galley? Are there any new projects you’ve recently released or on the way that you are able to discuss?
Ben: In a word, LOTS. I’ve just released a brand new book with international bestseller David Estes called Demon’s Reign, which we’re very proud of and have been doing very well. It’s a brand new series set in an arboreal world that we’re calling Last Airbender meets Venom. I’m currently writing the sequel Demon’s Rage. I’m also currently writing a serial novel called Somebody Has To Be The Dark Lord, which is a villain’s story that I’m having loads of fun with. Otherwise I’m gradually releasing special edition hardcovers of my Emaneska Series via Kickstarter, and as of a few weeks ago, we’re halfway through!
P.L.: Ohh, sounds exciting! What inspires you to keep going, after achieving so many bestselling tags, accolades, and sales? You’ve written in multiple sub-genres, like sci-fi & western. You’ve done a lot, and accomplished a lot. Most self-published authors would do anything to have the kind of career you have already enjoyed. You could easily rest on your laurels and simply market your existing books, with the considerable body of work you’ve already written. What stokes the fire for Ben Galley to keep writing great epic novels? What keeps you hungry in this writing industry?
Ben: Basically, I’m not done! As well as being a creative at heart, I’m obsessed with writing and writing life, not to mention telling fantasy stories and building words. I’ve got a notebook with over 100 ideas for short stories and novels in it, and a lot of them are part of my own universe I’m building that links a lot of my existing novels. Resting on my laurels sounds far too much like early retirement and boredom to me, plus at some point I think the genres and audiences might change so much that I’ll be old fashioned.
P.L.: Happily, it sounds like we’ll be getting a lot more amazing Ben Galley novels in the future! I have truly enjoyed our chat and I really appreciate you joining me on Six Elementals Interviews! Thank you so much!
Ben: Thank you, P.L.! It’s been fun and thank you for inviting me!
Buy The Chasing Grave Trilogy here
Buy The Emaneska Series here
Buy The Scarlet Star Trilogy here
Buy Demon’s Reign here