Amy Bartol

The bestseller moved from self-publishing as a last resort to becoming a bestselling self-publisher

Photo courtesy of Lauren Perry of Periwinkle Photography

Even though she never expected anyone to read it, Amy Bartol wrote and then rewrote her first manuscript, Inescapable, at least 100 times before self-publishing it in 2011. After releasing several sequels, starting a second series, and hitting bestseller lists, Bartol signed a deal with Amazon’s sci-fi and fantasy imprint, 47 North, in 2015 and has since continued to excite YA readers eagerly awaiting June’s release, Rebel Born.The third volume in Bartol’s hugely successful Secondbornseries, it brings readers to a world inspired by China’s one-child policy, blending political intrigue, secret societies, and a diabolical deep state with a forbidden, star-crossed love affair.

When did you first want to be a writer?

I grew up in a family where violence and alcoholism were part of my everyday life, so when I found books as a young child, they became an escape for me. When those novels ended, I never wanted to leave their worlds behind, so I’d spend days dreaming up new adventures for my favorite storybook characters. The thought of writing a book became a constant drip in the back of my mind. In the end, I told myself that I was going to write a book as an experiment to see if I could do it.

What drew you to the sci-fi and fantasy genres?

Um…they’re badass! I mean, c’mon! Nothing’s better than sci-fi and fantasy. Worldbuilding alone in these genres is challenging. It’s like its own separate character. If I can create intricate, multilayered environments with unusual political structures, deep states, secret societies, and more that readers can smell, touch, taste, see, and feel, then I’ve done something extraordinary, haven’t I?

What do you think particularly attracted readers to your Secondborn series?

I think readers are drawn to the Secondborn series because it’s a fast-paced futuristic adventure written in a Muhammad-Ali rope-a-dope style where I show you one fist but hit you with the other when you least expect it. It leaves readers reeling but wanting more.

Amy Bartol

As an author working in YA fiction, what do you think is exciting teen readers today generally?

I think teen readers crave something new—something truly mind-bending—like augmented realities that blend compelling bits of prophecy with science. Recently, I’ve become fascinated with synthetic biology and the idea of reinventing nature. I touched on those concepts in the Secondborn series and especially in my book Rebel Born, but there’s so much more to explore in that arena. One of my favorite things to do is to dream up technology and a lexicon that don’t exist.

When did you first decide to try self-publishing?

Self-publishing was a last resort for me that evolved into the best decision I ever made. I thought my mom would probably buy 25 copies of Inescapable…and then I’d celebrate my literary obscurity with a cheap bottle of champagne scraped from the meager profits. And that is pretty much what happened the first month. But then, in the second month, I’d sold a couple of hundred copies....I was able to release my second novel, Intuition, a few months later in December 2011. Sales went CRAZY! I was selling thousands of books a month.

What has worked best for finding an audience of younger readers?

Amazon Publishing & Marketing has been crucial in this area. Their mailing lists are second to none. The best way to find young readers is to interact with them on social media sites like Instagram. I cross-promote with other authors in a group called #FantasyOnFriday. Every Friday, we talk about novels in our genres that we’ve read or that will release soon. It’s a great way to interact with the book community. I consider myself a book blogger now because I read and discuss a lot of different books and I try to give back to the readers that have given me so much.

Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.

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