When I met Claudia Hall Christian a few months back on a social network, she quickly became one of my favorite people. She put out a call for bloggers to host her on a blog tour for her new book The Fey, and I told her I’d be honored if she’d share her story on my awesomely tiny corner of the web.
I haven’t read the book yet – I’m anxiously awaiting the hard copy. I read online all day every day, a hard copy will be a welcome escape for the internets – but every review I have read thus far has been supremely positive and Mrs. Christian is developing a cult following. She’s done this by using building an online community of both readers and writers and by leveraging the power of social networking.
I asked her about her journey to becoming a successful book author but before we get to that, a few goodies for you my dear readers:
- Win a free copy of The Fey. The lucky winner selected from comments on this post. I don’t get many comments, so anyone who comments has a pretty good chance of getting a free copy of the book.
- Purchase the book from Create Space and get a 10% discount. Just enter this discount code: XQGB8SVR.
And now, without further ado, inspirational words from author, Claudia Hall Christian.
Your blog mentioned giving up everything familiar to pursue your dream of being a writer. What has that journey been like and what have you learned in your pursuit?
It’s been a long and winding journey to become an author. When I started working on the first edition of The Fey, I was simply filling my time on sabbatical with a good story. I figured writing a book was a worthy pursuit for a year long sabbatical. It never occurred to me that writing fiction would become my life. I completed a draft and left for a month long backpacking trip down the Colorado Trail.
Certainly, like a lot of people, I loved writing and reading as a child. I had planned on becoming an author, but life intervened. I forgot that dream until we were about a hundred miles into the Colorado Trail trip. We were miles from anything familiar. Sitting around our camp stove, my husband and I began talking about what we wanted in our lives.
This trail trip was an amazing experience. The trail is steep, treacherous and, in many places, over ten thousand feet. We faced the mountain every day. And every day, we were forced to face ourselves, our attitudes, and beliefs about ourselves.
It’s possible that I was hallucinating when I said that I wanted to pursue a career in writing. My husband said he wanted to go back to school to get a Master’s degree. Snowed out after one hundred and fifty miles, we returned to our home in Denver and began pursuing our dreams.
My husband is almost done with his Master’s degree. The Fey is published and Denver Cereal, my serial romantic fiction, is almost a year old.
How did you go from publishing your books online to getting a signed with a publisher? What were the advantages of publishing online first?
This is a complicated question because we actually chose to form our own publishing company. I don’t talk about it much because I’ve been inundated with manuscripts.
We felt that traditional publishing was missing the boat on modern, easily accessible modes of publishing. We wanted to pursue a new model of publishing that included releasing the novels on the Internet in a blog format. Because The Fey is the first in a series of books, we expected the series to take a fairly traditional path for thriller series. (The first book sells some copies, the second does a little better and the whole series takes off with the third book.) This type of series is currently not supported by traditional publishing houses.
The model of releasing books electronically, as well as in paperback, was initiated by Cory Doctorow, one of the founders of the Creative Commons movement. He believes that authors suffer more from obscurity than from plagiarism. Further, in his experience, people want to try out a novel, see if they like it, before they commit to purchasing. Using his model, we released Denver Cereal in paperback as well as electronic .pdf. So far, we have had over twenty thousand downloads. The Fey is released a chapter a week at AlextheFey.com. An electronic version of The Fey will be available near the end of November.
How important was building a reading/writing community to your success? How did you build that community and where should other up-and-coming writers start building their own?
There are two processes for my writing: the banging out of the words and making sure that people understand what I’m writing. When I had completed the first edition of The Fey, I asked twelve of the most critical people I know if they would mind reading it. I was overwhelmed at their generosity. As I worked through the second edition, then the third, I asked a few different people and some of the original people.
The Fey is a better book at the insistence of these readers. For example, one woman said, “These are great characters. They deserve a better story.” Talk about a call to battle! I went straight to work to create a story worthy of these characters.
As for starting your own reading group, there’s a couple things you have to decide first. I wanted to write books for real people, so I chose real people to be in my reading group. If you want to write great literature, you will need to find people who appreciate great literature. If you want to write mass marketed books, you’ll need to find people who read mass market.
More than anything, listen to your readers. I’ve been asked to read a few novels. When I attempt to give feedback, the author doesn’t really want to hear it. My readers guided me, helped me, and made my work better. I have little ego when it comes to my work. I want it to be the very best it can possibly be. So I listen to any and all feedback. Sure, some people are jerks. But most people really want to help.
How did you come up with the idea of a blog book tour for your new book The Fey? What is the goal of this blog tour? How many blogs have you visited thus far? How will you measure the success of the tour?
I noticed other authors were doing book blog tours. I was curious about how they were set up so I followed a few authors doing them via GoodReads. Many authors pay marketing people set up their blog visits. I’m fortunate to know so many bloggers. I’ve visited only friend’s blogs for this tour.
I’ve been on seventeen blogs for a total of twenty days. The posts have ranged from interviews to reviews of the book. A few people have posted side stories from The Fey. I even did a crayola stick figure synopsis of The Fey.
My hope was to raise awareness of The Fey and the Alex the Fey thriller series. Unlike a single book tour, I’m hoping to introduce people to the world of The Fey as well as the novel. The blog tour has generated a lot of interest in The Fey. I’ve received some amazing reviews which encourage and support me to continue working on the series. Overall, it’s been a wonderful experience.
We keep hearing that the print publishing industry is dead or dying. What words of encouragement can you offer other aspiring writers looking for book deals in today’s publishing industry environment?
Right at this moment, there are more people capable of reading than in any other time in history. People want to read good stories. In many parts of the world, people are desperate to read fiction in English. Fiction provides not only an escape but a look into the customs and culture of a society.
If you are an aspiring writer, go down the list of your favorite authors. Then ask yourself – Did they have more people capable of reading their work? Or less?
Remember that the great authors – Mark Twain, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Willa Cather – never made it to any best sellers list. And they still made a living by writing fiction that people wanted to read.
If you have one book in you? Go for the best sellers list. You don’t have a choice but to hold on to your story. It’s the only one you have to tell.
If you want to be a author, write fiction that people want to read. There’s lots and lots and lots of stories to be told. Tell them. Then let people read it. Set up a blog for your short fiction. Start a serial fiction. (I’ll tell you, writing Denver Cereal, my romantic serial fiction, is the best thing I’ve ever done.) Get your work out there. Dig out that novel that’s languishing in your drawer and release it into the world. See what people have to say.
Stop focusing on large paychecks, movie contracts, and best sellers lists. Just write and let people read. Go for it.