Christian Fiction—Art or Tract?—Part 2

Author Gene Curtis made the comment to yesterday’s post that the premise of “Christian Fiction—Art or Tract?” is wrong, that there is no one way and that God can use a Christian’s work regardless if it was intended as “secular or evangelistic.”

In large part, I think Gene has it right, but I think there are a couple things that need to be cleared up.

First, preachiness is poor writing, but a novel with a clear Christian message is not necessarily preachy.

Somehow the idea has filtered into the Christian writing community that a solid, clear theme equates with preachy, and that just is not so.

“Preachy” is when the message comes directly from the author to the reader. I suppose it could even be from a character to the reader. The point is, if the message is delivered in such a way as to intrude upon the story and make the reader think, He’s telling me this, then it is preachy. It’s bad fiction. It’s the exact same thing authors do with background or setting if they don’t understand how to skillfully weave the information into the story. (Those are sometimes called info dumps and feel the same as preachiness—this information is in this part of the story because the author wants ME, the reader, to know this).

Having said that, I want to clearly state, I do not think fiction should be a tract. Tract writing is non-fiction writing and therefore governed by a different set of rules. To write fiction as a tract would mean the author is employing non-fiction rules for a story. That will inevitably end up with a story that is preachy.

Please hold off on the comments because there’s more. Writers can write compelling stories with overt Christian messages. Sharon Hinck‘s Becky Miller books come to mind, as does Julie Carobini’s Chocolate Beach. From what I’ve heard Katie Cushman‘s A Promise to Remember would fall into that category as well (it’s on my to be read pile—Christy Award winner John Olson called it “flat out brilliant.”) I’ve mentioned George Bryan Polivka‘s Trophy Chase Trilogy as examples of overt Christianity in the fantasy realm.

Fantasy authors can also write allegory, or stories with thinly-veiled representations of God and Jesus. If these are done well, just like stories with overt Christianity, they should not be denigrated because they contain a clear message consistent with the Christian message. They are not tracts. They are not preachy.

They also may or may not be art.

If an author aims to create art, I think there is a timeless and universal value to the work that he aims for. Can such a work include the Christian message?

What else is more timeless or universal?

The next question then is, how? I’ve already said, I think overt Christianity is one way—the story is about Christian characters acting as they do, with the struggles they face. I’ve also mentioned “allegory” (we call it that, but apart from John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress, few stories are real allegories).

Then there are stories like Auralia’s Colors, simply a fairy tale with no intention of showing God, but authors say they believe the art itself reflects Him.

Yesterday I mentioned a third way—not overtly Christian in any of the ways I described above, but also more than just a beautiful story. This third method of writing is to weave the message below the surface, below the thin veil, far enough below that people may miss it or wonder if what they’re seeing is really there at all. These stories would aim to employ unexpected types, not allegorical representations. Things won’t “add up” in a neat and complete way, but there will be truth moments when the character learns or grows—and does not summarize what it is he’s learned for the benefit of the reader.

I know that isn’t particularly clear. I think an illustration or two will help. Look for that on Monday. Or more on Book Buzz. Or something about something else. 😉

Christian Fiction—Art or Tract?—Part 1

If we allowed artists to explore their imaginations and pursue their visions with excellence, without making them self-conscious about the evangelical potential (or lack of it) in their work, we might end up with great art within the church again. Artists might have the courage and freedom to discover new visions rather than merely producing work that is derivative of good ideas that have come before.

This quote from the excerpt of Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog post about The Golden Compass holds so much, I hardly know where to begin in response, but it is one of the issues I would like to discuss with him, should I ever pursue that interview/conversation I mentioned on Monday.

I’ve already addressed the nebulous “we”—I don’t believe it exists. In this quote, Mr. Overstreet seems to refer to some sort of consensus of Christian thought, apart from the artists in our midst.

Second, I’m not sure what “evangelical potential” means. I know I read that at first to say “evangelistic potential,” and certainly many Christians hope and prayer that their writing might introduce even one person to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Is that wrong? Can a work with that intent NOT be good art, merely because of its underlying purpose?

Ah, the magic word: “underlying.”

Here’s the crux of the discussion, in my opinion. Some writers, who actually aren’t trying to create art, who just want to tell a good story that shows Jesus, create fiction with very little lying under the surface. Much of this fiction has been labeled as “preachy” or “propaganda.”

I’m reminded of an old radio program put on by the Union Rescue Mission, in which, in a half hour or less, they told the story, every week, of a poor, down-and-out soul who found Christ through his contact with the Mission, and then turned his life around.

When these stories first began to air, they were moving, poignant, but eventually anyone listening would know how the story would turn out, and even more, would know that some of these poor souls had not actually turned their lives around.

The program, which was undoubtedly conceived to highlight the Rescue Mission work, ended up trivializing it.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem I want to avoid in my writing, as do others. “The art crowd” has decided that to avoid preaching and propaganda, Christian authors should just do away with the message all together. Let’s just “do” fiction, good, artistic fiction, and somehow a) our worldview will seep into the story; or b) the beauty of our work will reflect God’s beauty.

I’m not going to say that this can’t be so, though I think I may have taken that view at some point in the past (see posts at Faith in Fiction 😉 ) What I am advocating is A Third Way, one I think is much closer to Lewis and MacDonald and Milton and Spencer and Herbert—classic Christian poets and story-tellers.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss The Third Way.

Published in: on January 24, 2008 at 10:58 am  Comments (10)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Auralia’s Colors, Day 3

Yesterday I posted a rather lengthy excerpt from Auralia’s Colors author Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog Looking Closer when he was discussing The Golden Compass. Today I want to give my reaction, starting with the lines I emphasized:

Christians have become so suspicious of fairy tales, fantasy, and imagination that we have created an environment in which it is very unlikely that we will see another imagination like Tolkien and Lewis emerge.

I view this kind of rhetoric as self-fulfilling prophecy. Jeffrey Overstreet is a respected voice in Christian circles in the discussion of culture, and here he is saying Christians are suspicious of fairy tales, fantasy, and imagination. What editor, then, is going to rush right out and acquire a book that is what the professionals declare to be the very thing Christians are suspicious of?

And without editors acquiring fairy tales, fantasies, and books of imagination, how can we possibly see anything like Tolkien or Lewis emerge?

First, I argue that “Christians” are not suspicious of the imaginative. Perhaps a vocal minority has been in the past, with a few still tenaciously clinging to that view. In my comment to an earlier post, I identified these as people who are perhaps legalists (and therefore not really Christians) or perhaps Christians coming from a lifestyle they fear to fall into again (such as the occult). There are others too, those that have not been introduced to good fiction. It could be because of their schooling, their family culture, or the lack of child-friendly books when they were growing up. There also might be those who have never been taught to look for depth in fiction.

The point is, these are not ALL Christians. From time to time on this blog I have pointed to evidence that Christians, just like others in the culture are engaging works of fantasy—books or films. The most telling statistics are the Barna Group report from several years ago showing that 76 percent of Christian kids from the ages of 14 to 18 (I think) had seen or read Harry Potter. How much might that figure have grown by now?

In reality, all we need to look at is the sales success of the Narnia books to know that Christians do want quality fantasy. A half a century after they were published, these books are still some of the most loved and top many best-selling lists.

Why would anyone think Christians at large are suspicious of imaginative literature as a body in light of these facts and a growing number of others I could cite (though I’d be repeating myself ad nauseam 😉 )?

The next critical issue, I think is, What does it take for an imagination like Lewis or Tolkien to emerge? For one thing, these men were well read. They were also scholars. That says to me that they understood the underpinnings of a story, they knew how language works, they had a grasp of history, and they were more than conversant in theology. In other words, the worlds they created were not accidents of their imagination. They didn’t employ some kind of stream of consciousness writing, and from that emerged this intricate fantasy, with a Christ-like super-protagonist.

I’m overstating Mr. Overstreet’s position to make a point. Certainly Lewis and Tolkien, by their own words, did not write allegory. However, that does not mean they wrote without intention or purpose. Allegory is not the only way to show spiritual truths. Instead, both classic writers employed types and symbols, something I suggest Mr. Overstreet himself does, though he seems to be denying it in the excerpt I quoted.

Now you know why I want to have a conversation with him. 😀

For actual discussion about our featured book, Auralia’s Colors, spend some time at these other blogs:

Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Jackie Castle Carol Bruce Collett Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour Gene Curtis (Not on the list posted at CSFF). D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Jeff Draper April Erwin Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Jill Hart Katie Hart Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Creative contest underway. (Not on the list posted at CSFF). Heather R. Hunt Becca Johnson Jason Joyner Kait Karen Carol Keen Mike Lynch Margaret Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Melissa Meeks (Holding a book give-away). Mirtika or Mir’s Here Pamela Morrisson Eve Nielsen John W. Otte John Ottinger Deena Peterson (Holding a book give-away). Rachelle Steve Rice Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Hanna Sandvig Chawna Schroeder James Somers Rachelle Sperling Robert Treskillard (Not on the list posted at CSFF). Donna Swanson Steve Trower Speculative Faith Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

CSFF Blog Tour – Auralia’s Colors, Day 2

My intent was to have an interview, or more accurately, a conversation with Jeffrey Overstreet, author of our January feature, Auralia’s Colors, as part of my posting during the blog tour. I had a specific subject in mind, and interestingly it is the one Phil Vischer raised in his comments to Christianity Today.

To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how to broach the subject because I understand what is behind the opinion that Christian fantasy is … not very good. It is the history of Christian fiction (and by extension, all of fiction).

To be fair, I think you need to know some of what Mr. Overstreet believes, so here is an excerpt, fairly long, from his blog post answering questions about The Golden Compass:

Christians always point back to Lewis and Tolkien as exemplary storytellers. Why hasn’t anyone come along to step into their shoes?
One of the reasons that Pullman’s books are dangerous is that they stand so far above most contemporary fantasy in the quality and majesty of their writing and imagination.

The reason we’re having this controvery and conversation is, in part, due to this truth: Christians have become so suspicious of fairy tales, fantasy, and imagination that we have created an environment in which it is very unlikely that we will see another imagination like Tolkien and Lewis emerge. [emphasis mine]

We have focused our attentions on cultivating “Christian art” that evangelizes, rather than cultivating “imaginative writing.” In evangelical zeal, we’ve created a sub-genre, a whole industry, in which storytelling preaches to the choir with obvious lessons and somewhat shoddy craftsmanship. In our hurry to dot every “i” and cross every “t” and provide all fo the answers, we’ve eliminated the mysteries of God from our art… and people are much more powerfully drawn to mystery than they are to sales pitches. Audiences know the difference between literary works of great imagination and nicely decorated propaganda.

The kind of art crafted by Lewis and Tolkien invites us on an imaginative journey and allows us to discover meaning in an encounter with mystery. We are left to interpret the stories for ourselves.

Tolkien and Lewis wandered into stories and discovered truth. That kind of storytelling is often deemed too dangerous. Many believe we should be able to sum up what the story means ahead of time, and explain how that is going to convince people to accept Jesus, or it’s useless. I prefer the wisdom of Madeleine L’Engle:

    “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

We have become a church of marketers, not artists. And the artists, feeling distrusted, lacking support and resources, are leaving the church to find the freedom and ability to explore imagination and answer God’s call. Thus, most of the great, lasting religious art of our day is on exhibit in the secular square, largely overlooked… and sometimes even condemned… by people of faith.

Don’t you find it interesting that there has hardly been a whisper about these books amongst Christians in the last decade, but as soon as the movie starts getting promoted, suddenly there’s a panic? Kids have been reading these books since 1995, and Christian protesters are acting like they’ve only just arrived. What does this show us about the state of Christian engagement with the arts? Pullman’s trilogy has been making the news and winning prestigious literary awards for quite a while. And some folks who engage with contemporary literature have been publishing warnings for years and years (including Amy Wellborn, whose posts I linked to several years ago). But this just goes to show you that the general audience of Christians in America is tuned in to what is playing at the multiplex, but not to what is happening in the world of storytelling.

I doubt that I’ll ever be a master storyteller like Lewis or Tolkien. But their example inspired me so powerfully when I was a kid, that I decided at seven years old to start writing fairy tales of my own. I doubt anybody will come along to fill their shoes, but I would like to at least shine their shoes. It is a privilege to have had the opportunity to offer Auralia’s Colors as some small measure of thanks to those two writers, and to Madeleine L’Engle, by writing fantasy stories of my own. Thanks to their inspiring example, I’ve avoided writing allegory. I’ve gone forward in the hope that I could tell a good story, and that the story would reflect some measure of the truth on its own. Stories work best when they are not driven by some agenda to persuade.

So Auralia’s Colors, which was just published by Random House’s WaterBrook Press, is not an allegory by any stretch of the imagination. Some are finding “Christian meaning” in it. Fine. I think truth is God’s territory wherever it is found. (I found “Christian meaning” in Pan’s Labyrinth, a film made by a director who specifically claimed to be avoiding Christian storytelling.) I just wrote a fairy tale. I wrote the story to find out what would happen to the characters, not to create some kind of metaphor about God. And I’m still investigating. When someone announces that one of my characters is a stand-in for God or Jesus, well, that’s news to me. I haven’t seen enough evidence yet. But as I follow the characters, I am learning things. If I decided what the story meant ahead of time, I would be very bored by the process of writing the story.

(One reviewer referred to the creature called the Keeper as “God.” Perhaps the Keeper reminded him of God. That’s fine with me… I can see the resemblance. But the Keeper is not God. The Keeper is a mysterious mythological creature who lurks in the background of my story, and to me, it’s still a mysterious animal. I’m still learning about it. I imagine that folks who are eager to define him or equate him with something from the Bible will eventually be frustrated. But that’s just a hunch.)

If we allowed artists to explore their imaginations and pursue their visions with excellence, without making them self-conscious about the evangelical potential (or lack of it) in their work, we might end up with great art within the church again. Artists might have the courage and freedom to discover new visions rather than merely producing work that is derivative of good ideas that have come before.

While Mr. Overstreet says many helpful things in his post, I still take issue with his characterization of the unknown “we” who have this one-sided view of art. And it is this I would like to discuss with him.

As to Auralia’s Colors, see what others might be saying about the book. (Did you notice what Mr. Overstreet said about The Keeper? Now there’s another subject I’d like to explore with him.)

Others on tour this month as as follows:

Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 11:18 am  Comments (9)  

CSFF Blog Tour – Auralia’s Colors, Day 1

When I get an advance copy of a book, I tend to read and review as soon as possible. After all, I think the reason publishers send those books out is so that we can start talking about them and generate some buzz. If I sit on my review until … well, a scheduled blog tour, I’m not doing the author any favor and, in my view, am breaking trust with the publisher.

The dilemma I’m faced with then is, What do I say about the book during the blog tour? I’m referring specifically to Auralia’s Colors, Jeffrey Overstreet‘s debut fantasy novel for adults.

I suppose the place to start is to point readers to my review, posted at Speculative Faith last October. The short version of it is, I highly recommended the book. In fact I classified it as an important book, though I did not personally love it, primarily because I did not love any of the characters.

And still, I called it important. I think, my evaluation of the book today would not only reiterate that view but expand upon it. Why important?

For one thing, I think Auralia’s Colors is a departure from much Christian fantasy. It is not allegorical, though symbolic, and it is not overtly Christian, though containing redemptive elements.

In addition, Mr. Overstreet has given some attention to language, and the result is a work leaning toward literary fiction. The pace of the novel is markedly different from, say, Robin Parrish‘s superhero, high action fantasy Relentless. This fact also is important, in my view, because it expands the Christian fantasy genre.

No more can people pigeonhole Christian fantasy, though some still try. Recently in an interview with Christianity Today, VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer said

you couldn’t write Narnia today and have it accepted by the evangelical world because [of the magic] and because in its metaphor, it effectively has a non-Christian worldview.

Now, if we go to another fantasy world, we need to find Jesus there—literally. That is why the Harry Potter books are viewed to be straight from the pit. Even if Rowling says she’s enjoying [employing?] Christian themes, forget it. How do you write a Christian fantasy today? I have no idea. I don’t know that you can. I think we’ve killed it.

I think Auralia’s Colors is the perfect counterpoint to that argument. (For more on this discussion, see my Speculative Faith post on the topic.)

Certainly this novel does not have Jesus there, literally. And as I already pointed out, it is not allegorical, though certainly there are some apparent symbols, color being a primary one.

Auralia’s Colors does one other thing, which I think is especially significant. It is not a children’s book. I don’t know for certain how publisher WaterBrook is marketing the novel, but without a doubt, it is an adult book. Sure, young adults may read it, because clearly fantasy crosses age barriers like few other genres. But that fantasy must be written first and foremost for children is a myth (the old fashioned kind, not the myth of C. S. Lewis).

Here’s a novel, very different from Sharon Hinck‘s adult The Sword of Lyric series, very different from Karen Hancock‘s adult Guardian King Series, written with a sophistication and style that will appeal most to adults. It’s an important addition to Christian fantasy.

Take time to see what others on the blog tour are saying:

The Speaking Secret—Book Buzz, Part 8

It wasn’t until much later in the day, well after I posted yesterday’s recommendation of this week’s CFBA selection, Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide 2008, that I remembered I had promis implied I would pass along the Great Secret of speaking to create book buzz.

First, I probably (definitely?) overstated its effectiveness. Plus, it only reaches a certain segment of the population, and therefore is limited in its role. In fact, many writers will flat out dismiss the idea as completely unhelpful.

However, for fantasy writers—and you DO remember I’m a fantasy writer, yes?—I think this speaking secret can serve to ignite book buzz.

It’s not gonna sound dramatic, mind you, or earth shattering. It’s not even a “how” secret, but a “where.”

(Are ya ready? Did I pique your interest, even a little? Build a morsel of suspense?)

Herald’s trumpet, please:


Yep, colleges. For YA fantasy or for adult fantasy alike.

Apart from the fact that university-age people came into reading on the broom of Harry Potter, if you target Christian liberal arts colleges or universities or even Bible colleges, you will probably be speaking to an audience gathered from all over the United States or even the world. Should your story be the kind that engages readers, these readers will return to their states of origin on the holidays, with your book in tow. Now, with no extra effort on your part, you can have copies scattered abroad.

Of course, this isn’t automatic. You’ll have to put that suggestion before your audience. Maybe even make it a challenge. And granted, you’ll have to break through to some very busy people, but again, this can be a challenge—like the “I dare you, eat just one potato chip” kind of marketing.

I’d even like to try a guarantee (one of the publishers put such a guarantee in their book): “If you don’t like it, mail it back and I’ll refund your money, BUT, if you do like it, tell ten other people.” Something like that.

As I was thinking about this idea, I was even wondering if college bookstores might not be willing to host book signings. I mean, they get great business just before the new semester, but what about during the months in between? Wouldn’t a book signing be an event college students would enjoy, especially if there was free food on the way out. “Come in, listen to the reading, pick up a ticket for a slice of pizza or a doughnut and coffee that you can claim on your way out.”

The point is, be creative. Think of untapped places to speak. Think of ways to draw people in. Think of people who can draw other people in. And don’t forget about the fun. 😀

Published in: on January 18, 2008 at 11:44 am  Comments (3)  
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CFBA Blog Tour—Christian Writers’ Market Guide

I’m taking time away from the discussion about book buzz in order to help create some. 😉 At least that’s the goal.

But I have to be honest with you, I am a little mystified why the Christian Writers’ Market Guide needs to be toured. I would have thought that by now its reputation had been established and it’s place in the MUST list of books for authors secured.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I am always happy to talk about a book I can support whole-heartedly. And the 2008 version of the Christian Writers’ Market Guide is certainly such a book.

Once upon a time, I used to think once I purchased a copy of the book, then I certainly wouldn’t need a newer version … maybe ever! Such ignorance! Little did I realize how dynamic the book business is. Editors change jobs, one company buys up another, another re-evaluates its mission, and from time to time, nearly all adjust their focus. That the newest version of the Market Guide clues a writer in on all this makes it an invaluable tool. But there’s more.

The “more” is because editor Sally Stuart continues to find ways to improve the Market Guide. Last year she added what I think is by far the most revolutionary writer help of all—an accompanying CD version of the book so you can actually do computer searches for what you’re looking for. The 2008 version also has this great addition. But there’s still more.

Part of Stuart’s genesis in creating the Market Guide was seeing a need and meeting it. She continues to have the pulse of publishing and has expanded the book to include, not just a list of publishers but of agents; not just agents, but editorial services; not just editorial services, but contests; not just contests, but conferences; not just conferences, but writers’ groups; not just writers’ groups, but writing related web sites. Yes, web sites. But here’s the capper.

For Stuart, the Market Guide is not a once-a-year thing. She is involved in learning what’s happening in the publishing world all year around. Recently she started a blog that gives updates. It’s like a free supplement to the Market Guide. I encourage any writers visiting here to drop by her blog, Christian Writers’ Marketplace.

I subscribed to it on my Bloglines account because I didn’t want to miss a single entry. They are succinct, titled clearly so you can tell at a glance if you want to read the details, and keep a writer informed of changes taking place in the business.

Bottom line, if you are serious about your writing, the Christian Writers’ Market Guide 2008 is a worthwhile investment of your money and Christian Writers’ Marketplace is a worthwhile investment of your time.

Published in: on January 17, 2008 at 10:43 am  Comments (4)  

Beyond Blogging to Speaking—Book Buzz, Part 7

By the way, happy Appreciate a Dragon Day! 😀

I don’t want to give the impression that the internet is the only way to generate book buzz. It certainly is not.

And before we go any further in this discussion, I think it’s important to make something clear.

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the LORD. – Proverbs 21:31

In connection to the book business, I apply that in the writing and in the promotion of my work. I am to prepare the book for readers as best I can, but the last part of the verse is the key. The results belong to the Lord.

I can’t imagine going to battle without first praying about every aspect of what I know to lie ahead, and I see no reason to think a writer should do less. For me, ultimate success would be for God to be glorified in my writing. That is more vital than surviving a life-threatening circumstance. Why wouldn’t I want God’s council, instruction, wisdom, blessing?

My point is, I think prayer is the ultimate and necessary ingredient for book buzz. Not that I think praying will insure my book will become a best seller or any such thing. Rather, if I focus on praying that God will bring the readers He knows are ripe to hear what I’m saying in my story, and that He will show me the means to reach them, then I can be confident in the book buzz steps I take, not looking back and second guessing myself at every turn.

But about those book buzz steps, blogging is only one tool. The most effective other tool I’ve seen is speaking. Of course some people get shivers just reading that word. I understand. Though God called me to be a teacher for thirty years, when I first began the process I had such fear, I couldn’t imagine how I was to get through.

Others think, Well, who in their right mind would want to listen to me, for surely I’m no Liz Curtis Higgs or Beth Moore or John Eldridge.

Both these concerns can be addressed together. The key to overcoming the fear of speaking in public is to speak in public. The doing, and doing often, makes the act seem normal, much like driving (steering a vehicle weighing hundreds of pounds and burning fuel at sixty-five miles an hour beside hundreds of other such vehicles, some with insane eighteen year olds behind the wheel! And this is NORMAL? 😮 Well, yes, it has become so, but that first time? Not so much!)

The key is not to overreach. In other words, the audience doesn’t have to be 50,000 people filling the LA Coliseum or even 200 filling the Mount Hermon auditorium. Rather, why not become available at the local level as a speaker for the Mother’s Day tea? (I know a writer who has done this). Or at the local writers’ group breakfast?

Small groups usually have small budgets and would be thrilled to have a local author, especially if the only cost is that you make your books available for sale. And speaking in front of small groups isn’t really as big a deal as it seemed, especially the third or fourth time through. Trust me! It’s true.

There’s a speaking secret, however, that I am aching to try, that I think will create ready book buzz, at least for a certain audience. But I’ve gone on longer than I should already, so I’ll save that one for tomorrow.

Published in: on January 16, 2008 at 12:39 pm  Comments (2)  
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Creative Blog Buzz—Book Buzz, Part 6

From what I can glean, there is one other powerful attention getter that will have people talking about your books: your creative use of blogging.

This first example I want to share wasn’t started by blogging, however. I’m referring to something I just received word about from Donita Paul:

We are pleased to bring you news that this week on Wednesday, January 16, people around the country will be celebrating Appreciate a Dragon Day! What is this strange holiday, you ask?

Several years ago when DragonSpell first came out, Mrs. Paul was reading a book about how to market your book. One of the suggestions was to register a new holiday. So she registered Appreciate a Dragon Day, or AADD.

Just recently we Googled AADD. SHOCK! It’s all over the place! Mrs. Paul sent emails to many of the people and places that have given it a boost. It was not only a publicity ploy, but something that is dear to her heart: promoting literacy.

Check out the DragonKeeper website’s AADD Event Page to get more details on this interesting holiday and some suggestions on how to celebrate. Some of these ways include making a dragon kite, a dragon cake, a dancing dragon toy, putting on a dragon puppet show, and many more fun ideas!

Of course, if every author ran out and created a holiday tie-in to his book, this would soon get old hat. The key is doing something new.

I was reading over at Michael Hyatt’s blog From Where I Sit, as I regularly do, and from his totally unrelated post about the history of Thomas Nelson Publishers, I got what I think is a new idea for blog buzz. Mr. Hyatt mentioned that Thomas Nelson, Sr., when he first tried to sell his “affordable books for common folks,” had trouble with other booksellers boycotting them. His solution was to hold book fairs.

My thought was, Why not on-line Book Fairs? I mean, several authors could get together and hold such a one day fair, with books discounted and the number limited. Maybe a button could be created, and required to be posted by bloggers for them to be eligible to order books at the fair. Those are just ideas off the top of my head (and I wish I had a book I wanted to buzz about so I could get a fair going. I think it would be fun!)

The thing is, there are lots of ideas out there. If you want to start buzz about your book, think of what unique things connect to your story. Think of actual book events that might be translated into virtual book events. And make them fun, for you and for those you would like to involve. 😀

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 11:35 am  Comments (6)  
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Buzz at Work—Book Buzz, Part 5

Hey all! I was just on Wayne Thomas Batson’s blog, at It’s a really fascinating site, with links to other Christian fantasy authors. Mr. Batson is the author of the Door Within Trilogy and Isle of Swords. These novels are among my favorites, and are growing immensely in their popularity right now. There is even talk of making a movie! Only time will tell, I suppose.

So said the author of the blog Writer’s Passion last Thursday.

A week ago, Saturday, the blogger writing Books under the Bridge said this:

Recommended: The Legend of the Firefish (George Bryan Polivka), Book 1 of The Trophy Chase Trilogy.

I first heard about this book by browsing around the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour. It’s George Bryan Polivka’s first fantasy publication, published in March of 2007.

These are specific examples of the way buzz works. Wayne Batson creates a “fascinating site,” but also links to other Christian fantasy writers. Blog visitor Araken then writes about Wayne’s site, linking to it. And here I am, writing about both Araken’s blog and Wayne’s. And each person who reads my post or Araken’s, or who clicks over to Wayne’s site is introduced or reminded of his books. We are engaged in book buzzing.

Same with Bryan Polivka‘s, only this buzz was an outgrowth of a direct attempt to stir buzz. The point is, having a good blog helps and having your book featured on a blog tour helps.

It does seem to be an obvious corollary that the more places an author’s name appears, the more places his name will appear. Buzz actually works much like the dollars publishers spend for marketing—more to the well-known and selling well than to Brand New Author.

I finally understand what I heard from editors years ago—the time to start marketing your book is before you publish. This is true in part because of the Author Trust factor I mentioned last week. It is possible to build up author trust before readers have picked up your book. One obvious way is through speaking, but another way is through blogging.

I think there are some general “rules” to keep in mind, however, if “blogging” is actually going to result in buzz. (I suppose this really fits in with the blogging content post, but part of the problem with blogging is that you publish before you have the whole enchilada assembled.) In no special order, and largely to remind myself:

    1) write regularly
    2) keep the length manageable (posts that are long may chase away busy people)
    3) link to others, and better yet, exchange links as often as possible
    4) participate in blog rings or blog tours (but keep in mind that content ought not be a copy-and-paste edition of what readers can find elsewhere—it kills their motivation to visit.)
    5) broaden your web presence by visiting new sites and leaving comments. (One professional says to do a set number of things every day to promote your work, and visiting new sites certainly counts.)
    6) invite guests to blog (often their readers will follow them over to your site)
    7) keep your content focused on a particular topic, one in which you have some experience or knowledge
    8 ) to the best of your ability, make use of new technology such as podcasting

I’m sure there are others I could list, but I’ve already gone on too long. 😉

Published in: on January 14, 2008 at 1:49 pm  Comments Off on Buzz at Work—Book Buzz, Part 5  
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