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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guest Post: Author Christine Schulze on Self-Publitwshing and Christian Fantasy!

"Hullo, and thanks so much to Arya for having me here today! My name is Christine E. Schulze, and I am a new, starving author of YA and middle grade fantasy and Christian fantasy.

One topic Arya thought my readers might be interested is why I have chosen to self-publish. Self-publishing can have a bad wrap, but do not think I am not very serious about my craft. Quite the opposite, and though I do hope to get into a major publishing house, I am glad for the self-publishing experience, which has taught me loads.

My publishing experience started when I was a freshman in college. I was working at the Success Center at Southwestern Illinois College as an English tutor. My mom came in one evening with this excellent letter of acceptance for my YA novel, The Prism of Ashlei, from Tate Publishing. I was so elated! Until I learned they wanted me to pay a fee to do so; though they promised to return the cash once I sold 5,000 copies of my book, the fee was a lot of money to me as a new college student.
Now, I am a stubborn person and SO wanted to be published, so needless to say, I really wanted to give in. It wasn’t others’ advice, warning, and common sense which changed my mind though. It was the fact that, if I gave in and paid such an exorbitant amount—which I didn’t really have, by the way, unless I gave up college—I was basically saying to myself and all the world that I wasn’t good enough to make it to a real publishing house. A serious author should never have to pay money to get published. I don’t fault those who do, but it wasn’t for me. (I’m quite glad I didn’t pay also because I’m learning how hard it is selling your first copy, let alone 5,000!)

Now, the same could be argued for self-publishing; wasn’t I saying I couldn’t make it in the real publishing world? Well, first off, not long after I turned down Tate, which left me really bummed out, I received an offer for a contract with Writers-Exchange e-publishing for another YA novel of mine, Golden Healer, Dark Enchantress. Though I really wanted to see my work in print, I was up for getting my name out there with a few ebooks. The ebook released earlier this year, and I am really glad I decided to work with this e-publisher. Through working with Laura Shinn, Sandy Cummins, and Jenna, all brilliant editors, I learned much about how to polish my own work. They guided me through the first chapter, and I did the rest. I must have caught on quickly too, because they didn’t make many changes to the rest of the book once I’d edited.

Well, at some point, I discovered Createspace, a self-publishing company affiliated with Amazon. They are great because you don’t have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars. You actually don’t pay a thing, except to order a proof copy of each book before it officially goes to print. I was intrigued by the idea of getting to make my own cover art, design the interior of my books, etc. Laura Shinn helped me learn about creating PDF files and made a template for me, as well as assisting me in the art of making cover art files. Without her help, I could not have self-published, so God bless you, Laura, for that.

I think I originally intended just to self-publish a few books, sort of as an experiment to see if I could help spread my name that way, and partially just as something I did for myself because I wanted to. Maybe I got a little carried away, self-publishing three of my favorite and best series. However, someday, when I get renowned through a traditional publisher, those books will be out there, waiting for my fans to delve into. I definitely don’t regret the experience or all I learned, though I hope those books too are someday picked by a traditional published. The best part was designing everything and making both the paperback and ebooks available at really reasonable prices to my readers. For my favorite series, The Gailean Quartet, I actually came up with two separate book covers for each book, front and back. The back cover is like a surprise, containing some of my original, hand-drawn illustrations of the characters; which ones depends on which version of the book you buy. I realize I’ve done things a little backwards—creating collectors’ items and THEN trying to be famous. But, like I said, it was a fun experience, and the stuff is out there when readers want it.

That said, I’ve since worked with smaller presses like Old Line Publishing, who did Bloodmaiden, as well as Victory Tales Press; I’m involved in several of their anthologies, and my anthology Bloodmaiden: a fantasy anthology, was actually one of their first releases. I learned much from Rebecca Vickery, the editor there as well.

So, in the end, I am applying all I’ve learned over these past couple of years to perfect a manuscript, a middle grade fantasy called The Last Star. I feel a lot more confident now in its being polished to send to agents and editors. My boyfriend has also taught me much on query letters and helped me perfect my own for the book (he was also my photographer for Bloodmaiden’s cover, which is one of my best; thanks, sweetie!). When I’m ready to start submitting the manuscript in a few months, well, pray and cross your fingers! That will be the start of a whole new adventure.

Another topic Arya said her readers might be interested in is why I write not only fantasy, but Christian fantasy as well. I think the best way to sum that up is to use a reply I used in another interview, so without further ado:

I have always loved fantasy. I love being able to create new worlds, peoples, characters. I just can’t write realistic fiction because it limits me too much. Plus, I really love how almost all of my books—all thirty-plus of them—connect in some way, shape, or form.

The “Christian” aspect comes in because, as a Christian, I feel I should give something back to the God who blessed me with talents of writing. That said, most of my work is NOT preachy; I try to incorporate any Christian aspects so that they flow naturally with the characters and story, instead of seeming awkward. In the words of Briana from The Book Pixie, another young lady who reviewed Bloodmaiden:

“Another thing I loved was the incorporation of religious elements. They were subtly done so that a Christian like me would pick up on them; however, they weren't blatantly obvious enough to detract from the story for those non-religious readers out there.”

This is exactly what I aim for, so I was glad to here it from another reader. Many of my books simply contain Christian virtues like the importance of friendship, forgiveness, love, redemption, or self-sacrifice. Others do talk about God, but mostly in an allegorical sense, like Aslan from Narnia. For those looking for a more obviously Christian read, my short book, The Pirates of Meleeon, does refer to God directly, and salvation is a big part of that book. For the most part though, my books will still appeal to as wide an audience as regular fantasy. I do plan to wrap up all my books with a final book, Carousel in the Clouds, which draws on the book of Revelation to bring an end to all worlds. Though the book is already finished, I have much else to do before it too is published.

Well, that about wraps things up. Thanks so much to Arya for having me here, and I hope you all get the chance to sometime read Bloodmaiden or other of my works for yourself.

God bless and happy reading!

P.S. Arya, your name is beautiful; look for it in a book someday!"

Thank you so much, Christine, for taking to time to share some about yourself and your books with my readers! 

To find out more about Christine you can check out her Goodreads page and blog by following the links below.



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