After a career of writing for magazines, newspapers and websites, this was Christopher's first book written for children. It has won several notable awards as well as wonderful reviews, and there are now two sequels in the Hero's Guide series: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw.
First, tell us what The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is about.
Prince Liam, Prince Frederic, Prince Gustav, Prince Duncan. These are the so-called heroes who became famous for rescuing Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White, respectively. Yet no one even knows their real names—they are all simply known by the generic name, Prince Charming, and forced to live in the shadows of their more famous (even if deservedly so) female counterparts. Now the time has come for these four second-banana princes to join together on a daring, monster-and-magic-filled quest to prove to the world—and themselves—that they truly are the heroes their stories make them out to be. (And if things get rough, the princesses are always around to help the guys out of a tight spot.)
Tell us about your path to publication: Traditional or independent? Recently or further in the past?
As someone who was telling people I was going to be an author someday back when I was 7 years old, I took a pretty roundabout path to actually reach that goal. I started my professional "writing" career as a magazine fact-checker. Then I moved from double-checking other people's writing to wrangling some real writing assignments of my own—ones with an actual byline. Eventually, I was writing for a whole bunch of magazines, newspapers, and websites—everything from the New York Times to AOL. But once my kids were born, I ended up finding a niche for myself as a children's media critic, reviewing kids' books, movies, music, and video games (Hey, "Write what you know," right?). After years of that, though, I finally reached a point where I got tired of writing about other people's works and wanted to try creating my own. I reminded myself of my dreams from back when I was a second grader. So in between all the paying work, I began writing The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom—my first shot at a novel. From there, the route to publication was pretty traditional. I got an agent (who luckily turned out to be awesome), she brought my manuscript to several publishers, and HarperCollins made me an offer.
What top factors do you believe put your e-book where it is now?
I hate to say bargain deals, but when talking specifically about the e-book version of Hero's Guide, they've been a huge help. Every limited time, low-price deal has led to a jump in sales. Beyond just the electronic version, though, I credit the success of the series to a number of factors (each of which I'm incredibly grateful for!)—schools (teachers and librarians have been great champions for my books), handselling at brick-and-mortar bookstores, very supportive book bloggers, and word of mouth from kid readers. Of course, I don't know how many of those boosts I would have gotten at all if the publisher hadn't been so good about pushing and marketing the series on their end.
What is your target audience, and how do you believe the e-format works for that audience and serves their needs?
Although I have a wide spectrum of readers, the series is technically labeled as middle grade, meaning a target audience of 8 to 12. I can't say I've seen too many kids that age reading ebooks, but a lot of their parents do. I also know that a lot of parents read my books aloud to their kids, so for them, the format wouldn't necessarily matter. I do think, however, that if my series only existed in e-book format, it would not have gotten the wonderful reception it has from schools.
What does your writing schedule look like? What are you working on now?
I try my hardest to put in a full six hours of writing between 9 and 3, while my kids are at school. Once they're home, it's too easy to get distracted, so I save as much of the business-end of the job (emails, contracts, bills, website upkeep, etc.) for after 3pm. Of course, it doesn't always work out. And there's always a little thing called Writer's Block that tends to show up pretty much every day at some point. When that happens, I find it much more productive to move on to some other task, rather than sit and stare at a blank screen. It's usually while I'm in the middle of something else that the answer will come to me. My latest novel that I'm working on is called, The Worst Thing About Saving the World, and it follows the post-heroic life of a middle-schooler AFTER he's saved the day and become mega famous for it. It's set to be published in 2016.
Learn more about Christopher and his books by visiting his website and the Official Hero's Guide website. You can also follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
See the latest Kids' EBook Bestseller List for more top ten e-format authors and their books. It's updated every Saturday morning. Check back next week when my featured author will be Anya Allyn.
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