7 Questions With Author Ben Christian | Esther Rabbit
Born and raised in the small town of Silsbee, Texas, Ben Christian is a number crunching accountant by day and Christian fiction author by night. Being an avid car enthusiast who likes to live life in the fast lane with his wife, Michaella, he believes that behind every smile, every laugh, and every tear, there is a story. He enjoys stories with action and often likes to incorporate his own life experiences into his work.
His debut novel, Deep Wounds: Fortune of Faith, follows the life of an ex-street racer named Titus Westfall, who is now a family man but gets laid off from his job. Enticed by the fast money of street racing, Titus puts everything on the line in one race that changes his life forever. Ben’ s goal is to provide readers with books that not only keep their attention, but also contain deeper messages that makes them examine their own beliefs.
For the ones of you who are new to my blog, I’m Esther Rabbit, writer, content creator for authors and massive nerd. If you’re interested to know all the tips & tricks surrounding the process From Writing To Publishing Your Novel, you’re only a click away. For writing and marketing tips consider subscribing to my YouTube Channel.
What’s your definition of the first draft?
To me, a first draft is nothing more than organizing your ideas and getting them together on paper. When writing Deep Wounds, I created an outline so I would have an idea of the flow of the story but as I got going, the story took on a life of it’s own and I found myself veering away from the outline.
I can tell you that the first draft of the book is completely different than the final product that you hold in your hands. Yes, it still does contain many of the same elements and general flow, but to give you an idea, my first draft had 105 k words and the final draft has 77 k words. Some scenes were ultimately cut, others changed, characters introduced, etc. but what brought the word count down more than anything else, is tightening up the manuscript.
Through my own first self edit, I cut over 10 k words (and this includes ADDING scenes) then, I made another sweep through and cut over 5 k more words. Once the book met it’s initial editor, it was taken down even further. Again, I reiterate that things weren’t necessarily being cut out, but the story was being perfected piece by piece. To sum it up, it’s easier to work with something once you get it out of your head and onto the paper and your STARTING point is your first draft.
What are some common stereotypes related to the genre(s) you’re writing in?
Though it falls into several sub categories, Deep Wounds at it’s core is a Christian fiction book but, I have been careful in marketing it,because some may disagree due to certain scenes in the book. To me, Christian fiction can cover a relatively wide spectrum of stories so long as there is a message in it’s roots. Two of the main stereotypes I see to this genre are 1) Content and 2) Tone. Speaking first on content, many expect all Christian fiction books to be 100%.
I agree with this argument to a certain point, as I do not believe that strong language has to be utilized to get a point across, nor do I believe that we need overly described details on certain scenes. But at the same time, I think it’s important to remember that we live in a world where evil is all around us on a daily basis. Each and every one of us have faced evil and have been in less than ideal situations, but it was God’s grace and mercy that saved us and brought us through.
I don’t believe that the characters should be limited in their situations and circumstances in this genre, because, that’s missing out on a whole segment of the real world. I’ve received criticism regarding the opening scene of Deep Wounds as a Christian book, and I do understand their logic but, this is a real world situation that people are doing and living through. I’m not saying that it makes it right but, I feel like the Christian fiction genre, should capture real life as close as possible with an underlying message, if our goal is to bring others to Christ. The second stereotype I see in this genre, is with regards to the tone of books.
Some will walk right past a Christian fiction book because, they believe that all it is going to do is preach. There are certainly some like this but, just like in any other genre, no two books are the same. Deep Wounds for instance, does indeed have a message on faith and it’s taught through multiple characters, including a pastor, but the book itself is about an ex street racer, losing his job in the corporate world and going back to his roots of street racing for fast money. On the surface, my goal was to design the book to read like a fiction book but also embed a deeper message of faith into the story line. If someone doesn’t want to be preached at, fine, but at the end of the day, you still get to enjoy an action story that includes street racing, fast cars, fight sequences, and marriage problems.
What are some of the myths around self-publishing / traditional publishing?
When it comes to self publishing vs. traditional publishing, I do not believe that there is necessarily a right or wrong answer. Each author has to evaluate for themselves what they are looking for in their career as an author, and weigh the options of both routes. One of the biggest myths of self publishing is that, self published books never sell and this route is for authors who failed at getting a traditional publishing contract.
Thankfully, as time has went by, this stigma about self publishing has lessened but, there are still authors and others in the industry who turn their noses up at those who choose to self publish. With that being said, self publishing is not the easy way out. Sure, you can write a book, design a cover, and have it up on Amazon all in the same day if you choose, and it’s this thinking that has given self publishing a bad name.
As both an author and a reader, once you complete your first draft, it’s your job to go through your manuscript and make multiple rounds editing it before having the manuscript professionally edited and proofread. Once you finish these stages, you want to make sure that the book is professionally formatted (you can do this yourself or enlist help) and that your book has a professional looking cover. You may have heard the phrase to not judge a book by its cover but, I can tell you that your book will be judged by it’s cover. You can have the best book in the world but, if you have a lackluster cover, it’s not going to sell.
You want something that catches people’s attention and makes them want to know more. Then, after they have your book in their hands, they will read your blurb, and once you hook them there, you will likely have a sale. Luckily, there are several freelancers out who can help you with every step of the process of editing, formatting, cover design, etc. But if you expect people to spend their hard earned money on your book as a self published author, you have to be willing to invest in yourself. A myth about traditional publishing, is that it’s the only way to success as an author.
While I have talked with many traditionally published authors who have experienced great success, I’ve also spoken with many others who were quite the opposite. Many stated that if they could turn the clock back, they wouldn’t have signed a traditional publishing contract but it’s too late now. One word of caution that I will advise, is to make sure that you read every word of what you are signing, and if you do not understand, take it to a lawyer to decipher, as there are many publishers out there preying on new authors, and practically taking their work right out of their hands.
Traditional publishing can certainly be a good thing as your publisher is footing the bill on editing, cover design, and sometimes even marketing. For someone not interested in getting into the business side of the industry and just enjoys writing, signing traditionally might be the best option. Another advantage that traditional publishing may offer over self publishing, is that many of the large publishers have distribution agreements with brick and mortar stores so you may gain better visibility/a larger audience, through their name and see your books in print at your local Barnes and Noble or favorite book store.
I included this under myths as, while one main advantage of a traditional publisher is indeed distribution, that’s not to say that it’s impossible for self published books to end up in book stores, or even on the big screen. If you don’t believe me, do a search and, you will be surprised what movies started off as self published books (Legally Blonde, The Martian, Fifty Shades of Grey, etc.) to name a few.
What’s the best way for authors to approach self-promotion?
The best way for an author to approach self-promotion, is to be yourself and present your brand and your books. Especially in the digital/social media age that we are living in, it’s easier than ever to reach potential readers as well as connect with fellow authors but, it’s all about how you do it.
Many authors flood their books out but, potential readers never get to see and know the men and women behind the pen. I’ll use an example. If you walked past a new product on the shelf, that caught your attention, you may stop and look at it but, how likely are you to buy it if you never heard of it before, seen it in action, or know nothing about the brand? Not likely, right? Well, what if you were in that same store, and saw me demonstrating how that product worked.
You would see exactly how it worked and be able to ask me any questions or voice any concerns you may have. Once I answered your questions, and made additional demonstrations and maybe even let you try it firsthand, you would feel better about making the purchase, right? Why? Because, you are not only spending your money on that product, you’re also paying for that added value of building a trusted business relationship with me.
The same goes for us as authors. We should look to build relationships with our readers so that they can get to know us on a personal level, as well as what to expect from our band.
You can’t build this relationship by simply spamming your book or spamming everyone’s inboxes hoping that they buy. This is a quick way to loose sales and even tarnish/block your name for future sales, because they want nothing to do with you now.
My advice is, whether in person or over the internet, tailor your approach and make each experience individualized. Yes, it will take more time to do this but you are gaining an organic audience. Another simple trick is to be creative. Create flyers or even a YouTube channel. With thousands of new books being put out daily, you have to put the work in to let others know why they should spend money on your book as opposed to all of the other options out there.
There are a lot of experts behind the novel, editors, developmental editors, proofreaders, beta readers, etc. How did you find your perfect crew?
Finding the perfect crew for your project is one that requires both time and patience. A good thing about the literary industry, is there are a number of freelancers who can virtually help you with any aspect of your project. With that being said, unfortunately there are a large (and growing) numbers of scammers in the business.
For anyone that you are looking to do business with, I highly encourage you to do your research on them. If they provide references for you, I recommend to not only check those references, but look them up online and see what projects they have worked on in the past, and reach out to those authors to see how their experience with them was.
Again, with social media as your friend, look them up and likely, you will find them and be able to see those they interact with (and often times, even projects that they recently finished.) Do they have a website? Most credible editors that I spoke to, at least have a website that showcases their work as well as reviews about their work.
For Deep Wounds, I chose to work with two editors and one proofreader (not to mention a number of beta readers) because I felt, that for my first book, I wanted to make it as perfect as I could. Anyone in the industry will learn that most authors are actually very friendly and welcoming and would be happy to answer any questions that you may have, especially to help you avoid falling victim to a scam.
One thing that I’ve learned about editors, is that most of them offer a sample edit. I highly recommend that you take them up on this offer as this will not only show you how they work, it also gives them an opportunity to view your work and see how well the two of you will work together.
One important thing for me was finding editors who shared my vision for the story. I received a number of small sample edits before ultimately deciding on my primary editor, Jaree Campbell. When I initially reviewed Jaree’s sample, I noticed that it was quite a bit marked up compared to some of the others that I had received which concerned me but, once I got to reading through her edits and comments, it all began to make sense.
She took her time, combing through sentence by sentence and together, helped me improve the overall structure and development of the story. After Jaree finished, I again did my research and came across Goodreids Editing Services who performed a line edit.
It was here that I learned more about proper punctuation/grammar and Goodreids even gave me an individualized reference sheet at the end of common errors, so I would know what to look out for when writing my next novel. Finally, I did that dreadful search one last time and ran across Author Angel Nyx who offers proofreading for other authors through her company, Horus Proofreading.
When I say Angel has an eye for errors, she picked up on some things that I completely overlooked and put the finishing touches on the manuscript. In addition to proofreading, you can thank Angel for the beautiful formatting job! Finding the perfect crew is not an easy task by any means and it will take time due to having to do your research. For me, altogether it took over a month but I couldn’t be happier with the end product. It’s all about everyone being on the same page and seeing your vision because at the end of the day, they may each play a part in it but, it’s your story and your name going on the cover.
Is there anything you learned from reader reviews?
From reading reader reviews, one of the biggest things that I’ve picked up on is that you must have your book professionally edited. Reviews play a very small part on whether I’ll pick up a book or not because everyone has different tastes (the beauty of reviews right?).
But one thing that I see, that constantly drags ratings down with 1 and 2 star reviews, has nothing to do with the story/plot itself, but everything to do with poor editing. As an author, I understand that we (meaning authors, editors, proofreaders) are all human and there is bound to be at least 1 error in any book that you read (even textbooks).
But a reader should not have to try to figure out what you, the author, is trying to say. Another thing I picked up on reviews, is that readers like characters with depth/a backstory.
As a reader myself, there have been times where I’ve seen a large number of characters (nothing wrong with this) but, I don’t feel attached to any of them. I’m not saying that every character should have their own separate story but, we should be introduced to them enough to get to know them and form our own opinions about them.
Lastly, one other thing I’ll share that I’ve learned from reviews, is to know when to end a story. It’s one thing to end on a cliffhanger (yes, I know some people hate them), but you shouldn’t end of a cliffhanger for the sole reason of making a reader purchase your next book. If the story can be told in one book, then tell it in one book. Many readers have stopped reading certain series because they feel that the author dragged it out.
Just how much research is there behind a novel? Tell us how it looks behind the scenes.
As far as research behind a novel, I believe that it depends on what type of novel (autobiography vs. fiction for instance). For the most part, to successfully write a novel, I do believe, that the author has to experience the atmosphere to some degree to catch that vivid authenticity. Speaking on my debut novel, Deep Wounds, the work itself is a work of fiction but, many of the scenes are based on real events that I’ve either seen through my own two eyes, or experienced firsthand.
Many of the places in the story, are based on real places that I have seen and physically walked around. Even the cars featured in the story are cars that I’ve owned, driven, or had the experience to drive. There were even some cars that I drove specifically to feel how they drive for the purpose of writing and producing Deep Wounds.
It’s one thing to see many of these amazing cars on television and in movies but, a completely different experience to be behind the wheel of them in real life. There’s something about stepping on the gas and hearing the whine of a supercharged V8 as you rocket from 0-60 MPH in 4 seconds or less.
Even some of the fight sequences for Deep Wounds, were physically acted out to ensure that readers get the full effect of the scene. It took quite a bit of time and research to get many of the scenes just right but, this is the beauty of writing.
When you purchase a book from an author, you aren’t just buying words on pages bounded together. You are buying an experience that the author wants to share with you. The research behind the scenes is what gives books their legacy to leave behind for future generations to come.
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And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.
She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills.
Read the full blurb here.