Local writer self-publishing his way to Christian fantasy success
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Woodstock - posted Fri., Mar. 2, 2012
Scott Appleton was 17 when he spent three months in Thailand as a student missionary. Perhaps his most important revelation was at a showing of a "Lord of the Rings" movie. It opened his eyes to the possibility of fantasy and how he might write his own.
Using dragons and fairies, sea serpents and swords, he wrote a story exploring love and loyalty, betrayal and benevolence in a biblical allegory. But his own story is as much about writing and getting published as it is about spreading the word. Appleton has managed to forge his own publishing path in a world where rejection is the norm.
The first-time author, who was born, raised and homeschooled in northeastern Connecticut, tried approaching publishers first. His book proposal - what all authors are required to submit - was rejected. He polished the manuscript and signed up for a writers’ conference. He paid $150 to have 10,000 buyer's cards printed, featuring his book. He paid an artist to create drawings which he took with him. He built a one-line pitch that he could deliver in a minute. When he met with publishers and agents at the conference, he found one publisher, AMG, who was interested.
Armed with this small success, he spent two years working on the novel. It went back and forth between him and the publisher, who eventually rejected it. So Appleton took matters into his own hands. He started his own company, Flaming Pen Press, and self-published the book. Most authors who take that route don't succeed. Six out of 10 self-published authors never sell more than 1,000 copies of their books. But Appleton and his wife took up the challenge. They put their belongings in storage and traveled more than 11,000 miles across 13 states in five months, speaking at middle schools, libraries and churches. He sold 3,000 books in one year.
Call it divine intervention or luck; AMG decided to get back into the fantasy genre. They signed a contract with Appleton for three books. Depending on their success, they may sign him up for four more - the number he expects he'll need to finish his series.
His is an unusual success story in more ways than one. Appleton is only 26 years old. He is largely self-taught. And when he started writing the story eight years ago, he had no idea what the fantasy genre was. “I had all these misconceptions,” he admitted. He calls his work, “wholesome, family-friendly fiction written for readers of all backgrounds, but written from the Christian world-view.”
He has created his own website in order to create a following. He’s used Facebook to drum up interest and readership. He is considering putting out short stories as E-books, or "singles" as they are known in the industry. “At 99 cents a single, they’re a good way to get material out there,” he said. And he’s had to teach himself the technology along the way.
Appleton is humble and down-to-earth. His approach works well with young adults. There were several at his recent talk at Woodstock Academy, and all of them were interested in how he did what he did. He answered questions about his characters and where they sprang from. He told aspiring authors how to format their manuscripts and what it took to turn a manuscript into a finished book. He shared his writing goals: 2,000 to 4,000 words a day when he writes; approximately 80,000 words for a young adult novel.
Jacob Blain, a ninth-grader at Woodstock Academy, went to the talk because he loves dragons and especially loved Appleton’s first book, "Swords of the Six." Mandi Strzelewicz, another WA student, was interested in getting her own novel published. She has a completed manuscript and is thinking about creating a video to put on the website she created for her book. Her mother Michelle, who is also working on a novel, accompanied her to the event. “It’s fun to talk with other authors and get inspired,” she said.
Appleton answered all the questions his audience threw at him, from elementary school age up. His answers to what many find a mystifying process were simple and straightforward. Not to say that writing is easy. “It takes a lot to write a novel,” he admitted.
Appleton hopes to continue his missionary work someday. Of course, he may have already found his calling.