Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Secret Lives of Our Books by Chris Eboch

As writers, we spend endless one-on-one time with our manuscripts. We know everything about them. A few critique partners may read the work; we may talk about it with some friends and family members. But we control the story, we know exactly what’s happening and when, the way a devoted new parent may know their infant’s every smile and burp.

But eventually, this thing you’ve birthed goes out into the world. You hope it will make friends, that others will love it the way you do and treat it well. You hope, perhaps secretly, that it will do something remarkable. Be important. Become a star.

For a while you can hold its hand. You can guide it through the torturous world of submissions, and fight for its integrity with the publisher (while letting those teachers groom it for even greater success).

But if all goes well, eventually you must step away. Like a parent sending a child off to college, a writer releasing a published book has to let go. You cross your fingers, say a prayer, give it a kiss, and try not to let your anxiety show. You’ve done your best to raise something strong and wonderful. Hopefully you’ve given your baby the tools to survive and even thrive. That doesn’t mean you’ll never hear bad news (or bad reviews), but you hope for the best.

And before you know it, this thing that was all yours belongs to the world. It’s off living its own life. You may only learn about its activities by chance.

Author Christine Kohler says, “It hit me that these books take on a life of their own when I discovered my first fiction series, the Growing Up Christian series for ages 5-9, published by Concordia in 1985, were being referenced by other authors in ‘at risk’ books for educators. To this day it amazes me where those books are located and sold. When I was looking at an Australian site one of those books was listed under my name and listed ‘At Luther Campus.’”

We hear reports on our literary progeny from surprising places. I got an e-mail recently from a friend in Montana who said he was talking about me to someone who thought The Well of Sacrifice sounded familiar. Sure enough, his niece had read it and loved it! I discovered that the book is an option in the homeschooling curriculum from a homeschooling mother who comes to our local SCBWI schmoozes. A Facebook acquaintance mentioned that a Gallup, New Mexico library has the book.

“I recently googled Wellspring of Magic,” Jan Fields says. “It was [just a] little fantasy novel for kids. But I’ve seen a Facebook group dedicated to it. I’ve seen Sims3 challenges based on it. I’ve seen book reports done on it, both a couple written and one in the form of a little podcast. I have gotten an amazing amount of fan mail from it. And I recently checked World Cat and saw this long list of libraries that are holding a copy. All of this astounds me. I wrote the thing as work-for-hire, and it went on to generate all this stuff.”

We can’t control which of our books are most popular. My biggest seller, according to BookScan sales data now available through Amazon’s Author Central, is Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier, written under the name M. M. Eboch. It isn’t my favorite of my titles, but I’ve gotten fan mail for it. An acquaintance said her grandson liked it so much he bought a copy for his teacher. I can’t complain, but I feel like a parent whose “average” child made the Dean’s list while the “smart one” is struggling.

We may never know all the things our books are doing without telling us. I’ve found out teachers are using The Well of Sacrifice with their kids when the teacher e-mails me to request lesson plans. When I got invited to do a school visit, I discovered that the entire Elizabeth, New Jersey school district was using the book for all fourth-grade classes when they teach the Maya. I’ll never know exactly who is reading the book, or how it’s being used. But it delights me to know that my baby, birthed way back in 1999, has gone on to visit so many people, to teach, to entertain, and – dare I say it? – sometimes even to be loved.
 Chris Eboch‘s novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Chris also writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. Kris Bock writes action-packed romantic suspense involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Read excerpts at or visit her Amazon page


  1. As a young mother who sometimes felt guilty for leaving her daughter at daycare while my husband and I worked, I was thrilled to discover one day at the grocery store that my toddler daughter had her own life -- to which I was not entirely privy.

    We passed someone in the grocery aisle, who waved and said, "Hi there, Gabbey!" And my daughter sat up and waved back. I was a bit startled, and seeing this, the woman said, "I see Gabbey every day when I drop off my son at daycare. She's such a sweetie."

    I didn't know this woman at all. Gabbey did. And suddenly I felt proud that my toddler was out in the world, meeting people on her own.

    BOOKS ARE EXACTLY LIKE THAT. They are out there, meeting people, making friends, inspiring people and becoming favorites, all on their own. And sometimes, you don't even get to find out about it!

    1. Great comparison! Interesting that kids start to have their own lives at such a young age.

  2. This is one of my favorite quotes ever:

    Once a book is published, it no longer belongs to me. My creative task is done. The work now belongs to the creative mind of my readers. I had my turn to make of it what I could; now it is their turn. I have no more right to tell readers how they should respond to what I have written than they had to tell me how to write it. It’s a wonderful feeling when readers hear what I thought I was trying to say, but there is no law that they must. Frankly, it is even more thrilling for a reader to find something in my writing that I hadn’t until that moment known was there. But this happens because of who the reader is, not simply because of who I am or what I have done.
    - Katherine Paterson

    Also, we're starting THE WELL OF SACRIFICE today after school, as preparation for my boys' trip to Guatemala!

    1. It's maybe a little bit scary, but mostly exciting and wonderful that readers interpret books in their own ways and make our books their own.

      I hope the boys enjoy The Well of Sacrifice. A trip to Guatemala sounds exciting!

  3. I love the thought of a book living a life of its own. So true, though I've never thought of it that way. And it is fun to find out where they turn up. You never know!

  4. What can I say? I haven't published a book yet. It's a matter of money. I am Ecuadorian and in my country the editors don't offer the writers fair and good conditions in contracts. How could I publish my two books for children in Spanish and English? Why should I lose my copyrights?... Luz Trujillo


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!