Darcie Chan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Mill River Recluse. Her rise to success is phenomenal to say the least.
It's the kind of stuff legends are made of. In May of 2011, Darcie self-published her novel, The Mill River Recluse to Amazon's Kindle platform. After a few months advertising her book on eBook blogs, it spread like wildfire, eventually selling over 700,000 copies. The rest, as they say, is history.
On August 26th, Darcie will release her new novel, The Mill River Redemption. It's a beautifully woven tale that combines the themes of family, self-discovery, and forgiveness. If this book is anything like her first, fans and new readers will be in for a treat. Darcie's style is most-widely adored for her in-depth character plots, heartwarming storylines, and universal and easily relatable themes.
Just weeks prior to the release of her follow up to her break-out hit, I had the opportunity to interview Darcie where she gave insight into her rise to success, shed light on the publishing industry from both perspectives, and gave authors a sense of inspiration.
Bringing stories like Darcie's to the mainstream is the mission of I Can Be Society.
Icanbesociety.com chronicles the stories of Internet elites like Darcie Chan, who have turned their passion into an enterprise.
As I understand it, you seem to have fallen into a writing career accidently. Prior to the success of your first book, you had a promising career working for the U.S. Senate. What inspired you to write your first book given your other career ambitions?
"I have always loved to read and write, and I knew from an early age -- around eleven, I think -- that I wanted to write books someday. I decided to go to law school because I became very interested in environmental law, and I wanted to ensure that I'd have the education and training to always be able to take care of myself financially. I figured that I'd have some measure of security with a law degree (as opposed to trying to make a living as a writer, which is difficult, to say the least), as well as a career that I found challenging and enjoyable. Then, at some point, I'd attempt to write a novel in my free time. The Mill River Recluse was that first novel, which I wrote in the evenings after work about four or five years after I'd started my job as an attorney."
Quitting your job to pursue your dream must have been difficult. How did you deal with the fear and uncertainty of not knowing if you'd be able to replicate the success of The Mill River Recluse?
"Quitting my legal job was definitely one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions I've ever had to make. I loved it and the colleagues with whom I'd worked for more than a decade. And, it is very true that having one successful book does not necessarily mean the author will go on to maintain a successful writing career. My decision hinged on two things.
The first was the support and encouragement of my husband, who agreed that I should "go for it," even though we had no guarantees about how any of my future books might be received. He knows how much writing means to me and also how rare it is that a writer today has the opportunity to pursue a dream like that full-time.
The second factor was an offer from Ballantine Books to publish my next two novels. The advance gave me much more security than going the self-publishing route again would have, and I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and expertise that my editor and imprint brought to the table. It was appealing to me to have a team of people ready to help make my next book better than my first and to expand my readership into print as well as electronic formats."
So many people are afraid to take the plunge and pursue their passion over a fear of failure. What advice would you give to those who are afraid to pursue their passion?
"I'd advise someone who is afraid to take the plunge solely because of a fear of failure to imagine how it would feel to live the rest of his or her life and wonder "What if?" Personally, I'd rather try my best at something and fail than to never try at all and spend the rest of my life wondering what I might have accomplished."
The most difficult task for any writer is to find readers willing to buy and read their book. You approached your book like a business, by putting ad dollars behind it to promote it. Could you elaborate?
"Well, I actually went about self-publishing in a backwards sort of way. I wasn't looking to launch a new career for myself, which is why many people today self-publish. I only hoped to find some readers willing to give me feedback on my work so that my second novel would be better than my first.
Instead of preparing ads, setting up social media accounts, and seeking out places where I might get publicity or reviews before releasing the manuscript, I simply hit the "upload" button without doing anything else. Only then did I realize how many self-published manuscripts were out there, and that readers wouldn't know about mine unless I did something to bring it to their attention.
At that point, I began researching and contacting e-book blogs and websites that sold advertising. I figured that, since publishing companies put together ad campaigns for the books that they publish, I should try to do the same. Keep in mind, though, that I didn't have anything remotely close to the ad budget of a publishing company. I was only one person trying to create a blip on the e-book radar -- so I tried to be selective in what I did. Mainly, I set up a website and social media accounts. Then, I looked for inexpensive online publicity and marketing opportunities that maximized the number of readers I could reach for what money I could afford to spend."
If the opportunity to self-publish online hadn't been available, how do you think this would have impacted your ability to pursue your passion for writing and bring your book to the masses?
"I know for a fact that I'd still be working as an attorney right now instead of writing books and doing this interview! I couldn't have found a readership for my work as quickly as I did without the ability to release it directly to readers as an e-book. The wonderful thing about self-publishing today is that it allows writers a way to get their work directly in front of readers, who are the real arbiters of writing success regardless of how a book is published.
Even without the ability to self-publish, I would have continued writing, but my path might have been different and would certainly have taken longer. At some point, I would have completed a second novel and hopefully, would have had it shopped to publishers again. I knew going in that getting a book published was a long and difficult process. I expected lots of rejections. I received lots of rejections. (In fact, I'd argue that nearly all published writers receive rejections before they find success.) But, I would have kept trying...and trying."
To review the full Q&A interview with Darcie Chan, visit: icanbesociety.com/darciechan
Michael Price is an entrepreneur and author of What Next? The Millennial's Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World endorsed by Barbara Corcoran of ABC's Shark Tank. An advocate of ideas for radical change, he has received critical acclaim for his lessons in education, career, entrepreneurship and personal finance.
Photo credit: Carrie Schechter