Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

For release on Tuesday, September 10th.
For additional information or interview, contact Rebekah Berthet or Candy Shaw: (315) 788-0825

WATERTOWN, NY - Christopher Hopper signs a copy of The Sky Riders for fans at The Vault in New Life Christian Church

WATERTOWN, NY – Christopher Hopper signs a fans book at The Vault in New Life Christian Church. Photo by Joseph Gilchrist.

Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

CLAYTON, NY – What do vintage airships, giant birds, floating cloud cities and steam-powered engines all have in common? If you guessed local author Christopher Hopper’s new steampunk epic, then you’d be spot on. The Sky Riders, Hopper’s seventh novel to date, hits digital and physical bookshelves today via Amazon.

“This is really exciting for me,” says Hopper, a resident of the Town of Clayton. “From right here in the 1000 Islands, I get to publish my novels worldwide, all because technology has made it easier to reach fans.”

Formerly with traditional legacy publishers like Thomas Nelson Inc. and Tsaba House Inc., Hopper is one of the growing body of writers who’ve jumped ship to self-publish. Bowker Identifier Services reports that there are over 235,000 self-published titles now for sale, a 287% growth surge since 2006. And with entities like Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace—both Amazon companies—self-publishing for digital and print has become more accessible, and more lucrative. Bookstats reported that 2012 sales figures of ebooks hit $3.04 billion, which gives Hopper even more reason to be excited.

“Where you’d only make between 8-15% with a legacy publisher,” says Hopper, “my lowest royalty bracket with self-publishing is 30%, and my highest is 70%.”

While some ask Hopper about the readers he’s missing out on by abandoning the traditional publishing route, he’s quick to correct them. “I was missing huge amounts of readers with traditional publishing, as they were mainly targeting book stores. Today, I have instant distribution to millions of Kindle and Nook readers, and sales up are up over 300% from my legacy publishing days. The bottom line is that I’m reaching more readers with less work than ever before.”

Thinking of self-publishing your own title? Not so fast. “It’s a lot of work,” admits Hopper. “But outsourcing exterior and interior design, for example, as well as shopping for editing services, can help people where they might be weak.”

If you’re still wondering just how to self-publish through something like Amazon, Hopper has an answer for that too. He published his Handbook to Publishing Your Novel ebook last December.

From where Hopper sits atop his floating cloud cities in his fictional world, the future is bright for readers and authors alike, and the return is anything but make believe.

The Sky Riders is available locally at The Vault in New Life Christian Church, as well as online at http://www.christopherhopper.com. •

Legacy Watchers


All the boys came to snuggle in bed yesterday morning. Well, Levi didn’t have a choice as he’s got all the mobility of a large slug, and twice as much fluid excretion. But still, the important part is we were all together for this impromptu photo opp by Jennifer.

Life tends to sneak up on you. One minute I was trying to figure out what to do with all my creative energy as a late teen, the next I’m the father of a daughter and three sons. And now I recognize my greatest achievement – my greatest legacy – is seeing them on their way to run their own race for the Lord.

Everyone is a leader to someone. Maybe you’re not as charismatic as the next person, or maybe you don’t have a “weekly platform” that you think justifies your ability to speak into peoples’ lives.

Don’t be fooled.

Whether it’s a person looking across the gas pumps at you to see how you respond to the price of fuel, to the family sitting behind you in church watching the way you worship, to the little face beside you at dinner listening to the recap of your day, people are watching you.



The tone you set for life will become the resonance others tune themselves to. Do your best to stay sweet. ch:

Pictures of History


I often wonder what history would have looked like if every era had DSLR cameras.

Can you imagine pictures and video of David and his Mighty Men? Forget 300, this was God’s version. Same would go for The Passion.

Or what about Vikings crossing the Atlantic? Time elapse videos of DaVinci’s murals complete with behind the scenes interviews? Live concert tours of Bach? Shakespeare? Or how did those pyramids really get built?

If their people had cameras, what era, moment, or personality would you like to see?

I guess this one why I’m so blessed by Jennifer’s work, with this two pics she took yesterday as examples. I’d like to think that if Jesus tarries in His return, and somehow our digital files and printed paper survive, I want future generations to remember the value and beauty of people. They’re what matter most. ch:



Celebrating Good Men

Negative sells. That’s why we subconsciously think dads are dead beats by default in the news world.

The opposite is true, however, at least in my little corner of the map.

So here’s to highlighting two amazing men that humbly represent manhood to their generation, two men who’ll never make the 6 o’clock news simply for being great: Jason Clement (center) and Nathan Reimer (right).

Men who endeavor to be faithful husbands; who care deeply about the physical and spiritual wellbeing of their wives and children; who work more than their share of long hours in order to be proven good stewards; who are faithful friends, spanning time and distance; and who’ve resolved to point their children toward Jesus by first submitting their own lives before God as living examples of obedience, most often feeling they’ve missed the mark when the Father is thrilled that they’re even trying.

We’re charged in Titus 1 to be “lovers of good men.” And I’m honored to call them two of my very dearest friends. So glad they could finally meet yesterday.

Negative may sell, but it’s forgotten. Positive leaves legacy. ch:



The Family Lotto

I am the luckiest man in the world. Luckiest, if you have a weak grip on reality and trust fate. Blessed, if you understand that God honors choices made in pursuit of Him, regardless of shortcomings.

But before writing on the subject of family – a fitting theme – I want to wish my father, Peter Kirk, a very happy 64th birthday. He taught me virtue, faithfulness, stewardship, and what it means to be masculine in creativity. But more, he showed me through years, not just words, what it meant to love Jesus and family selflessly.

Happy birthday, Daddy. ch:

WARNING: If you don’t believe in God, or even Providence, then this piece will irritate you.

Even deists will be irritated. If God is distant and uninterested in human affairs, do yourself a favor and stop reading.

Bye bye.

Everyone else – believers in God and divine appointments – how does your family rate in importance?

Now, family can be a touchy subject, so rating them can be difficult.

We all have “the crazies.” You know who I mean. Aunt Mary who smells of mothballs and cheese; Grandpa Sal who swears loudly at punk kids with long hair; and Uncle Frank who flirts with the bride at every wedding he attends.

But even the crazies are important to God. Important enough for Him to trust you with their bloodline, and their legacy – great or small.

So how would you rate your family’s importance in your day-to-day life?

Low? Medium? High?

No matter what your classification, let me help take it to the next level.

If God is truly intentional and deliberate, then of all the 7 billion people on the planet – or roughly 3 billion families – the one you were assigned to is pretty exclusive. Statistically speaking.

So important that 7 billion other people didn’t get your family.

But think even broader. You won the lottery with the most enormous odds of all, because you were born in this era, not in the hundreds previous. Which means your family was handpicked for you by God over thousands of years, not just from billions people.

It would seem He knows what he’s doing, and thinks you’re pretty special to handle the circumstances you were born into. Good. Bad. Or ugly.

When your parents bewilder you, your siblings frustrate you, your kids dumbfound you, and your in-laws freak you right out, remember: you won the family one-in-a-billion lotto.


Digesting that statistic may just be the key to letting your parents awe you, your siblings encourage you, your kids bless you, and your in-laws support you.

But there’s almost no hope for smelling like mothballs and cheese. ch:

[Photo by Joanne Nesbitt]

Made From Scratch

And then there was a new person.

I love meeting people. All over the world. Some formal introductions with significant long-term ramifications; others simple nods or handshakes, first names only, soon forgotten upon exiting the parking lot.

But it’s another thing to meet a person when no one else has ever met them.

Because that person was made from scratch.

The fact that – in the original intention of it all – God designed human beings to be created out of love is fundamentally grand. What could be simpler? What could be more extravagant?

That God would trust the power of perpetuating the human race to the human race.

And then there was Levi. ch:



I took this picture of an obscure cement block along the St. Lawrence River at Frink Park last night. Probably something to do with the old ship and rail yard. But without consulting a historian or a very old local, its secrets are lost on me.

Clearly, its importance merited a date stamp, and its construction has lasted a century, both testaments to its creator.

Yet I have no idea who made it, let alone its purpose.

So who will remember anything I’ve done 99 years from now? Soberingly, the answer is probably not many. I barely know anything about my great-grandparents, and they’re my own family!

The only thing we can take with us are the lives of the people we touch.

People last forever.

Make sure you’re investing in the right kind of stock; it will come back to haunt or bless you in a hundred years. ch:


Leaving a Legacy

Last night I had the honor of addressing a group of teens and adults at a United Methodist Church camp, celebrating their 137th year.

The subject they asked me to speak on was “a legacy of faith.”

As I stood in their “tabernacle,” erected long before even the oldest member of my audience was born, the value of what a true legacy is hit me.

It’s not money, though it has some value.

It’s not reputation, though a good one can often help open doors.

It’s not even tradition, which has some worth in remembering those who’ve traveled this road before us.

As I examined a picture on the wall of some of this camp’s early elders, and later compared it with the 13 teens and 2 adults that surrendered their lives to Jesus last night, it realized what a true legacy is:

Providing a generation we will never meet with the opportunity to chose Jesus.

How are you preparing such means for those that will live 137 years from now if Jesus tarries? ch:20110820-105720.jpg


The Future of Book Publishing

where music leaves us

In addition to wondering about the future of the printed book, there’s at least one more pressing question that those interested in the book-world have been and should be asking: what about the future of print publishing?

While there are some similarities here with the music business, they’re not nearly as close as they were in my previous post on the subject. The main reason is that making good music is still rarely a one-man-show. Even for a guy like me who’s been around and mastered [pun intended] almost all facets of the industry, music-making–from initial creative inertia to final product–involves and even requires many talented people to pull off well. Sure, there’s the occasional one-hit-wonder, or guy-with-a-laptop-who-only-uses-samples-to-create-a-project; but to make a meaningful collection of songs up to industry standards, it takes a team.

It also takes a lot of equipment.

Acoustically perfect rooms are still needed, as well as gold-sputtered large-diaphragm microphones, expensive hard disk space, CPU processing, quality monitors, mixing surfaces, mastering programs, not to mention hiring all the musical talent, engineers, producers, and mixing ears. Then you front the money for design, duplication, and distribution. And unlike book signings, which yes, often do include performances of a sort, music must be performed. And that’s a whole other industry.

I think it’s for this reason alone that we haven’t seen the complete demise of record companies. Because someone still needs to coordinate the talent and front the monies and manage the time lines.

True, musical artists can do much on their own. But those that do are still the exception, and usually have a big wallet or are using inventive methods of grass-roots investment to finance projects (like Eric Peter’s last project which proudly displays “The Hopper Tribe” in his liner notes). Larger record companies also have a lot of pull with what gets played and how many shelves a project sees space on. But even that is beginning to change.

I don’t know anyone that buys music based on “record company,” but on what they like. And in our information-accessible generation, connecting the artist with their listeners–both existing and potential–doesn’t really need the record company. They need an internet connection and a list of tour dates.

the lone art

So how, exactly, are music publishing and book publishing different?

Well, writing novels is incredibly simple: an author sits down…and writes.

Granted, most writers I know are a bit strange.

Some, downright weird.

But then again, you’d have to be.

To spend hundreds and hundreds of hours sitting in front of a computer screen staring at lines of information is pretty tedious. More like a computer programmer. And no matter how cool the Matrix made looking at code seem, computer programmers are even weirder than authors.

In a nut shell, it’s this simplicity that makes the publisher obsolete. Technology just helped push the inevitable along.

but the publisher does so much!

So if a record company does all of the stuff I listed above, a publishing company surely does just as much to merit an equal place of prestige.


I said, right?

What hundreds and now thousands of writers are realizing is no, they don’t.

As I said, writing books is much simpler than making music.

Yes, there are editors. But a good writer truly only needs one good one; often a skilled writer can edit their own work successfully. A handful of “Proofies”–as I call them–help, but they’re usually willing to proof the book for free seeing as how they had the intangible privileged of reading it before anyone else.

Editors often get in the way, too. Traditional publishers always have a way of using their editors to make you fashion the art they think will sell, not what you think is right. Sure, there’s something to be said for market awareness; but critical thinking and a serious eye can tell you just as much as any market analyst would, and having an editor that “gets” you and your art is almost priceless.

Interior design? Exterior design? Why, but of course! After all, no matter how often the quote is used, we actually do judge books by the their covers. And how they’re laid out. But those services, along with editorial services, are quite easy to secure, especially when producing for the growing e-market.

That leaves distribution. Distribution of thick, heavy paper books that are constantly vying for shelf space–the majority of which you’ll never ever see as an author–and cost anywhere from $12-$15 for a consumer to buy.

Which you, the author, gets all of.

Umm. Actually, no. You get about 8% of it. And 14.5% if it’s a digital sale.

So where, exactly, is that other 92% going?

That, my friends, is the million-dollar question, and what authors like me are trying to figure out. And the only logical answer is into a bloated publishing system with high production overhead, over-staffing, heavy distribution costs…

…and does very little marketing for the author.

I can almost justify the first few items, but that last one is the clincher. Where the benefits of big-publisher name recognition, shelf-placement pull, and high-profile advertising prowess should really kick in is in the marketing. The crazy part is I did more self-promotion for the largest Christian publisher (Thomas Nelson) than I did for one of the smallest (Tsaba House). And none of it changed my personal bottom line…except in countless man hours, personal travel expenses, and creative ideas.

The result?

More fans, but less money for my baby’s mouths.

ok, but they’ll still be the filter

Ah yes. Traditional publishing’s last resort.

Now that anyone can publish themselves, who will help you know what’s good and what’s not? Surely the publisher will.

Any publisher that is still thinking this is already dead, they just don’t know it yet. It’s the same mistake “big government” makes. You’re not smart enough to manage your life, so we’ll do it for you, just give us all your money for the greater good.

In the not too distant future, the reader becomes the filter.

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that if one person likes something, they’ll tell all their friends. And if it’s a truly worthy concept, nothing can stop its success. Which means that if success is that apprehendable by the content creator, they have even more incentive to create their best work for their public. Which means you get better books for less money: the author knows their success rises and falls on whether or not you like it, not whether a publisher says it’s good or not, and can drop their prices for you (because the author is still making more on a less expensive self-published book than they are on a far more expensive traditionally published book).

guilds: the future publishers

I believe that in place of publishers will come alliances. Guilds, if you will. Gatherings of like-minded creators and inventors who’s allegiances are bound by willfully aligning themselves with one another. Sharing resources, combining platforms, and blending fans.

The truth is, more came out of the two Fantasy Fiction Tours that Wayne Thomas Batson and I dreamed up in 2007 and 2008 than almost any other book-related venture we’ve done. Pam Schwagerl, CEO of Tsaba House Inc. was also indispensable in her assistance (proof that sometimes smaller is better). The 9 authors that partook in that have benefited to this very day. And it wasn’t publishers doing the heavy lifting: it was the fans of a single author taking a risk on the work of another by mere association.

I believe that the new face of publishing will be self-published authors who combine efforts and resources, link arms through shared branding and emblems, co-occupy websites, and venture out on tour together. Not because they have strong backing, but because their audience is strong enough to trust them and those they create alongside of. ch:

What authors have you learned about and fallen in love with because of their affiliation with a pre-existing reading allegiance you had?

Are you more likely to buy a book because of the publisher or because of a recommendation?