Blogging Before Binding

Tom Llewellyn’s first novel was a pain in the ass to get published.

After waiting three months for a publisher to respond after Llewellyn submitted his young adult novel The Tilting House, the Tacoma author had to wait more than three years for his book to hit shelves (which it did earlier this summer). For a multitalented artist accustomed to immediate audience reaction for his very public graphic arts work with Beautiful Angle, the wait was just too long.

So in April 2009, about two-thirds of the way through that wait, Llewellyn decided he would produce his next book in a way that would connect directly with his readers: by way of a blog that would tell the story one day at a time.

In September 2009, he published his first post, “Trevor’s First Day of School,” on a blog called Letter Off Dead that claimed the blog was “an actual transcript of letters sent between a seventh-grade boy and his dead father.”

Of course it was not; rather, it was the beginning of Llewellyn’s second novel. For the next ten months, Llewellyn wrote his epistolary work, receiving feedback from readers along the way.

“Part of it was just to put pressure on myself to get a complete manuscript done,” Llewellyn told City Arts. “I made sure that all of the Tacoma blogosphere knew that this was going to happen, so it was like, yeah, I’m committed. I’m committed to this thing for ten months. No turning back. I did have two months in the can when I started, but was day-to-day by the time I got to Christmas. So it was exciting and frustrating to wake up at four a.m. and really have no idea what I was doing for that day.”

One year after that first post, Llewellyn found himself in a familiar position, signing a contract for a book deal with the publisher of The Tilting House, Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. There were differences, though: Llewellyn now had a proven audience for his novel and a year’s worth of feedback from that audience. He also had the publisher’s trust and attention and was asked to fast-track his edits to hit a November delivery date so that the publisher could get the novel in bookstores by November 2011.

“The first book was so incredibly slow that this one feels like the complete opposite,” Llewellyn said on the day he sent off his final manuscript. “The first one, the frustration was in how long everything took, and in this one I’m stressed by how fast it’s going, which I definitely prefer.”

Image: James Stowe’s illustrations for Llewellyn’s blog depict images supposedly created by the characters. The image shown here, created by the father character, is of Julia, a fellow resident of limbo.


See more in the December 2010 issue   →