A writer for readers of all ages

Clarkston resident Bryan Chick has been busy with his first book, visiting local schools, and writing a followup.
In book one of Chick’s ‘The Secret Zoo,? a girl went missing. Three friends are led to the local zoo to find her. As the story develops, the characters and the readers find every exhibit leads to a secret underground and the zoo is protecting a secret.
The first book of the series is more of an introduction to the zoo and the characters.
Chick’s inspiration came to him when he was a child, on one of his many visits to the Detroit Zoo. The idea was from a single observation he had there.
‘All the exhibits had areas you couldn’t see into,? said Chick. ‘Whether there were caves, or places in the treetops where visitors couldn’t see into these areas. I used to imagine that the animals could go inside these secret areas and there were things they could do inside these places. They could escape the zoo.?
As a child, he would make up stories about this place.
‘They started to evolve, become more complicated, add different elements. For 20 years, I kept playing with those ideas. Every time I would go to the zoo, a part of me would remember how magical it was.?
He continued to entertain the ideas and keep them in his head until five years ago, when he put all the thoughts and details together for a book.
While writing the book, he didn’t have a particular age group in mind. He wanted it to be a book anyone at any age could enjoy.
He did focus on engaging the audience. He brought in elements of an adventure story to engage boys and also brought into the story mystery and fantasy.
He also put in several different writing elements for the readers.
‘Kids are internally developing the skills from reading. They are picking them up without realizing it.?
He had three markets in mind while writing -teachers, parents, and kids.
He finished the first book and released it nationwide in October. For the past month, he has been visiting local schools and book clubs to tell children, parents, and teachers about ‘The Secret Zoo.?
While promoting, he has also been working on the second book of the series. He gave a sneak peek.
‘In book two, they work in the zoo in secret and the scope changes. Book one, they go inside, do their thing and come back out. It’s more of an introduction to the zoo and the characters.?
Chick has been writing his entire life. His love for writing began in early grade school and continued through college and into his adult life. For years, the author worked on contemporary literature pieces’short stories and a few novels for which he never pursued publication.
The Secret Zoo is not only his first published writing, but also his first time writing a book for kids.
‘The desire to be a writer was always there,? said Chick.
For his first book, he self-published it. He began with the traditional publishing route. Chick had positive feedback from publishers, but felt it was so difficult with the market and competition..
He learned about self-publishing and at first didn’t want to do it because it was too much effort. Then, he learned about the positive aspects like he would have control over the creative content, could see what sales were like, and control time in the market. If he wanted to do a book every six years, he could control that. With the traditional route, he might not have the ability to do that.
Then he said ‘let’s give it a shot. We’ll do it.?
Chick knew if he wanted do go through the traditional route later on he could. Once he proved the series had a strong readership behind it and it’s marketable.
Right now taking it day by day and might approach New York again later.
‘The publishing element is fun, but writing is funner,? said Chick.
His wife Barbara Chick handles the marketing aspect of their publishing company, Second Wish Press.
‘It worked out really good,? said Bryan.
Before having children, Barbara used to work in marketing and now does it for the company. She handles the press releases, communicates with schools and teachers to schedule a visit. Also, she researches book awards and contacts, and puts the mailings together.
‘She’s doing an awesome job,? said Chick. ‘It’s been great to have her along. Also, she brings a lot of fresh ideas.?
Being a writer is one of many jobs for Chick. He works part-time as a network engineer to supplement the first book while he works on the second book. He spends another ten to fifteen hours to promote the book and go on the book tour. Also, he has three kids under the age of five, which can be another job within itself
‘Family is number one priority,? he said. ‘Finding time is difficult. It usually cuts into sleep time. Sacrificing other elements of life – like friendship, friendships are on hold. But it’s good, it’s exciting.?
The characters? names come from people in his family, but he doesn’t directly involve their personality. Mostly, the characters are divisions of his own personality.
His children are too young to help him with a child’s viewpoint. His oldest daughter, Ella, has been starting to get it.
‘My son is three and he calls me ‘zoo man,? that’s as much as he understands. As they get older and the series continues for the next seven years, they will help out. Ella can help with what will work and what won’t.
‘I didn’t have experience with children. The book was written based on my own childhood experience. I
had to look internally instead at outside at what kids are doing.?
He hasn’t gone behind the scenes of any of the zoos. He has used his imagination to create it.
‘But I would love to,? said Chick. ‘We are communicating with the Detroit Zoo with some different ideas. Also, talking to the Toledo Zoo. Talking to both about possible co-ops.?
Since October, distributors have sold 900 books. Out of the supply he has at home, they have sold 800 through book tours and The Secret Zoo website.
‘It’s going good for my first book,? said Chick.
On the website, not only can visitors order the book, they can read reviews and read the prelude from the book.
Having the prelude on the website has helped.
‘A lot of positive feedback – especially from teachers who are making determinations about having us in for school visits,? said Chick.
‘I think the story is good and kids will like it, it’s just getting them to the story.?
Besides visiting schools, Chick has other upcoming events to look forward to.
The Secret Zoo will be reviewed in the January/February issue of Foreward magazine. The magazine based in Traverse City reviews books made by Independent presses. They receive over one thousand submissions every two months. Only one-fifth of the submissions are reviewed.
‘We are excited about that,? said Chick. ‘We are very fortunate.?
‘There was a time and still exists at this point, people thought of self-publishing as being no good. That’s changing. I personally think it’s going the way as it did for independent filmmakers. If can’t prove it’s worthy of something, do it themselves. Eragon was originally self-published.?
When he visits the schools, kids and parents can purchase the book three ways. They can buy it in a presale before he comes to the school, during his visit, or later on.
‘It’s a great route for everyone. Teachers love it, kids have fun and get excited about reading and hopefully about writing.?
With his second book, he is now experiencing what it’s like to be on a deadline because he wants it to be out next year. If he is stuck on something he will go to his wife. He will also go to where the idea began.
‘A lot of times I will go to the zoo,? said Chick. ‘The Toledo Zoo especially since I didn’t go there until I was an adult. Not there for exhibits, but to get inspired for general feeling of it, how kids responding to exhibits, how families are reacting.?
Chick used the Internet to look up information about animals and to look at layouts of different zoos. Also, on the Internet he found his editor Jill Ronsley, and his cover illustrator Chris Sheban.
When Chick was looking for an editor, he asked potential editors to proof five pages for free. Chick liked Ronsley best out. The other editors said the five pages were okay and Chick didn’t need an editor. Ronsley was more thorough looking at corrections to be made in language, sentences, and made sure the characters weren’t saying the same thing.
For the cover, he used illustrator Chris Sheban who created the cover for The Bridge to Terabithia and Because of Winn-Dixie. Chick had a general idea of how he wanted the cover to look. For the future books, he will let Sheban read them and let him create from there.
The Secret Zoo is available to purchase online at www.thesecretzoo.com or at any book store. Bryan Chick is available for school and book club visits. Call 248-705-3619 to schedule a visit from Chick.