THE MAKING OF A BOOK
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PART 18 DISILLUSIONED
Even though friends told me the stories I wrote about people would make a good book, I wasn’t interested in publishing. The state of Christian publishing left me disillusion. Years earlier, I had prepared a book proposal for a respected Christian agent. He sent me a letter, which I learned later, was unusual. Standard practice is to ignore you or send a form letter. The agent complemented my writing, noted that I did a good job on the proposal, and acknowledged the work had merit. But he did not believe he could sell the manuscript in the current market and on that sole basis he rejected me as a client. As I read the agent’s letter a scripture came to mind. “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). In Christian publishing talent didn’t matter. The message didn’t matter. Money did.
As my circle of published writing friends grew, I learned that traditional publishers did little more for new authors than print on demand publishers. If I had to do everything myself, print on demand was the logical choice. The author’s control over the finished product is greater, and the profit margins were fairer. But I found the necessity of self-promotion distasteful. My research brought me to the conclusion that publishing was not for me.
The writing group I belonged to made an annual trip to a Christian writer’s conference hosted in a church. A friend invited me to attend the conference with her. The affordable fee workshop about writing personal stories interested me. The conference also offered ten minutes to pitch book ideas to literary agents. My friend planned to pitch her fiction manuscript. She suggested I pitch the articles I had been writing for the faith blog as a book to the nonfiction agent. “Not interested,” I said. She persisted. I resisted. She insisted. I wrote a one-page query letter to give the agent for one reason: to get my pesky friend off my back.
The husky agent dwarfed the desk he sat behind in a Sunday school classroom. I handed him my query letter and launched into my sales pitch. He glanced at the letter and grinned. As I rambled incoherently, trying to sell the idea, I wondered why he was smiling. When I stopped talking to breathe, he said, “I’m interested.” His interest dumfounded me. I did not have a clue what I should say next.
My friend had reserved both of us places at the agent’s table for lunch. Since I was his last appointment before lunch, we walked to the fellowship hall together and sat at his table.
“How did you do?” asked my friend.
“She did great,” said the agent, “she wasn’t afraid.”
Apparently, his impressive credentials made him an intimidating figure for some writers. I was not afraid, because I did not care if he rejected my proposal.
His comment to my friend taught me an important aspect of dealing with the publishing industry. The author is an important asset in selling a book. If an author cannot speak with confidence to an agent, how will he or she speak with the confidence necessary to sell a book?
The agent’s request to see a manuscript forced me to write one. I spent months collecting signed permission forms, giving me the right to publish the stories in a book. I devoted weeks compiling the stories into a manuscript format acceptable to the agent. On November 1st, I sent the manuscript. He said he would get back to me before Christmas. He didn’t. I sent a few email inquiries. He did not respond. I had not sent the manuscript in cold. He asked to see it. How difficult is it to type “No” and hit send?
I set the manuscript on a shelf and prayed, “God, if you want this manuscript published, give me a publisher.” I promptly forgot about publishing, but publishing did not forget about me.
TO BE CONTINUED…