Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Than Just an Idea – Stories Needed

If you’re a writer, you know the first thing you have to do is have more than just an idea to sell a book.

Okay, if you’re an established, successful writer, you can pitch an idea and sometimes an editor, agent, or publisher will say, “Yeah! I love it. I’ll send you a contract.” It can happen.

But for those of us who are yet to be established, who don’t have a track record of successful books, that ain’t gonna happen. You can dream, but your chances of that happening for you are, well, you might as well go buy a lotto ticket.

So, how do you sell your book idea? First, you have to have some material. Stuff that you can write up (so editors, agents, and publishers can actually see some of your writing). Then you develop that into a book proposal.

So, I knew the first order of business for me to make this book a reality, was to gather some stories from pregnancy centers that I could actually write up.

If I can write up some awesome stories, then I can show editors and publishers what I have in mind, I thought. Then they’ll understand what a valuable book this is and what a great idea I’ve had!

So I set out to gather some stories. I still have that list of possibilities…dated July 6, 2000.

First on my list was contacting my friend who was the director of the pregnancy center where I had served on the Board of Directors. I knew she had one story in particular I wanted. I dug out old issues of the pregnancy center’s newsletters to search for more stories. I called other members of the Board of Directors, and a couple had a story they might share.

Then I e-mailed a friend down in Arkansas who I’d talked to about this book idea. She had mentioned she had friends who directed a pregnancy center there. Surely she would have a story. My friend gave me their e-mail address and promised to mention me to them.

I e-mailed right away. I wrote a length explanation of my great idea and asked if they had any stories they might share with me. After some time passed and I got no answer, I e-mail again. No answer. I talked to my friend again and she didn’t know why they weren’t answering. I e-mail several more times. A writer has to persevere, right? I never did get a response. I finally gave up.

I followed up with the story leads that were closer to home. I called a friend in the next town over who worked at a pregnancy center there. She had some stories, but she had thought about writing a book, too.

That’s okay. No problem. Two different books by two different authors would no doubt turn out totally different. And there’s always room in the market for more than one book on a great idea.

I asked around every place I could think of for stories. I called pregnancy centers. Somewhere, it has been so long now I can’t remember where…or how…but somewhere I ran into this:

“No. We cannot share stories of our clients! There are privacy issues. We promise confidentiality. No, you can’t have our stories.”

Uh-oh. The foundation for my great-idea dream book began to crumble.

Privacy issues. Was that why the place in Arkansas had never responded?

I never wanted to, or intended to, step on the privacy of any client. I had hoped some clients would want to tell their stories and how the pregnancy center had helped them. But, with their identities protected, the only way I could get to the clients was through the pregnancy center workers. Couldn’t they ask a few clients if they’d be willing to share their stories with me?



Absolutely not.

It seemed like and felt like the people in the pregnancy centers didn’t trust me. They didn’t know me. Of course they didn’t trust me.

Time passed. The director of the pregnancy center where I sat on the board who had the great story I wanted had moved away. The center was struggling to stay open.

Turns out, I didn’t get a single story.

I thought it was a great idea. But I got nowhere.

What else could I do? I laid the project aside.

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