Thursday, September 17, 2009

Searching for a Publisher: Misadventure #2

In my “Misadventure #1” post, I told you about a strange experience I had at a writer’s conference. Here’s the other:

A few years ago I took my one-sheet (a single page with all the information about my proposed book), to another writer’s conference. I looked forward to talking with editors and agents about my great idea for Where Grace Abounds: True Stories from Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers.

I had studied the conference brochure to see which publishing houses and agencies would be there and studied the editorial needs listed on the conference’s web site.

I was delighted with which publishers were being represented at the conference that year—some very big-name publishers, including the A #1 publisher on my list of possible publishers for my book. This publisher was part of a large Christian ministry which was actively doing some pro-life work. This seemed to me to be the best publisher for my book. “My book,” I thought, “fits right in with what they’re doing.” So I made the appointment with that editor plus appointments with three other good possibilities.

The big day came and there I was, sitting with the editor of the big-name ministry and publishing company. I was just sure this editor would love my book idea, would see its tremendous value, and would just be unable to contain himself until he got me to sign a publishing contract with his company.

Alas, when I told him about my great book idea, he seemed less than interested. He politely sort of encouraged me to maybe…um…try someplace else.

I really couldn’t understand why he wasn’t interested. I mean, seriously, all kidding aside, to this day I believe my book fits perfectly with that ministry and publishing house.

However I’ve been to enough conferences and sat across from enough editors that not much surprises me anymore. I’ve learned the hard way that in the span of a few short days at a conference a writer can go from the highest heights to the lowest lows. I’ve had editors and agents express great interest in some of my projects—which carried me to the highest highs—only to turn in the project after the conference and have nothing ever come of it.

I’ve also had some editors tell me very discouraging things about my writing projects—which carried me to the lowest lows—only to later find a publisher for that article or short story which confirmed the piece was at least as good as I thought it was.

The bottom line: Don’t let Discouragement get to you because: At a writer’s conference, the highs often are not as high as we think they are and the lows are never as low as we think they are. It all tends to level out in the afterglow of the conference.

So, although I was perplexed about why this editor was not at all interested in my great idea, I wasn’t devastated.

Several weeks later, I got out the tapes and CDs I had purchased at the conference. There are always so many great workshops to take you can’t possibly get to them all, so I attend some and buy the rest on CD. Because I was interested in working with that particular editor, I had purchased all the workshops he taught.

So there I was, sitting in my office listening to this man’s wisdom emanate from my boom box. He was talking about how some people end up having large ministries that are in the spotlight, but many others have “quiet ministries,” ministries that not too many people even notice. For example, he said, he had talked to a lady at this conference who wanted to write a book about pro-life pregnancy centers.

“Oh my,” I thought. “Here we go again. He’s talking about me.”

Now that, he went on to say, would be a very quiet ministry because, and this is how I remember it: “That book will never end up on the shelves of bookstores.”


There it was. On tape.

I remember thinking, “Why not? Why wouldn’t my book be on bookstore shelves?!”

My next thought was, “Why would I want to partner with a publishing company that doesn’t see my book on the shelves in bookstores?”

Guess that explains his lack of interest in my book. Sort of.

Also, he’d said that to his whole workshop class. Did anyone know who he was talking about? Probably. I had my writer’s guidelines on the conference freebie table and had many people talking to me about writing stories for my book. It was no secret.

Sometimes the reactions we get from others, including editors and agents, baffle us.

I continue to believe in my book. I continue to believe in the power of these true stories from real people to help, encourage, and guide others who are going through unplanned pregnancies right now.

Am I kidding myself about whether this book can be successful? Do these professionals in the book publishing business see a failure of a book that I’m blind to?

At the same time I’m getting these chilly reactions from editors and agents, I’m getting e-mails from pro-life pregnancy center directors and volunteers (people who would actually, um, be buying the book) saying, “What a great idea! When and where can I buy a copy?”

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