Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If God is For Me: A Publishing Story

Usually the publishing attempts of brave souls yield hours and hours of work, writing, and research with little to no success, especially for teens. Publishing companies and literary agents receive literally thousands of query letters and manuscripts every month....and most companies only end up publishing an average of 40 to 80 books per year. It takes years along with piles of rejection slips before someone even shows interest in the work of a first-time author, if anyone shows interest at all. 

Prepare yourself for rejection. 
But don't give up.

I straightened, stuck my chin up and walked headlong into the business world.

This is my incredible publishing story.



At thirteen, I was told I had potential.

At fourteen, I scribbled "Priority: finish your book so you can get published" on a note and stuck it on my wall.

At fifteen, I finished my first novel.

At sixteen, I finished another book and learned how much work traditional publishing really is.

At seventeen, I signed a contract.


I began praying over my novel, Reaching Home, three months before I wrote it. I knew the Lord had called me to write the book even before the plot was completely configured. I also knew it had His power.

After writing the first draft of Reaching Home in November of 2012, I knew I needed to go somewhere with it. However, it had been three years since I'd been told I had potential. How could I know I was still good enough? How in the world did someone go about editing a 75,000 word document, anyway? And how on earth was I supposed to figure out how to enter the publishing world? I began praying again. Two months after completing my first draft, I received a "miracle e-mail" from a teacher I hadn't talked to since middle school. Freed up out of the blue, she was looking for some contacts to help her start up teaching and tutoring again. But she was afraid she wouldn't find anyone, since she was starting mid-semester.

I met with her as soon as possible, and we started going through my manuscript. Meeting every week kept me on target, and in April, I decided to finish the manuscript's fourth draft on rush-order for a friend, which helped me to finish it up in time to be submitted in the summer.

If I hesitated in submitting my manuscript to publishers and literary agents when it came time, it was only for a moment. With a complete and well edited manuscript, my fourteen-year-old dream had the potential to become a reality. More importantly, I walked in believing. I knew God was in my story. I knew He had called me to write it for some reason, and I knew He would use it for His purposes. As I looked at the thousands of manuscripts being submitted every month, I didn't see anything special about my book. But I saw that God was for me, and I clung to His will.

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
- Romans 8:31

I submitted my first query letter on June 15th of 2013, in between conferences and work at a Christian Education Center. I continued firmly, tweaking letters and proposals for literary agents and publishing companies, sometimes spending two days working on a proposal for one company. I didn't expect to hear anything for months, as most agents and publishing companies don't respond for at least 2 months, if they respond at all. However, I got a call within the first week of my submissions. Someone from Publishing Company #1 was quite interested in my work, but the company didn't publish authors under 18 (or more frequently, 25). He said that if I didn't hear anything in the next few years to send in another submission. I have sense dubbed any age-restricting publishing groups, "Companies who don't believe in talent under 18."

After that, I practically had a heart-attack every time an unknown number popped up on my phone.

A week later, I headed back up to Aletheia Springs for girl's week. My gut told me a publisher was going to call during the week, and my gut was right. With practically no cell phone service, it was a miracle the message came in. Publishing Company #2 wanted to schedule a phone call with me. I received the message at 7:00am, and had to wait a full two hours before 9:00, when I could call back. It was agony.

I called him from the Aletheia Springs kitchen at 9:00. There's really no cell phone service at Aletheia Springs, and our phone call lasted an hour with no glitches. Just saying. The message was, basically, that he and his editor loved the writing I'd sent and wanted to see the full manuscript. (Note: Usually, if you're permitted to send any of your book in your query letter, you send the first 2-3 chapters. If someone asks to see the full manuscript, it means they're very interested). If everything lined up with the rest of the book, he wanted to publish it. He talked to me about their contract, what they published, and how they would market and sell my book.

When I got home, I sent out the manuscript to Publishing Company #2 along with more query letters to numerous other publishers and agents, just in case. I spent my first week working exclusively on query letters, and ended up sending out about 12. On my second week home (now four weeks out from my first letter), I received two contract offers...in the same day...exactly two minutes from each other. Actually, I was reading the first one when the second one popped in. 

After only four weeks, two companies wanted to publish my book. 


"What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" 
-Romans 8:31 

I was watching the impossible take place.

I had prayed for a response from Publishing Company #3, as they seemed like a good fit. They published the kind of fiction I write, and were better established than Publishing Company #2. Everything seemed perfect.....except for one little glitch. The editor working for this company wanted me to chop out half my story, leaving me with a 40,000 word novel. Not only that, but she wanted me to change my ending.

I took some time to sincerely think over her proposition. It was an opportunity to get published, one that I might never have again in my lifetime. Ever. Yet, she was asking me to cut out something I'd spent a lot of time and effort on. But most importantly, she was asking me to cut out something the Lord had asked me to write. I couldn't accept the contract with a clear conscience, and I knew very firmly that I couldn't. I declined the contract on the same day I received it.

Publishing Company #4, the company who sent me a contract offer as I was reading one from Publishing Company #3, had a different type of offer. They wanted to co-publish my book, meaning they wanted me to pay for and distribute some $11,000 worth of books. Seeing as I was a college student with no money and no paying job at that point, there was no way I could accept.

After that, I waited. I'd sent all the queries and proposals I'd planned to send and wasted all my contacts. Publishing Company #2 contacted me again and asked me to change a certain area of my manuscript to make it more action-packed. I declined again. Reaching Home was God's work, not mine, and it was not my place to change it. I went back and forth between home and Aletheia Springs, continued to believe in the power of God--that I'd already seen poured out--even though things in the publishing world seemed a bit slow. I continued in prayer. There were two more companies I hoped to hear from.

A few weeks later, I had an extra minute, so I decided I would do some more publishing research, even though I was pretty sure I'd drained every resource I had. Somehow, I ran across a page I'd never seen before. I'd been introduced to the American Christian Fiction Writer's group, but hadn't really looked into them as they don't accept members under 18 (go figure). But that afternoon, I stumbled upon their page of  recognized publishers. It took me a day or two to sort through their list of over 60 publishers, but I came out with 5-6 publishers to contact.

I began plugging away at those contacts, and finished submitting to all but 2. The final publishers required a full outline of each chapter in the book (ugh), and I almost decided not to do it for the time being, as I was stressed already. But I did. I sent out those last 2 proposals. Both asked for the full manuscript to begin with, so I knew I'd be in suspense for a while.

One of the final two publishers I submitted to really caught my eye. They looked Biblically solid, and they had a really great way of working with their authors to boot. I prayed over that one before sending it off, asking the Lord to hear back from them.

I got a few more rejection notes from those companies on the American Christian Fiction Writer's page and talked with a few of the other publishers about their contracts, but nothing really came of it. I continued to believe in the power of God, accepting His will for my manuscript whether published or unpublished. I continually relied on Romans 8:31.

Two weeks later, I opened up my inbox to find an e-mail from the publishing company I'd prayed over. The title merely said, "Manuscript Submission Follow-Up." It didn't sound promising. It took me a full five minutes to open it. I opened the e-mail to see four paragraphs. They were interested.

I read all four paragraphs to find that they wanted to set up an phone call. They said, "If you would like to consider publication, please book an appointment....."

My reaction was quite simply, "IF??!?"

During the phone call, the president of this publishing company offered me a contract and ran me through a few of its main points and requirements. I was put in contact with the senior editor of Publishing Company #5, and got to talk to her about whether or not they wanted to change my novel (I was slightly paranoid by this point, just saying), and a few other little things. The whole time, I was praying we'd be on the same page with everything. We were.

During the period of waiting on the contract, Publishing Company #6 contacted me asking to see a full manuscript. I quickly alerted them that I was waiting on a contract, so we decided I would send the full manuscript to Publishing Company #6 if the contract fell through.

Three months and six companies after sending out my first letter, I signed as a seventeen-year-old author.

Usually the publishing attempts of brave souls yield hours and hours of work, writing, and research with little to no success, especially for teens. Publishing companies and literary agents receive literally thousands of query letters and manuscripts every month....and most companies only end up publishing an average of 40 to 80 books per year. It takes years along with piles of rejection slips before someone even shows interest in the work of a first-time author, if anyone shows interest at all. 

Prepare yourself for rejection. 
But don't give up.

To most people who know about publishing and first-time authors, my summer would be considered the impossible. Not only did I face time crunches, age restrictions, and stress due to the novel and its publication, but I also stood against numerous attacks from the enemy. YET - God was faithful every single time. The impossible was made possible from way back in November of 2012 to the contract and beyond, but only through the hand of God.

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
- Romans 8:31

As Christians, we bend so easily to what the world says is impossible, forgetting what God says is possible, when He is on our side. What could we accomplish for this dying world if we just leaned on Him? What would happen if we took a minute just to listen to His voice?

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