I wont’ go through the whole journey from the first time I picked up a pencil in first grade until this past week, but I do want to offer some words of encouragement to my fellow authors who are seeking to get published: Get out there and pitch!
I was still writing my first book three years ago. I never had any intention of publishing the work, it was simply going to be a birthday present for my wife. I’d had dreams of being an author for a long time, but after seeing several friends fail at making it in the industry I’d decided to concentrate on getting a paycheck at the widget factory where I work.
But God steps in and guides us when we’re sensitive enough to hear His words. I knew when I started that book that it would be something special. It often seemed like I was just a transcriptionist for God. I spent a lot of hours of prayer during the period when I wrote the book. I listened to Him and tried my best.
I was so proud to hand my wife the book on her birthday. I’d gone to an on-demand printer I’d found on the internet and made a single hard-cover copy for her. She loved it – probably as a result of loving me, because the work wasn’t all that great.
I printed some paperback copies to give to friends so that I could get some feedback. That is when, as an author, most people throw in the towel: the first bashing of your work by others. I was blessed in that most of the criticism was aimed at improving the book. Only one critic turned it into a personal attack. And that hurt more than I can even describe.
But I persevered and went through that process three more times. Just a few months later I entered the book in the Genesis contest at ACFW. The feedback was invaluable. Brutal. But not mean. I actually walked away encouraged. Terrible scores, but lots of new information on making it a better book.
That fall, 2011, I went to the ACFW conference in Saint Louis. I had no clue what I was doing and it showed. Thankfully they tag you like a wild animal with a sticker that says “First Time” so that people don’t laugh at you for your silly behavior.
Two things happened there in that hotel that have changed my life a great deal. First of all, I failed in my pitches to publishers and agents. That was cool, actually became friends with one of the agents and learned a great deal about the vast amount of preparation that needs to go into the pitch of a book. The agent helped me to get it in better shape and provided a great deal of encouragement over time. They elected not to represent me and that was good as well. It made me work that much harder on what I was writing.
The second thing that Saint Louis is memorable for is meeting Larry W. Timm. He’s now one of my closest friends and a valued associate in my journey. Interestingly enough, we were both signed by the same agency on the same day. God, again, with his hand on the tiller.
My work continued with a new book and several books in the works. Nothing popped with agents, publishers, or much of anything else until this past fall/winter. That’s when I finished in second place in the Athanatos Ministries Christian Novel Contest.
That gave me the fortitude to strut around the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference and really enjoy myself. I didn’t go to pitch my book but to learn more about my craft. And then God stepped in again.
One of the agents presenting at the conference struck a chord in my addled brain. She was looking for books like mine. The problem was that my gimpy leg didn’t allow me to move quickly enough to get on the sign-up sheet for interviews until it was already full. I assumed it was just fate and God didn’t have a place for me on the roster of authors quite yet.
The next night I was getting ready to swipe my card on a vending machine and get a soda. A woman’s voice asked if I’d hold on a second, she had already put some money in and wanted to finish her transaction. Seemed she was a quarter short and had stepped away to borrow it from a friend.
I turned and looked – it was the agent I’d wanted to talk with but couldn’t get a slot. I’m brash, and probably a bit nuts. My response was, “Sure. Go ahead. It will cost you an interview.”
She was kind enough to say yes. And, after we met the next day I walked away happy. She liked the idea for the book and we seemed to hit it off on a personal level.
Last week she offered to represent me. The next day my wife pointed out that this was a second career for me. And that she’d help by allowing me to carve out the time to do the work. I love my wife. She’s a great partner and my best friend.
It is with great pleasure that I embark on my new career. No longer just a member of the “I’d like to…” club, but now blessed with an advocate in my corner – Jessica Kirkland.
And the moral of the story for others who want to write? Don’t give up your dream. You will face criticism, adversity, failure, disappointment, writer’s block, personal humiliation, and any other obstacle you can name. I’m not published yet. But if I’d quit pursuing this goal every time something negative came up, I’d never know the answer to the question “Can I make it?” The answer is still pending – but I’m a lot closer today than I was a week ago.
What challenge are you facing that causes you doubt? Are you willing to forego sleep and time with your loved ones to pursue that dream? How hard will you work to spread God’s word?
One last thing: I’d really appreciate it if you’d all continue to pray for me. I’m no longer on the sidelines but I’m just lining up for the starter’s gun on this race. I need that spirutual warfare on my side as I try and move on to publishing that first novel.