Making the Pitch

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In hindsight, I can see where there were other things happening to prepare me for this moment.  I had been attending lunches with a local branding guru, tightening up things like my web presence, platforms, and even expanding my thinking about a bigger picture.  The funny thing was that I had not attended a single meeting to gain anything for myself.  I had been attending these meetings in order to help our ministry brand have a cohesive and professional look.

Instead, it turned out, all of those little nuggets of gold that I had been plugging away at for the ministry were also the very things I needed to know for making a good impression for the publisher pitch.  As I went through the pre-conference check list of things to do (thanks to all of the women who had already walked this road for sharing their experiences), I was checking things off left and right.  Another affirmation that this was the right moment to step out in this calling.

One of the trademark lessons from our lunch sessions was the reminder that “you are your brand”.   Because of that statement, I had already been looking at things from a visual perspective, experiential perspective, and conversational perspective.  Let me explain.

Visual perspective simply means that I took the time to coordinate everything.  My website matched my social media, those color themes matched what I wore to meet my publishers, which matched the paper I handed them with my pitch.  I also had a mock cover for the book that tied the theme together.  I wanted the publishers to remember me and associate me to the work, and vice versa.

Experiential perspective relates to my experience and education in the genre the book was going to be marketed in.  The way I carried myself, wrote, spoke, and pitched needed to match the project I was sharing with them.  Walking the line between experiential and conversational, I also needed to know the stats and relevant information about my topic.  From the conversational perspective, I had a very short amount of time in order to share about myself and my project.  The last two years helped me learn how to hone in on important details, discard the extra fluff, and speak about who I am and what I do with confidence.

He was preparing me for something, a day, that I had no idea was coming at the time.  Little by little, inch by inch, moving me toward the finish line of a race I wasn’t even aware I was running.

Now, I’d like to say something else from a practical standpoint about the pitch.  There were a lot of amazing women, pitching a lot of amazing books.  Devotionals.  Bible Studies.  Testimonies.  Memoirs.  Children’s Books.  Of the women that I spoke with, and clearly I didn’t meet all 700 women in attendance, I was the only person pitching a leadership book written for women by a woman.  From a very practical point of view, it is possible that helped my book standout against the backdrop of other options.

I want to say this because I don’t like to sit from a perspective that God favored me against others for some reason.  I don’t want anyone to be discouraged that it was the “right time for me” and thus is was obviously not the “right time for you”.  I don’t believe any woman was in that space by accident.  You were there at the right time, but for perhaps a different reason that you expected.   His plans are greater, His timing is perfect.  And as it was said during one of the main sessions… He never shows up early or late.  So be encouraged, don’t give up!

The pitch itself was 90% preparation and 10% presentation.  Having just a few minutes doesn’t leave a lot of room for over explanation.  The preparation was done before I left my home.  You enter the space, introduce yourself, and hand over your One Sheet (will discuss that later).  There are the basic pleasantries of sharing a bit about yourself, and your background.  A smooth transition into what your book project is about, and thankfully the publishers pretty much guide the conversation.  At no point did you feel like a smarmy salesman trying to sell yourself to someone.  Instead, the way the publishers guided the meeting allowed it to be a more natural flow and less intimidating.

After you have dished out who you are and the book project, that is where the conversation will land in the hands of the publisher.  You will be told one of a few options.  The hard no, which is the one that simply means they are not interested in your book.  It is not necessarily a reflection on your topic or writing ability, rather just a recognition on their part that your book is not the right fit.  They may already have a book with a similar subject in the works.  There may be some theological differences (some Christian publishers do have association with certain denominations beliefs), or maybe they have set certain standards for their authors.  There are publishers, even in the Christian publishing world that do care about whether or not you already have a platform.  Some are not interested in first time authors.  Some are looking for very specific books for their next season, and you just don’t fit.

The next answer is the soft no.  Usually this is the no that comes with feedback.  Perhaps they feel that your content needs more development.  Maybe they are looking for someone who is a confident author and speaker, and you don’t have both of those in your tool belt yet.  The soft no, is more akin to the “no, not right now”.  This doesn’t mean that the publisher is telling you to make all the changes and resubmit.  It means they see promise, but rough edges that need to be tweaked.  PLEASE DO ASK the publisher, if they give you suggestions for improvement if you can resubmit directly at a later time once you’ve reworked the material.  It never hurts to ask.

The third answer is a yes.  However that is not a yes that lands a contract, instead it is a “yes, we’d like to see more”.  At which point the publisher will give you their contact information, and you will send them your full proposal via email.  (I only ran into one person who was actually asked for their full proposal on site).

The proposal goes into a lot more detail (will discuss this later), about you and the project.  When the publisher returns home, they will review all of the proposals and start narrowing down their pile to the ones they believe will sell at market.   The proposal will then be shared with the “Pub Board”, who collectively will decide which books they will offer a contract on.  Keep in mind that most publishing companies only bring on about 12 new authors per year, and they spend their summer attending writing conferences and collecting proposals.

A yes is encouraging & worthy of celebration, but don’t get ahead of yourself.  Understand there are still more things happening before the contract lands in your email box.  Do celebrate it though, they do not give yeses out like eggs at Easter.  In one of my publisher meetings I noticed that the publisher put a mark next to the names of the people who were instructed to send a full proposal.  I was one of the last appointments of the day, and I was only the 2nd person marked.   There were still two days of appointments to be had, and who knows what happened at the other conferences.  So celebrate the yes!

Things I learned:

  • It is expected that when you send your proposals you also let the publisher know if any other publishers requested the proposal.  You don’t have to tell them who, or even how many.  It’s courtesy to let them know that they are not the only one who asked for it.
  • You continue this courtesy should a publisher make a contract offer.  It is standard practice and it encourages the other publishers to make a timely decision.
  • Finally, you do notify the publishers once you have signed a contract.

Some publishers move faster than others.  They may be more excited about your project, or have holes in the next year’s catalog they need to fill.  Some publishers take their time and do things on a slower schedule.  Informing of a contract offer doesn’t guarantee they will up their timeline for you.

When I reached out to the publishers who requested my proposal, one was incredibly honest with me (which I appreciated).  She shared it would be several months before it even went to the Pub Board, and that I was not the only leadership book they were looking at.  She told me that if she was in my position, she wouldn’t wait around and potentially miss the opportunity.

The publisher I signed with was very excited about the project, and very eager to move on a faster schedule.  Because of this, my book is set to publish in September of 2019.  Even if I had waited and signed with one of the others, the book may not have hit the shelves until 2020.

Most importantly were the wise words of my husband… “You want to sign with the publisher who pursued you”.

Meditating on that sound counsel, praying about it, and having my circle of friends praying over it… I knew I was was supposed to be with Leafwood Publishing.  They have made this process incredibly easy, and guiding me along the way.  I am thankful to them for being part of this journey with me and trusting me to be a part of their catalogue of authors.

I will still be continuing my series on the publishing process.  It doesn’t end here.

For a quick update about where I sit today:

I completed my word count edits, and submitted my manuscript.  I just received it back with their editing notes related to the content.  Working on that, now.  Discussions have begun with the team who design the cover.  We will also re-title the book, as the edited version has a more poignant direction.  We have a few titles we are work-shopping at the moment.

Also, I received my advance copies of my next Chicken Soup for the Soul Book:  Best Advice Ever.  It will be for sale in November.  I will share more details on that closer to release date.

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My Experience at She Speaks

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When I attended SheSpeaks, I felt very prepared to enter that space and meet with publishers to pitch my book.  However, I need to be totally transparent.  I didn’t walk in there with a winner takes all attitude, knowing that I would walk out with a deal.  I did feel confident in my preparedness.  I did feel like this was the year the book would publish.  I just didn’t put all my eggs into this basket.

Most people who know me will tell you that I come at things with an optimistic attitude.  At best, I knew I could walk out with an offer.  But, even if not… I was still walking into a wealth of information via the workshops.  I was also going to make connections and meet people journeying along my same path.  My experience at She Speaks was altogether everything I expected and so much more.

Before I even checked in to the conference, I found myself having breakfast at the same table as author Karen Ehman (I have quite a few of her books).  I walked away with some great tips that I’m already putting into practice.   I met several great ladies who had attended She Speaks before and they were incredibly helpful by sharing tips and their experiences with publisher meetings.

The workshops were packed full of useful information, I grabbed some books from the event bookstore that I’m excited about (including some studies).  I was able to have a few great conversations with other authors and leaders who were apart of the speaker line up, even met a family member on my husband’s side of the family.  The women were praying for each other, helping one another.  Not a spirit of competition in sight, and so much support.

It has been several months since the conference and I’m still in regular contact with women I met.  We are celebrating with each other, praying for each other through deadlines, journeying through the publishing process together, and it is a beautiful thing.

While I am grateful to have received interested and a contract for my book, that was just a highlight of the over all conference.  It gave me perspective, as a leader, of how I want women to feel when they come to events at our church or through my ministry work.

Preparation to Write

Preparation

In the writing of my book there is a combination of elements.  There are my own personal opinions and convictions about ministry.  Additionally, I have statistics and historical facts along with Biblical content.  Included are references to other books on the subject of Women’s Ministry and theological thinkers of our time.

To write a book about one’s own personal experiences or opinions requires very little preparation.  You may look back through papers to ensure specific dates are accurate, names are spelled correctly, timeline accuracy, etc.  However, in a book that is a Biblical defense of a ministry there is more work required.  I spent months watching youtube videos of interviews, reading books and articles that supported or stood against Women’s Ministry.  I leaned in to listen to influential leaders and Pastors in order to find out their views on Women’s Ministry.  I even went so far as to look at not on the churches that have Women’s Ministry programs but also ones with thriving Men’s Ministries to see if there was a correlation.

As I worked through the research process, I was able to categorize the information that I found pertinent and build an outline for the book.  Once I had the outline, it helped me identify the areas that I still needed to put more time into researching.   The points that I discarded from my outline gave me freedom to stop exploring those thoughts and focus on the ones I kept.

Between the date when I finished the first draft and the date when I signed my contract and began editing the book, there was other preparation.  The Lord had me walk through scenarios that would influence my opinions or drive me to research certain concepts.  He was not going to let me write about something that I did not walk through personally.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Preparation is not just about researching books, it is far more personal.  Preparation comes from praying to God for His wisdom and guidance in the process, and that my written words would be only what He would want me to say.  Preparation comes from walking through real life, practical ministry, and all of the lessons you learn along the way.  Preparation comes from speaking with other leaders who are in the trenches, having an observant eye as you go about your interactions with ministry leaders.

It was only when the preparations were done, that I could write a book that was complete.

Affirmations and Confirmations

Affirmations

You may wonder how I am so confident that this was the right timing, that God was orchestrating things over the years heading toward this direction.  The answer is mostly found in hind sight, there were a lot of affirmations and confirmations along the way.

First, I have wanted to attend the She Speaks conference for quite some time.  Initially, I didn’t know about the publisher appointments.  I was interested in the workshops and networking with others who were leaders, and honing my speaking skills.  Writing and publishing a book was not on my horizon.  I had not attended previously though as it was outside our budget.    This year however, we had the means to make it happen.  It was as I looking into the registration process that I learned about the publisher appointments.

Second, I recently began publishing works in Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Upon sharing this news with friends and family, several told me that they had believed I would end up a writer since I was a child.  This was not something I ever saw on my horizon, but apparently several people were clued into something I was not.

Third, there was a repetition of Scripture.  There were several key verses that kept coming up in my personal study, falling out of the mouths of friends, Sunday sermons, youtube videos/podcasts, and even in unexpected places.  Each of which affirmed God’s perfect timing, elements of my calling, etc.    It happened to frequently to push aside as coincidence.

Fourth, people were positioned into my life.  Some of them, still to this day, I have no explanation for how we crossed paths other than God’s divine appointing.  I had been attending branding training to use in my ministry, having no idea that for the last 2 years everything Faith James was pouring into us at these meetings was going to help me prepare for my publisher meetings.  When I walked into that first branding training, I knew absolutely no one there.  Yet some how, her events crossed my desk, and I decided to give it a shot.   God positioned encouragers, prayer warriors, and even people with previous experience to help guide me along the process.

Fifth, there was a peace about the whole thing that allowed me to move forward in confidence.  I didn’t feel nervous or anxious.  I felt incredibly secure in who I was and what I was about to do.  There was a certainty that I had not felt in the years prior.  A godly confidence that these were steps preordered for me, I merely needed to follow.

Me, My Book, and Esther

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I’ve already shared that I believe that the Lord brought me to She Speaks this past summer because this was the time.  He is not early, nor late.  Always on time.  Had I tried to pitch the book 5 years ago, it would not be nearly as good as it is today.  If I waited, and was not obedient, perhaps the timing would have passed.

I’ve said this quite a few times of the last year, so forgive me if you are reading it again, but Pastor John Piper said that the Lord could be working thousands of things out for your favor and you may be aware of but two.  Over the last couple of years, I couldn’t see all the things that God was lining up until after it happened.  Then suddenly you see His fingerprints all over the place.  Little things being done here and there that seemed so inconsequential or unrelated, suddenly knit together in a tapestry that is only but of Him.

In hindsight, I can see the people the Lord brought into my life were serving a purpose.  To equip me.  To encourage me.  To guide me.  Some where brought into my life to illuminate and affirm His path.  Others, their purpose was for me to see what I did not want to do or become.  There was learning, molding, shaping, guiding, and correcting along the way.

On numerous occasions, and from a variety of sources, the verse of Esther 4:14 was spoken to me.    “For such a time as this”, words ringing in my ears.  Was this the time I was being prepared for?  Apparently, it was.

LeadHer Conference Update

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Registration is Closed.

There will be NO tickets sold at the door.

Due to the catering order already being submitted, we can not accommodate those who have not already registered for the event.

How do you know if you are registered?
* You purchased your tickets online.
* You tickets were coordinated directly with Gena McCown.

Time is a Gift

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It would be foolish of me to say that twenty years of ministry leadership has taught me everything that I need to know.  I’m sure that there are more lessons coming down the road, even if the only thing that changes is culture and climate.  Ministry is something that is ever evolving and adapting.  While there may be change, there are also fundamental truths that do not.

Consider the Word of God.  Written so many years ago, it is still alive and relevant.  We can take Scriptures and still apply them to our lives because they contain the fundamental Truth of an all knowing, constant, and unchanging God.  When we attempt to share the Word with others, we may tie in our own experiences or use illustrations that are more relevant to the culture of today without changing the fundamental truths God imparts.

In my approach to writing the book, I needed to walk away from the way “I” would lead a Women’s Ministry.  I had to delve into the Scriptures to find out what God had to say about the matter, if anything at all.  Instead of creating a book about Women’s Ministry, or justifying it from a modern perspective, the book comes at the topic historically and from a Biblical position.  It moved away from a book that was a reason for have a ministry (which still assumes there is option to say no to it), and turns on it’s heels to say there is a Biblical case for having one (which makes it seem less optional, and more of an expectation).

There was a good deal of time spent in writing the original material.  Research, research, and more research.  Yet, the time the that the Lord set this project on pause, yielded to opportunities to learn and experiences to be had.  When I returned to the book, to ready it for pitching to publishers it went off the most obvious course and into one less traveled.  In cutting the book nearly in half for the publication requirements, even more refining was done.

I believe that it was in the best interest of the material to get right to the point, that the refining and editing process was integral to creating a message that was clear… direct… and doesn’t take the long way round.

Maybe, you have been working on a project that seems to be taking forever.  Perhaps, you feel as if God hit the pause button on your progress and it seems like He is in no rush to hit the start button.  Consider this break as something positive versus negative.  Pray that God would reveal to you what you are supposed to be gleaning from this time period of wait.  His timing is perfect.