Moving Foreword

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As part of publishing a book, you may be considering a foreward.  This is usually written by someone else that has read the material, who has a frame of reference to you the author.  I asked a friend, I’ll spare her name for now, if she would be willing to consider writing a foreword… and she agreed to read the manuscript.

I sent her the version of the manuscript that had been cut to the appropriate length, but had not been edited through the back and forth process that occurs behind the scenes.  That is an incredibly intimate thing to ask of someone to do.  I’m handing over a raw version of my book, my thoughts splayed on pages, words that once read I can’t take back.  What if she doesn’t like it?  What if she doesn’t agree with me?  What if she says NO?

Insecurity will get the best of you, that is for sure.

I am ever so thankful that she not only liked my work, but agreed to write the foreword.  As I was making a long drive home, yesterday, she read her words over the phone to me.

Humbled.

She made me cry, which is honestly not something I do a lot of.  But, it wasn’t so much a response to her elegant words or accolades for my material.

It was a response to the fact that she saw me.

The inside, under the flesh, in my heart, me.

The me that I wished so many in recent years were able to see.  My heart for serving God’s women.  My heart for building up leaders.  My desire to please God.

In the several years that we have known each other, I have never sat down and had a formal conversation about who I am and what I dream of.  Most of what was written in the foreword came from simply doing life along with one another.  What she read between the lines of the words that came out of my mouth.

The mouth reveals the heart, it’s intentions.  She could hear what I wasn’t saying because she was listening to what I was.  Stitching together whether or not my word and deed matched one another.

To have another person not only look at the merit of my written work… but the desires of my heart in relation to my devotion to God and His work… it moved me to tears.

Not only does my friend see me, but God sees me.

I pray that when my day comes, He will say “well done, my good and faithful servant”.

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Getting Technical

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If you are considering writing a book, I wanted to take a moment in our online journey together to discuss a few technical things you will want to know.

First:  Complete or Incomplete Manuscript

One of the things I found very interesting in the process of meeting with the publishers is that in most cases, you do not need a completed manuscript in order to pitch your book.  From publisher to publisher, the only two genres of books that publishers wanted a completed manuscript was memoir and fiction.  If you are writing a devotion, Bible study, leadership book, etc. then only a few sample chapters are necessary.  Although you will want to have an outline of the book that shows where you are going with the topic.  Also, if Children’s Books are your thing, you do not need to have the whole thing written out and illustrated to get a book deal.  In fact, many publishers have in house artists that will do the artwork for you.

Second:  Not All Publishers are Created Equal

In the company of Christian publishers, you will find some variations.  Some hold to strict doctrinal lines, and others are willing to explore other doctrinal view points.  There are publishers who do not publish certain types of books.  Take the time to get to know the publishers.  What are they selling?  What are they looking for?  How do they take submissions from authors?  What format do they want the submission presented in?  The more you know, the more you will be prepared for publisher meetings and connections.

Third:  Do You Need an Agent?

Some publishers will prefer an author without an agent, some don’t care, and some will only take proposals from someone with an agent.  An good authors agent is just like a talent agent, they work on your behalf using their contacts to get your book published.  They only get paid, when you get paid.  Therefore they do everything possible to help you in the process.  They understand the market, and what publishers like and don’t like.  They will go alongside you and help polish up the book to it’s best. 

Fourth:  Editing Process and Writing Formats

Once you have a contract, your publishers will have an editor help you through the nuances of your book.  Be prepared for editing.  When my contract was signed and accepted, the next thing I received from the publisher was a style guide.  This guide helped me to understand that writing format that my publisher required.  I tend to write like I talk, and having a theatre background that includes script writing… I can’t help myself.  I write as if what is being read is meant to be spoken.  However, just because I wrote the book and they liked my writing doesn’t mean it fit the format they preferred.

Additionally, when I was in school learning about writing we were taught two different writing styles.  In high school, I learned AP style.  In college, I learned MLA.  (Or, perhaps it was the other way around?).  Turns out my publisher prefers CMOS a.k.a. Chicago Style.  This was a writing style format I was not just unfamiliar with… I didn’t even know it existed.  So in addition to having to edit down the word count of my book, I also had to reformat the entire thing to fit their writing style.

The reason I bring this up is that you need to know that in most cases this is your responsibility.  An editor is not going to do all of this work for you, unless you want to pay out of your own pocket for the services.  You will want to weigh that cost against your advance/royalties and see if it is worth it or not to hire out the editing work.  Your publishing editor will do some editing, but the bulk will fall on you.

 

Feeling Overwhelmed

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I couldn’t share my publishing story without giving a nod to feeling overwhelmed.

I was at an amazing conference, being filled with great information… teaching… and encouragement.  My mind was already at max capacity.  Then, I’m facing publishers who are interested in my book.  I was overwhelmed at the first request for my proposal.  Everything else just added to it.

Upon arriving home, signing the contract… I was still overwhelmed.  There were things I needed to do (editing the book size for starters) and that was on top of my every day life.  It’s a process of go-go-go and wait.  Trying to understand what to do and when to do it.  People giving advice from their experiences, on what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and really it just gets to be too much at times.

Especially when you are getting advice from one person that counters the advice from someone else.

This is why it is so important to take your time, don’t rush.  Pray about each of the steps, seek wise counsel but weight it against the Lord’s Word and how is guiding and leading you.  There are good, godly, people out there who have amazing testimonies, experience, advice, and good intentions.  Just because they are apart of your life does not mean they are aligned into your calling.  You can be overwhelmed by the input and stress that others put on you, even when they have your best interest at heart.

Separate the wheat from the chaff.

Trust the One who began your journey will see you through to it’s fruition.  Ask God to light up your pathway, and to let you know when the race is done.

Put on Your Armor

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Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand

against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:11

When ever the Lord is about to move you into something He has ordained to happen, or whenever you are walking in obedience to His will over your own desires… something happens.  An incredibly large target falls on you… your work… your family.

I would love to share with you some encouragement…

First… know that it is going to come.   If we know that it is going to come, we are prepared for it.  Button down your home, secure it. Be in the Word, pray, and have others praying for you.

Second… know that it can’t last.   His Word tells us that all weapons formed against us shall not prosper.  His Word secures the promises He made for us, for He is faithful, loving, and protective of His children.

Third… know that it may hurt.  Just because the weapons formed against us will not prosper, that simply means the enemy will not get the victory.  There may be some battle wounds that come in the process, but ultimately the Lord is victorious.  Knowing that there may be some wounding helps us to keep our eyes beyond those flesh wounds and on the One who sends His armies by our side.

Fourth… know that it will not be in vain.   You may be weary or wounded, but cast those things on Christ… His yoke is light.  Whatever it is that the enemy means for evil, God will use for good.  HIS GOOD.  YOUR GOOD.  KINGDOM GOOD.  In our testimony we will recount what the Lord did as He battles for us.

Fifth… know that you are not alone.  There are people stepping out in faith all over the world, and the enemy has his eyes fixed on them.  He is not concerned with those who are not about God’s business, nor is he concerned about those who are luke warm… just floating by.  His efforts are fixed on those of us who are walking out our faith, and when we lock arms with one another… GOD GETS THE GLORY.

Don’t be afraid to share with others the battles you are facing, let them scream out a battle cry on your behalf.  Don’t keep your prayers to yourself, but instead grab those who can stand in the gap for you or with you. 

Even still…

I will praise Him.

He is a good, good Father.

I will praise Him in the storm.

He is constant and unchanging.

His voice calms the sea.

When I don’t understand…

I lean into the One who sees what I can’t.

He is faithful.

Luke 1:45 – Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Lamentations 3:22-23 – The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Love My Tribe, My Squad, My Team…

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There is one thing that I know, I couldn’t be in this place today without God’s provision.  I’m not talking about financial provision either.  I’m talking about the people who God put into my path along the way.

Full confession, I keep things pretty quiet.  Very few people knew that I was leaving for the conference this summer, that I would be pitching my book to publishers.  Even when I had returned with the good news of publisher interest, I kept it to myself until there was something to announce.  This is my M.O., how I have always been.  I don’t generally make a big deal of things.  In fact, the whole reason I am even writing this series is at the encouragement of a author friend who has also launched many books for authors.  She told me to tell the story of how I got here and what is happening.  Sharing all of the details is a hard thing for me.

My husband and kids who have been nothing but supportive.  There was never a moment where any of them didn’t believe in me and what I was doing.  Nor a moment where they were not celebrating along with me.   It means a lot to have people on your side that believe in you, especially when it is your own family.  My sister shared with me only recently that she believed, since I was a child, that I would be a writer.  Just speaking those words to me was an affirmation of this new chapter in my journey.

Then there was my friend, Ava, who has written several books.  In addition to her own books, Ava has also written for Chicken Soup for the Soul.  After getting to know Ava, and encouragement she probably doesn’t even realize she was giving me, I stepped into the Chicken Soup for the Soul family of writers.  Speaking of which, I have a new piece coming out in November in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Advice Ever! edition.  Watch for details!

Several years ago, my friend Jenna took some photographs of me to use for promotional purposes.  It was a blessing, as she is an incredible photographer, if you get a chance… click through the link on her name and look through her Missionary Photography.  Back to the point, Jenna mentioned the pictures would be perfect for my first book.  I had not even considered a book at the time.

Then, there is my friend Aimee, who has been an encourager of my ministry work and calling for quite some time.  Yet, in the last year, the Lord has brought us closer than ever.  She has been the voice of reason, wise counsel, support, and love that I need for such a time as this.

There have been so many other strategically placed, divine, appointments that I couldn’t begin to list them all.  My own education, an the Lord providing the funding and time to make it happen.  The Women’s Ministry course at Christian Leaders Institute that is reaching men and women across the globe, and a constant source of humbling me before the Lord because of His goodness.  These students breath new life into me every day, as they affirm His timing of such a course.  At the conference, I connected with a special group of women that have become prayer warriors in my life, behind the scenes.    The leaders who have invested in me in the past, who are now watching the return on that investment as I pour into others.  Including Faith, who had no idea when I walked into that first branding lunch that her words and training were going to be a part of a different purpose.

There is so much more I could say, but what it really comes down to is simply thanking the Lord for each of these people and opportunities that have been part of the pathway that led me to where I am today.  Also, thanking each of these people for being obedient to the things the Lord did to move them in my pathway.  Their obedience so send the texts and notes of encouragement, the phone calls and emails, and the prayers they have been lifting up over me for years.

Something I believe very strongly in, when it comes to people investing in my future, is letting these amazing contributors know that their investment is not being wasted but being fruitful.  And of those first fruits, I want to give God all the credit, honor, and glory.  None of this would be possible if it was not for His ordering of my days, experiences, and path.

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.

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.