Even though I had been told a number of times the stories I wrote about people would make a good book, I wasn’t interested in publishing. One reason was my disillusionment with Christian publishing. I had prepared a book proposal for a respected Christian agent many years earlier. He sent me a letter, which I learned later, was unusual. Standard practice is to ignore you or send a form letter. The agent complemented my writing, noted that I did a good job on the book proposal, and acknowledged the work had merit. He did not believe he could sell the manuscript in the current market and on that sole basis he rejected me as a client.
As I read the agent’s letter, a scripture came to mind. “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). Talent didn’t matter, money did. I wondered why money was the deciding factor. I understand that a business needs to make money to survive, even Christian businesses. I also understand that God promised to add what we need (money) if we seek to do his will.
As I talked to published writers, I learned that traditional publishers did little more than print on demand publishers for new authors. If I had to do everything myself, print on demand was the logical choice. The author’s control over the finished product is greater, and the profit margins were, in my opinion, fairer. The prospect of marketing and selling my own book was distasteful. Ultimately, my research brought me to the conclusion that publishing was not for me.
A friend and I decided to attend a writer’s conference at a church in Alabama. The fee was affordable, and I felt a workshop about writing personal stories would be beneficial. The conference also offered ten minutes to pitch book ideas to agents from a literary agency. My friend planned to pitch a fiction book she had already written. She suggested I pitch the articles I had been writing for NOLA as a book to the nonfiction agent. I wasn’t interested because I had to miss the workshop on writing personal stories to meet with the agent. She persisted. I resisted. She insisted. I wrote a one page query letter to give the agent for one reason: to get my pesky friend off my back.
I met the agent in a Sunday School room. I handed the agent my query letter and launched into my sales pitch. The agent glanced at the query letter, covered the letter with his hands and smiled broadly. As I rambled incoherently trying to sell the idea, I wondered why he was smiling. When I stopped talking to breathe, he said, “I’m interested.” I was dumfounded without a clue what I should say next. His request to see a manuscript forced me to write one.
I spent months collecting signed permission forms authorizing me to use the stories I’d written in a book. Then many hours were devoted to compiling the stories into a manuscript format acceptable to the agent. I sent the manuscript November 1. He said he would get back to me before Christmas. He didn’t. I sent a few email inquiries. He did not respond. I had not sent the manuscript in cold. He asked to see it. When he lost interest, he did not bother to tell me. How difficult is it to type “No thanks” and hit send.
My second dealings with an agent reinforced my disillusionment with Christian publishing. I sent the manuscript on a shelf and prayed, “God, if you want this manuscript published, give me a publisher.” I promptly forgot about publishing, but publishing did not forget about me. More about that in my next post.