Having put publishing a book out of mind, I continued to pursue writing stories about people. On occasion, a person will repeatedly come to my attention. That is what happened with Kathy Baker who co-pastors a church with her husband. I had declined multiple invitations to her interfaith Bible study, before a friend enticed me to attend with promise of lunch and fellowship afterward.
Her teaching was rich. After the study, I inquired if I could write about her ministry. Most people I write about become little more than acquaintances. Kathy was different. I had an open day on the faith blog and asked her if she wanted to contribute videos of her teaching. She accepted. As I filmed her teaching, we became close friends.
I was picking up my camera equipment when she asked me to stay, so we could talk. She loved the story I wrote about her for NOLA and requested that I write a book. I listened intently as she told a story of rape and reuniting with the child she gave up for adoption thirty years later. The story had an unusual twist that made it compelling.
I had already decided against writing a book. The manuscript I wrote for the agent was a compilation of short stories, and I wasn’t sure I could write one. Kathy was sure I was the person to author her story. After consulting with other writers, I accepted the challenge.
I had completed an outline of her story when a friend asked if I wanted attend the writer’s conference in Alabama again. The agent at this conference had brokered a movie deal with the Hallmark Channel for one of his authors. Kathy’s story was perfect for the Hallmark Channel. I decided to return and pitch her story to the agent.
The previous year, I had no problem obtaining ten minutes with the agent. This time the rules for obtaining time with an agent repeatedly changed making it impossible to get my name on the list. I gave up on pitching the idea and spent the morning filming authors promoting their books for NOLA’s faith blog.
After lunch, I looked at the day’s agenda. A publisher was speaking before the agent. My feet hurt from walking around the church most of the morning. Sitting in one room for two hours would be a relief. The room was a quarter full when the host of the conference entered. The publisher had canceled due to car problems. Half the people left to seek another workshop. A friend and I stayed to chat as we waited for the agent’s workshop.
A woman stuck her head in the door and announced Cheryl had the sign-up sheet for ten minutes with the agent. There were three slots open. I didn’t know who Cheryl was, but everyone else did. The room cleared as they exited to find the guardian of the sign-up sheet. My friend and I were the only ones left in the room when the agent entered to set up his laptop for his presentation. Instead of ten minutes, I had a forty minute conversation with the agent who gave me permission to film his workshop.
The agent explained that publishers are interested in authors who already have a following, preferably a large one. The last publisher he pitched a book to said, “Who is that and why should I care?” That made me wonder why he was at one of the cheapest writing conferences in the nation listening to book ideas. Did he think someone famous with a large following would be here? I had a small following, so he consented to look at the outline of Kathy’s story. I emailed him the outline and received the standard treatment. He didn’t bother to type, “No thanks” and hit send either.
It is possible to be published without an agent. Print on Demand was also a possibility for Kathy’s book. While I was editing the film of authors promoting their books, I looked up their publishers. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was looking for a publisher to contact when I finished Kathy’s manuscript.
One of the authors had used Tate Publishing. She had a positive experience. Tate did everything they promised and were all she could have hoped for in a publisher. Tate’s website said they were “a Christian-based, family-owned, mainline publishing organization with a mission to discover and market unknown authors.” That sounded promising, so I requested a brochure to learn more about their company. Instead of a brochure, I received a phone call from the Director of Acquisitions. More about that in my next post.