A Phone Call

 Passage to Purpose: #10 A Phone Call

My interactions with three well known agents in Christian publishing had left me disillusioned with publishing. Based on my limited experience its purpose had strayed from producing quality books reflecting Christian thought to pursuing money. I understand the quandary publishers are in. They have to pay salaries and maintain equipment and buildings. I also understand that Christians cannot serve both God and money. When money dictates what we do talents are oppressed and the public consumes what the God of money bestows.

Paul challenged the Corinthians to “…think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Paul included the wise and influential among us when he said “not many of you”.  The truth is most Christians are not brilliant, wealthy and influential, but all of us have gifts the body of Christ needs and no one should be disqualified based on our status in this world.

I had accepted the challenge to write Kathy’s book and already discussed publishing options with her: self-publish or Print on Demand (POD) with POD being the affordable option. While I researched options for publishing Kathy’s book, my request for a brochure from Tate Publishing elicited a phone call from Stacy, the Director of Acquisitions.

I explained that I could not send them Kathy’s manuscript since it did not exist yet. Then we had a long conversation about Christian publishing, agents and Tate Publishing’s mission. During our conversation, I told Stacy about the manuscript I had prepared for an agent. She wanted to see it. I admit that I was skeptical. Especially when she said I would have to pay a fee to use their marketing department or hire a professional publicist.

I was accustomed to being ignored because I wasn’t an important influential person that guaranteed book sells. Our conversation confirmed the mission statement on their website: find and market new authors. She did want to know who I was, or if I had a big following. Her interest in the content regardless of whom I was prompted me to send her the manuscript.

There was nothing to lose nor would I owe anything unless I signed a contract. If they offered one, I wanted to be prepared. My research on Tate Publishing revealed pleased and disgruntled authors. The sticking point was the fee to use the marketing department, which caused some to cry scam. I surveyed twenty of their authors, published within the last five years. The feedback regarding the production of their book was unanimously positive. The marketing department did not fare as well.

I didn’t expect to hear from Stacy again. When she sent me an email offering a contract, I was cautious. I told her about my research and that I would have to do more before investing in their marketing department. The next day, I received a phone call from Dr. Richard Tate, the founder of Tate Publishing.

Again I was skeptical. They were nice.  Too nice? Both Stacy and Dr. Tate were charming and easy to talk to. Dr. Tate told me Stacy brought my manuscript to his attention. She said, “Some manuscripts shine brighter than others and my manuscript shined.” We discussed family, grandchildren, and the state of America with its entitlement mentality. Dr. Tate was old school. He believed in working.

I signed the production portion of Tate’s contract but not the marketing agreement which included the fee. The fee would be refunded if I sold a preset number of books through bookstores. I didn’t believe his marketing department could do much to help me and requested to use a local Christian owned company that had great success producing concerts. I knew I was on shaky ground since the local company had no experience marketing a book. However, the man who ran the company knew a lot of pastors. Churches were my niche market.

I debated with Dr. Tate for two months over who could do a better job. He had confidence in his marketing department. I had confidence in the company I wanted to hire. My husband broke the impasse. Tate’s cost to produce the book was seven times greater than the fee I was expected to pay. “He has the greater investment,” said my husband, “use his company.”

When writing friends learned I had signed with Tate, the slander began. “They were thieves and liars who only wanted my money”. I wondered how people who never had dealings with Tate Publishing knew so much about them. I also wondered if I had made a mistake. Then my husband and I were invited to a wedding in Oklahoma City. Tate Publishing is located twenty minutes from the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City. I RSVP the wedding and requested a tour of Tate Publishing.

The employee assigned to take us on the tour had left ill before we arrived. Dr. Tate took her place. He was as pleasant in person as he was over the phone. He walked us through the building which housed production and media explaining the function of each department. Then showed us a photo of his warehouse where books were printed and stored, which was located in another part of the city. My husband was impressed.

We walked across the street to a second building and sat in what appeared to be a board room where we talked for hours. Dr. Tate said something that touched a chord with me. I write as a service to God and his people. Regarding the marketing fee, he referenced King David who refused to offer to God that which cost him nothing. (2 Samuel 24:24).

When an employee entered to remind Dr. Tate of a commitment, he seemed reluctant to leave. He had already spent three hours with us. I ended the meeting, and left at peace about signing the contract. Several months later, I filmed one of Tate’s authors at a Guild meeting. The author was a marketer by trade. Tate had waived the marketing fee. Waiving the fee assured me that Tate Publishing was not a scam only interested in my money. Dr. Tate only wanted a guarantee the book would be marketed.

In my opinion, the slander about Tate Publishing is not justified. Redefining publishing does not make one a scam artist and thief. There is no point in producing a book if it is not marketed, but marketing is expensive. Even traditional publishers have limited their marketing efforts on behalf of authors. I asked an international best-selling author what her publisher did to market her book. She said, “They don’t do book tours anymore, too expensive. You need to develop a good mailing list.” I was stunned by her answer.

Many new authors have the old traditional publishing model in mind. After the manuscript is sold, the publisher deposits a fat advance check in your account and does all the work making the author rich.  Tate does everything the traditional publisher, with the exception of paying an advance to new authors and requiring a financial investment from the author guaranteeing the author will participate in marketing. I can’t find fault with that.

About Teena Myers

Teena is the Vice Chairman of the Southern Christian Writers Guild, author of three books and a freelance writer.
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