One Author’s Journey: A Tale of Publishing

With all this talk of publishing and where it’s been and where it’s going, I thought I’d tell you a story. One that happened not years ago, in the much ballyhooed Golden Age, but recently. So gather round, settle in, and listen…

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who wanted to write, who grew up to be a young woman who did write, creating stories she loved. Stories that made her heart soar. Not just because she wanted to write, but because God whispered His truths into her heart, and it whispered back in stories. And so she wrote. Book after book. And with each book she finished, she sought those who would join her on her quest to bring her stories to readers. Lo, seven times she finished a book, and lo, seven times sought an editor or agent. And lo, seven times was told…

“Your story is too long.” “The craft isn’t there yet.” “This doesn’t meet our needs.” “No.”

Still, the young woman kept writing. One day she sent a new story to an editor far, far away. The editor–at the end of a long, tiring day–saw an envelope with a return address from her beloved valley, far, far away. So though she was tired, she opened the envelope and read. And read. And loved the story that burst out of the envelope and came to life in her heart and mind. But the craft wasn’t quite there. So she contacted the young writer, told her how much she loved her story and to keep working at it.

And the writer did.

She wrote and studied and learned and wrote some more. And when the editor moved back to her beautiful valley from far, far away, she and the writer became friends. The writer faced many obstacles—from health struggles to writers’ block to many people in publishing, including her friend, the editor, telling her that the wonderful story she was writing now was too long. Way too long. “Even cut in half, it will be too long!”

So the writer edited. And edited. And edited. And year after year, the story grew stronger, more powerful, more beautiful. Finally, the young writer thought the story was ready. But voices around her warned that the story was still too long, that the writer didn’t have a platform, that historical fiction was dying in the Christian market, and many other cautions. The writer didn’t listen. She was listening instead to the voice of the One who whispered to her heart. And so she made her way across mountains and valleys and visited the famed land of Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. There she shared her story with the giants of the land: agents and editors.

And lo, one talented agent saw the beauty and power in the writers’ story, and though it was long, she asked the writer if she could read the WHOLE manuscript. And when she had read, the agent knew the story was true and real and of God, so she joined the writer on her quest. With the agent’s direction and encouragement, the writer refined the story until every word, every character, every truth glittered like diamonds in a brook on a sun-soaked day. Off the manuscript went to editors, and soon the reply came:

From everyone, “no thank you.”

But the young writer and her talented agent did not give up. For the writer was already at work on another story, and when that one shone like the stars in the night sky, it was sent on its way to the editors.

And lo, one wise editor asked to read the whole story. And when she had read, she knew the story was true and real and of God, and she joined forces with the writer and editor to bring the story to those who needed to read it. And when time had passed, and the story was edited and proofread and typeset and nestled within the beauteous cover created for it, it winged it’s way to the booksellers. There it sat, on the shelf, waiting to be discovered.

And so it was.

First one reader, then another, then dozens, then more embraced the story, taking it into their homes and hearts, and when they read, they knew that the story was true and real and of God. And they cried from the mountaintops that others should come and read! And they did. And lives were enriched and changed. And awards flooded to the writer and her story, the highest awards from those who loved and savored words and story and truth.

And so, after 20 years of writing, editing, learning, and refining, and then refining and working with her wondrous agent and wise editor, an overnight sensation was born. Awards and accolades rained down on the writer and her book. But the writer didn’t stop to bask in the praise. For new stories already called to her, begging to be brought to life. And so she writes.

And writes. And edits. And refines. And so she will continue to do, as long as God whispers His stories into her heart.

The moral of the story? Actually, there are several. But before I share them—along with the names of the writer, agent, editor, and book (all of which I’ll do next week)–I want to hear from you.

What can we learn this writer’s tale?

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When Your Agent Appointment Flops

In keeping with my conference posts, I want to talk a little today about agent appointments. I’ll use agents as the example for brevity but this post can also apply to editor appointments. That is, what if the agent or editor doesn’t like your work? Don’t despair. Seriously. Here’s why: …

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Making Friends at a Writers Conference

Conference time is exciting for everyone, especially those who are looking forward to meeting people they’ve only met over the Internet and reconnecting with old friends. For certain, strengthening relationships is one of the best benefits of any conference. But what about the person who’s new, who hasn’t had a …

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Yes I Said That, But…

In light of the fact that many of us are getting ready to go to conferences, or have just been to conferences, I thought I’d spend the next couple of blog posts on conferences. Today I’d like to talk about what you hear, what you think you hear, and applying …

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The Writer’s Pod

When I was at the Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference a week or so ago, I went to one of my all-time favorite places: The Santa Cruz Wharf. It’s one of the best places to see the sea lions, which are draped all over the pilings of the wharf, as well …

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4 Tips for Surviving a Writers Conference

by Steve Laube I’ve had the fun of teaching at nearly 150 writers conferences over the years. In that time I’ve noticed a number of common things that all writers face. Let’s explore a few tips that may help you survive at the next one you attend. Relax The most …

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When You are on the Bench

by Steve Laube The NCAA Basketball Tournament is upon us with lots of drama accompanying March Madness. As you watch a game, of any team sport, the focus is on the players in the contest. The camera follows the stars and their every move. What you rarely do is watch …

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A Weekend with C.S. Lewis and Friends

by Steve Laube

This past weekend I had the privilege, once again, to attend and participate in the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Fall retreat in Houston.

Not a typical writers conference it focuses on the extraordinary contribution of Lewis and his fellow Inklings and ultimately a celebration of the Arts in light of the incarnation of Christ. The speakers were extraordinary. They included:

Devin Brown (one of my clients), professor at Asbury University and author of The Christian World of the Hobbit
Diana Glyer, professor at Azusa and author of The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community
Malcolm Guite, Chaplain and Fellow, Girton College Cambridge and author of The Singing Bowl. He is also an accomplished musician
Louis Markos, professor at Houston Baptist University and author of Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis
Max McLean, president of Fellowship for the Performing Arts and is best known for his audio recordings of the Bible and for his theatrical presentations of The Screwtape Letters

I sat in two workshops on writing given by Malcolm Guite, the first appropriately titled “The Word and the words.” (the capitalization is intentional). During his presentations I heard more extemporaneous quotation of Shakespeare, Gerald Manly Hopkins, George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Bob Dylan than I have ever heard in my life. I felt my mind and soul swell as they were slowly filled with so much art and incarnation that I could barely stand it.

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Five Myths About an Agent’s Rejection

1.) The agent hates me. Unless you approached her and said something along the lines of, “You and your kids are ugly and you have lousy taste in manuscripts,” a rejection shouldn’t be personal.

But if you are worried that you unintentionally offended an agent or other publishing professional, take action. Email to let him know you have been worried about why you may have been the cause of offense, followed by an apology. Chances are good the other person had no idea he should have been offended, and has been enjoying the beach, not thinking a thing about the “incident” that has you worried. Or, if he really was offended, he should accept your apology. Then you can make a fresh start.

2.) The agent was making up an excuse to reject me.  Except when writing blog posts, we don’t have time to wax long and poetic. But if an agent says anything beyond a catchphrase such as, “This work is not a good fit for me,” then I would consider the advice. Those phrases might include allusions to the quality of writing, slim market for your type of work, or other hints as to why your work was rejected. This hint could help you learn what might work better for you in the future.

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