I received a request to endorse a new book this week and a memory came to mind that I’d like to share with you today. It wasn’t a happy memory, in fact, it was a learn-from-your-pain kind of memory. But it was an important lesson that I still ascribe to twenty years later.
I had just finished my very first book, The Distant Shore, after two long years of writing, editing, and rewriting. I was searching for a traditional publisher that would pay for everything (as opposed to self-publishing or partner publishing, which both involve a significant investment of your own funds, which I didn’t have) but after nearly a year of searching, I had pretty much exhausted the possibilities. I’d attended all the writing conferences my meager budget allowed, and was sucking wind at the final conference of the year in Colorado, pitching to Christian publishers and hoping someone would nibble. No one did.
But all was not lost. I was randomly roommated with a published author who had an historical fiction trilogy in bookstores. I was awestruck by her success and praised Papa God that He had so graciously paired me with a veteran who might serve as my mentor (my book was historical fiction too) and write me an endorsement that might make all the difference in gaining the attention of a publisher (endorsements from notable names in the same genre are worth gold). I couldn’t have been more thrilled and grateful to God for His obvious arrangement.
As I mentioned, money was tight, and I’d broken into my piggy bank to afford printing my entire manuscript out as a hard copy before the conference. Every penny counted and if one was wasted, I suffered mightily.
My roommate – I’ll call her Gayle – and I got along famously for the first three days of the four-day conference. She was friendly, happy to share her how-I-made-it writing journey with me, and when I showed her a sample chapter of my book, said she thought my storyline was engaging and had lots of potential. But then everything changed. On the last day of the conference, I gathered my courage and handed Gayle my printed manuscript, asking if she would please take it home with her, read it, and give me an endorsement if she felt it deserved one. It would be my first big break in my publication journey.
A cloud passed over her face as she stood there holding my “baby” in her hands. A long few moments passed while I wondered why she was suddenly frowning. Then she handed my manuscript back to me, shook her head and simply said, “No.”
“No?” I echoed in stunned disbelief. “But you liked the storyline and said I was a good writer.”
“I know I said that,” Gayle replied, no longer able to make eye contact with me, “and it’s true, but since you haven’t been able to find a traditional publisher, I can’t associate my name with a self-published book of inferior quality. It wouldn’t be fair to my fans. I don’t want to tarnish my reputation.” Then she turned and left the motel room.
To say I was shocked is an understatement. Shocked and hurt to my core. I felt like something she’d scraped off the bottom of her shoe. It was the first time I’d encountered such snobbery in Publishing World and I could only sit and cry about the unfairness of it all.
So I carried my manuscript back home across the country, but within three months, by the grace of Papa God, a traditional small press (who paid for everything) contracted me for not only The Distant Shore, but also its sequel, Billowing Sails. And 43 titles later with over 2 million copies sold, the rest is history.
But know what? Ever since that hurtful episode, whenever an author asks me for an endorsement, I always find something good to say about their manuscript. If it still needs work, I tell them honestly, but I also find as many positives as I can to encourage them to persevere and use their God-given gifts and abilities to His glory. Because I have every confidence that He’ll find a way to get it into the hands of the exact person who needs to read it.
“Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV).
So, dearest BFFs, share with us your experiences with encouraging others or being encouraged yourself!
Oh, P.S. I understand four or five of my recent blog posts somehow got bottlenecked and weren’t delivered until they came in a clump all at once a week or so ago. So sorry! If you’ve subscribed and ever notice that you didn’t automatically receive one during the week, please do let me know so I can troubleshoot.
P.S.S. EXCEPT for this upcoming week. I may miss next week because I’m having a knee replacement on Monday and I don’t know how long I’ll be loopy or feel like swamp scum afterward. I’ll check back in as soon as I can. I’d appreciate your prayers, sweet sisters. Hugs!