Getting published


My goal this vacation is to put together a book proposal for another book. Tribal Church should be out at the end of this month, and I’ll feel better if I have something else in the works.

I’m no expert on getting published (the whole industry confounds me a large portion of time), but now that I’ve been through the process once, I’ve learned a couple of things. I don’t have an agent, so that’s a whole other hurdle that I can’t really speak to. But here’s what I know.

If you’re just starting out, you can pick up Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I don’t know many writers who haven’t been through this book. It’s also great for pastors who preach regularly, because Cameron forces us to carve out a time in our day for writing and listening to God.

Of course, it’s an interactive book. I imagine that if a person reads it without doing the exercises, it won’t make sense and it will cause the person to do a whole lot of eye rolling. A main theme of the book is that God is on your side, God wants you to create, and God will send you everything you need in order to do your art (are your eyes rolling?).

The other important book is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, because Lamott is just so good at explaining the emotional highs and lows of writing. Whenever I felt completely nuts, worried that everyone would hate the book, my career would be over, and my family would never speak to me again, I replayed Lamott’s words in my mind. Whatever we go through as writers, she has gone through it times ten, and while I might harbor all of my fears until they become raging stomach ulcers, she’s actually written about it.

From what I understand, if you’re just starting out, fiction books need to be written beforehand. A portion of it is sent to the publisher, and then you might be asked to send in the rest of it. Christian fiction is a huge industry, that’s growing rapidly. But, it’s geared toward conservative evangelicals. And while the editors seem to delight in the destruction of the world, they get squeamish over things like sex (because…as you know…Christians do not engage in intercourse).

But you can get a contract (and maybe even a small advance) for a nonfiction book before writing it. For that reason, I think I’m going to be writing nonfiction for a while. It’s just really nice to have a contract in hand while putting the book together. It’s great motivation.

When I submitted my proposal, I used the outline on Alban’s site. Since then, I’ve heard that the best book on it is (aptly) named How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. If you know someone in publishing, you can send it to her/him first. I’m sure editors are like the rest of us, they open mail from friends first.

When you get the contract, you can expect to receive around 8-15% of the book sales. Usually the percentage starts low and goes up the more you sell. I think most publishers pay once a year, but some pay twice per year.

I’m really lucky to meet with a writing group. It’s a group of four smart clergywomen who look over my first drafts, while I look over their work. They have great advice, and make it so the editing process with the publisher is not as difficult.

All this on getting published, but I have to say, I would self-publish in a heartbeat. If I spent years writing my first novel and I couldn’t get a house to read it, I would certainly pay to get it into book form.

So, right now, I’m working on an outline. I have the idea, I even have all the parts of the book written, I’m just looking for a way to organize it and put it all together. I’m reading, reading, reading, and it’s all a bit of a jumbled mess in my mind right now.

I’m going to the science museum with my daughter and CJ this afternoon. Hhhmmm… a Science Museum, a child, and a candidate for a doctorate in philosophy–what better conversation partners could I possibly have to figure out a book outline? Maybe God has sent me everything I need.

the photo’s entitle “My First Love” by Herny Bahus

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