My week-long mentoring clinic was over. I hiked down to the bottom of the canyon to a crudely-constructed prayer chapel. My emotions rushed at me. My completed manuscript had been exposed and critiqued all week. My instructor encouraged me to go for it and take the next step. One fellow student suggested I make a couple copies at Kinko’s and be done with it; her words still stung. Another challenged me that my story can’t encourage others if I keep it in a drawer (or a computer file).
That day, I admitted to God that I was afraid. If I put my story out there, I’d face many more tumultuous weeks like this one. I sensed Him nudging me forward. I was willing to risk it if I could be certain that’s what He wanted. I knelt beside the bench with my hands outstretched. “God, my hands are open. I’m giving this book back to You. Take my meager offering and do whatever You want with it. I wrote it so You could use it for Your glory, so people around the world could read it and know how truly awesome You are. That’s my prayer. But it’s Your story, not mine.”
The big question many of you are facing is: to publish or not to publish. You have a unique voice and a story that is valuable for the Kingdom. Hopefully I’ve helped you to perfect your already-great story and make it shine. But is it a story to be told or written informally, or is it one for the world at large?
How do you know if it’s the right time, and the right story, to seek publication? Mark Twain’s advice makes me laugh: "Write without pay until somebody offers to pay."
I’ll be honest. The traditional route (royalty publishing) is long and arduous. You cannot submit anything which is unsolicited. To get an editor to solicit your material, you must meet them in person (how do you do that overseas?) and convince them in a one-minute pitch. Next, send a perfectly-formatted query, then proposal, chapter summary, and manuscript. The editor must sell your idea to a committee. If anyone of them thinks it isn’t marketable, they nix the deal. One editor had my manuscript for eight months before writing me a (very encouraging) rejection letter.
When you exhaust every royalty publishing lead, subsidy (self) publishing becomes more attractive. There’s a full gamut of options; some are free and carry no clout. With the more reputable ones, you pay the publication costs but you retain the rights and the profits (if there are any). Think of it as a ministry expense.
You must decide. Ask yourself why you wrote your story. Think about the benefit to the reader. Do you have a universal truth? Even though I penned my book with women like you, women in the harvest, in mind, I had to intentionally write my book to relate to a larger audience. The setting of my story is my life in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, but the story is for all times and places. The story is about God’s ability to provide.
Putting your story out there is a scary place to be. Your book is your baby. It’s part of you. You created it. I want everyone to love my beautiful and intelligent baby. My story is so personal that I felt like I’d been stripped bare and exposed before the world. I had to be real; you can’t truly help others unless you are. Much worse than negative comments, I had to learn to deal with silence. I took it personally. I worked at a seminary filled with learned people and I internalized their silence as condescension for my lightweight story.
But then comments on my blog and website started pouring in from people all around the world who were touched by my book. Many came from people on the harvest field (women and men who I’d never met), but several came from people who’ve never even traveled abroad. I treasure their words, copying them and keeping in a big binder. These readers are the reason I made myself vulnerable and overcame my fear. They make it all worth it.
This post is the last in my series on Writing Your Story. Next week, we’ll announce the short-story contest winner. Until then, I hope you are having a wonderful and blessed Christmas season. God bless you as you retell the story He’s written just for you.