My first book, Made Like Martha, will release into the world on July 10th. The publishing path can vary greatly, so I wanted to share 10 things that may surprise you about my book writing journey.
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10 Surprising Things about My Book Writing Journey:
1. I started writing a book four years ago.
Some people think my book publishing dreams happened overnight, but that is not true. For four years, I diligently worked toward this goal.
In 2014, I started writing a book. It was a memoir that focused on my struggles with control and how God helped me let go and trust Him more. It was called, Tightly Wound Woman: Finding Grace in the Unraveling.
There are only four people that have a spiral bound copy of this book. While I dreamed of it being traditionally published, that wasn’t what happened. Writing this book was an act of obedience. At times, I tried to get away from finishing it (and move on to more marketable book ideas) but God made it clear that I was to complete it before I wrote other books.
In April of 2016 (about a month before our fifth child was born), I finished writing Tightly Wound Woman. To some it may seem like a waste, to invest so much time in writing a book that not many will read, but it was a valuable exercise. Not only did I experience satisfaction in following through on a major project, but I was able to use some of the stories from it in my upcoming book.Writing Tip: Keep writing even when the journey doesn't unfold as expected. No writing is ever wasted. Even if it's just for you, it's making you a better, more disciplined, writer. Click To Tweet
2. I queried four literary agents before I signed with mine.
Getting a literary agent can sometimes be more difficult than landing a book deal. Over the years, I reached out to various literary agents about Tightly Wound Woman to see if they were interested in representing me. Two didn’t even respond, which was frustrating and humbling.
Another one offered a kind “no thank you” because she was already representing books that were similar to mine. This agent said something I will never forget, “A no to your project is not a no to you.” Rejection stings no matter what form it takes, but her advice helped me see that these “nos” didn’t mean I was a lousy writer, just that the project was not a good fit for them.
And another agent said my idea wasn’t marketable and my platform numbers were not where they needed to be.
I don’t share these things to complain about these agents, they were just doing their job. In fact, I am deeply thankful that they didn’t say yes, because if they had, I would have missed out on the agent that was the best fit for my upcoming book.Writing Tip: While unpleasant, rejection can be a gift and help strengthen you and lead you to a better yes. Click To Tweet
3. My literary agent reached out to me.
Sometimes you don’t realize who is reading your work online. It may seem like crickets are chirping when you post on social media or hit publish on a new blog post. It’s discouraging when you don’t feel like you are making the impact you desire, as you write your heart out.
After the fourth “no” from a literary agent, I was totally surprised when a revered agent reached out to me to see if I had representation. We were connected online but I didn’t know that she had been watching to see how I was networking and paying attention to my writing.
The day before my fortieth birthday, in September of 2016, Blythe Daniel (literary agent) and I talked on the phone about my book ideas. I could tell right away that this was the agent I had been waiting for. She was enthusiastic about my book topics and interested in my long-term career as a writer, not just in one book idea.
Writing Tip: Be patient with the process of finding an agent. The no’s can be a good thing! Sign with someone who you get along with, someone who believes in you and your ideas. Before querying an agent or signing with one, reach out to some of that agent’s clients. Ask what their experience with them has been. Don’t just sign with the first agent who offers to work with you. Interview them too and see if it will be a good long-term partnership.
4. I changed the style of my book along the way.
When I signed with Blythe, one of my book ideas was a devotional called, Martha’s Fan Club. A devotional seemed marketable, but it wasn’t really the format that I wanted to write in for my first book. So part way through book proposal writing, I made the decision to switch from a devotional style to a trade book- and I’m so glad I did.
Not only did I change the style, but the content of the book changed as I changed. As I was working on my proposal, God was doing a major work in my life. Through the transformation, the proposal began to take on a new shape.Writing Tip: Don't be afraid to change course as you work on your book proposal. What feels right in one season, may not feel true in the next. Trust your instincts! Click To Tweet
5. The book proposal process was tough!
It took about six months for my agent and I to get my proposal ready to pitch to publishers. It was a tedious process. It’s hard to write summaries for chapters that you haven’t written yet! My agent and I spent most of our time on the first two pages of the proposal. Blythe knew that if those weren’t strong, the acquisition editors would pass on the project. Sometimes I felt like I was banging my head against the wall, getting nowhere. But looking back, I am thankful that my agent spent so much time, helping me get the first two pages right so that we had the best chance of an editor saying yes.
The first two pages of a proposal typically contain things like: the working title(s) and subtitle(s), the premise of the book, the one sentence summary of the book, the purpose and need, and information about the target reader.
Writing Tip: Don’t hurry through your proposal. Work hard to present an unique idea for a book with solid writing throughout your proposal. This will serve you well when it comes time to pitch your book and will serve as a blueprint when you start writing the book.
6. I got a book deal with a major publisher, even with a modest platform.
We hear the P-word everywhere, PLATFORM! While it is important to network with others, and grow your audience consistently (so that more people can be encouraged by your message), many writers are discouraged by the size of their platform. When we compare ourselves to others (who have ten thousand, a hundred thousand, and over a million followers) we often freak out and question whether we should continue down this path.
I have good news for you! Time and time again, I have seen authors with a fresh idea, strong writing, and modest platforms get book deals. But here’s the thing, getting a book deal had more to do with God and His timing than with a fresh idea and strong writing. When it was the right time, the door flung open and there was no denying that this was His doing. Sure, I had worked hard, but the credit belonged to Him.
I am so grateful for my editor, Susan, and my publisher, WaterBrook, who took a chance on a first time author like me.Writing Tip: Don't discount your small platform. Work hard, improve your writing, and diligently grow your platform over time (but don't be anxious about it or ruled by it). Wait on the Lord and trust His timing. Nothing is too hard for Him! Click To Tweet
7. I only had 3 months to write my book and bible study!
My agent started pitching my book on March 1, 2017. And I had an official offer by the end of March.
I thought that authors had at least six months to write their book. You can imagine my surprise when my publisher wanted me to turn it in (with a bible study) in only three months. They wanted my book to come out within a year so that it would be available for fall bible studies.
Since I’m all in when it comes to creative projects, my husband and I decided that three months of crazy would be better than six months of crazy.
My editor encouraged me to start writing, even before my contract was signed. I’m so glad I did, because negotiations on my contract went on for several months. I didn’t sign my contract until the last week of June, and turned in my book June 30th. If I had waited to start writing, I wouldn’t have made my deadline.
Writing tip: It was difficult to find quiet time at home to write my book. The best thing I did to meet my deadline was to go away Friday-Sunday, once a month (three times total). When I went away to write I could get a full chapter done. Getting away was kind to my family too, because I wasn’t yelling at them to be quiet during those times.
8. My sister came up with the final subtitle for my book.
Titling is so important! You want to land on something that will compel readers to pick up your book, clearly states what the book is about, and is something you and your publisher both like.
Landing on a title and subtitle for my book was a long and tiring process. Countless hours were spent brainstorming various titles. I voxed my friends Jami, Jen, and Wendy many times, to get their input.
Finally my publisher and I landed on a subtitle we both liked. The winning subtitle Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done came from my Writing Sis, Laura. She did a great job capturing the essence of Made Like Martha and helping readers want to know more.
Writing Tip: Be patient with the titling process. Be willing to bend when necessary but also be respectfully honest if you don’t care for a suggested title. Get input from others (especially from target readers) to see how the title and subtitle resonates with them.
9. A whole chapter was cut from Made Like Martha.
Made Like Martha originally had twelve chapters, but one was condensed and then one was cut entirely. My editor was absolutely right in cutting the chapter- it just didn’t fit with the rest of the book.
While it was a bit painful to let all those words go (since writing it took a whole weekend away from my family) it was the right decision.
And since nothing is ever wasted, I was able to use a major portion from the chapter that was cut for a guest post.Writing Tip: Write with open hands, be willing to let go of words that don't fit. Click To Tweet
10. One of my biggest regrets about my book.
When I was nearing the end of the book writing process, God gave me a powerful breakthrough. It was one of the few times that the words flowed freely—like a heavenly download. I wept from a deep place and couldn’t type fast enough. I was convinced that this passage in the book would set many people free.
It was suggested that this section be cut because there was some confusion about what it was about and if it helped move the chapter along. I let it go without any pushback. And I regret it.
I’m convinced I have one of the best editors around, and I gladly took her lead on almost every change she suggested. She took my words and helped them sing and shine and I’m so grateful.
However, she probably doesn’t know (until now) that I regretted not pushing back on this one suggestion. I should have explained further what this section meant to me, or asked her if I could rework it. Instead, I just let the words go without so much as a discussion. I am sure my editor would have been willing to work with me on it, but I didn’t trust my instincts and I should have.
Writing Tip: Trust your editor’s expertise. Don’t be difficult by fighting over every edit. Be teachable and willing to bend. But also be willing to speak up when you are convinced that something should stay.
Next week, I’ll be sharing these “breakthrough” words on the blog…because nothing is ever wasted, right?! And I know those words still need to be shared.
I hope you enjoyed this list. Let me know if you have further questions about my book writing process.
P.S. For a very limited time (June 18th-June 22nd) these custom-designed t-shirts are available for purchase. They are designed to celebrate your God-given wiring, whether you relate more to Martha or Mary. Buy one for yourself and one for your friend then send us a pic of you wearing them side-by-side. Learn more and purchase over here.
You might also like:
You Don’t Get to Know the Time by Jennifer Dukes Lee (great encouragement for writers with small platforms)