I think it's time for some good news for writers. I don't know about you but I'm pretty sick and tired of the image of the frustrated 'writer' faithfully churning out novels, articles and other bits of prose that will probably never make it out of the slush pile, much less the local bookshop. Everyone has heard the story of the writer who sent off hundreds of book proposals to literary agents and publishers alike only to find himself the unwelcome recipient of thousands of rejection slips. Undeterred, the writer kept on writing and sending off his book proposals. Lying on his deathbed, he receives The Offer of Publication but alas! He cannot reply as the shock of it kills him. He dies, still An Unpublished Writer.
A rather extreme story but one all writers can identify with. We've read the writers, editors and publishing books and they all tell us to prepare to be disappointed because we probably wouldn't get published. They say the publishing market is suffering from overload. Editors are swamped with manuscripts, agents are swamped with manuscripts and the market is swamped with books that are a) self-published [read: badly written], b) traditionally published but still unknown because of the lack of marketing [read: financial] resources to promote them effectively and c) flooded with celebrity books that are guaranteed to sell as opposed to ones written by brilliant but unknown writers [read: you and I]. They also tell us our writer's dream is in all likelihood a dream because only a small minority of writers actually get published the traditional way and that most writers support their writing with a 9-5.
Hogwash. All of the above are true but not all are to be taken in isolation. I never doubted that I would be a published writer. Neither did I underestimate how long it would take me to get published. I envisioned years of (hopeful) freelance writing work supported by a 9-5, a few rejection slips and just ambling along in my writing life until the day I get The Offer of Publication. I didn't put a time limit on the process but I had it all worked out in my head.
God had other ideas.
In the first instance, I didn't get rejection slips. I got 'rave rejections' from Christian publishers who couldn't publish some of my work as it didn't fit their remit. Three publishers said this and they all encouraged (pushed actually) for me to go for mainstream publishers. One editor actually sat with me and went through a publishers' list and identified the publishers I should go for. Another editor wrote me a detailed email offering suggestions on how two particular novels should be developed and the mainstream publishers I should target. Knowing how busy editors are, I was (and still am) enormously grateful to these people who believed in my work enough to take time out of their busy schedules to help me.
Secondly, I'd been editing two online magazines www.yah-weh.com and Christian Writer. In addition, I also had my personal website site. I believe these three websites had something to do with the response I had from the editors. In my query letters and emails, I simply directed them to the sites and what they saw, together with my novel samples enabled them to make a more rounded assessment of my writing ability and style.
Thirdly, I truly believe that God wanted to challenge my faith. I've always believed that nothing came easy. I didn't doubt God's ability to work in my life however, I let life's challenges dictate my faith and views on Him. "There's always a cost," as some would say. As an unpublished writer, I took that to mean the long arduous road to publication. But like I said, God had other ideas.
In 2004 I had book contracts with two publishers and I didn't have to lift a finger to make it happen. Why? Because God went ahead of me. That's the only way to explain it. The first contact I had with a major Christian publisher was via email. I was surfing the web and literally stumbled across the site. I knew they didn't publish fiction but still filled in their online form asking for their writer's guidelines. With 30 minutes, I had an email from them asking what I wanted to publish. I emailed them back saying it was fiction and lo and behold, the man came back asking me to email my novel samples to them. I did (all of 8 times because my computer keyboard used that moment to go crazy). The commissioning editor emailed me back that very day. Basically, they'd just started publishing fiction and yes, they were interested in my novels. Six months after, I was offered a contract (yes, things take that long in the publishing world). The editor also noted that I had a writer's devotional on my website and she referred me to their devotional editor as a possible devotional writer. Thankfully, I was accepted and now, I write devotional notes for several of the UK's leading devotional providers.
And there's more.
I sent off a query email to another editor offering my services as a devotional writer. I listed my websites (read: promotional tools) and the editor emailed me back. She also suggested lunch. I took her up on the offer and three months later, I have a publishing contract with them as well. Not only that, I was offered the opportunity to write an article for one of the biggest selling secular magazines in the UK. I even went on radio to talk about the article.
In all of these, I didn't have to push, shove, beg or plead. The ease at which it has happened has led many people (myself included) to revisit their views on God and His ability to fulfil our desires and make the impossible possible. I've also learnt that God is in the business of making dreams come true and that He doesn't need my help to do anything. Of course, there's also my response to His ability. A long time ago, I made a promise to myself and to God that my writing would always honour Him come what may. Never in a million years did I think He would honour and bless my writing the way He has. Just goes to show how right the Apostle was: "...Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21).