Friday, June 18, 2010

A Saga of a Book- Marketing our Writing by Eleanor Shepherd

When I began to work on my newly published book, More Questions than Answers, I gave no thought to the marketing of that book. I knew that I wanted to write about love as the distinguishing mark of a Christian. That was about all. Then as I picked up books and articles, I kept coming across phrases that related to listening, caring and accepting without judging. When a tragedy struck our family I was forced to look deep within for some answers. I had begun to develop a collection of these articles and chapters of books and when I was ready to begin writing I began to sift through them and try to organize them into consistent categories, coloured by the experiences of my pilgrimage. Slowly my book began to take shape.

The gestation of the book lasted ten years during which time its form developed during evenings at the computer where I spent hours writing and editing and rewriting and editing some more and then rewriting and editing again. Finally, I arrived at a stage where I dared to let some trusted friends who seemed to be on the same wavelength read some of the chapters I had written. Their comments and suggestions led me to more rewriting and editing until the manuscript was polished enough to present to publishers.

Each year I sent the manuscript for advance critique before attending a writers’ conference. The critiques helped me to see areas that needed improvement and the positive comments that accompanied the rejections gave me enough courage to keep persisting because the material itself had merit.

Finally, an editor was ready to consider publication but assigned me the task of rewriting the whole book in a less scholarly and pedantic way, creating instead a friendlier, everyday manner of expression more consistent with the material in the book. It was the advice my husband had given me. The timing was precise. It happened just at before I was laid off one job and was unable to start a new one for three months. The amount of time was sufficient to do the rewrite.

By this time, I was convinced the Lord could use what I had to say for his purposes. I had come to a fork in the road. I loved the material of my book, but I knew that I either had to persist, rewrite and see it through to publication or let it go forever. I prayed what I thought was a bold prayer. “Lord, if you want to use this book, you will have to give me the time to write. I cannot work full time and give it the attention that it needs. “ Two weeks later, I was laid off from my employment.

The next three months were such joy. Every day I spent eight hours at the computer rewriting the text as a story and not as an instruction manual. I found that my own heart was stirred as I read over what I was writing. I sensed the presence of the Spirit with me. I knew that I was the instrument that He was using to echo His thoughts and ideas. They were being fashioned in His love.

When it was rewritten, I submitted it to another publisher and it was accepted. When I first read the e-mail, I could not believe my eyes. Signing the contract with the publisher was only the beginning of the next stage. The book required professional copyediting and preparation for typesetting with re-readings at every step along the way.

I loved the cover that the publisher created and I sensed it was just right. I was so excited the first time I clicked on the publisher’s website and saw the book there ready for purchase. I did not even have my author’s copies yet. They were in the mail to me.

By the time my copies arrived, I had begun to understand something about the next stage in the life of this newborn. I could not just tuck her away in a corner and expect her to survive. I had to care for her, to nourish her, to expose her to the light and take her out to be with others. That was going to mean I had to learn about marketing.

When writers want to learn about anything, the first place they look is in books (or at least that was the case before the internet). I went online to The Word Guild listserv and requested suggestions of good marketing books. Off I went to the local bookstore to buy the first one. The others I ordered on line.

While the publisher is helpful, I know that they have hundreds of books to market and if I am going to get mine into the hands of those who will benefit from it, it is up to me to try and find as many markets as I can myself. I am gleaning ideas about marketing from all kinds of sources. Just as when I began to think about the book, I kept running into articles and stories about listening, now I am constantly finding material about marketing.

A debate that rages is particularly acute for us as Christian writers. The key issue is whether we need to market ourselves, which is often what we are doing as we try to sell our books or whether we just leave it to the Lord to bring the people who need them to our books. As with most debates, I expect this is not an either/or question but there are times when we need to speak out for our books as Arthur Paul Boers pointed out in an earlier post. At other times, we will be able to stand still and see God at work using the creation that He has gifted us with for His purposes in ways we could never have imagined. It is not all work and it is not all grace. As it so many other areas of life, it is cooperative grace.


Dolores Ayotte said...


What a lovely article. As a first time author myself, I can relate to so much of what you are saying.

The word "newborn" is the perfect one to describe all the stages of growth that we experience as we bring this creation of ours into existence.

The marketing aspect is not so easy for me. I like the philosophy of a combination of God's effort to get my book into the hands of those who could benefit from it and me helping out along the way.

Good luck with your book and I hope you are enjoying the conference! :)

Peter Black said...

Thank you, Eleanor, for sharing your journey from genesis to publication, and now to marketing of your book. Your patient multiple reworkings of the manuscript is a lesson in itself to those of us who've tended to rush into self-publication.
I know that my book could have benefitted from more detailed professional editing; and yet am grateful to my reviewers for their comments,and the work my publisher's editor did. But (hmm, I shake my head), it's personally taking the reins and putting out the time and effort to promote, that I've lacked.
Every success to you as you move into higher promotional gear.

violet said...

Thanks for telling us the story of your book. As I read it, I was thinking perhaps it was a good thing that you didn't get too burdened by the thought of marketing it at the time you were writing or you may have become overwhelmed and never got it finished. The persistence and perseverance you've shown to this point will surely serve you well now. Stick with the marketing just like you did with the writing. All the best!!

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