My Publishing Journey: Pt. 2 – Agents, Platforms & Gifts in Disguise

This is Part 2 of a short series about my road to publication. Because sometimes it helps to know the story behind the story. Read Part 1 HERE.

pubjourney

So there I was, in the middle of my echoing ignorance. I stood with a finished manuscript in one hand and an overabundance of vague information about GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED in the other.

I did what any good, Type A personality would do.

I bought a brand new binder. I started making lists.

I stalked publishing blogs like Churck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents and Rachelle Gardner and Chip MacGregor. I took notes, like the honor roll student I used to be. I spent hours researching literary agents, entering them one by one into a detailed, informative spreadsheet. I read dozens of query letter samples until I learned the cadence and rhythm of the industry.

One day, I went to Barnes and Noble and sat for several hours with my computer and a book on proposal writing. I texted my Mama Friend who was watching my son, complained, “This is harder than writing a whole book!” and it felt true. I didn’t know how to summarize what I had tried to do, how to put a marketing spin on it, how to reduce it to an “elevator pitch,” a sound bite, a couple of paragraphs of engaging summary.

When I finally began sending agent queries, I was steeled by statistics. I knew about the shaky economy, the changing publishing industry, the complications, the risks. I knew it might take months, years even.

No one was more surprised than I was when one of the first agents I queried asked to see the complete manuscript…and then offered to sign me.

We spoke briefly on the phone, and her New York Agent voice was fast and important. I signed the contract just a few weeks before my second son was born, and all at once, my grad-school-thesis-memoir was out on submission.

*

Let me tell you about false starts. They trick you into thinking that things will be fast and easy now. That you are MOVING, that it’s all happening.

And then…nothing. A slowing. A fading.

After a couple of months on submission, my manuscript came back with a handful of thanks-but-no-thanks. “They like your book,” my agent said, in her matter-of-fact, New York Agent tone. “But they can’t sell a writer with no platform. You need to start a blog. We’re going to take your book off submission until you get your numbers up.”

I sat, stunned, in my little red kitchen – my two-year-old son tantruming on the floor, my newborn getting fussy, ready to nurse. The laundry was piled up on the table, the dirty dishes from last night were congealing on the counter.

I read the email again and again, and then I started crying, because when in the world was I going to find the time? How was I going to manage a blog when I couldn’t even manage my own chaotic everyday?

I put my kids to bed that night and sobbed to my husband – But I don’t WANT to be a blogger. I bought myself a super-sized cheeseburger value meal at McDonalds and drank a lot of wine and watched trashy TV shows until I passed out.

And then, the next day, I got up and did what any good, Type A personality would do.

I started making lists.

*

The How to Talk Evangelical blog was “born” on September 26, 2011. Yesterday was my 2-year Blogoversary.

I think about those early days now, and it occurs to me that the sweetest gifts often turn out to be the ones you never saw coming.

I started the blog because my agent told me I “had” to…but it stopped being about that within a few short months. It started being about something else entirely: Healing. Community. Unexpected connections and being stitched back together, word by word.

I’ve written about this before. About the surprising gift of “platform”:

And here it is: I’d spent five years ripping up the rotten, mildewed boards of my warped view of God. A theology that could not sustain the weight of my pain.

But as I began writing my blog, I realized that we were not so much building a platform for a book as a new platform of faith. A sturdier foundation. Something I could stand on; something that could hold me up.

I still remember my first non-family-or-friend commenter, and the thrill it sent through me to know that my words were somehow relating to someone I’d never met. I’ve keep every email that readers have sent me. I read every comment, tweet, and message. Every time a new person finds me on Facebook, I read their name, and I look at their picture, and I feel a sense of wonder that I am finding my people, here in this void of the Internet.

And it felt like a false start, like hope deflated when the New York Agent pulled my book out of the publishing world. But it wasn’t. I was starting down a new road that I didn’t understand, toward a beauty that I hadn’t yet seen.

 

Make sure to come back next Friday, October 4th for Part 3 of the series! Have a great weekend!

40 thoughts on “My Publishing Journey: Pt. 2 – Agents, Platforms & Gifts in Disguise

  1. Sitting here in the breakfast room of a Holiday Inn crying as I read this, of how the unexpected can be so right. Healing, community, hope-I began to discover all these when I found your blog and a couple of others a year or so ago. This series is just a wonderous delight.

  2. … and we’re glad we found you. Truly. Addie, your only ‘platform’ is honesty, and it’s a needed, welcome, fresh, and refreshing breath of God-breathed, de-christianezed
    air.

  3. Not once have I ever thought of the book platform as a new-approach-to-faith platform. That took my breath away–and will leave me pondering it for some time to come. Great insight. Thank you, Addie.

    1. Thanks so much John. It was a very freeing metaphor for me — once I understood that the book was less about me trying to make a name for myself and more about me learning to connect with God again.

  4. I remember those days! And your experience is the reason that I started MY blog, which has become such a ministry for me to the OCD community. So, I’m grateful to that first agent of yours– she prompted my blog too!

  5. Yes, your blog has been about healing. For so many of us who have been confused about our church upbringing and the “kids” we brought up in church. Reading you has been an eye-opening and beautiful journey for me Addie. I am so glad you did what the agent told you to do! 🙂

  6. After reading the first two parts of the series, Addie, I think I am writing backwards too. My backwardsness though is in starting a blog without any thought of it being a platform for a book!
    Cheers,
    Tim

  7. Dearest Addie,
    I am so thankful that your New York agent made you start a blog. I have been so blessed in so many ways by your thoughts and your friendship.
    barb

  8. Dear Addie,
    I love this, and I love what you’re saying about unexpected gifts. I am so glad to have “met” you through blogging, and I’m delighted that right next to me at this moment is my ARC of your book. But it matters to me, it matters because you are my friend. Through the internet, against all odds, we connect on the blog and twitter and wherever. I have people like that too, from my blog, and it’s delightful and wonderful and just like God.

    I’m loving this story, thank you for telling it. As I said before, it’s a love story, and a very good one at that.

  9. I’m so happy for you! (Even though I don’t know you.) Must have been agonizing waiting those couple of years for a book deal, huh? Ever since I found your blog a few months ago, I’ve really enjoyed it. Keep it up.

  10. Addie, I started reading your blog (not long after you started it) because I aspired to your creative non-fiction writing style. I now aspire as well, to your wisdom and perspective. Thank you for sharing your journey with us … in words painted with rhythm, fluidity, and grace.

      1. My pleasure. Hope to meet you sometime at TJs. Maybe the next time you take a field trip to get lost trying to find a coffee shop on my ‘burb.

  11. I feel as though I’ve met “my people” in reading your blog. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I think I say it every time I comment: thank you for your honest words.

  12. I love your blog Addie and I can’t wait to read your book. I echo what others have said, I’m so thankful that you were told to start a blog. You have a wonderful gift.

  13. I love how God surprises us in our journey – how we set about to do one thing, and He watches us start (with our slight grumbling) and He smiles and says, “Just you wait.”

  14. This is exactly why I am distancing myself from Devotional Diva and starting my own personal blog again because I want to write for the sake of writing not because I have to…. post coming soon about this. Love this one 🙂

    1. Where are you moving to? I want to add you to my reader. When you paint tender, touching, luscious word-pictures and hang them in a gallery somewhere, I will come to admire them.

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