Unless You’re Famous

The Literary Agent from Denver sat at the opposite end of the sofa from me, both of us turned toward each other for my fifteen-minute session at the writers’ conference. In his hands was the proposal for my memoir that I’d painstakingly prepared over the past six months. The last fifty pages included the first three chapters of the book, work that started in its earliest form ten years before and had gone through several iterations. He asked me to tell him what I had for him and as I described my memoir, he thumbed through the first few pages, then closed the proposal.

He was quiet for a moment, then said, “Unless you’re famous, I can’t get a traditional publisher to take a memoir.” He went on to say that it didn’t matter how well-written it was, and he didn’t say it, but the implication was the same for the proposal—it meant nothing if the Literary Agent couldn’t go before traditional publishing houses with my memoir.

I sat there, not quite sure what to say, disappointed but also relieved that he was up front with me. That could have been the end of the conversation and we could have wrapped things up early, giving us more time before our next sessions. But then he continued.

“Let’s talk some more about your book,” he said. “Tell me what you were feeling when you went through that experience in Sedona?” At the time of our meeting, the title for my memoir was, Saved by Sedona: Finding a Path of Pilgrimage.

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I told him about the pivotal moment in the book that takes place when I’m alone with God in Sedona. That experience of being present during a serendipitous trip after cancer treatment and struggling with a toxic job, had impacted my life and later led to yearly solo journeys. I told him how the first three verses of Psalm 40 became my go-to scripture during that difficult time, and then I quoted the first verse.

“You have to change your title,” he said.

While I’d had some concerns, I’d become attached to it and could think of nothing else. The agent told me he was good at titles, and since he was a veteran of many years with the industry, had worked with many titles in the inspirational, faith-based genre, I believed him.

“How about, He Heard My Voice,” he said.

I listened to him, trying to take in what he was telling me, trying to absorb how my pitch had turned into a brainstorming session for a title of a book he couldn’t represent. I did like the sound of his title, the alliteration and the clear reference to the Psalm.

“And the subtitle needs to speak to your target audience and what they’ll experience reading your book,” he said. He asked me to tell him more about the journey for the reader through my memoir, what did I experience and how did I change. I remembered some of what I’d rehearsed for the pitch, but mostly answered him like we were just having a conversation.

“How about something like,” he said, and told me his idea, then changed some of it as I filled in the blanks. We came up with the subtitle, “A Midlife Mom’s Journey Through Cancer and Stress and Her Unexpected Arrival at Healing and Wholeness.” Later, when I had time to wrap my head around what we’d created in such a few minutes of working together, I liked that long and accurate subtitle.

Before the conference, I’d prayed for direction knowing I wanted clarity about how to move forward with the book I’d worked on for so long. It had been my dream to publish it and now, at sixty-three-years-old, I wasn’t willing to keep waiting to put it out there.

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Four years prior after successful pitch with an agent. Later saw this as a ‘False Start.’

 

“What do you think I should do with this memoir since I can’t go the traditional route,” I asked him, feeling that he’d been placed in my path and I could trust his advice.

“I think you should go the Indie route,” he said, and then gave me some suggestions for how to self-publish using contracted freelancers like editors and cover designers who’re also used by the publishing houses.

That evening I left the conference feeling relieved, scared, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

I’m not famous; Oprah has not shown up at my door; I’ve not been kidnapped and forced into a cult; I’ve not performed an unusual physical feat for a woman my age. But I do feel fortunate that the Literary Agent from Denver took the time with me to go beyond rejection and give my memoir new life. Now, I have a better title and have been set on the path for a new type of Solo Journey—the adventure of Indie Publishing. Just like other journeys, I’m traveling into the Unknown and each step is an act of faith.

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Morning view of Lake Champlain July ’15. Now wonder what journey through Indie publishing will be like.

How About You?

What dream do you have that is yet to be realized?

How can you step forward on a path toward achieving your dream?

Surprised by #GoingSocial

I walked away from the pitch session at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference, stunned yet hopeful.  The literary agent had shown interest in my memoir.  She had a couple of suggestions for the text—easy fixes, I thought.  But then she’d added, “I want you to get your social media following up to 2-3K in the next six months.  Then contact us.”

How in the world am I going to do that?

What she told me was consistent with everything I was hearing at the conference; writers’ had to develop their platform using social media.  They suggested focusing on growing a couple of areas.  Since I’d worked on my Author FB page, Saved by Sedona, it seemed the places I needed to grow were my blog and Twitter.  My friend had set up my Twitter account five years earlier, and I dabbled with it for a short while, enough to gather a few followers.  But I hadn’t looked at it in a long time and barely knew what a hashtag was.

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The Sunday after the conference, I felt overwhelmed.  From what I’d learned, I needed to build a new blog site and produce two posts per week, as well as become engaged with Twitter.  I was clueless about how to start on Twitter.  In my morning prayer, I told God I didn’t think I could do it.  But my deep desire to publish my memoir remained.  Now it seemed the route to that goal had to go through social media at a deeper level than I’d wanted.

After I prayed, my older son called.  He seldom contacted me at that time.  When he asked how I was doing, I told him how overwhelmed I felt.

“Ah, you can do it, Mom,” Brooks said.  “I’ve only been on Twitter four months and I have over four-hundred followers.”  That was news to me because he’d deleted his Facebook account and said it was a waste of time.

“People wanted to know about our golf course renovations,” Brooks continued, “so I started tweeting pictures and a description of the steps we were taking.”

I was encouraged.  The person in my path to support me at that moment was my son.

After our conversation, I started with one tweet at the time, learning from observing others.  What amazed me were that people from all over the world were on Twitter—unlike my friends on Facebook who were mostly in the United States.  And while I thought they’d all be much younger than me, that wasn’t true.  And now that I say that, age shouldn’t have held me back (see post “If I Live to be 100″ Jan. 28, ’18).

Over the last six months, I’ve gradually learned how to navigate the Twitter path.  One day I sent a message to a writer in England, thanking her for retweeting my post.  I told her it was helpful since I was working to increase my social media following.  She advised me not to worry about that, just to keep writing.  It was an unexpected encouragement from ‘across the pond.’

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Besides Twitter, I’ve worked to improve the content and frequency of my blog.  Sometimes that’s been really hard, and I’ve felt like I was running out of ideas (see post “Dry Well” Jan. 14, ‘18).  But, it’s forced me to depend on God for inspiration and to help me maintain my commitment.  In fact, this is the seventieth post since the conference!  Thanks so much for reading.  You’ve helped me to keep stepping forward.

I’ve been surprised by all the connections I’ve made through my blog.  I’ve met breast cancer survivors from the UK and Ireland and had conversations with a woman I met on my pilgrimage in Scotland.  In a recent post when I was feeling sad about my mother’s dementia, I was encouraged by readers who lifted me up from my despair with their caring comments.

My interactions on Twitter and my blog have made me feel more connected to others from around the world.  I remember back to when I received the book, The Prayer of Jabez after I was fired from The Research Company (see post “Enlarge My Territory” Nov. 29,’17).  I’d come to realize over the years that my pilgrimages had enlarged my territory.

Now, I think that my territory has also been enlarged by social media.  God has blessed me through the #peopleinmypath that I’ve encountered through Tweets and Blog responses.  The #stillsmallvoiceofGod has spoken in new ways and I hear my son’s voice with the message of God, “Do not be Afraid.”

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How about you?

What are ways that engaging in social media could enlarge your territory?

If that is not the right vehicle for you, what other ways could you enlarge your connections that you may have been resisting?