So You Want To Write a Book
January 1, 1970Dear Friend,
I realize my newsletter came through with distortions, so I apologize and I'm trying again. I trust you are well and enjoying this beautiful summer. First of all, two exciting blessings:
1. I just received word from Howard Books that Young Voices Foundation awarded Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories About Women Who Made a Difference the 2009 Gold Award in the category of Inspirational/Spiritual!
2. Marnie Swedberg interviewed Friends of the Heart on her Blog Talk Radio show. You can listen to us from the Contact Information page of our website: www.friendsoftheheart.us.
So you want to write a book. Don't we all? I'll devote this newsletter to what I've learned while publishing Sisterhood.
1. Start with an idea. While teaching a seminary class on women in ministry, I pondered how the remarkable stories of Christian women might be put into a palatable format that would appeal to today's busy woman. I decided a short devotioal story for each day of the year might work.
2. Explore feasibility. Where would I find the stories of 365 women? After dragging home armloads of books from libraries, I dove in. I ended up interviewing about 50 women by phone, e-mail or in person.
3. Start writing. I initially structured each page around the lives of two women--one famous and another ordinary. Keep in mind that a book is usually between 50,000 and 100,000 words (30,000 may be OK for a shorter book). Do the math. If you're a first-time author without a track record, you'll need to write most of the book before you're ready to approach a publisher.
4. Learn all you can. I attended writer's conferences, read scads of books on writing and subscribed to writing magazines. I also took a Boscov's department store class on How to Write a Book. This was the best investment ever. It cost $7 and met four Saturday mornings. The local author who taught the class became my mentor and suggested I develop a format for each page.
5. Seek an agent. Most agents put their writer's guidelines on the Internet, so this is much easier than it used to be. Scrutinize and follow those guidelines to a T. You'll have to tweak the proposal for every agent you approach. I looked at a listing of agents in Sally Stuart's Christian Writer's Guide and found the name of a woman who had once published a devotional I wrote in a book she edited. She accepted me as a client. Even if agents say no, (and you can be sure some will) they may offer valuable feedback about your project. Approach about seven of them for starters. (Isn't that the number for perfection?)
6. Failing to get an agent, seek a publisher. Again, follow the publisher's specific guidelines. I'll never forget the excitement when my agent told me Howard Publishing wanted to buy my book. My Friends of the Heart, Kim and Janine, hired a limo to take us out to dinner (even before I signed the contract)! It was February 2004, and Howard gave me until September to turn in a completed manuscript. BUT they asked me to change my devotionals to include the story of only one woman and to have "A Message" from her life and "A Response" for the reader. Major Rewrite #1.
7. Edit the book. I used to teach business English, so I'm a "clean" writer. What could there be to editing, I wondered. Silly me. The editors now asked me to change the general profiles I had written to focus on "The Message" of the woman's life. I had to retrieve my original sources and set a schedule for myself to rewrite 50 devotionals each week to meet the deadline. Major Rewrite #2.
It was a happy day when I held the galley of my book one summer morning in 2006. But that became the beginning of a journey rather than the end of a process. I had to arrange book signings, get book reviews published (ideally, even before the book is in stores), develop a website and keep books in the trunk of the car "just in case." I'm still at it! But it's been a wonderful journey that I wouldn't have missed for anything.
Next newsletter I'll tell you about "self publishing" my memories for my grandchildren. Everyone wants to pass on a legacy, and it's not as hard as you may think. Speaking of grandchildren, I'm hosting four of them this week and taking them to a Child Evangelism Day Camp. Gotta run. Have a blessed day!
September 12, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. - Friends of the Heart, Women's Retreat, Trinity United Church of Christ, Dalmatia.
Septebmer 13, 8:30 and 10 a.m. - Speaking, First United Methodist Church, Millersburg.
October 17 - Signing books at Literary Festival, Firemen's Annex, Wellsboro.
November 10, 7 p.m. - Friends of the Heart, Rainbow Valley ABWA, Loyalton.
November 15, 4-6 p.m. - Speaking at Ladies Tea, Camp Hebron, Halifax.
January 9, 2010, 10 a.m. - Friends of the Heart, Christmas Cafe, Community Evangelical Free Church, Harrisburg.
May 8, 2010, 11 a.m. - Friends of the Heart, Mother's Day Tea, Hebron Church, Millersburg.