It has been simmering on my mind for years, and now it’s a step closer to happening. I’m talking about publishing my first book. While I’ve written hundreds of news stories and blog posts and have also created and taught numerous Bible studies, I had yet to pursue official book publishing. So, after much encouragement, I recently tackled my first proposal — an empty-nester devotional.
I had no clue of what I was getting into despite my editor’s warnings about it being “a lot of work.” While I had scribbled down thoughts and even organized draft documents into files, I had yet to immerse myself in the project until this spring’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. There I was prompted into action after meeting an agent named Bob Hostetler. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I stalked and then cornered him in the dining room. During our brief chat, he agreed to review my devotions and discuss my book — right at that moment! As we sat down together, Bob was gracious and encouraging as he read through my sample packet. By the end of our conversation, he agreed to review my proposal — score! What was only an idea with a few sample devotions had just transformed into a tangible product that I promised to deliver by May 31. It was time to get to work!
What I learned fairly quickly is that a book proposal is somewhat like a thesis — at least as long. You share your theory or idea and then back it up with facts — including research on competitive titles, potential marketing channels, your qualifications as an “expert in the field,” book summaries, and sample chapters. With non-fiction, you not only have to convince the agent or publisher that you have a product that is unlike anything currently available but, most importantly, that your book will sell.
The more I learned, the more I realized the word “platform” is critical to success. According to author Michael Hyatt in his best-selling book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, "Your platform is the means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans.” It is how an author sells his/her book — online via social media or a blog, in person at speaking engagements, or through local or national media channels. In this business, it’s all about who knows you and how many followers you have.
After weeks of long days at my desk I can confidently state that my editor was right. It was a lot of work. But, in the process, I gained essential knowledge. And as I pressed “Send” to submit my first proposal to agent Bob, I was filled with excitement and anticipation about the final product. However my enthusiasm was guarded because I knew that, as a new writer, my platform was the weakest link in a publishing prospect.
And I was right. While a platform by definition is intended to raise you up, my platform took me down. Unfortunately, my first proposal was rejected — albeit graciously. While the news was not the result I desired, I have learned that rejection is a reality of life — especially in the writing world. A fellow writer summed it up well, “Set your goal for 100 rejections. Eventually one will sell.”
Despite my initial outcome, I’m not giving up. In fact, I’m just getting started and am now redirecting my focus to building my platform and redesigning my weekly blog post email into a new Tales of Oz newsletter that will launch on July 1. In it will contain various tidbits of my life as an empty nester to encourage and empower readers — and I hope you will forward it to friends and follow us on Facebook (@OzandToto) and Twitter (@TalesofOz).
Here’s to one rejection down but, hopefully, not 99 more to go!
Abraham Lincoln …
Failed in business at age 21.
Defeated in legislative race at age 22.
Failed again in business at age 24.
Overcame the death of his sweetheart at age 26.
Had a nervous breakdown at age 27.
Lost a congressional race at age 36.
Lost a senatorial race at age 45.
Failed in an effort to become vice-president at age 47.
Lost a senatorial race at age 49.
Elected President of the United States at age 52.