Welcome Kate Conner, blogger behind the viral post “10 Things I Want To Tell Teenage Girls,” momma to three beautiful babies, and new author with Lifeway Christian Resources. Today she’s talking traditional publishing and giving advice to new writers in a special two-part edition of the Everyday Author series. You can read her introductory post here, and part 2 of her Q&A interview here.
What was your road to publishing like?
In a word, backwards.
Usually, when a person wants to publish traditionally, they write a book. Then they put together a proposal and send it (and/or the book) to a bunch of agents to find someone to represent them. (No big publishing companies review manuscripts that come directly from authors; if you want your book to be considered, you need an agent.) If/when the author gets an agent, the agent takes the book proposal to a handful of publishing companies, who then have an editorial committee and a publishing board that decide whether or not they want to publish the work.
I did not write a book. Or a proposal. Or contact an agent. I don’t think I could have gotten myself an agent if I’d tried.
Instead, I wrote a blog post.
Shortly after “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls,” went viral (exploding my computer AND my brain), I received an email from a man who said he was a literary agent. He asked if I had ever considered publishing, and would I even be interested? I was skeptical (because, wait, are you cold-calling me? Isn’t it supposed to be really hard to get an agent?), but after some diligent Google research I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this agent was legit, and moreover, experienced. He wrote the marketing plan for The Prayer of Jabez way back when, and had represented a handful of authors that I knew and liked – not the least of which was Johnnie Moore, who was the campus pastor at Liberty University while I was there. Francis Chan is represented by this agency (though not my particular agent), and the owner of the agency was the CEO of Multnomah Publishers for 20-some-odd years.
After a month of back-and-forth, I signed a contract. And that is how it came to pass that I had a real, live, literary agent…and no book.
We decided that an adaptation of “Ten Things” was an easy, natural starting place; there was obviously interest – it had touched a nerve. So I wrote a proposal about a book that didn’t exist yet. How many words are in the book? Um, 45,000 sounds good! Chapter summaries? This should be rich!
In the meantime, I got a COMPLETELY UNRELATED email from a senior editor at Broadman & Holman, which is the women’s publishing department of Lifeway Christian Resources. Lifeway as in the stores, as in VBS, as in Beth Moore.
She had not seen the Teenage Girl post, but stumbled across my blog as she was Googling vision loss in children. She also asked if I would be interested in publishing. I put her in touch with my new agent, and she requested to see my proposal when it was finished. After speaking and meeting with editors from 5 major Christian publishing houses (some of which made offers on my book, some of which did not), I decided to accept the offer from Broadman & Holman.
And that is how it came to pass that I had an agent, a proposal, a book-deal with a traditional publisher, and a less-than-half-written book.
(I’m writing the other half between now and November.)
Upside down and backwards!! (But a real-life testimony to the power of a good blog!)
How did you decide on a publisher?
Broadman & Holman gave me the best offer – and not just in terms of money. They had a very clear, big vision for me going forward. They understood my voice, and were eager NOT to pigeon-hole me as a writer for teenagers, a writer for women, or a writer of “Ten Things” list-y books. They had the beginnings of a marketing plan in place, and requested a version for parents, one for teenage girls, and one for teenage boys (based on a list my husband wrote). Plus, the editor we were communicating with was really sharp; I liked her. I did my best to keep an open mind as we were going through the process, especially since I was communicating with some big guns like Thomas Nelson, Harvest House, and Multnomah, but the offer from Lifeway indicated a level of investment in me that the other companies just didn’t match.
Click to read the second half of Kate’s interview, Advice for New Writers.