A Bathroom, a Penny, and a Magazine Part Five

This is part four of a blog series. If you haven't read parts one-three, start here to catch up!

The Tweet that Changed my Life

You know how you say things, but you don't really mean it in a literal sense?

Some of these things are just customs, colloquialisms, and figures of speech. For example, you tell someone you're going to talk to them later, but you know you won't see them or talk to them for several days or ever. One of my favorite sayings that we toss around is "God can use anything he wants to do his work." We usually say that when we're trying to encourage a person experiencing doubt. We don't always mean anything!

Imagine my surprise, then, when the Lord decided to use an email from my uncle and a tweet to launch my traditional publishing career!

I've got the cart out in front of the horse. Let me back you up to a few months ago. Like I've said in previous posts, I've been working on Fate of the Watchman for a while. Years. Still, even after several revisions, even after getting the manuscript to a place where I was not willing to make anymore changes, I wasn't comfortable with it. It's out of the box for me. Can I just say it? It's an odd story, one that I'm deeply passionate about, but it's very unique. I was sure that no one would publish it.

  1. It's a novella, and most publishers want novels.
  2. It's, like I said, strange. I experimented with the style of prose and the way I introduce the chapters. I think it's the way it should be written, but it flies in the face of everything I've learned about the writing craft. 
  3. My writing career isn't exactly the most successful. I'm a nobody, speaking in terms of online presence. How am I going to generate enough interest from an agent or publisher to get an offer?

So, I'd pretty much resolved to self-publish this book. I believe in the story, and I want it available to people. I figure, if the Lord wanted me to write it, he'll get it in the hands of the people that need it the most. That's where I was. Even after all the Lord had shown and done up to that point, that's where my mind was. Kind of discouraging, huh?

Let me rewind to about two years ago when I saw my uncle for the first time in well over a decade and closer to two decades. Somehow, we got on the subject of writing, and I found out that he's a writer. How I never knew that is beyond me. We talked for hours and have since established a regular back and forth communication through email. It's been great. Well, one day he emailed me something from Writer's Digest about this thing called #FaithPitch.

I'd pretty much resolved to self-publish this book.

I think I actually shrugged when I read it and thought, not for me. Pitch parties on Twitter are new to me, but they've been around for a little while. Basically, to find hidden talent without dealing with the inevitable slush pile, publishers and literary agents have taken to Twitter to allow writers to "pitch" their manuscripts during a specific period using hashtags. You have one tweet, combined with the hashtag for the particular pitch party and the hashtags for your genres, to pitch your book. 

Right away, I saw MUST HAVE COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT and thought of Fate. Yeah, it was finished, but refer to my reasons for not trying to get it published above. That all went through my mind right away, great man of faith that I am. I sent him a reply, thanking him for letting me know, and said I might try for the one later in the year with the book I was working on (that book is a mess, by the way, with one completed draft and about a year of revision that needs to happen before another pair of human eyes ever see it). 

As it got closer to #FaithPitch, I mentioned it to my wife. She asked me if I was going to participate, and I basically gave her what I already wrote here. We went through this a couple times over a couple of days. I guess she got tired of hearing me put myself and my work down, so she decided to be her typical self and challenge me at my faith. She said, "why don't you just try it and see what happens?"

TIMEOUT!

Keep in mind, I've never submitted a manuscript to a publisher or agent. I've had poems published and dealt with plenty of rejections on that end, but I've never even attempted with a book. I'm the one writer, or at least one of the few you know who's never had a manuscript rejected. Why? I never even tried. I self-published my first two books for the same reasons I gave earlier. 

TIME IN!

I thought about what my wife was saying, grumbled a response to her while giving her one of my mental "why don't you try it" responses in a 5 year old voice and forgot about it. Tried to, anyway. It ate at me, just like it did when she told me it was like I was forgetting I was a Christian all those years ago in that bathroom. 

You ever love someone and want them to not talk anymore because they're right and you're like, really wrong? Yeah. That's where I was.

So, I went for it. I spent a day, every free chance I could, crafting my tweets, getting my four ready because the rules said you could post a maximum of four pitches (tweets). The day came, and I saw all of the agents and editors giving their instructions for if they hit the "heart" button on your tweet, which is similar to the "like" button on Facebook. I saw people posting their tweets, and I was instantly discouraged. Even if none of those authors can write a book, they can sure craft an engaging tweet!

You ever love someone and want them to not talk anymore because they're right and you're like, really wrong? Yeah. That's where I was.

There were hearts everywhere, man! My literal heart beating like a full drum line, I took the plunge and tweeted my first pitch. I then calmly stepped away from Twitter and refused to look again. No need to be desperate, after all.  

I assume you know that's not true. Man, I checked that feed every two seconds! I refreshed my screen so much I thought my phone was going to die from abuse. Forever went by, or an hour. Such things as time are trivial when you're losing your mind. Just saying. 

And then it happened. I got a heart. As in, a like. As in, for my tweet. As in, someone liked my pitch. Her name: Daphne Self, author and acquisitions editor with Ambassador International. I might have dropped my phone. I don't know. Definitely a blur. I hurried through the feed and her profile to find her instructions. She wanted a DM, so I sent her one, and it was the most awkward, guaranteed to get you blocked on Twitter kind of message ever written. 

A few hours later, Daphne replied and told me she had contacted the CEO and COO and to submit my manuscript and query letter.

What. Is. A. Query Letter?

OK, I knew what a query letter was, but I'd never written one, and I surely didn't have one ready to submit. Enter anxiety attack. Cue the clueless writer with fourteen Google tabs open and copious amounts of coffee. (I should mention that I was responsible and did some research on the publisher before going any further, but I obviously liked what I saw, which is sort of implied.)  

About an hour and a half, maybe two hours later, I had a manuscript and query letter ready to be sent. Did I mention I've never submitted a book proposal before? I had no time to do any of the stuff all the "experts" were telling me to do on their blogs. I couldn't ask anyone else to review what I had. I finally held back a little vomit and hit the submit button. I got an email from the President, which I assumed was canned, saying that my manuscript was under review. Whatever. Done. Go to sleep.

That was on a Thursday afternoon. Friday, my wife asked me if I'd heard anything from the publisher. Expert that I was, I informed my wife that the review process could take weeks and maybe months. These are busy people, and I'm a nobody. Plus, they're going to see that it's a novella and immediately reject it. If they do get past the word length, they'll see the unique prose and the premise and send me a "Nice try, but no" rejection. If they do, by some miracle, like the story, I'll be finished once they see how small my social media presence is. 

How blessed my wife is to have a highly educated idiot to straighten her out on such things. :)

Fast forward to Monday. I'm doing what every "expert" says to do once you've submitted your manuscript. I was working on my next book. My phone went off, but I didn't check it. Why? I knew. Don't ask me how, but I knew it was from the publisher. I decided to finish writing and check it later because that monster of doubt stood up and reminded me that I'm not good enough. It was a rejection. It just had to be. 

Fifteen minutes later, and I couldn't take it anymore. I checked my phone. Sure enough, the sender said publisher, and the subject line was the title of my book. I opened it, preparing for that gut-wrenching feeling when your work gets rejected. It never came. The email was from the C.E.O. of Ambassador International, Dr. Sam Lowry. He had personally read the manuscript...over the weekend! He told me that he found it engaging and challenging and had interest in publishing. 

I. Fell. On. The. Floor. 

The next day, I received a contract offer for Fate of the Watchman. Just like that, and I'm less than two months away from being a traditionally published author! Not only that, it's nothing like I thought it would be. Everyone at Ambassador is so down to earth. Everyone is so helpful; it's like being a part of a family. All of a sudden I'm hosting Facebook Live events and meeting up with fellow author, Allen Stedham. My claim to being a writer is suddenly legitimized. One of the most popular Christian Book Reviewers is helping me find and engage with my audience. My life has been changed. By a tweet?

No, by the God that put a blog post on my Uncle's radar. By the God who used my wife's simple as it gets faith. By the God who wanted to show the world that he doesn't need the traditional route to make his children shine. He can use whatever he wants to do his work.

Fate of the Watchman will be released in early October. Stay tuned for the upcoming cover reveal! You can learn more about Ambassador International and its amazing authors here.