I took every course
on marketing and promoting books that I could possibly fit into my
Linore Rose Burkard has
experienced one of those rare publishing success stories: landing a
contract from a major publisher without half trying. Now, don’t jump to
conclusions and interpret that to mean she didn’t put hard work, sweat,
and even tears into her journey. But Linore’s leap from the POD (print
on demand) publisher she used for her first novel, Before the
Season Ends, to a two-book contract with Harvest House
Publishers happened outside the usual route authors take to get
Maybe her story can help you
land the publisher of your dreams.
I always wrote stories late at
night, after the kids were asleep. But when I prayed about becoming a
professional writer—taking my writing as a career and calling—his
answer was always the same: My family was my ministry. So, between
changing diapers and homeschooling, I kept plugging away at writing
when I could, usually at night, alone in a basement study. I had fun
writing the sort of Christian regencies (romances) I wished I could
find on the bookstore shelves (they didn’t exist at that time).
Little by little, one story in
particular took shape, Before the Season Ends. This
was the late nineties, and I felt very strongly that the Jane Austen
craze was only going to keep growing and that more women would welcome
a Regency romance from a distinctly Christian perspective. Bethany
House expressed some interest, but turned down my manuscript after
seeing three chapters and a synopsis. I set to work doing some serious
self-editing, but life with children, homeschooling, Christian schools,
and moving to another state kept me plenty occupied. Then my
grandmother needed a place to live, so we welcomed her into our home.
Just as things were settling down, I discovered I was pregnant (at age
forty-two!). My hopes of focusing on a writing career dwindled even as
my unborn child grew.
After the birth of beautiful
number five—and between nursing and changes and feeding, I attended to
projects—like my book—that I never thought I’d be able to do.
I was ready to be published.
Again I prayed about this and got no check in my spirit—In fact, I felt
a big “green light”! I researched publishing. I loved my book. I was
confident. But I was also well aware that the clock was ticking, and
seeking a publisher the traditional way was time-consuming.
I’m very much a free spirit,
and I wanted more control of my project, so it was an easy decision to
self-publish. I studied my options (a very important step) and
eventually settled upon a Christian POD company after buying a couple
of their books to check the quality. I didn’t go with the cheapest
looking one, and because I controlled my project, I made a lot of
changes to the galleys to make a better final product.
By the time my baby was a little
over two years old, I had my first book in my hands. My next step was
to register for online classes, and I took every course on marketing
and promoting books that I could possibly fit into my schedule. Then I
spent the next two years largely putting into practice what I learned,
experimented with techniques, and developed a monthly e-zine. I
collected subscribers—a small “fan” base—and was enormously gratified
when I realized that people loved the
book! I had a “five star” rating
on Amazon.com! Letters trickled in from people who had been touched;
who couldn’t put the book down; who had to pass it on to their mothers,
sisters, or friends after reading it.
I mention all this because the
very first thing you need to have in place if you want a publisher,
whether you’re self-published or not—is a good book. A very good book.
A book people won’t want to leave until they’ve read the last word, and
even then, a bit sad that it has come to an end.
My story continues when, after
two and a half years of plugging away online and offline, my (now)
editor from Harvest House Publishers contacted me. He said he kept
running into me and my book all over the Web. Music to my ears.
The senior editor said he was
interested in publishing a Christian regency. I sent him a copy of my
book, and he eventually offered me a two-book contract. Not only would
Harvest House republish Before the Season Ends, but
they would publish its sequel, too (The House in Grosvenor
Square, coming in April 2009).
My “success” was a
all the hard work and effort I’d put into my book and other writing
since I’d used a POD. But I now give presentations at conferences and
workshops, sharing with other writers the techniques and “building
blocks” they need if they want a publisher. Even though your book has
to be top-notch, publishers today are looking for authors who are “out
there,” who have a platform, a good Web presence. In many cases, it is
not just about the writing. You need to demonstrate to them that you
are a good prospect—you’re a savvy marketer—that you will help them
sell your book.
The work does not end when you
land your contract. I encourage writers to approach marketing as part
of the writing life, not a necessary evil, but a great way to shine
their light on the hill. We write so others will read our words. Don’t
hide under a bushel. If you think of yourself as an introvert—change.
You can do it. I did. God’s grace is no respecter of persons. And if he
has given you your message, your underlying premise of hope or love or
truth, then he is all for helping you to share it with the world. He
never gifts us for ourselves, alone.