I set out to tell the long story of finding a publisher for my first book several weeks ago with hopes that it might provide encouragement for inspiring writers, entertainment for readers of The Mockingbird Parables and enlightenment for anyone interested in the (sometimes complicated) process of publishing a book. We still aren’t certain of all the behind-the-scenes circumstances, legal issues or financial problems that might have led to us being released by our first publisher. However, we are certain that the obstacles on the road to getting TMP on the shelf had little to do with aspects of the process we could control. To get caught up on the story, you can read last week’s blog here: https://mattlitton.com/2011/05/16/mockingbird-monday-the-story-behind-the-mockingbird-parables-2/
In May, we were left with the realities of losing our publisher. There was no possible way to regain the momentum we would’ve had with the sales, marketing and public relations that would’ve surely aided in selling TMP into stores in plenty of time for the 50th anniversary celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird. Later that month, we were picked up by a wonderful editor at a very nice publisher. The book passed all of their benchmarks for publication only to be rejected at the last minute by someone in their ownership team. We went from joy to devastation in just several hours’ time. My agent, Kyle, and I went into June working to ready the book for our only option — self publication.
It was at this point we had the chance to talk with one of the premier book publicists in the business. Kelly Hughes, of Dechant and Hughes, graciously took a liking to our project and agreed to work on the book. We were moving ahead with plans to print TMP ourselves and simply sell the book on-line in conjunction with a PR campaign that unfortunately would still hit after the 50th Anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird.
After being released by Nelson, we had numerous conversations with publishers and had the chance to meet some really great people in the business. After talking with Kelly Hughes in June, we had to make the decision. Did we believe in the project enough to put our own money behind it? We decided we did. We hired a copy editor and Kyle and I worked to finalize the manuscript for print – which was a very taxing and enlightening process. We paid to have the book typeset. Although it would never make it to a retail shelf, we were confident we could sell it successfully on-line.
In mid-June as we were working toward self-publication, we received news from Tyndale that they were interested in the book. It wouldn’t be easy, but they were confident they could rush the book to publication. We simply couldn’t regain many of the important parts of selling a book to retailers: we wouldn’t be listed in Tyndale’s fall catalogue and would be sold “off the list.” We learned that most retailers had already placed orders for their fall titles. The publisher at Tyndale told us to be patient, though, because our book would mainly be a “backlist” title for them; this meant that TMP would have a better chance of showing up on retail shelves in 2011.
The fast-paced process with Tyndale was smooth and pleasant; their sales staff did an amazing job…even managing to place the book on shelves at many stores in the fall. The public relations campaign was exciting and allowed me to connect with so many fascinating people.
I had dedicated my book to the memory of my younger sister who passed away several years ago. I received the first copies of my book at the doorstep of my house on the anniversary of her passing — July 17th. There were many moments like that last summer…some way too personal to share. They happened so often, in fact, I had to write them down just to remind myself that they were not imagined. The long road of prayer, hope, hard work and frustration turned into a story that was much better than anything we had originally planned.
The highlights of the fall consisted of getting the opportunity to interview with some well-respected and accomplished radio hosts — from Doug Pagitt to Chris Fabry to Father Ron on CBS radio in Pittsburg. The Op-Ed opportunities were a blast for me as well. I had the chance to write for CNN, The Huffington Post and Christianity Today and talk about the ways that TKaM had impacted my faith. Overall, it was an amazing experience. You can read several of them here: https://mattlitton.com/articles-op-eds-and-interviews/
Not only did I learn about the publication, marketing and sales process in a way that I couldn’t have experienced if the book had stayed with Nelson, we also learned much about the process of how publishers decide on books (and who actually makes those decisions).
While it might seem a bit narcissistic to spend the last couple of weeks typing out the story of how TMP made it to shelves, this is a story that has truly impacted my life.
From the roller-coaster of emotions during the process: “Yes! We got a book deal!” …”No!…we lost our publisher”…”Yes! We got another publisher”…”No…they changed their mind”…”Yes! We decided to self-publish”…”OK, Yes! We got a publisher again!” To the reality of the challenges we have faced post publication — I have found that the discouragement and the difficulty have added to the richness of the story and the joy of the few “successes” we have achieved.
Sometimes it is difficult to take that next step forward toward your goal and aspirations when you face discouragement…when there seems to be absolutely nowhere to go.
I hope the story of TMP will encourage you keep walking toward what you believe you are called to do…