Today I welcome fellow Astraea Press author Heather Gray to the blog!
Before we begin, I highly recommend you first CLICK HERE to read her first blog post ever, in which she shares her heartbreaking story about what brought her to writing.
And bring tissues.
I’m beyond thrilled to introduce Heather Gray, who is sharing her journey to the publication of her debut novel, Mail Order Man, with us today.
Publisher, Publisher, Wherefore Art Thou Publisher?
I’d wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old, but I allowed the business of life and the fear of rejection prevent me from ever pursuing my dream. I finally found myself at a crossroads with a choice to make – either give up altogether, or live. I chose to live. With a skill that I’d once considered passable but that had long since grown rusty, I began tapping away at my keyboard.
As I worked day after day, I occasionally had downtime. That’s what I call it when I can’t think of what to write next. During that downtime, I looked at publishers, agents and the like. I learned a couple things.
- Some publishers take up to three years from the date you sign the contract until your book is actually published. (I had to ask myself if I was patient enough for that. The answer was no.)
- There are publishers within the Christian Fiction market that have intense competition. Brutal, even. (I asked myself if I was brave enough for that. My answer? Uh, not yet.)
- Other publishers have inspirational labels, but it’s just one of many labels. Those same publishers often generally have labels for adult-only and erotic fiction. (When I asked myself if I wanted to affiliate with a publisher that put out books I would be ashamed to tell others about, the answer was a resounding no.)
Next, I began looking at agents. I came across the same problem. Competition for agents that specialize in the Christian fiction market is crazy, and agents who work cross-genre also represent authors whose back cover blurbs were enough to make me blush from the tips of my toes to the roots of my hair. My comfort level with that? Next to nonexistent. (I try to blush only four times annually.)
I kept writing, still not knowing for sure what was going to happen to my manuscript when I was done with it. I finally finished it, did some revisions, and sent it off to a friend for a trial read through. Then I made some coffee, picked up my tablet, and went to work basking in the relaxation of a good book. That’s when I got a surprise. It wasn’t a Christian Fiction book I’d dumped into my e-reader, but rather a wonderfully affordable book referred to as “sweet romance.” I wasn’t familiar with what that meant, but for the price I’d figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Know what? The book turned out to be good! So I got another from that author, and then another. While one of the books definitely had more “heat” to it than I’d be comfortable writing, it hadn’t crossed a line that made me put it down. Then as I got to the end of the book, I saw on the final page where it said the name of the publisher with the phrase “Pure. Fiction.” My antenna went up. I read about the publisher and went over their website with a fine tooth comb. All the while, this voice inside my head was saying, “This is the one.”
Not everyone is going to look for the same thing in a publisher. That’s okay! We don’t all write the same things or have the same goals. As you do look for a publisher, though, I advise you to keep in mind what kind of “brand” you want to develop for yourself. Avoid a publisher that is going to be contradictory to how you want to be represented. When I selected my publisher, I was still finding my voice and wasn’t entirely sure what future things I would write, but I knew I didn’t want to start my career by publishing with a company that I would be embarrassed to name at a later date. It wasn’t imperative to me that my publisher handle strictly inspirational, but it was important to me that they not publish anything of which I’d be ashamed.
I am delighted to be affiliated with my publisher, Astraea Press. I encourage every writer, regardless of genre, to find a publisher that fits you and of whom you, too, can boast.
I will also tell you that, no matter how many times you read through your manuscript, you will never be completely satisfied. You will always find something that is wrong. Even after my manuscript had been accepted, I would go through the, “I’m out of my ever-loving mind to think I can do this!” phase. On those days, I would take a deep breath, get my cup of coffee, put my feet up and go back to read the acceptance letter from my publisher. After all, if they believed in me enough to be willing to take a chance on me, then by golly, I needed to find a way to believe in myself as well.
One last note, and then I’ll let you go. It was with fear and trepidation that I received my first round of edits on that first manuscript. Then the edits arrived, and I was over the moon. I learned so much from my editors! In addition to the book just published, I now have two additional manuscripts under contract, each one better than the previous. Writing is a journey and a process. I finally accepted the fact that there has to be a first book before there can be a second, third or fourth. My first book isn’t going to be my best book (I intend to get better!), but it will always be the one that launched my career, the one that gave me the confidence to believe “I can do this!”
If you’d like to read Mail Order Man, my debut novel, you can find it at the following places:
Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing. Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell. Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.
You can find me at:
Thank you again, Christi, for sharing your blog with me – and thank you everyone else for stopping by! I hope everyone has a spectacular day with a little laughter and love thrown in for good measure!
Thank you, Heather, for sharing your journey to publication with both me, and the readers of this blog.
Readers, I’d love to fill up the comments with questions and encouragement for Heather. What do you say?