Friday, April 24, 2009


Finished and emailed another proposal. Received an almost immediate reply: declined. Also received another rejection letter. Well, that's 3 down, 1 no-reply after 8 weeks, with 3 left in the top tier of chosen publishers. Then I'll send out 2nd tier proposals.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Ran spell and grammar check. Found several errors & fixed them!

Received a personal note back from one editor declining the project as “the imprint is moving away from spiritual memoirs or reflections.”

Finished reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published (4th ed) by Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer Basye Sander. NY: Alpha Books (Penguin Group), 2006. Studied the contract info and added items to the Marketing Plan.

Worked a lot on the marketing plan: wrote to a couple of well-known Quaker bloggers, asking them if they would read the manuscript with an eye toward providing endorsements. Both agreed. Also wrote to several libraries asking about whom to contact for future author talks. Added contacts for newspaper reviewers and columnists, and listed some radio stations (to give interviews).

Found another publisher for the 1st tier. Will do the proposal.

Finished reading Author Law A to Z: A Desktop Guide to Writers' Rights and Responsibilities by Sallie Randolph, Stacy Davis, Anthony Elia, and Karen Dustman; ordered it along with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published and The Fine Print of Self Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies Analyzed Ranked & Exposed by Mark Levine. All have excellent advice & there is too much to photocopy. The self-publishing book says to avoid Xlibris!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Publishing in the Ministry

In response to a post titled "Travelling in the Electronic Ministry" by Richard M in his blog A Place to Stand:
I realized that I had done things kind of backwards by sending proposals for a manuscript to publishers before I asked for the blessing/encouragement (or something) of my Meeting. Since the book is about having been a Quaker studying and worshiping with Seventh-day Adventists for a couple of years, & during that period I was recorded as a "Minister of Ecumenism" by the Meeting, & while I did a program for the Meeting about our 2 denominations, I hadn't released the manuscript to them...I gave it to Ministry & Nurture a couple of days ago, asking for guidance! I'm grateful for Richard's thought-provoking post.

RichardM replied that he was glad it was helpful to me, & that North Carolina Conservative (Meeting) has preserved more of the old traditions of Friends than most other meetings. Quaker Quaker lets us remind each other of our traditions.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sabbatical: publishing process 1

Things I did long before I began to seek publishers: checked with the Human Research Review Committee to see if my project fell under their domain (it didn’t). Had various people read & comment on the drafts, so that I had material to edit, & eventually, a solid manuscript in hand. Since I felt “called by God” to document my journey as I lived it & then to get it “out there” for others to read, I had a draft in hand before I began to seek publishers. Most writers get a publisher interested before completing their project!

The process I used for choosing publishers:

First, I thought about my potential audience: probably Christians first & foremost; those interested in ecumenism; laypeople or maybe clergy but probably not scholars—so not an academic press. (Later I revised my audiences to include students & scholars, but still chose not to try academic presses.) This project is a combination of a layperson's spiritual memoir with an inclusion of the academic and religious literature as it applied to what I was learning.

Then I looked at one of the Writer’s Marketplace books & realized that there was one called Christian Writers' Market Guide. I borrowed the most recent edition from the public library & read it.

I read the advice & the publisher descriptions. Things I took note of: did they take unsolicited manscripts from individuals or did they only take submissions from agents? Did they take first-time authors? What were their specific areas of interest & genres? (My book fit into the “spiritual memoir” category, a.k.a. biography/autobiography.) Did they have a really narrow or specific focus (e.g., in my case, were they strictly denominational; did they do only “inspirational” items; were they evangelical; anti-gay)?

How many titles did they publish per year vs. how many submissions did they receive? How many copies did they typically print, & did they reprint? Or were they an e-book publisher? How long did the publication process take? Did they allow simultaneous submissions, & what was their response time? Did they do “subsidy” (vanity) publishing? Were they a “self-publishing” house? What length of book were they seeking? Who was their parent company? (Don’t submit to different imprints of the same publisher!)

I looked in WorldCat to see how many titles came up for the publishers I chose, how many libraries owned the titles, & what types of libraries bought the titles. I made sure that the publisher was really still in business by finding their website.

On the publisher’s websites, I took a look at their catalog titles to see if any were similar to my project. (I took note of these for the “competition” section of the proposal & for searching WorldCat.) Did the website have a section for submission suggestions? Did they want a query 1st, or a full proposal, or the manuscript? Did they accept an email, fax, or require items to be mailed? Who was the correct (acquisitions) editor? If I couldn’t find the name that went with the title, I called the publisher.

Initially, I chose 5 publishers for my 1st tier, then added one to make 6. My 2nd & 3rd choices varied as I got into the process--& I moved them around between the tiers. Currently there are 8 in my 2nd tier, arranged in order of preference, & 5 in the 3rd tier. In addition to using the Market Guide, as I came across interesting books in the libraries or in reviews, I looked up the publisher. I kept track of self-publishers, subsidy houses, & all others not appropriate—with the reason/s (e.g., only accepts manuscripts from agents, has gone out of business, does not accept unsolicited submissions, no autobiography or memoirs, too off-topic or narrow).

The next step, which I did out of order, is to read books about writing proposals! I sent my 1st proposal off before I did this, & I regret it. The other proposals are better since I read the books and revised the proposals accordingly!

As I developed the proposals, I had to write: a short and a longer description; Table of Contents with short descriptions; purpose, need, & contribution; description of the audiences; a list of potential reviewers/endorsers; marketing ideas (website, blogs, bookstores, speaking venues including conferences, churches, bookstores, radio & TV); my qualifications. As each publisher poses different questions & wants a slightly different format for the proposals, I learned a lot by doing several at once & by taking time to revise them as I learned, instead of sending each one out as soon as I thought it was done. Thinking about speaking venues gave me the idea to re-write the intro & conclusion of the book to create an article for a Quaker magazine, in response to a call for articles for a special topic issue. If it is accepted for publication, and if the book is accepted by a publisher, I’ll have to put a note on the verso: “Some of the material in this book has appeared, in different form, in the following publication….”

The books or sections about self-publishing are very helpful with the marketing portion. If all else fails & I don’t get a commercial publisher, I will go with a self-publishing option!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Kitty

We have a new addition to the household: "Dawn's Choice" (Choice) is an 8-year-old American Shorthair, silver shaded, retired-from-the-beauty-queen-circuit, female (spayed) cat. Photos at Picasa. (Or try the Picasa link at the upper left and click on the Family album.)


Read Writing Life Stories: How to Make Memories into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature by Bill Roorbach with Kristen Keckler. Cincinnati,OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 2008 (fully-revised 2nd edition). In an appendix, it lists memoirs in the form of journals and diaries, so I looked these up in Amazon and the libraries to see their form and publisher (May Sarton’s journals use a similar format as Nouwen’s and the sabbatical journal of John Royston Coleman (Blue-collar journal: a college president's sabbatical), which I then used for my manuscript). None of the others were really appropriate to list as “competition” in proposals. None of the publishers appropriate for my manuscript.

Faith Adiele, in Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun, (NY: W.W. Norton & Company 2004), used the margins to comment on her diary entries and to put quotations relevant to the entries. Not really a format I aspire to, but interesting.

Also read The Autobiographer’s Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir by Jennifer Traig (ed.). NY: Holt Paperbacks, 2008. It listed a memoir about faith, Jesus Land, from Counterpoint LLC ( I can’t see if they accept unsolicited mss. Wrote an email to them to ask. The 2 relevant titles from them are:
The Scent of God: A Memoir. BERYL SINGLETON BISSEL
Jesus Land: A Memoir. JULIA SCHEERES
Received an answer from Counterpoint Press: they do not accept manuscripts from individuals, only from agents.

Revised all proposals, sample chapters, & the manuscript itself by removing double spaces & replacing with single spaces. Wrote 1st proposal in 2nd tier of publishers. Wrote 2nd proposal in 2nd tier of publishers--I'm not too hopeful about this one as it seems be be primarily focused on Baptist materials.

Because it has been 6 1/2 weeks since I sent the very 1st proposal out (the only one in my 1st tier that did not want simultaneous submissions) & they haven't responded (they say they respond in 4 weeks; a directory said 4-6 weeks), I sent out the other 5 proposals in my 1st tier (all allow simultaneous submissions).