How & Why I Chose My Publisher

I don’t like to draw anything out. I knew within 3 weeks of knowing Greg I wanted to marry him. I decided to be a school counselor during a 45-minute Spanish class in 11th grade. I can decide on a restaurant for dinner in minutes. I can decide on a meal at said restaurant in even less time. Some say impatient. I say efficient. 🙂

Choosing to go with Ambassador International as my publisher was no different. They were the only publishing company to offer me a book deal, but they were the only one I sent it to. They were my first choice, and they chose me right back. Win for everybody. Here’s how I chose:

In January 2011, right after I finished the 60,000-word version of “Making Room”, I tried to get an agent. I’m so thankful I didn’t. The book was nothing like it is today. It wasn’t good enough for an agent, which is why it didn’t get picked up. But 20,000+ words later, it was ready.

I scoured for months (literally) through Christian’s Writer’s Market. Marking up and post-it-noting publishers that sounded good to me. CWM gives writers pertinent info for each publisher: what the publisher is looking for (genre, length), how many titles it publishes per year, what its royalties are, submission guidelines, and contact information.

I had my selections narrowed down to 3 or 5 publishers. Ambassador International was my first choice because they have the shortest response time, meaning they commit to responding to authors within 30 days of submission. Many publishers don’t allow simultaneous submissions, meaning they want to be the only house you submit to until they give you an answer or the allotted time frame has passed. When I submitted MR to an agent in January 2011, the firm’s timeline was 8 weeks – if an author hasn’t heard back in 8 weeks the author can assume the firm has passed on their manuscript. The other publishers I was looking at had a 3-6 month response time with no simultaneous submissions. I figured, “Let’s get this over with. It won’t be picked up anyway, and this way I’ll know within a month.” (See? Efficiency).

My self-imposed deadline was August 15th. I was one day ahead, submitting MR on Aug. 14, 2012. And on Aug. 16th, I got the best e-mail e.v.e.r.

So, they chose me. Now what? I spent months poring over my decision, then my first choice chose me! I didn’t know what to do. I had never before been in this position. Ambassador International is a typical royalty-paying publishing house, but it’s a small one so there are some differences between them and large ones like Thomas Nelson or Tyndale Fiction. I did have a decision to make. A big one. I could go with AI, or look for a different/bigger publisher. It felt like a heavy decision. Huge decision. And scary one. Scarier than getting married. My baby, being presented to the world, via a real publisher? Someone was going to pay me to publish a novel? Hmmm.

I sought advice from a friend’s aunt who is a successful Young Adult (YA) author. I talked to Greg and my parents. And then I watched a film. A documentary, to be precise. And if you’re trying to get me to do something, show me a relatable movie or TV show and I’ll be putty in your request. Case in point:

Cover of "Tales from the Script"
Cover of Tales from the Script

“Tales From the Script” is a documentary about screenwriters. I am not a screenwriter, but I identified with their writing personalities. Writers are creative (check), always thinking about words (check), kind of moody (check), living in their own little world (sometimes check), and convinced that they need to write or they will spontaneously combust (triple check). I found the film itself and the stories in the film just fascinating. Guys and gals who had written upwards of 35 screenplays, only 3 of which were produced. Writers who lived for a decade off of one film, because  the next 5 they wrote weren’t picked up for production. I watched this film over the weekend when I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to go with Ambassador International. AI thought MR to be a “tremendous debut” – his words, not mine – and I thought maybe somebody else would think so, too. But then I got to the end of “Tales From the Script”.

Bruce Joel Rubin wrote “Ghost”, a wildly successful drama/romance from 1990. He wrote another film called “My Life”, a film about a terminally ill man preparing for his death. It was a huge commercial failure, which is the opposite of what his financiers expected it to be. And let me tell you something – writers take failure rrreeeeaaaallllllyyyyyy hard. I know we all take failure/rejection to heart, but when I said writers are moody – that’s doubled when rejection comes into play. But about 9 months after the flopping release, Rubin was at a party. A woman whom he didn’t know approached him and sincerely thanked him for writing “My Life.” Her husband had passed away from cancer just a few months prior to the film’s release. During that conversation, she told Rubin that she was just diagnosed with cancer within the last 6 months. The woman told Rubin that his film allowed her to have an important discussion with her 12 year old son. So here’s Rubin, thinking his film is a complete failure, and this 12 year old boy who is living under the possibility of losing both parents within 1 year of each other was touched and emotionally edified because of Rubin’s screenwriting. Rubin said, “And that’s when I knew. Even if it was just one, that’s enough. That is enough.”

I was truly moved, and I realized it was because I felt the same way. I still had/have a day job. I didn’t want a bigger publisher. I wanted to support a small mostly-family run publishing company. He believed in me first, and I wanted to honor that. And my goal for this book was not to become a full-time author. My goal became touching just one life through the Tenners’ journey.

And that is how I chose Ambassador International. Months of prep, a few phone calls between me and the publisher, then one long weekend of thinking, talking, thinking, praying, talking, praying, more talking, and finally, movie watching. And by Monday I knew. I was ready. To throw it all out on the table and see what came of it.

This weekend: my very first book signing for Making Room! Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC. I’m going to go full disclosure: when I saw my name on this event, I squealed. Yes, squealed.

Happy Hump Day!

4 comments

  1. Yaaaay!! Huge congratulations. What a wonderful achievement. Your video is so cute – love your open, genuine gorgeous excitement! You can now be an inspiration to so many aspiring authors! : )))

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