Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hangin' in Papa's Waiting Room

Stay busy in Papa God's waiting room
I recently read a blog post by an author celebrating her breakthrough into a national magazine review column that's sure to bring her wide exposure. She's hit the big time:

  • Magazine editors approach her for articles
  • # of guest blog post requests increased
  • Reviews from major media venues
  • Speaking gigs easier to find

And it only took her seven books to get there.

Seven books? you wheeze. But I'm only just now finishing my first book and it's taken me a whole year!

Yep. I feel your pain, writer buddy.

My first book, The Distant Shore, took two years to write and another year to find a publisher (a small press in South Carolina). I thought it was the crowning glory of my writerly life, but in reality, it hardly made a ripple in the publishing pond.

So I wrote another. And another. And then with three good quality small press books under my belt, I was able to find an agent to represent my fourth book, this time a different genre, women's inspirational humor.

But alas, that poor, wonderful, overlooked book - Mom NEEDS Chocolate - was destined to release during the direst time in publishing history, 2009, just after The Crash (recession) hit and before Publishing World figured out where it was going with the digital era. Newspapers were folding everywhere, respected publishing companies were going belly up, and no one was buying print books because the media proclaimed that e-books were the wave of the future and print would soon be obsolete. Since very few people owned e-readers yet (they were still a brand new concept), nobody bought any type of book, print or electronic for a period of about two years.

Just long enough to maim the success of Mom NEEDS Chocolate. In fact, not long after that, the publisher (Regal Books) was sold to another publisher who somehow had managed to stay afloat in the turbulent waters.  

While I was languishing (or so it felt) in Papa God's waiting room, I kept writing - magazine articles, a newspaper column, essays, blog posts, new manuscripts that I kept sending out. And one of them caught the eye of a traditional publishing house editor named Kelly.

It turns out Barbour Books was interested in publishing more women's humor nonfiction, and wha-da-ya know? They were willing to take a chance on my book, Too Blessed to be Stressed.  It had a slow start with only modest sales at first (readers were rediscovering books again) but after it had been out a year, sales took off.

To the surprise of the publisher and myself, it spawned a very successful Too Blessed to be Stressed line of books and book products (14 at last count) and has become my personal brand. My writing bank account is finally seeing a ray of sunshine after a decade of cloudy days.

You read that right - it took ten years. Ten years. 

So you see, I have to agree with the seven-book author and the celebrated children's book award-winning author who said, "Want to be a successful author? Give it at least six years to get off the ground."

After you pick yourself off the floor and wipe your eyes, hear me out: There's some good news hiding here. You'll be able to hone your skills and build a very sturdy platform during your time in Papa God's waiting room. As long as you don't drape yourself over the plaid settee and vegetate.

Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep growing.

Because the writer's creed is not good things come to those who wait, but good things come to those who work while waiting.


Aaron Hassen said...

This post was very real and insightful. A reminder that we have to respect the process and also that success comes to those willing to pay the price.

cherylbethjohnston said...

Great post around some publishing history milestones, Deb. Persistence pays, for sure. And I'm grateful you share your success stories with others to offer encouragement. Well deserved for someone who was worked for every bit of it...with God's help, of course. Blessings!