Opening the Publishing Doors
Ninth in a series: Read Part Eight or Go to Beginning
In my last post, I talked about how God made it possible for us to move to Louisville. A month after our relocation, a brochure showed up in the mail for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.
Until the pandemic temporarily killed it (it was recently revived as a much smaller event), Mount Hermon was the nation’s largest such gathering.
However, since it met at a conference facility 45 minutes from San Jose, California, the cost of airfare plus conference fees gave me pause.
I decided to ask for professional feedback. Since those were the days when you could call someone without automatically ending up in voice mail, I phoned a couple editors I knew to ask what they thought.
Without prompting, both said exactly the same thing: “Well, Mount Hermon is the Cadillac of Christian writers conferences.”
I instantly recognized the parallel to 2 Corinthians 13:1: “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (NIV).
My decision to attend the conference that spring proved providential.
At that time, I had been working periodically for two years on a manuscript with an evangelist from Southern California.
At one point, he gave me a frequent flyer ticket so I could travel there to spend a week with him in hopes of making more progress on the slow-moving project.
As time passed, we had occasionally sent sample chapters to some publishers, but as so often happens with unsolicited manuscripts, we got nowhere.
Opportunities arose during the conference, though. Because of the sizable audience (400-plus writers and editors), numerous acquisitions editors and other publishing executives came to speak, lead workshops, and meet with prospective authors.
I came armed with packages of two sample chapters and an outline of the book. I had also prepared my “elevator pitch”—a brief description of the content and why publishers should consider it.
During one-on-ones with publishing reps, I met with four editors. One of them said that my proposal wasn’t quite right for them. Still, he encouraged me to talk with other editors.
Three agreed that they would review the material, telling me to send the package and mark “requested material” on the outer envelope.
That would signal the publishing house that this wasn’t unsolicited material, which often ends up in what is known as the “slush pile.” That’s stuff that may sit in a corner office for months because nobody has time to look at it.
Several weeks later, I received a letter from a publisher that said, “This isn’t for us.” One other never responded. But an acquisitions editor from a major Christian house asked to see several more chapters.
That summer, since we were stopping in their headquarters city for lunch with a friend who worked close by, I mentioned the visit to the acquisitions editor. She agreed it would be good for us to have another face-to-face meeting.
After lunch, I stopped to meet with the acquisitions editor. She had invited another editor to join us.
It’s a good thing I didn’t recognize this session’s significance. I sat and calmly chatted about the book, the author, and other topics. Afterwards, as we walked to our car, my wife, “I don’t know if you realized it, but that was a ‘corporate interview.’”
She was right. Before the end of that week, the acquisitions editor let me know the publisher planned to make an offer. Breakthrough had finally come.