I’ve known for years that most people who have heard me preach think that I do a pretty good job. I hope that doesn’t sound like bragging. Truth is I’ve always assumed that if God calls you to do a particular work, he will also supply sufficient gifts so that, if you work hard, you can achieve at least a moderate level of proficiency in the task. I would hate to think that God called me to do something at which I would never be any good.
When it comes to writing, I am much more ambivalent. I don’t think I have ever said I believe God has called me to a ministry of writing, at least not with the level of confidence I had with regard to preaching. I sensed I was called to a preaching ministry before I ever preached my first sermon. Subsequent experience confirmed my early perceptions. As for my writing, despite the modest readership this blog generated before my self-imposed hiatus last year, it has been difficult for me to believe that my writing has the potential to produce results (i.e. attract readers) commensurate with the effort I put into it.
The strongest encouragement for me to “write something” came from my students when I was teaching in a small Bible college a few years ago. Ironically, I never had the time or the inclination to act on those suggestions until I was released from that job in 2008. In 2011, I started writing this blog. In late 2012, I introduced my readers to Arthur Lough, a character I came up with, on the spur of the moment, for what I expected to be a one-time appearance. Instead, Arthur showed up at least twenty times over the next two or three months, and his conversations came to be known as “The Arthur Chronicles.”
Last summer I decided to write Arthur’s story in the form of a book. The idea met with strong encouragement from my blog readers. I started writing on August 15 and worked almost non-stop on the book until I completed the first draft on January 17. In early February I submitted the manuscript for a professional editorial evaluation, which I received about two weeks later. The editorial review was generally positive, but it did include specific suggestions for changes in some areas. I took those suggestions seriously, and I have been working on revisions to the manuscript since then. It has been a far bigger job than I expected, but I am almost finished.
The next step is to submit the completed manuscript to a publisher. It used to be that the only avenue open to an aspiring author was to mail hard copies of the manuscript to a number of publishers in the hopes that one of them would find the book good enough to merit publication. If the manuscript was accepted by a publisher, and most were not, then the publisher generally purchased all rights to the manuscript and took all the risks associated with producing and marketing the book. If the author could not find a publisher willing to take those risks with his or her book, then the book never got published.
The costs to publish a hard-copy book have soared even as technology has made it possible to deliver a book to the public in a wide variety of non-traditional formats. As their financial resources have declined, along with the readership of hard-copy books, traditional publishers have relied heavily on established authors with a proven record of writing books that sell. It has become extremely difficult for an untested, first-time author to find a trade publisher willing to take the risk. Many trade publishers no longer evaluate unsolicited manuscripts and simply discard them unread.
This is the scenario that has given rise to the self-publishing industry. When these companies first came on the scene, fifteen or twenty years ago, they were known as “vanity publishers.” Many people assumed, and I was one of them, that a book was self-published by its author because it was not good enough to be picked up by a trade publisher.
In many cases, that was true and remains true today. But things have changed in the world of self-publishing. As it has become more and more difficult for a new author to break into traditional publishing, new authors have looked for ways to get their books into print, on a rather limited scale at first, in order to see if there is a market for what they have written. If a self-published book attracts a readership, it might also attract the attention of a trade publisher. When that happens, the trade publisher could purchase the rights to the book and release subsequent editions, sometimes with a new title, under their imprint.
There are many other reasons why an author might choose to release a book by way of the self-publishing route. In short, many self-published books are equal in quality, or very close, to a traditionally published book. I have come to appreciate the service offered by self-publishers, since they make it possible for aspiring writers to “test the waters” to determine if what they have written has value in the marketplace.
That is the route I have decided to follow in publishing the biography of Arthur Lough that I have written. I have had several conversations with representatives of self-publishing companies, and I have almost settled on one of them. I hope to make a final decision in the next few days.
Of course the major difference between a self-publisher and a trade publisher is that, in the case of the self-publisher, the writer pays all the costs of preparing the manuscript for publication and bears all the risk associated with marketing the book. If it sells, those up-front costs can be recovered. If not, it is the author who sustains the loss, not the publisher.
Before my manuscript is accepted for publication, I must select a publishing package from among several different levels of services offered and remit the cost for that package of services. If the manuscript is accepted, it will be ready for release in 2-3 months, maybe sooner. If it is not accepted, all money will be refunded.
I have been essentially unemployed for nearly six years. We have no money. The cost of bringing my book, which I have titled The Long Road from Highland Springs, to print will be approximately $3,000. When God makes it clear to me how he plans to meet that need, I will sign a publication contract. Shortly after that, I will be able to announce a tentative release date for the book.
Thanks for your prayers, and I mean that sincerely. I could not have completed the manuscript without supernatural enablement. I know that many of you prayed for just such a touch of God upon my life, since you knew how low I had sunk and how desperate was my need for a restoration of hope. I believe that many of you will continue to pray for me in the matter I have detailed above. I can’t wait to see how God will respond. I’ll keep you posted.
Soli Deo Gloria.