The manuscript for the Arthur Lough biography—an autobiographical novel called The Long Road from Highland Springs: A Faith Odyssey—is complete and ready to be printed. I started writing last August and finished the first draft in January. In early February, I submitted that draft to a professional editor for evaluation. Based on suggestions and recommendations from that evaluation, I spent two months revising and rewriting the manuscript. (The excerpts from chapter one that I published last winter as posts to this blog were drawn from the first draft and do not reflect the later re-write, which includes a prologue and new chapters not in the first draft.)
In May, I sent the unedited manuscript to five beta readers. All of them liked the book and encouraged me to publish it. In late May, I began exploring a variety of publishing options, most of which were companies that required me to pay for their services and assume all risks related to sales and marketing of the book. During that process, I consulted a well-known writer who has published several titles using a variety of methods (trade publishers, self-publishers, etc.). In the course of our communications, he advised me to hire a professional copyeditor no matter which method of publishing I ultimately chose.
I followed his advice and, at considerable expense, engaged the services of a copyeditor who meticulously reviewed the manuscript and recommended hundreds of changes, mostly minor grammatical and stylistic items. I received the edited manuscript last Friday and, over the weekend, went over the manuscript line by line, incorporating at least 98 percent of the copyeditor’s changes and suggestions. It is now a far better book than I ever expected to write. (And I say this as someone who has read the book, straight through, at least six times since the second draft was completed.)
When I embarked on this project last summer, my primary goal was to tell my story (via Arthur’s character) as quickly as possible. Along the way, the purpose expanded to include my desire to produce a book of the highest quality and with the broadest appeal possible. I believe I have accomplished that, but it took far more time and energy than I could have imagined when I began.
Here is where things stand today. I possess a polished manuscript which the editor has called an “excellent piece of work as well as a compelling story, extremely well told.” At the moment, I have sent that manuscript to three friends, all of whom are dedicated Christians and accomplished in their fields. They have promised to read the book and offer their candid appraisal, including possible endorsements which can be printed on the back cover when the book is published. All that remains is to submit this finished manuscript to a publisher.
Over the past two or three months, I have seriously considered a variety of options. On more than one occasion, I thought I had made a decision (including the recent announcement I made on Facebook that I would be publishing the book using Amazon’s self-publishing service called CreateSpace).
Today, however, I came to another decision. I cannot—must not—use borrowed money (aka credit card debt) to publish this book. Up to now, total costs associated with publication of the book, including the copyeditor’s fee, amount to around $1600 (exclusive, of course, of my time or that of the persons who have read the book so far). That amount has been more than covered by a $2000 gift from a close friend whose generosity has helped to keep us solvent over the past few years. It is neither reasonable nor fair for me to return to that source over and over again. That well is not deep; only self-sacrificingly generous.
It is virtually impossible for a brand new author to break into publishing these days. Trade publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts by untested authors unless they are represented by an agent. And even then, chances of publication are infinitesimally small.
Most new authors self-publish. It’s a fact of life in the publishing world these days. Most self-published books are not high quality and would have been rejected by trade publishers even if they had gotten a reading. My book might fall into that category, but enough readers have told me it’s a good story to keep me hopeful that it warrants a wider circulation.
Today I learned of a service that will evaluate my manuscript and, if they like it, they will recommend it to a wide array of agents and publishers (both trade and self-). Their service costs $100, but as they point out, they retain no equity in the book and are paid no portion of the royalties should the book be picked up by a publisher. I may try that route. I did something similar some months ago, but that was with a different company, and the book was not finished yet.
If the book were to be picked up by a traditional publisher (highly unlikely although still possible) the publisher would prepare the final press-ready copy, design the cover, and assume all risks associated with sales and marketing. In exchange, they would pay me a portion of the royalties and would probably expect me to sign over certain rights to the future use of the manuscript.
If I self-publish, I pay the publisher for services such as press-formatting, cover design and marketing assistance, and I assume all the risk. In return I retain all rights to the manuscript and receive all (or at least most) of the royalties. FYI, total cost to self-publish my book, making it available for purchase in either paperback or e-book format, will be $3000-$5000, depending on the kinds of services I purchase from the publisher. (Note: This amount is roughly what it costs a traditional publisher to put a book into print. They must then recover those costs before they make any profit on the venture. That is why they publish only authors whose books are likely to sell enough copies to repay their investment and earn a profit.)
It all comes down to financial stewardship. Throughout my life, I have tried to be frugal yet generous with the meager financial resources God has provided to Shirley and me. I have not drawn a paycheck in more than six years. We are still solvent and relatively debt-free. That can only be a testimony to the faithfulness of God and one particularly generous friend who has walked with us through this long valley.
Having established a no-debt policy for our lives (which we have had to amend in order to pay Shirley’s non-covered health care costs), I am not willing to amend the policy further in order to pay for publishing my book. I mention this only because I need your prayers, and I welcome your counsel. (Note: Some have suggested KickStarter [crowd-funding], and I have considered that, but this kind of venture is not really ideal for that kind of funding. Still, I have not rejected it completely.)
I really, really want to see this book in print and available as an e-book. Can you help? If you are interested in exploring some possible avenues of assistance to this project, contact me by email or use the “Contact” page of this blog. I will be happy to send you a polished manuscript, as a .pdf file, which you can read first to help you decide if you want to take any concrete steps to help. I am open to all suggestions.
Thanks to all for reading this. And, as always…
Soli Deo Gloria.