Ben thought you all might be interested in reading about exactly how I got published. It may seem like a confusing process, but it was actually pretty simple and the people who work at my publishing house have been and continue to be absolutely amazing. What I always thought would simply be a dream is quickly becoming a reality for me, so here’s a peek into what my world has been like for the past month.
The first step for me was getting the story out. I get asked a lot “How in the world can you write so much?” My answer? I have no clue. I really don’t. All I can tell you is that I constantly have some sort of story running through my head. When I ran cross country and track in high school I’d run through scenarios in my mind to pass the miles…and while I pushed carts at Hy-Vee…and before I’d fall asleep at night. Pretty much any time I don’t have to think or focus on a specific thing, my brain is cooking up twists and turns in the story currently running through my mind.
I wish I could show all of you my shoebox full of picture books I wrote and colored when I was little! Funny stuff. From the time I learned to read in elementary school I was hooked on stories. I loved going to the library to hear the librarian read us a story. And if you ask my parents, they’ll tell you that I spent most of my weekends curled up reading novels as a kid. That’s just the kind of kid I was…I was and still am perfectly fine spending the weekends chilling with a good book. Now, my weekends are spent writing my own books! It’s nuts.
That’s the best answer I can give people when they ask how I do it. It literally just comes to me. For this first book, I got the idea two or three summers ago. I planned on starting it last summer, but I kept stopping myself because I thought I would hate it. I’ve always loved writing, but for some reason I thought I would get bored writing such a long work. Well, I can tell you right now, that isn’t the case. I can spend two-three hours working on a book without realizing so much time has passed. Still, when I started writing I was worried I would get stuck in the middle of this story with no idea how to end it. I’ve realized how important it is to have the beginning and ending of a story figured out before getting too into it. The middle will pretty much write itself if you have the ending figured out. With my first story, I knew exactly how I wanted it to end, and I had the perfect beginning for the sequel all figured out. When I started the sequel I realized that I had no idea how I was going to end it and I was simply wandering around in a never ending story…good thing I finally figured out a good ending! And just like I knew it would, once I decided on an ending the rest of the outline fell into place and I am so excited to dive into this project with all I’ve got.
Once I got over the fear of getting stuck, the book really took off. I kept it a secret for a while because I was afraid people would think it was too high a goal to reach for, that no one would want to publish me. But I found that when I told people I was writing a book with the hopes of getting published, everyone was pumped and nothing but supportive. Once I had that support I finished the story and started researching publishing houses. It was important to me to find a Christian publishing house because my book is all about Christ. This book is a way for me to reach others for Christ…I look at my audience as my mission field. As I was praying about this project I prayed that God would take it as far as it needed to go and that it would reach the people God wanted it to reach. This project isn’t about me; it’s about reaching people for Christ. I found two publishing houses I liked; one was more of a self-publishing house and one a more traditional publishing house. The self-publisher was cheaper, but I knew it would be harder to reach the audience I wanted to reach with that one. But I requested information from both of them anyway, and I got emails and phone calls from both houses within three days. I decided to send material into the traditional publishing house first because I knew if it was accepted the book would go farther. I prepared myself for rejection though, because my publishing house, Tate Publishing, only accepts about 4% of manuscripts submitted each year. Scary. It’s terrifying to send off something you’ve worked so hard on and that you think is good. But, I know that stepping outside the comfort zone is an important step in reaching goals. If it feels comfortable and easy, your goals aren’t high enough.
The first thing I had to send in was my three best/favorite chapters, a synopsis of the story, an explanation of who I thought my target audience was, and the total word count. I think I was up till three in the morning one night working on all of that, and my heart was pounding when I hit send. I can’t believe I even slept that night. Two days later, Wednesday, I was elbow deep in bread dough when we got a package from UPS from Tate Publishing. I immediately started freaking out and washed my hands as fast as I could and tore into that package right away. My heart about burst out of my chest when I pulled out a 30 page Publishing and Distribution Contract! I called my dad, crying, to let him know the amazing news…they wanted to publish me!
This is where some big giants came and stood in front of me. I was thrilled, but also kind of bummed because I had to come up with a very large amount of money, a refundable publicity retainer. I get the money back after 1000 copies of the book sell, but still…I had to come up with the money within ten days. And people were very suspicious of the fact that I had to pay to get published. So let me clear the air about this. Tate Publishing house is a business. A business that wants to make money. But, they absorb all the costs of production, which is about $27,000. The refundable retainer I paid for is for publicity; books don’t sell themselves. With that money I have a publicist assigned to me to help me set up book signings and to ensure that my books sells so that I can sell 1000 copies and earn that money back. It’s an opportunity cost; I have to pay to ensure that my book sells. The self-publishing house was cheaper, but I know I’d struggle to get my book out there because it would only be available online. With Tate, they print books for me, have them available online at their website and on Barnes and Nobel and Amazon.com, plus it will be available for iPads, Nooks, and Kindles. They really push all their books and help me every step of the way, something I know wouldn’t be available at a self-publishing house. And who knows…maybe one day I’ll sign onto a big publishing house and get paid the big bucks to write. For now, I need to get my feet wet and my name out there. It’s a risk for Tate to publish me; I needed to make an investment in this. And I’m thanking God that I found investors to help me with the money: my father, grandparents, Aunt Brenda and Uncle Clint. What an answer to prayers! Without them I would have no hope of getting published.
Once I had the money I signed the contract and sent it away. And that’s where it’s gotten totally fun and exciting. I got an email right away with the formatting instructions for my manuscript. I then spent an entire day going through the manuscript making all the changes, which they said looked excellent. They scheduled it for production, meaning they will send it through a couple levels of editing and make it look all pretty. This is where the book will come alive and look professional. They will choose an appropriate font and illustrations for the breaks between sections within chapters. It’ll be a couple of months before the real works gets started, but apparently it goes really fast after that. They haven’t given me a date yet, but it’ll probably be about 6-8 months before it’s all done and ready to hit the shelves. In the meantime, they reserved a domain name for my future website…sarawhitley.tateauthor.com! That’s right…I’m using my married name on the book and website! Ben is pretty pumped about that J And since I sent in my payment before the end of May, I also get a Facebook page and a 15 second commercial that will air on some major T.V. channels such as: ABC Family, Animal Planet, Bravo, CMT, CNBC, CNN, E!, ESPN&ESPN2, Food Network, Fox News, Hallmark, HGTV, History Channel, Lifetime, MTV&MTV2, NFL Network (lol), Nickelodeon, SyFy, Spike (lol!), TBS, TLC, TNT, TruTV, TV Land, VH1, and The Weather Channel. So be watching in a few months for my book title: Another Ending, By Sara Whitley! Whoop whoop.
And, that’s about it! Pretty easy! But, it was surprising to get published on my first try. That doesn’t happen often, which gives me hope that this will be bigger than I imagined. I do get royalties for my work, which is fancy author talk for money, haha. I get money off the first book that sells, unlike other publishing houses that keep the money until after a certain number of books sell. Royalties will really help Ben and I pay for our wedding so my parents don’t have to shell out so much money, which is awesome. And if Tate decides to accept my sequel as well, those royalties will help us in our first years of marriage when money will be tight. Hopefully we can start paying off our loans right away after graduation. Ideally I would like to work a few years doing something with my Social Work degree, but it would be awesome if I could work from home when we start having kids. But having my degree in social work and getting a few years of experience will give me new ideas for books! Believe it or not I already have an idea for a third book in this series, as well as ideas for a few other books as well Crazy stuff.
Right now I’m working two jobs and writing in my spare time. I’m about eight chapters into the second book, but I won’t reveal the title or details for a while. My priority right now is to get school and a wedding paid for, and that means I must work my butt off this summer and simply write in my spare time. But it helps fill the hours that I miss my fiancé like crazy…he’s living in Sioux Falls for the summer. I’m thinking about getting a newsletter sent out, and I need to start designing a business card now that I have a domain name! I can’t get over that exciting little detail. My dad is my business advisor, and I went out and bought a ledger book to keep track of expenses. I have to look at this like a business, and boy am I glad I have a banker father and a business major fiancé to help me with all that. God is good and ALWAYS looking out for me. I have totally felt his hand throughout this whole ordeal, and I am beyond excited to see lives touched and hopefully changed because of my writing. If it reaches just one person for Christ I will consider it a success. It will be awesome to hear back from readers about what God has done through reading my book. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. So, if you’re wanting to pray for me, don’t. Pray for my readers. God takes care of me by providing me with endless ideas. I don’t worry anymore that I will get stuck in the middle. If I feel some writers block I step away for a few days and He always gets me back on track. So pray that my writing will reach the hearts it needs to and that those hearts will be open and willing.
That’s all for now! Be looking for more blog posts later on as I learn about where my book is at. And when it hits the shelves…the biggest way to support me is to buy the book! I am starting a list of book stores to do signings in, and if you have a store in mind please let me know. I can set up signings anywhere I want to if the owners are open to it. So let me know! Thanks for your interest and support, all. It’s great to already have fans cheering me on.