My heart is broken today.
My son Michael, now 18, was two months old when I attended my first writer's conference in Philadelphia. I remembered pushing him around the college in his little umbrella stroller, nervously showing my first draft of my first novel, Johanna's Journey, to the few editors I had landed appointments with. A few years later at a Maryland conference, an editor for the first time wanted to show my proposal to his committee. I was so excited - surely this was it! A few weeks later I received a rejection letter addressed to Dear Author. I cried when I read the letter. They couldn't even use my name! I knew the road to publishing might be harder than I had first thought, but had no idea how hard.
The years passed with more novels, more conferences, more meetings with editors. I received some nice compliments and encouraging words, and more rejection letters. I completed Ellen's Intercession, The Return of the Rebel, and Kerry's Calling. After about eight years of writing, an editor requested the complete manuscript of The Return of the Rebel. Again I was so excited - here was my big break! I waited a year before following up, only to be told that the manuscript had been lost in a computer crash. I resubmitted, waited another year, and then received a rejection letter. The publishing guidelines had changed in those two years, and my novel no longer fit the criteria, although "it was a pretty good story and we probably would have accepted it."
Finally, about three years ago, I told God I was done. I had one more conference to attend, and after that I wasn't going to try anymore. At that conference I met with three different editors who all requested that I submit my latest novel, Finding Father. So began another round of submissions, revisions, resubmissions. One editors seemed genuinely excited about my idea and requested that I rework the entire manuscript so she could take it to her committee. I complied, spending many hours over several months revising the manuscript according her suggestions. On Thursday I received an e-mail from her, saying that her committee felt my writing "isn't quite there."
So there I am. I hesitate to use the word "never," but at this moment I feel pretty certain that I will never submit a manuscript to a traditional publisher again. I have never gotten as close to publication as I did with this latest house and can't believe that I ever will again. I have five novels that I would like to share with the world, but I seem to be hitting brick walls over and over again.
I am wrestling with this situation spiritually as well. If God didn't want me to write, why did I keep getting encouragement over the years, only to have doors slammed in my face? Why did he take me so far only to lead me to a dead end? Or maybe it wasn't God leading me at all, but my own wishful thinking, my own fantasy of being a writer? Does God want me to be happy writing novel after novel and not care if I have an audience or if anyone reads them? All these questions are circling through my mind, and I have no answers yet.
The one possibility still open to me is self-publishing. Up till now, I've hesitated to go that route for several reasons. The first, I suppose, is my own insecurity and need for validation. If the "professionals" don't think my books are worth their time and money, why should I spend family's money on something that isn't all that worthwhile? The other reason is a realistic knowledge of my own strengths and weaknesses. If I have a strength in this field, my strength is writing, not marketing. If I self-publish, the burden of marketing my own books is entirely on my shoulders, and that isn't something that I feel completely (or even slightly) comfortable with.
But at this point I don't have much to lose. I am at a crossroad, but I am going to think and pray and explore the possibility of self-publishing. Maybe it will turn into another dead end. Maybe I will manage to sell a few hundred books through this method and my books will speak to someone or touch their lives or influence them in some way, and that will be worth it. Maybe I will even be one of the rare success stories. Only God knows.