How I Got My Book Contract

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The “How I Got My Contract” story for writers is much like labor and delivery stories. Oddly fascinating, terribly messy, always unique. When I was “on sub” I found myself reading loads of these stories. Like, an unhealthy amount. And I knew that when (if) my day came around, I wanted to share my story, too. So, without further ado…

March 22, 2018: Met with an editor friend and unofficially sent her my manuscript
May 17: Editor friend passed on it so Awesome Agent swiftly sent it out to a few houses
May 21: I was chatting with another editor friend (whom I’ll affectionately call HOUSE EARL GREY) and she asked to see m/s
May 23: Unbelievably, in only two days, editor (HOUSE EARL GREY) read entire manuscript, liked it, and was sending it on to editorial team to read and review! After having two previous manuscripts taking months and months for anyone to read, if they ever read it at all, this was super exciting
June 6: Agent emails that another publishing house (HOUSE GINGERBREAD) has read my proposal and wants to read the full manuscript
June 27: Editorial team (HOUSE EARL GREY) approved manuscript and went on to recommend a two-book deal, pending it passes the financial meeting
July 9: Manuscript passes financial meeting and official 2-book deal offer from HOUSE EARL GREY!!!

yeah

At this point, I am incredibly excited and assume that we will take this offer. But when I message Awesome Agent, he informs me:
July 12: A third house, HOUSE CELLO, wants to take it to a team meeting on 7.24. HOUSE GINGERBREAD is still reading and interested. And a new HOUSE CANDY CANE is possibly interested as well.

Suddenly, things get messy. It’s the prom date scenario everyone and no one wants. The perfectly lovely saxophone player/friend asked you to prom, and he is wonderful, and you are thrilled, but then out of nowhere the new guy with the really cool hair winks at you in the hall. No promises, nothing asked, but he looks directly at you and winks. 

Saxophone player is a sophomore. This guy is a senior. Rumor is, he came from California and has a pool.

That’s okay, I thought. I have a little wiggle room in time, I don’t have to answer EARL GREY today. I’ll give it a few days and decide. Surely they’ll all have a definitive yes or no by then.

But days pass.

A week.

Two.

Nothing. Finally agent and I have a chat. What’s the saying? A bird in hand is worth two in the bush? It would be a real dream, going with California-pool-owning-nice-hair senior, but I knew rejection well. There were so many meetings and levels my manuscript still needed to pass. SO OFTEN the manuscript gets turned down at one level or another. I’d been through this before with the whole submission process with Red Carpet Summer (available for free here). I was tired, so tired, of rejection. Even more tired of the wishy-washy, never-ending “this has real potential, give me more time…” maybes.

Saxophone player was very sweet. It was a good offer.

BUT then I had a phone call with my good author buddy (Bethany, I’m calling you out), and she said something that really helped determine my course. “Melissa, if you find out two weeks after you say yes to EARL GREY that you get a contract with CELLO, would you be really disappointed?” And I realized then, yes. I would feel positively devastated if CELLO actually said yes and it was too late by two weeks. 

It was a real risk. EARL GREY could pull back the offer, and nobody could end up offering anything. I’d be going stag to prom, or rather, not going to prom at all.

Again.

But, for me, it was worth the risk. I mean, he winked. And, right then, his cousins GINGERBREAD and CANDY CANE were also standing there, giving me decent, wobbly smiles. 

So, finally, being a bit unconventional, I had a heart-to-heart phone conversation, across the ocean, to EARL GREY. I spoke honestly. And EARL GREY, dear, wonderful EARL GREY, was understanding and said they would wait until I heard from CELLO and his friends. I am forever grateful for how much that meant to me.

Then, more painful waiting.

July 24: HOUSE GINGERBREAD says still reviewing, busy time of year.
August 14: HOUSE CELLO says manuscript passed the acquisitions meeting and they ask when I want to do a group phone call! I reply that I would be available anytime. Ever. At 3am if they wanted. (yes, really replied that.)
August 27: CELLO group phone call with Awesome Agent, three editors, and publicist! Took the phone call in the quietest place I could imagine, my car, and prayed desperately against the sudden fear I’d develop a tic in those forty-five minutes and say something totally crazy about wild ferrets. Actually ran through a mental list of all the bizarre things that could potentially slip out of mouth, thereby sealing my fate forever.


Sept 13: THE MOMENT.

After yet another eighteen days of watching my inbox on my phone every five minutes, I was at the salon getting my hair done and saw Awesome Agent’s name across the screen and, of course, my stomach flipped. I swiftly turned the phone over on my lap. My hairdresser noticed and I said I couldn’t look, that it was only the most important email ever and I didn’t have the heart to read it right there. If it was a NO then I’d have to sit there, with a thousand pieces of aluminum foil in my hair, trying to process with a smile plastered on my face. If it was YES, however, I still had the problem of there being a thousand pieces of aluminum foil in my hair, and it would be terribly tedious to run around the parking lot like a wild, silver-headed chicken, still having to return to my seat at some point. My hairdresser tried to convince me, but I finally compromised. If it was a YES, then I’d call the salon in the car and relay the message to her from the receptionist with one word: YAY.

I got to the car, pulled the door shut, tried to convince myself to wait until I got home, got to a drive-thru at Dunkin’ Donuts, and pulled out my phone. Sure enough, it was BLANK. The message was blank. My luck. I emailed him swiftly asking if there was a message… And finally, I saw it.

I got a THREE BOOK DEAL FROM THOMAS NELSON!!!

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Unbelievable. I was going to prom with my Californian-cool-hair dream date. And the after party. And to his parent’s summer home in Vienna.

I called the salon and gave the receptionist the word: YAY! Receptionist asked for clarification. I gave none.

I was, and still am, truly floored. And grateful. And fully aware of how blessed I am.

Awesome Agent and Awesome Editor went back and forth on details of the contract, and the official contract came October 2nd. With a couple more questions, the contract was finally signed and shipped October 5th.

So there you have it. This is the messy, wild, terrible, wonderful inside world of the frenzied writer while on submission. If you see one of them around, biting her nails, checking her email like a nervous tic, get her a coffee. Take her on a stroll. Offer sympathetic nods often. 

 

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Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

 

 

That Time Jesus Got Angry

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While there are some folks out there who really do have the misplaced notion that Jesus’ hobbies were limited to holding stuffed lambs and chatting about peace under dim light in honeyed tones, most do recognize that there were gruesome aspects involved. Things like declaring sin was rather a big deal after all, and He had come to conquer it in a way hard to fathom: the way of nails and cross.

But even with so many of us grasping the fact that Jesus was crucified—after all, just about everyone in the United States at least knows what Easter represents—there is still yet another facet about his life and ministry that gets underplayed: his anger.

Oddly enough, the question popped into my head this week as the sun was setting beyond my steering wheel and I drove to our local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) meeting:

What did Jesus get angry over?

He didn’t flip out when he talked with adulterous women. He didn’t grab the men by the tunic and shake them for inflating tax prices in order to steal from those poorest for their own gain. No, Jesus was revolutionary for the anti-cultural way he managed to love on those most despised and broken while at the same time boldly stating the truth about the Way.

So, what really got His blood boiling? Because, after all, shouldn’t that be the kind of thing I care about too?

                And it struck me in a new way, in that lovely way that the Bible continues to teach despite the thousands of times you’ve read through that story. The biggest time in Scripture Jesus was positively enraged was after entering the temple and seeing money changers and those selling sacrificial animals. Their jobs weren’t the problem, in fact they were perfectly necessary and legitimate occupations. After all, many Jews didn’t have the luxury of a minivan to toss the goat and doves into when they took the long trek to Jerusalem. So, instead, they’d take their coins and buy the sacrificial animals when they got there. But what was the thorn there that caused to Jesus make a whip out of cords, run around flipping over tables, and scare people out of their minds? And why was this story so important that it’s included not just in Matthew, not just in Mark, but in all four gospels?

One clue is when Jesus exclaimed, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Simply put, Jesus went to the temple and found people exploiting the traveling Jews who needed to exchange money and buy animals. They hiked up the prices to profit from things devoted to God. They turned the holiest and most sacred place on Earth into nothing more than an overpriced coffee shop. They used God for their own profit.

As I turned into my group meeting I wondered, what would that be equivalent to today? And the words practically whispered in my ear: using writing (about God) to magnify myself.

It was a startling and scary thought. For while we as Christians should do whatever we do as for the Lord (Colossians 3:23), it is even more essential to make sure all tasks under the umbrella of teaching are focused wholly on God.

Even James states this, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

Taking on the task of teaching about God, whether through such tasks as preaching, leading a Bible study, mentoring a friend, or in my case, writing inspirational fiction, is not something to take lightly. Because while it is unfortunately tempting to focus your Olympic-level beach volleyball skills or business career on yourself, using something that is supposed to be all about glorifying God for yourself is another level. Ten lower levels. Something that could make Jesus chase you around the living room with a whip of cords.

So, all that’s to say, this is something I’ll have to constantly remind myself of as I continue the pursuit of writing for God’s glory. As editors send feedback telling me to post more blogs about myself, as I wait for a contract that will bear my name on the bottom, as one day (Lord willing) I publish that book or two and find myself under the huge temptation to take pride in my work (and alternatively, plunge into depths of despair should my work receive bad reviews, get fourth in that contest, etc.), I must be mindful to stop and ask myself, “Wait. Now who is this all for again?”

Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

 

 

 

Heralds Publishing Salvation

trumpeters-921709_1280“We remain on Earth as sowers to scatter good seed; as plowmen to break up the fallow ground; as heralds publishing salvation.”                     — Charles Spurgeon

Heralds publishing salvation.

As I read this devotion from Spurgeon I was stopped by this phrase in particular, and felt in myself that rare spark that told me those words were special and I’d better be listening.

I rewrote the phrase in my journal, letting the words simmer.

Heralds publishing salvation—what a beautiful vocation to have.

Spurgeon was right, and God was gracious in reminding me of just one of His purposes for my life at the moment. You see, when I began writing fiction in a lonely hotel room four years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what the rules of publishing were—how long publishers required the word count to be, what certain topics to avoid or cling to, what genre sold and what didn’t. I just found some inspiration and started typing away.

But in the past year or so, with one book finished and now on that long hopeful track toward publication, I’ve learned a lot. Enough, in fact, to find myself getting bogged down in the details and in need of a God-sized reminder of what I was trying to do in the first place.

And yesterday morning, during devotion time, that reminder came.

So… so what if Christian fiction is having a hard go of it right now? So what if the latest advice is to drop the spiritual talk in order for the manuscript to have a chance at the general market? It may be fine advice and perhaps (Lord desirous) a tactic in future books, but as for this one, I see a unique stamp of God in it just as it is, and that’s something I must hesitate to take White Out to. After all, it’s not every day one gets the chance to be a herald publishing salvation.

Following the leading of the Lord, whatever it may be, is always the wisest plan.

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

 

Daily Meditation: Psalm 118

Bible in a Year: Ezra 3-5; John 20