Welcome to this month’s Friday Feature interview. Today I visit with author Jennifer Slattery about her debut novel Beyond I Do. Read on to learn how her faith led her to her publisher.
At what point in writing your book did you begin to look for publishers?
I went to a large, national conference shortly after I finished my first novel, though that one hasn’t been published … yet. As to my debut, I mentioned it to Dr. Andrea Mullins, publisher at New Hope Publishers, after I’d written just under 40K words. I mentioned it again via email when I completed it, and she asked me to send it. Almost three years later, she offered me a contract.
Three years? Kudos to you for your perseverance. How did you fill that time?
I kept writing, but this is very much a God story. I met Dr. Mullins at a writer’s conference. I really didn’t even want to go. You see, shortly before, I learned a dear friend’s brain tumor was fatal, and I wanted to spend the weekend—the month—wallowing in despair. But I’d also recently learned that I had finaled in a contest, and the winner would be announced at the conference. So, on the urging of my husband, I went. That’s where I met Dr. Mullins. It might sound cliché, but she literally radiated with the love of Christ. I felt drawn to her. I was familiar with New Hope’s nonfiction but had no idea they were looking for fiction.
I met with Dr. Mullins, we chatted, and she invited me to send her my material. I went home and became completely overwhelmed, crippled by insecurity, and convinced myself she wouldn’t want to publish my stories.
Around this time, a blog editor I wrote for asked me to do a series of interviews on publishers, editors, and agents. You know where this is going, don’t you? Yep. I did a three-day interview on Dr. Mullins, and the more I got to know her and her publishing house, the more I loved them both. I still didn’t think she’d like my material, but one thing I knew for certain, if I were to sign with anyone, I wanted it to be New Hope Publishers.
So, months after her initial invite, I sent her a long email reminding her of our conversation and my work. She asked me to send my material, and then I began the long process of waiting. Almost three years worth of waiting, in fact.
In the meantime, I received a contract offer on the same book, but God made it very clear, He didn’t want me to sign it. I felt strongly He wanted me to wait on New Hope, regardless of how long it took and even if that meant I had numerous rewrites to do and much craft to learn. This was a bit scary. Here I was turning down a contract offer to wait on a maybe, but I sensed God’s direction so strongly, I knew that was truly my only option. The following October, Dr. Mullins called me to discuss a contract offer. Since then, God’s confirmed His leading numerous times, and I’ve signed two additional contracts with New Hope.
Wow, that is walking by faith. I struggle with knowing whether I’m truly hearing from God or if it’s my own desires influencing that little voice in my head. I’m sure others do too. It’s always exciting for me to hear how God works in others’ lives.
We know marketing our books is a major part of what we authors do these days. How are you tackling that?
Marketing has taken up a great deal of my time, and I suspect that’s because I’m not as focused or as organized as I could be. If I post a link to FB and a conversation follows, I can easily waste an entire day hanging about the social media circles. Next book, I must do better. Must stay focused. Mostly, I’m doing blog tour type stuff, which is fun.
What was the worst thing to deal with in the publishing process?
The worst part is probably wrestling with my insecurities. It’s one thing to have your critique partners read your stories. It’s another to know your stories will soon be out in the big wide world, where some people might actually hate them, and you, assuming that one thing you said meant something else entirely, or whatever. It’s like handing an introvert a microphone and telling her to do stand-up comedy in front of a stadium full of camera-snapping reporters.
What advice do you have for writers concerning finding and gaining a publisher?
Pray and follow God’s leading, no matter how long it takes to see fruit. Many told me not to wait so long on New Hope, that they would’ve already offered me a contract if that was their intent, but I sensed God’s guiding hand urging me to be patient. It took a bit of courage to do so, but I’m so glad I did! It’s truly been a wonderful experience working with their staff!
What advice do you have for writers for during the process between acceptance and release?
Stay focused, work hard, manage your time well, and leave the rest to God. Honestly, no one knows how well their book will sell, and I believe Internet marketing can only do so much. The rest is up to God. If He wants their—my—book to do well, it will. If He doesn’t, it won’t. But really, He brought the contract, so once it’s signed, the writer must trust Him to take care of the rest.
Do you have another book in the works? A publisher already lined up?
I plan to stay with New Hope Publishers for as long as they’ll have me, as they truly are a great fit for me. I have two other novels contracted with them, one scheduled to release in 2015, the third’s release date to be announced. I also sent two proposals for two sequels to follow Beyond I Do. I’m really hoping my editor likes the premises for books two and three as much as I do. I’ll probably go ahead and start writing book two soon, whether I hear a yay or nay or not. (I’m beginning to believe I’d much rather write ahead than on deadline.)
What did you know going into this whole publishing process that helped you the most?
I think what helped me the most was seeing God’s hand in the whole thing, surrendering my dreams and goals over to Him, and seeking to follow after Him, regardless of what that meant. It took all the stress and angst out of the whole thing. While I waited, I determined to write for Him, regardless if I ever received a contract, and I took great joy in that.
What did you learn—good and bad—through all this that you’ll apply to the next time?
I learned to use every moment, whether on deadline or not, because one must always be ready for last minute edits, promotional opportunities, or interviews. I’m really glad I treated writing like a career before I received my first contract. I believe that helped make the whole editing process much less stressful. When my editor asked for hefty changes, though I knew they’d be difficult, I also knew I could do it because I’d done it before. (Thanks to great and brutally honest critique partners!)
If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the lead roles?
Honestly, I don’t watch much television. I enjoy reading more, and snatch up every spare minute I can find to lose myself in a great story. But I’d be interested to know who my readers would suggest.
Jennifer, thank you for visiting with me today. What a wonderful publishing journey you’ve had. God’s blessings on your future projects.
Thank you so much for having me, Debra! I have a question for the readers: What’s one thing you’ve learned in your writing journey? or What’s one thing you wish you would’ve known?
Readers, post your answers in the comments below, including your suggestions for her leading role actors. Jennifer will be here all day to respond to your comments.
ABOUT JENNIFER SLATTERY:
Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/ Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.
Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?
Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.
Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.
Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for under $10! You can read a free 36 page sample here: http://issuu.com/newhopedigital/docs/beyond_i_do_sample?e=6362996/8842858