Friday, July 29, 2011

Hitting the "send" Button for Your First Proposal

There is something gratifying about hitting the send button for your first book proposal--and terrifying too.
It reminds me of Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movie when he takes a step across the canyon--he has to step before he can see or feel the bridge beneath him.

How will you know when you should hit the send button?

First: pray, pray, and pray some more.

Any potential great success--or failure--will need God's guiding will and presence on your journey. I had this proposal nearly finished three months after I was invited to send it, but God said--wait. So, I have been waiting. And that was nine months ago!

Second: work while you wait.

Network. Critique. Read other's works that you love. Edit your work. Start your next novel. Keep working, keep honing your craft. Go to a conference. Learn to take criticism well.

Third: develop an attitude that finishing your first novel is a lofty goal, but not so amazing that everyone will notice--so get over yourself.

Many people tell me they've dreamed of writing a book; dreaming isn't hard work. But the number of people who actually write a first book--now that's certainly an accomplishment. But it's really only a personal goal. It's when you keep writing after that, and keep writing, and keep writing--that you know you write to have a voice and to tell a story for the sake of Truth.

I was working on plotting my book two when I overheard a line from the series Castle while the kids were watching T.V. in the next room. It gave me pause. Castle says to another writer who'd just boasted about the completion of his first novel: "Yeah, I wrote a book. Then I shut up about it and wrote twenty-five more."

Fourth: keep praying. Once you hit send, it's in God's hands.

When the Prayer of Jabez came out and I read that line about asking God to increase my territory, I confess--I told God I didn't need my territory increased--I had enough on my plate already. It was fear that made me tell God that. I continually feel that tension. It's God who manages the territory, not me--but it's still me who walks in my territory, touching lives that intersect with mine. I am literally terrified of success. I thought after I hit send, that a rejection would be easier than success. The most releasing thing about hitting the send button was imagining I'd sent the email to God and not to the Senior Acquisitions Editor at a big publishing house.

So: Let go, and let God.

I'm trying to get out of my own way.

God Bless,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spotlight on Nappanee's Local Bookstore

If you live in a big city or metropolitan area, you no doubt have reasonably good access to the larger chain bookstores. But most of rural America is struggling to maintain long established privately owned local bookstores. I stopped by our local bookstore to take a look and ask the owner what keeps her going in Nappanee, Indiana.

Light of Grace is locally owned by Jolene Stutzman since 2010. She's been open for 15 months and reports her business is going strong. The store is located in Coppes Commons, where Nappanee's historic kitchen cabinet factory is being restored for local businesses to take up shop. Once known as Coppes Brother's Planing Mill, established in 1876, Nappanee became the premiere manufacturer for the kitchen cabinet known as "The Hoosier". Cabinets are still manufactured here, but the original buildings are in disuse until recently when John Mast Construction had a dream for its restoration.

I love the bookstore experience for the "real feel" where I can browse the pages of the books while I sip on a latte. Light of Grace can hold its own for those who expect a books-and-drinks experience. Not only is the next shop over the local bakery, but they also sell specialty coffees at Main Street Cafe. And I'll bet the large bookstore chains can't boast a tea shop in addition to a coffee shop. The Teapot & More offers a small dining nook that will kindle memories of the Victorian age--but you certainly can't get this experience from a Kindle or a Nook!

Jolene tells me she is able to stay solvent in her business by selling gifts in addition to books. She projects about 75% of her business is from gifts while 25% is from book sales. Because Nappanee is in the heart of northern Indiana's Amish country, tourism helps her sales, yet she states it's hard to determine the percentage of her sales to locals versus tourists. However, she believes a large portion of her supporters are local buyers over the age of 40 who still like to buy books the old fashioned way.

Jolene says a large share of her  buyers are the elderly who do not own a computer and still buy a lot of cards to mail to their family and friends. Jolene is what we would say here as either Amish or Conservative, wearing a plain handmade dress and covering, so I did not ask to photo her. She tells me about 50% of her customers are Amish and Mennonites, and thinks they buy more books in general than other people. And though many who love to read Amish or Bonnet fiction might believe the Amish actually read these works, but many do not read the fiction written about them. To them, perhaps fiction is stranger than truth.

Jolene tells me she has done two book signings with authors, the most recent was Mesu Andrews. She sold nearly fifty books and felt this was worth her and Mesu's time. She has a nice selection of Christian fiction and nonfiction, but I pre-ordered one she didn't carry. I hope to support her rather than since my to-be-read pile is tall enough to wait until the book arrives.

How do you support your local bookstores to preserve the experience of reading in the nooky space between the stacks until you've kindled your imagination long enough to satisfy your escape?

Comments by owner Jolene Stutzman used by permission.


Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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