It’s a day late but here’s the answer to the third question I was asked on my Facebook page. This question came from my dear friend Lilit in Yerevan, Armenia, who is a valuable member of our Joseph Hovsepian Ministries team (she does all our translation between English and Armenian and helps us in many other ways). She asked…
That’s a great question! I could easily spend an hour talking about the process of getting my first book published but I won’t do that to you. :) I’ll try to pare the story down to the bare essentials, though the details are still vivid in my mind, partly because your first book will have that effect on you but also because I kept a journal of every step I took with that project.
The idea for my first book, The One Year Designer Genes Devo, was conceived in January 2003. After twisting the arm of my friend Jonathan to borrow the movie The Princess Diaries from my nieces, I asked for his feedback. Naturally, as a 30-something man, he didn’t get overly excited about it. (There’s a big difference between The Princess Diaries and The Princess Bride!) Still, he was a good sport and, as we chatted about it, I tried to explain why I still enjoyed movies and books aimed at preteen and teen girls, sharing that I’d been contemplating starting some kind of outreach to them, perhaps through an activity book.
That sparked a flurry of exchanged emails as he encouraged me to brainstorm ideas and then thoughtfully responded to each one, adding his own suggestions and urging me to pursue this dream, though it was still formless at the time. A month later, I had sketched out a rough outline for an activity book / agenda and began filling in specific ideas for chapters and topics.
And then I kind of dropped the whole thing for a while. In January 2004, Jonathan gave me a deadline, knowing that I needed one if I was going to seriously work on this. He asked me to prepare a proper outline by February 29 of that year. At that point, I remembered an idea I’d been playing with seven years earlier! In a notebook, I had scribbled the words “Designer Genes” and some notes about how we’re all created in God’s image and should try to become more like Him, showing off our designer GENES, not our JEANS.
Fast-forward to mid-March (Jonathan had kindly given me a two-week extension). My outline was complete! But. . . Now what? I didn’t know where to go with my outline.
Fast-forward again to May 2004, the first time I attended an Evangelical Press Association convention. There was a workshop on writing your first book proposal (I don’t think that’s been offered since — talk about divine timing!) and the instructor was David Sanford, a well-respected literary agent in the Christian book industry. Before the workshop, he made it clear that he was not going to take on any new clients that weekend. Afterward, I timidly approached him to mention that I had a book idea but needed some direction about my next steps, and he generously invited me to sit with him at supper that evening to talk about it.
To make a very long story short, he loved my book idea and offered to casually coach me in preparing a proper book proposal. A couple of months later, that was done and he said he wanted to represent me. I didn’t even know I needed an agent and here was one offering to be mine!
The rest is history and goes beyond the scope of Lilit’s question. I guess the short answer is that the inspiration for my first book was tucked away in my heart and mind long before I even considered writing one. I can only credit God for providing that initial spark. Jonathan gave me the light “shove” (or, I suppose, lit the match) I needed to get started and, later, family members and other friends encouraged me along the way. Finally, it was David who went to bat for me and got me a contract with Tyndale House Publishers, something I could never have done on my own.
Thanks for letting me share these special memories! :)
Next week’s question: Do you have a rigorous schedule for writing? How did you get started on a consistent writing regime…when did you start writing for publishing? Where do you write your best work…desk, bed, kitchen, living room? Office?