How to Get Published is a continuing feature at The Book Bin where we ask authors to tell us their publishing stories. Was it a rocky road or did it come easy for them? Did they start with an agent and get a NY publisher interested in their book or did they self-publish? What words of wisdom do they have for all of us who would like to be published one day?
Today’s guest is Thom Hunter, author of the sexuality/relationships/inspirational book, Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do, published by Westbow Press.
For a long time I said I would rather write than eat. Now’s the day I write to eat. It’s nice when the dream and the dare come together, but it doesn’t happen without persistence and a few punches. Writing is a great way to recover and rebuild the ego.
My newest book, Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do, is my most targeted work and the book for which I hold out the most hope because it offers so much hope for others. When I look back at my years of writing, I realize that all of it built my comfort level to the point where I could be transparent enough with readers to write openly and truthfully about a difficult subject.
The “want to” and the “have to” and the “need to,” connected; the “will do,” emerged, and the obstacles all authors face – finding an agent, a publisher, a marketing avenue – faded in the light of the determination to find just the right words to express a story I believed had to be shared. Passion pulled me through the ever-changing maze of publishing.
Like many authors, I grew up believing I would write a great fiction novel, be discovered and end up on all the best-seller lists. That level of success is still on my to-do list. My background in journalism led me more towards non-fiction writing. I looked around at the lives of people struggling to survive the challenges and issues common to man and I found that what I really wanted to do was offer a mix of sympathy and encouragement . . . but always with a healthy dose of truth.
My first book was Like Father-Like Sons (And Daughter, Too), published by Revell in 1987. In the late ‘80s, an author could still approach publishers directly with a query and find success, as long as the material was well-written and relevant. I had no agent, no book proposal, just a pitch and some polished chapters about what it was like to raise five children in middle-America, trying to hold on to ever-challenged values. The book did well in the inspiration/humor/family category.
In the meantime, mostly because I had five children to raise, I moved from a newspaper career into a more lucrative but more demanding corporate public relations career with AT&T. The novelist dream took a back seat.
I followed up Like Father, with Those Not-So-Still Small Voices, published by NavPress in 2000. Again, it was still possible at that time to work directly with the publisher, which I did, negotiating a fair advance. In an unfortunate quirk of timing, Voices was released in the same NavPress publishing cycle as The Message, a new translation of the Bible. Guess where NavPress’ promotional efforts went? Still, Voices did well and helped establish me as a family issues author.
I began writing Surviving Sexual Brokenness within two weeks of taking early retirement from AT&T. Finally, it was time to present the story of my life as a precautionary tale to others who struggle with sexual identity and temptation. I saw around me many men and women who, like me, had wanted to live the dream of perfect spouse, great parent, reputable member of the community . . . and had found themselves being pulled under by relentless sexual temptation. Their lives, like mine, had become a struggle for survival. I wanted to offer encouragement and truth, but with compassion.
Getting Surviving Sexual Brokenness into the market has not been easy. In the 10 years since Voices, the publishing industry had changed drastically. Based on two previous experiences with traditional publishers, I wanted to take that route again. That meant finding an agent first, which I found is almost as hard as finding a publisher. I’m very pleased with my agent, Joyce Hart at Hartline Literary.
Despite her connections, Joyce was unable to place Surviving Sexual Brokenness with a traditional publisher. The truth and transparency of the book challenges the cultural shift toward acceptance of anything sexual as good and healthy. Amazingly, several great publishers came very close to offering contracts, only to be warned away by the culture study members of the marketing team. Still, the feedback was always “you really need to find a publisher and get this book out there.”
With all the alternatives to traditional publishing – do-it-yourself, vanity presses, POD, straight to Kindle, etc. – it’s a difficult decision. I chose WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson because it has the feel of a traditional publisher, a strong history, and packages that allow you to decide how much marketing support you are willing to pay for. I believed in this book enough to invest some money behind the time and creativity I had already invested.
At this point, I believe that my own marketing of the book has produced greater results than that done by WestBow, but I am hopeful WestBow’s efforts will be more measurable at some point.
I suggest writers try to build a platform in advance of their book. My blog “Signs of a Struggle” already had a strong following. My presence on Facebook was growing. This allowed me to promote the book in advance and created not only anticipation, but credibility. The credibility then grows with the publication of the book. I’m now exploring other options and have just published a Kindle Store booklet called Sex and the Church: Less than Amazing Grace.
One thing I think writers need to do is protect our craft. Too many people fall for the myth that writing a book – any book – will make them rich. So, as a result, we’re drowning in poorly-written, message-bare books, self-published by writers in bad need of editors. As a result, the well-written books face a new level of scrutiny and skepticism.
If you love to write, write well. If you write well, you’ll be able to keep on doing it.
I hope you will read, and perhaps review, Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do. Regardless of whether you struggle with a sexual issue yourself, you know someone who does who could really use your help.
Thom Hunter is a Christian married father of five who fought, fell and rose again to fight against unwanted same-sex attraction. He encourages others to press on, moving beyond excuses, to claim responsibility and power through the Grace of God. Thom believes the church has failed in its responsibility to provide hope and healing for those who struggle with sexual brokenness.
Thom is a former newspaper and magazine editor, journalism professor and speech-writer. He spent 20 years with AT&T as a public relations executive and chief of staff. He now writes and speaks full-time.
Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do is his third and most recent book.
You can visit his website at www.thomhunter.com or his blog at www.signsoffastruggleblog.com. Connect with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com@Thomasthefree and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thom.hunter.