Writers, please welcome today’s guest blogger Katheryn Maddox Haddad. While Carrie and I are going indie, we have plenty of room at the table for traditionally published authors like Katheryn. And her story is truly inspiring! Whatever your goals, keep after them. You never know – the next proposal you send could be the winner. And what if you’d given up just before sending it?
Congrats from Carrie and me, Katheryn.
My 57-Year Quest for One Book
When I was seventeen, I wrote about the crucifixion. As usual, I showed it to my girlfriends. They all said I should write the entire life of Christ. I told them I wasn’t old enough or wise enough. I needed to spend time living real life in order to give it justice. So, I told them when I was sixty, I would write it.
When I was sixty, I wrote it.
When I was through writing it, I had 80 chapters. I had covered 100 people who had met and struggled with Jesus. Also, I realized I had written a lyrical novel, a novel that can be analyzed like a poem. I made it an octilogy with book one ~ Star Song ~ being entirely on the birth of Christ. Every chapter begins with a doubt, but most end with victorious faith.
That done, I found out that American Christian Writers was having a conference in a nearby city. I showed some of my MS to several publishing reps and they thought it had merit, but they weren’t really interested in a biography of Jesus. Bios of Jesus were popular back in the 1940s through the 1960s. It was now 1994, and the popular genre (though that word wasn’t being used then) had long ago switched to how-to books: How to pray more, how to please your husband or wife more, how to raise your children better, how to stay moral, etc. They did advise that I create a proposal.
The following year I spent creating the most magnificent proposal you have ever seen. It even listed all the books on the same subject for the past forty years! I began sending it to publishers. I was sometimes told it was the most thorough proposal they had ever seen (though I think they wrote it tongue-in-cheek), but they weren’t interested. Or I wouldn’t hear from them for six months and I’d start writing polite follow-up letters, and finally would call them and was told they guess they lost it.
When the year was over, I went back to another ACW conference at the same place. I got the same response from them. They thought the proposal was good and they liked the writing, but the topic wasn’t popular.
So, the following year I tried to find an agent. But at that time, an agent wouldn’t take you on unless you had published at least one book already. I was told publishers would be more interested in me if I was a public speaker. I attended a week-long seminar with Florence Littauer and learned to speak without reading. Then I sent out word that I would speak for various groups, but groups tend to line up women someone already knows and has heard.
I continued to send my proposal and sample chapters to a few more Christian publishers. But I got no response from publishers or agents, and few responses to speak. So I took my manuscript and all my notes researching it, put them in boxes, and put them away in my closet. That was around 1999. I’d written it in 1990. I’d given it nine years.
On and off in the following years, I would get out one of the chapters, turn it into a booklet, and sell them at Bible lectureships, conferences, etc. I didn’t sell many, and would always go home and put them in my boxes.
In 2013, I got my books back out and decided to publish them myself in spiral binding. So I went through all eight books and did formatting for them all. I created a nice cover. And I spent hours on end printing two pages on one sheet, cutting them in half, then arranging them in book order, then gluing the pages back to back. Then I’d go back to the printer and print a master. I ended up with six inches of book. I took them to my alma mater’s annual lectureship and tried to peddle them with their nice cover and pre-formatted layout to several book publishers that were there. But they were only interested in Bible class books, not novels.
My husband had watched me go through all this. At first he was my Barnabas and kept encouraging me. But after all these years, he just remained silent as he watched me go through everything again; it was kind of a silent sigh for me.
Then last November my husband passed away. I moved to Arizona and moved in with my brother until I could find a place of my own. I had plenty of time on my hands. Someone in one in the ladies’ Bible classes I began attending talked about Sandi Rog and her first-century novels. I got one of her books and read it. In it, she thanked the American Christian Fiction Writers for their encouragement. I looked them up on the internet and joined them.
I entered the Genesis Contest but hardly got to first base with them. I dusted off my old proposals, revised them since proposals are different now, and sent a few out. No one was interested. I realized that the popular genre in Christian books is now romance and mystery. I entered three more contests, but hardly rated with them either.
In the past people had compared my writing to Max Lucado’s. I had received good reviews from Urban Renewal, Focus on the Family, and others. But the publishers still didn’t want it. I decided to throw in the towel.
I sent a message to the online loop of ACFW and told them I was throwing in the towel and may as well just trash the whole thing. I was giving up for good.
I received a phone call from a publisher in the loop saying he wanted the whole series. That kept me from trashing it. But after several months of stalling, he finally admitted he had changed his mind. Down again. But that same week I heard about a new publisher, Mantle Rock, and decided to send my proposal one last time.
They accepted it.
As of November, 2014, the first of my eight books on the life of Christ ~ Star Song ~ was released. The other books will be released in three-month intervals. I am now seventy-four years old.