I’m getting published!!! I’m so excited to share this news. However, it doesn’t seem right to share this news without sharing how AMAZING our God is! So, let me tell you the whole story!
In April of 2017, I felt this stir in my heart to write a book. It really didn’t make a lot of sense. I have never been the best writer or even really cared to write much at all. But this was a feeling a couldn’t shake. I told my husband about it, and he said, “So, do it.”
Recognizing this was a call from God, I thought, “If God wants me to write a book, obviously He would want me to share my testimony.” I sat at the computer and began to type. However, the words just did not come out. God has done some amazing and wonderful things in my life. He took me from a life of complete chaos to peace, yet I barely had 200 words on this page.
I closed my word document, shut off the computer, and said out-loud, “God, if you want me to write a book, you are going to have to give me something.”
The next day… I took my children to the library for story time. Grace was three at the time. She picked up a whole bunch of princess books and was excited to bring them home to read. As I read the first book, I grew angry with the message this book was giving my young daughter. Grace, she only cared about the pretty dresses and glitter on the pages. But me, I was mad!
I stewed on it. I vented about it to anyone who would listen- these princess books were horrible! Then I was texting my mother-in-law about these books. She sent a simple response, “Renee, it’s just the storyline.”
In that second it all clicked- It’s just the storyline! Renee, change the storyline!!! You were called to write a book, maybe this is the book.
In no time at all, I typed out three princess stories with a message I want my daughter to hear. You are a princess because you are the daughter of a Heavenly King.
Ideas were still flooding my mind and more stories quickly followed.
As I was reading the stories to my kids, I noticed my boys were hanging onto every word. They loved the biblical application to the stories. “Mom, we want to be in the stories.”
This one I had to think about. Boys don’t really want to be a prince. Boys want to be warriors. Boys want to be knights. Thus, another series was developed that I was calling Knight Tales.
So, I did it. I wrote the book. Now what? I reached out to my cousin who is an author’s assistant. She told me to start querying agents, ten at a time. And as I got a rejection letter, send out another.
So, I started with Google. But I quickly learned being in such a specific genre meant there was a short list of agents. Finding an agent who represents Christian children’s picture books was hard.
I found an upcoming Christian Writers’ Conference and decided to query the agents that were going to be at it. One of them had a very long submission guideline. But I followed it and submitted.
It wasn’t until she responded that I realized I submitted to a small publisher. This was the very first response I received, and she said yes! Yes, but… because she was such a small publisher, I would need to have the book illustrated.
I was so excited. I immediately reached out to someone I knew was talented and wanted to illustrate children’s books. However, as much as she wanted to, it just was not realistic for her to do so.
So, I asked the publisher to put me in contact with one of her illustrators. Everything was all set up, until the illustrator realized there was no contract yet… then another illustrator fell through.
I decided, maybe… just maybe, this wasn’t meant to be.
But if one publisher said yes, maybe another would too.
So, I bought the Christian Writer’s Market guide and highlighted every single publisher that accepted unsolicited manuscripts and children’s books.
And I waited.
Two weeks later, I got my first rejection letter. It hurt. It hurt deep. I was so defeated. I went to church for a Wednesday Night Prayer Service. As the pastor opened with prayer, he asked, “Is there anyone in here feeling defeated?”
I raised my hand and tears just started flowing as he prayed. Then a girl came up to me with a note. She said, “I hope I don’t sound dumb, but God told me to give this to you.”
She had written on prayer card, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’ Philippian 1:6 The Lord is not finished with you. Keep seeking Him.”
Then the pastor preached on this verse. Clearly this was a message perfectly timed for me. God knew I was defeated, but he was not finished.
As the years would go on with this project, I would continue to look at the verse. Often, I would wonder if that good work was the book or if it was referring to the sanctification process. Was it talking about the work God called me to do, or the process of becoming more like Christ? In my heart, I knew it didn’t really matter, because God was using that verse to comfort and reassure me.
More Rejection, Some Hope
The publishers started responding. This publishing world was completely foreign to me. It amazed me how everyone genuinely wanted to help, they just couldn’t be the one to give me that start. I heard a lot of no’s, but I also heard some hope. Most of the publishers offered some guidance, advice on revisions, or suggestions for my next steps. I ended up having five publishing companies offer me hybrid contracts. This basically means, I pay for the publication. I definitely could not do that.
During this time, I had one agent respond to my query. She told me to self-publish my first book and if it sells 5,000 copies, she would represent me on my next book. Being completely naive, I responded that I had already had interested publishers. I then asked if I could sell 5,000 on my own, why would I need you.
This woman- thank God for her! I’m not even sure why she responded, but she did. She explained to me that in the publishing world it doesn’t matter how good your content is. What they care about is whether or not you can sell your work. You need a platform.
I didn’t like what she told me, but it was the truth. I needed a platform.
So, I started a blog. It was quite the roller-coaster. There were so many times I wanted to quit. So many times, I wondered if it was even worth it.
One specific time, I even wrote about it. (Frustrated)
My husband read that post. Then he had a heart-to-heart with me. He told me that if God called me to this blog, I could not quit it without consulting him. I needed to steady the course. And maybe it was time to start looking for that illustrator again.
I really did not want to do this again. Last time this did not pan out too well. But I knew my husband was right.
I felt heavy on my heart I needed to ask my friend Anna. Now Anna is an extremely artistic and talented person, but it still felt weird asking her. I didn’t do it. I didn’t want another illustrator to fall through. But this feeling didn’t go away. I told Ben. He said, “So, ask her.”
Anna responded that she was flattered that I asked, but her sister, Connie, is really the person I want to illustrate for me. She sent me a link to her page.
I took one look at Connie’s work and knew that she would be a good fit. So, I reached out to her. Before I knew it, a beautifully illustrated book was coming together.
As she sent me illustrations I was just in awe. She did such an awesome job!
Time to Submit
We finished the project the day before baby #6 was born. I submitted to the interested publisher. She loved it! She said she would be delighted to offer us a contract… but it was contingent on an agent picking up the project…
I was back at square one.
So, I started reaching back out to every agent who I had any contact with. I queried and queried away.
I started to lose hope.
I wondered. Is this my will or God’s will?
How much of me is in this project? I wrestled with my pride so much. It just didn’t settle well. I looked into self-publishing. I felt very uneasy about it.
I started telling my husband about the lack of progress and my lack of hope and he said, “Maybe you should be praying that God will allow you to be ok with the answer wait.”
I didn’t want to hear that.
But I did. I prayed that God would allow me to be ok with the answer wait. And almost immediately I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My kids. My family. The blog. I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. I just needed to be still and trust Him and His timing.
Things seemed to pretty much be on hold for the book progress. And I was ok with that… kinda…
So, as life would happen- a storm came. My health appeared to be not so great. My doctor thought I had Lupus. I was in the middle of a bunch of testing. And at the same time, I felt this huge conviction to allow God to be my comforter and put down my cell phone. I wrote about this in a recent blog. (My Comforter) I was struggling… a lot… but in a weird way- it was awesome. I so strongly felt God’s hand during this time. But I also realized just how confused I was.
I just couldn’t understand. Why does my health have to go down the drain? I have six kids God entrusted me with…
Why would God call me to write a book and never see it through?
I struggled. I know we cannot understand God’s ways. I know that His will is on His time. But knowing that in your head and trusting that in your heart don’t always go together.
During this storm, Connie reached out to me and told me I had been on her heart.
I told her about the Lupus and how I wasn’t handling it so well…
Then… test results came back- No Lupus! What! How amazing is our God! Comforted and healed!
And suddenly I felt this kick in the bottom to start submitting manuscripts again.
It just so happens that I am part of a group on Facebook for aspiring children’s book authors. One of the authors posted that her publisher was actively seeking submissions. So, I checked out their page.
Then I emailed the editor. He was interested in the entire series!
Then I submitted our work.
It all happened so smoothly.
Well… kinda… but even the little bumps, God directed the path.
I just signed a contract! With the potential to get all of the princess books published!
How great is our God! I can’t wait to see what God does next!
God is faithful! He called me into a completely foreign world. He inspired the work and guided my fingers as they typed. He walked alongside me every step of the way, guiding my feet and the people who I came into contact with. He comforted me when I was down. Though I gave up, He continued to lead.
Every single feeling that I couldn’t shake- was a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Every single person who gave me advice was strategically placed there for guidance. This process has been a rollercoaster, but I am so glad to have been part of it.
Thank you God for starting a good work in me and seeing it out to completion!