Last year, I wrote a children’s book. It was a future-dream-come-present experience and, in some ways, took me totally by surprise. I never expected to actually finish a novel – at this stage of my life. I never expected to find myself on a publishing journey so quickly – an opportunity to try win a publishing contract with a prestigious US publisher fast-tracked the whole proposal stage. And, I never quite expected to find myself where I stand today – discussing cover art, lay-out and marketing strategy with my publisher aiming for an April 2013 release date.
It’s been a blessed journey thus far.
Part of the blessing has been the enormous support I’ve received from friends, family and total strangers – near and far. With the support came requests for updated information, so, after much deliberation, I chose to let the website and Facebook pages go live. I had had the two pages waiting in the wings as part of the preparation required for the contest I had aimed to enter. Marketing is essential, they say. But, marketing an unpublished book is a little like making a whole lot of empty, self-congratulating promises. So, the pages remained closed for months. But, with the requests for updates from near and far, I began deliberating. Should I open the pages up as an opportunity for others to follow along on the journey to discovering a publishing route? Isn’t it just a thinly veiled excuse for self-promotion? Do I shy away from anything that could in any way be conceived as boastful?
In the end, while I still grappled with these questions and fell prey to all sorts of social media-induced foibles, I chose to open both the website and the Facebook page to friends, family and interested parties to follow the journey.
Determined to highlight the reason for the pages, I kept the following on my website:
The children’s stories that my kids love best are filled with intrigue, adventure, history and authentic characters. They’re the stories that we all love best. And they’re the stories that I’ve always wanted to write.
This year, I completed my first children’s novel. About a homeschooled 12-year old boy and his family, it explores the history of apartheid South Africa with a good dose of intrigue and investigative adventure. The adventure for me now is to bring this book to publication. Which is where this website comes in: as I enter the world of publishing, I hope to keep friends, family and others who continue to show support updated on the developments.
Please join me on my journey towards sharing this first book with others and making the “author” label authentic.
But, then, all of a sudden I had a publishing contract and a mandate to market. The website and the Facebook page were now not just a source for updates, but also a powerful marketing tool. And, with that, all my insecurities came flooding back. When is marketing just marketing? How does it speak to the issue of self-promotion? Is that a good thing? Should I share things like “reviews” and the like? What’s really going on in my heart?
And that’s the hardest thing to separate. I could tell you just how excited I am to see this book reach the public, because at the heart of it is the gospel message.
And that would be true.
I could tell how I was moved to tears and prayer as I wrote the chapters where some of the characters understand the gospel message for the first time and become Christians.
And that would also be true.
But, it wouldn’t be wholly true if I didn’t also admit that there is something quite intoxicating about seeing one’s name in print on the cover of a book one’s written. The truth is that I do struggle enormously with the conflicting twins of pride and joy. Joy at all the good that this project is. Pride at my part in it. Separating these two has proven to be impossible.
Part of me feels that the solution is to avoid anything that smacks of self-promotion. Another part reasons that, to quote an old saying, that’s a little like cutting one’s nose off in spite of one’s face. There is a lot that is good and right about sharing and promoting a book that promotes the best news in heaven and earth! Being ascetic about it is probably not the best solution. So, I sit, examining every thought I have; every post I write, imagining every reaction there could be.
It’s not pretty.
Because, all this introspection has led to me to a place where I’m realising a thing or two.
Firstly – I’m really a despicable human being. Truly. Examining my deepest motive for my every decision and I find, to my self-disgust, a whole lot of self-centeredness driving my actions. It is thoroughly depressing. There is plenty that I don’t do very well – hospitality; being a halfway-decent time-investing friend / daughter / sister to name a few. But, even in the things that I think I’m getting “right”, I discover a whole lot of pride right at the centre!
Secondly – that’s not going to change in a hurry. Well, yes, and no. I know that Jesus has the power to keep changing my heart and actions in a big way, moulding me to be more like Him. I’ve recently completed reading two excellent books that point us away from ourselves and towards others and the cross (Compared to Her, by Sophie De Witt and The Freecom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller). Both these books exude hope for the ever-stumbling Christian. But, none-the-less, we stumble. And continue to stumble. And will stumble ’til our dying day.
And that’s ok. It’s actually ok. Oh, I won’t lie and say I don’t feel totally discouraged. But the hope that is Jesus won’t allow me to wallow in that Jekyll and Hyde called self-disgust and self-pity.
So for now, I’m praying and I’m choosing to look outwards instead of inwards. And, while I’m making a right hash of it all along the way, I’m stumbling along still, asking God to bring Glory to His name because of my feeble attempts at serving Him and in spite of those very same feeble attempts and the countless others where I fail!