Well, it has finally happened for this self-published author… Today, I signed a contract with Tate Publishing that will ultimately lead to traditionally publishing the first four books in the Phantom Island series!!! Um, yeah, I said FOUR and that’s just the first half of the series… because Wind and Water will now be split into two volumes each. (This was a requirement for the deal because a novel that is 200,000 words MUST be split for traditional publishing… Ha. I have soooo much to learn.)
I have to tell the story of how this happened, because, well, I deserve no credit for it. It seems to be the case in my life that I work my BUTT off for success… and then God drops opportunities into my lap at the last minute that had nothing to do with all my work. (Sometimes I think He ENJOYS stressing me out a little bit… haha.) So bear with me because this is a story worth telling.
Rewind to nearly six years ago… I woke up one day and KNEW I wanted to be a teacher. I had no degree in Education (not that Family Psychology is all THAT different. Haha.) and no experience outside of teaching Sunday School. But I somehow got into subbing for four districts in the middle of their spring semester. I got accepted (after initially being rejected due to late registration) into an alternative certification program. Doors opened and I RAN through them. I sent over 40 resumes to 40 different schools – made calls, emails, online applications. I worked like crazy with no prospect in sight. The end of July rolled around and still NOTHING from a school for the 2005-2006 school year.
But then a call came from a man named Mark Wilson out in Springtown, Texas – a district I did NOT apply to. He needed a Pre-AP English/Language Arts teacher at the last minute for his 7th and 8th graders. He had asked for a list of interviewing teachers from my program, ran his finger down the list, and stopped at MY NAME first. (Dallas just stands out, what can I say?) We went and visited the school for an interview and it FELT RIGHT. Six years later, God has BLESSED me through the students and staff in Springtown, and Mr. Wilson is still my principal and supports all aspects of my career. Yes, I’ve had to commute two hours a day for six years and maybe not make as much money as I could had I taught in my own area – but I am more afraid of being out of God’s will than being out of money for gas. Springtown has given me so many amazing experiences and memories. I was SUPPOSED to be in Springtown… after all, my experiences there with students ultimately led me to write the Phantom Island books… and my Springtown family helped launch the book into its current success…
And, oh yeah, that’s why you’re reading this… So, as you can tell, things happen for me at the last minute and always in ways that ensure God receives the glory for the success. After all, this series and its inspiration have never been about me anyway.
Fast forward now to November 2010 – I got my self-proclaimed last rejection from a publisher before deciding to self-publish again. The sequel, Water, felt overdue for my readers, and I thought I needed to just accept my fate and be satisfied with the success God had already given me. If I was just intended all along to be a self-published author, then great – I’m still living my dream of writing stories and sharing them with people who actually like them.
I will stop here and say that I don’t talk much about the rejection involved with being a writer… But writers out there know (or at least learn) that there is more rejection out there than there are happy stories. To give you the short version, in three years I have received over 65 rejections from agents and at least 2 rejections from actual publishers. A lot of the rejection pushed me into self-publishing (along with a clear direction from God) in order to prove that this series had a place in the world of reading – and an audience. (To read about my self-publishing experience back in 2009, click HERE.)
The honest truth about self-publishing: it’s expensive, it’s a LOT of work, and it’s limiting. You also get looked down on a lot by other people in the industry because “just anyone” can do it. True. But not just anyone can be SUCCESSFUL with it. So, there was a lot to prove. (NOTE: the average teenage reader usually doesn’t understand or know the difference with a self-published book, so I never advertised my self-pub status. A lot of people never even knew.) My goal: Try to stand out within the realm of self-publishing in the hopes that someone would be willing to take on Wind and re-release it along with the rest of the series. Did I reach that goal? Yes. Finally. (I’ll share some of Wind’s specific self-publishing success in another post sometime.)
Now let’s go to the morning of December 23, 2010 (over a week ago)… I was on my Twitter feed and read an article about someone who got a three-book deal after 50+ rejections from agents. Wow – someone who had come close to querying (and being rejected) by as many agents as me… That particular writer was VERY different from me and wrote for a VERY different audience, but still… it prompted me to lift up a random prayer. And all I said was, “God, I don’t mean to be close-minded or try to limit You in anyway. You know I’m going to self-publish WATER next week. But if You want me to query anybody else before then, I’ll do it. But YOU have to bring the opportunity to me and make it pretty clear how to handle it. I’m out of ideas and resources.” My heart was sincere, but I didn’t really think God wanted me to query or be rejected again. So that was that.
TWO HOURS LATER… I’m sitting with a student at Starbucks chatting it up when I get a random text from Doug Goetzinger, Sam’s old youth pastor in OKC. It said, “Krissi, have you ever looked into Tate Publishing?” My response (with a few heart palpitations): “No… should I?” Well, then he called me and said he worked with a man at Feed The Children whose wife was the Acquisitions Editor for Tate. Doug proceeded to tell me that, “for some weird reason, it occurred to me just this morning that maybe I should contact her about your situation. But I wanted to know if that was even worth your time… you might already have something else going.”
Well… you can imagine I knew EXACTLY how Doug had such a random thought JUST THAT MORNING. (Real funny, God… what are You trying to do here?) So I played it cool and told him if he wanted to contact her, I’d be open to sending her my manuscript… but we thought it was best to let Doug find out first if she was even interested before I got involved. (He sent her a great letter highlighting all my sales, awards, and reviews, plus his personal experience – thanks, Douglas!)
Fast forward through Christmas and a LOT of PRAYING to Wednesday, December 29, 2010… Janey at Tate Publishing asked to take a look at Wind and Water. I sent her both manuscripts with detailed plot synopses. MORE PRAYING ENSUED. Unlike other times when someone was reading my manuscript, I actually messaged some friends and asked them to pray with me. My hopes weren’t up – but my faith felt strong.
Thursday, December 30, 2010… I’m sitting in Office Depot waiting on copies of WATER to finish printing when the email from Janey comes in. It started out complimenting the series, then moved to the problem with the length of each book. I just knew I was looking at another very polite rejection. But then she said, “If you’re willing to split WIND into two volumes, I’d be willing to offer you a publishing contract. Call or email me back.”
WHAT?! Let the freaking out commence… and it did. (Chelcea at Office Depot Copy Center was pretty patient with me while I TRIED to check out like a normal person.) I ended up spending over an hour on the phone with Janey – who was very informative and encouraging. I felt an instant level of comfort with her. We discussed all options at that point for how to make it work. Then she sent me the contract to review. MORE PRAYING among Sam, Mom, and me.
THE END RESULT… As of January 3, 2011, Tate Publishing will now take on the Phantom Island series! They are going to take Wind, clean it up, get it commercially ready, and then re-release both volumes nationally before the holiday season 2011 (hopefully). Then, the first volume of Water is set to release soon afterward. There will be ebooks and audiobooks and new cover art and formatting and marketing and publicizing… and oh my goodness. (NOTE: The timing listed here is the PLAN… Remember, I’m new to this whole process so don’t quote me yet.)
So, yeah, I guess God really DIDN’T want me to query or get rejected again. And I suppose He waited until the last minute to see what my level of commitment and faith would be… to be obedient even when I felt like I was sacrificing a dream.
Because, ultimately, it is all about HIM. It feels good when people say they’re proud of me, but I know from where my blessings flow… and I know I had no hand in all of this working out the way it did. I do want to say thank you to Doug for listening to God’s voice when He prompted Him. And to Janey for fast-tracking my manuscript submission and finding potential there. And to Editor Katrina for tirelessly reading and editing those novels (even up to last week!) until her fingers were stained with purple ink. And to my mom and dad for their financial contributions when I needed it. And for Mom and Sam who have made this dream their dream, too.
Oh, and did I mention Tate Publishing is a Christian Publisher? Huh. Never saw that one coming for a book that doesn’t even mention God’s name… God has a plan. Always. Even in His silence.
So, readers… I KNOW and TREASURE those of you who have been with me from the start. This is a huge break – and will afford more opportunities for the series in the long run. I know it means you have to wait longer for the next installment. But you NEVER KNOW what cool things will happen because of all this… foreign rights? Movie rights? I dream big because my God is big! But it’s always one step – or one leap of faith – at a time. Please stick this out with me. I’m being launched into a whole new scary world – I NEED YOU GUYS! More than ever.
Thank you for being on this journey with me.
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