Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Living the Dream

I’m sure you’ve heard the story about the best-selling author who told his agent, “It only took me ten years to become an overnight success.”  In fact, if you google the words “years overnight success” you will discover a number of “overnight success” stories which are all amazing—yet each with a different number of years. This story is one of those stories but I wanted to tell you about someone who is living out her dream and some of what it took. I can’t tell you all of what it took because I only know my view of the story.

Four and a half years ago, I stepped into my first book acquisitions editor position. As a part of my role, I contacted a number of bestselling author friends asking them for the opportunity to do their next book (rare because most of these people are tied up) or recommendations of other projects on their radar. Gary Smalley told me about Dr. Debbie Cherry, an unpublished author yet one of the few young female Christian psychologists on Gary’s radar. With Smalley’s encouragement, I got in touch with Debbie. While unpublished, through the mentoring of Smalley, Debbie was already connected to one of the leading Christian literary agents. My publishing house was not on the short list (or any list at that time) to receive Debbie’s first book proposal.  As a proactive acquisitions editor, I tracked down this proposal (asked for it essentially), read it and loved the concept and took it to my publishing board, pitched it and received their approval. I worked up the financial numbers within the publishing house and negotiated a two-book deal for Dr. Cherry—her first. I was thrilled because of her enthusiasm for her topic, her willingness to get out there and try new efforts to raise her visibility—and her great content. The content is always going to be the foundation of a good book.  Yet if you don’t know it, the parenting/ marriage/ family area of the marketplace is one of the most crowded subject areas. It is tough to break into this area of the market with anything new because of the seasoned authors already in this area with their established readers and the large backlist or previously published and still in print books (perennial sellers for the particular publisher).

Debbie and her husband, Jim, came to the publishing house and made a great impression. Debbie’s first book was Discovering the Treasure of Marriage. Several months before the release of her book, she prepared little treasure chests filled with chocolate and some little information about the book. With each visit to various people inside the publisher, Debbie pulled out one of these treasure chests and left it as a gift. It made a great impression and people loved her and recalled her book with the little treasure chests on their desks.

Child-proofing-Your-MarriagWhen the trade show opened for the Christian Booksellers Association, I walked the floor for a brief time with Debbie. It was loads of fun looking at the different products and introducing her to a few people. She worked hard to promote her first book at that convention and other places. The results were OK but nothing smashing. Then Debbie wrote her second book and it released, Child-proofing Your Marriage, Keeping Your Marriage a Priority During the Parenting Years. It’s another solid parenting book with great content—which released in 2004 or two years ago.

Yesterday and today, Debbie has been on the Focus on the Family broadcast talking about Child-proofing Your Marriage. This broadcast is heard on more than 2,000 U.S. radio stations with a listening audience estimated at 1.5 million. I caught part of the broadcast yesterday and it was terrific. I talked with Debbie yesterday afternoon and told her how she seemed like the perfect guest in that she was relaxed and laughing yet gave serious practical advice to parents throughout the entire conversation. It was a great mix of her personal stories, tips from the book combined with her years of practical experience as a counselor working with families on these key issues. We celebrated how years ago, Debbie dreamed of being on the Focus on the Family broadcast and talking about one of her books.  Of course, we were imagining and dreaming before any book was in print.

 I’ve been trying to get this entry posted but other things have been coming into my schedule for the day. It happens. Here’s the lesson for any writer from this story. First, it takes time to become an “overnight success.” Also you have to have an excellent message as the foundation. Dr. Debbie Cherry has the counseling experience and person experience to be guiding people into the truth with her book. It is an excellent message. It also takes persistence to pursue the dream and get the message out to the broadest number of people. I’ve seen too many people give up during the journey. Will you persist? Also look at the preparation and stage presence that Debbie presented on the radio broadcast.  To give an excellent radio interview takes effort—even if she made it look easy. It’s a skill that writers need to develop. Finally to achieve the dream of getting your message out takes faithfulness. I know through the years, Debbie has consistently worked on this dream. It finally happened and hopefully for her this broadcast is the first of many such opportunities. The dream goes on—for Dr. Debbie Cherry and for us.

4 Comment:

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Wandering Writer Left a note...

How does one develop the skill of a good radio interview?

At 9:19 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Some of it is practice but some of it is plain media training--things like speaking slowly so you come across clearly and other tips. Robin Lee Hatcher has some great tips for anyone being interviewed in this article.


At 7:31 AM, Blogger R. K. Mortenson Left a note...

For radio interviews, for starters: don't say "uh" or "um" or any other nonword that especially tends to slip out when one is nervous.

I've done over thirty radio interviews within the past year. For fiction, it's especially tricky. I think I'm getting better at keeping my answers simple and succinct. As with writing, interviewing is an art to continue learning and practicing and growing. Complexity or wandering into the weeds will lose people. I'm constantly thinking about what I'm saying from a listener's point of view. Does this make sense? Will they understand me? And I try to be friendly and enjoy myself.

Finally, snippet stories, anecdotes, illustrations and word pictures can make responses more colorful, entertaining, and memorable.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Julie Dearyan Left a note...

I loved this post, Terry! It was so helpful. And the whole journey that you described with Dr. Cherry was such a blessing to me. It makes me see the whole picture better--something that somehow I seem to miss as I sit writing furiously sometimes. Thanks again


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