Bad news first!
We are experiencing an epidemic of depression in the United States. That shouldn’t be a surprise! What is really worrisome is the level of depression among our “millennials”, those who are between 20 and 30 years of age!
In February, 2001 Mark Sutton, my former pastor and co-author and I were privileged to publish our book, “Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan for Finding Happiness”. Within a few months, the world would change forever with the events of 9/11. In the years since our book came out, we have seen it become a “strong backlist seller”. What that means in publishing lingo is this was a book that wouldn’t die! Publishers give books about a two year shelf life unless they end up on the best seller lists. Our book never made it to the best seller list but it just kept on selling.
First, there are no good practical books on depression for Christians. Trust me. I know. When I went though my depression back in the late 1990’s the only books I could find were far too clinical and used “case studies”. Frankly, it was like trying to read a textbook! When you are depressed the LAST thing you are able to do is to read a textbook! Read the rest of this entry
There is a moment in a published author’s life that is akin to seeing your unborn child for the first time by ultrasound. As a radiologist, I am fully aware of the excitement parents feel when they see that gray and white blob moving on the ultrasound screen and begin to catch glimpses of what the finished “product” will look like. They gasp when they see fingers. They laugh when they see arms and legs. And, they cry when they see the face even though it is such a poor reflection of the beautiful child they will hold in their hands in just a few months.
Friday, I had such an experience. A package waited for me by my front door when I got home from a long, hard day at the hospital. To say I was tired and frustrated and disillusioned by the direction health care is going is to say the least. Soon, I will weigh in on this issue because I can no longer keep my silence after the horrific events with the VA scandal. But, for today, I want to share something bright and happy and encouraging. I picked up the package and noted it was quite heavy for such a small box. When I got the thing inside and ripped off the tab, guess what I found inside?
What? What are galley proofs, you ask? In the days before electronic media prevailed, an upcoming book was printed out on rough sheets of paper to approximate what the final product would look like. Since 2006, I’ve been involved in the publishing of five of my books and each galley proof was presented to me as a PDF. My excitement was no less at receiving these electronic documents. But, here was a throw back to old school publishing. Why? Because this book required a careful review of the actual printed appearance, not just an electronic approximation. For, this book would have illustrations and break out text boxes and Lifefilters. . .
What is a Lifefilter? More on that later.
In the summer of 2012, as I have shared in the past, God did something truly miraculous and literally dropped a book project into the laps of yours truly and my co-author and best friend (and former pastor) Mark Sutton. We wrote a book on depression in 2001 (which is still an excellent book, by the way!) But, over the intervening years, things changed and we wanted to update the book. Our publisher was not interested. But, a new team took over the editorial direction at B&H Publishing and they wanted us to write a new updated version of the book.
Mark and I went to work immediately in the fall of 2012 and now, before me was the galley proofs of a book we are hoping will help millions. Did you see that word? Millions! Not because we want money. No, it is because we are in the midst of an epidemic of depression unprecedented in American history since the Great Depression.
So, I will grab a cup of coffee. I wish I could teleport myself to New Zealand and have one of those luscious “flat whites” as you can see my friend Alex drinking. Yes, that is a cup as big as a cereal bowl! They love their coffee in New Zealand. So, I will hunker down with my galley proofs and drinks lots of coffee and check this manuscript out.
When will you be able to get your hands on “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”? Stay connected to my site as Mark and I will be launching a new website this summer to keep you informed of the arrival of this important tool. For now, you can check out our rather static site for information on the current book here. And, don’t forget to pick up some copies of “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” for your summer reading!
Got to get to work!
This past week the Christian publishing world was shaken by the announcement from Broadman & Holman (B&H) Publishing regarding their new Christian fiction strategy. Steve Laube, a major voice in the Christian publishing industry, commented on these changes at this link. This may seem like some mundane industry-babble but it has grave implications for the reader of Christian fiction. The bottom line is this: a major Christian publisher has decided to back off of fiction unless it ties in with some other media initiative (such as a movie). In fact, all contracts for future fiction that would have been released beyond April 2014 are now null and void. Kaput! Gone! And, I know that feeling!
Why? In September 2012 just a few weeks before the release of my second book, “The 12th Demon: The Mark of the Wolf Dragon” by Charisma, I received a notification that I was being released from my five book contract after the second book. This didn’t catch me totally by surprise. I had already heard from a couple of my fellow authors at the Realms imprint (an imprint is a division of a publishing “house” focused on a particular “genre”) who had suffered the same fate. As of September there were two of us left, myself and Mike Dellosso easily Realms bestselling author. Mike has now moved on also. At least I was in good company! I know this was a business decision made because of the downturn in the economy but it had a lasting impact on my personally as well as many Christian authors.
What does all of this mean for you, the reader of Christian fiction?
It will mean a much smaller selection of books and a much narrower range of genres. Major publishers will not be taking as many chances with new authors and will not be looking to branch out into “strange waters” such as Christian speculative fiction. Frankly, this frightens me. I am already a victim of the troubled economic times coupled with the sea change in traditional publishing trying to adapt to newer digital technology. However, I followed the advice of Michael Hyatt, once CEO of Thomas Nelson (which has been swallowed up by the larger HarperCollins publishing behemoth along with Zondervan). He suggested I self publish. The good news for authors like myself is there are many reputable self publishing ventures available. The bad news is I have to fund the book and all of the prep work myself. Let’s just say it makes for a tremendous tax right off! But, I am hoping the momentum of two previous books will help “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” sell enough copies to keep the series going.
I am broken and sobbing as I sit here before the bright and brilliant screen of my computer. It has been a hard summer and early fall. Health issues have clouded the sunny world I usually inhabit. Pain and fatigue have blunted my optimistic outlook on life. In the midst of the pain and crises of the past few months, there have been moments of rapturous joy. We finally closed the book on the cause of my daughter’s seizures and now, on a new medicine, she is finally blossoming and growing into the full person God intends for her to be. That alone should be enough to fill my cup with joy and thanksgiving. But, I am, after all, a Hennigan. My late brother once repeated a phrase from, of all places, HeeHaw (if that name means nothing to you, count your blessings!). “That Hennigan luck strikes again — if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”
The rosy outlook I have on life is but a patina barely covering my pessimism and paranoia. I am always looking over my shoulder or waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can’t relax and just accept that God has finally answered my prayers for my daughter. What does that say about my reliance on God? God’s answered prayers just aren’t good enough? Isn’t it so typically human to focus on the bad at the expense of the good work God has brought to our life? When God delivers we are immediately grateful but then we, like Oliver, hold up our bowl and say, “Please sir, can I have some more?” When is God’s bounty every good enough?
I have had several brushes with death this summer. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite that bad. But, at the time, I wasn’t so sure. Crushing chest pain cannot be taken lightly. Sky high blood pressure isn’t something that will be cured with a couple of Tylenols. My poor wife has suffered through so much with me, with our daughter, and with her mother this summer. Through it all, she has managed to maintain a sense of total and complete reliance on God. She is fortunate to not have the Hennigan “luck”. I thank God for her every minute of every hour of every day.
Which brings me back to now. Here I am sitting before my computer. My co-author Mark Sutton and I have finished an update to our depression book. The cover has been chosen. The bios are adjusted to reflect the changes in our careers since 2001. The release date is set in stone. This is happening! Mark has completed his final edit of the book and sent it to me and now it waits patiently for my final ministrations. This should be one of the happiest moments of my writing career.
But, all I can see are the cracks in the cement. I am flailing away at my other book, “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” trying to get that book out before the end of the year. I am dealing with publicists and cover designers and editors. I am excited about the book. I think it is, hands down, the best book I have ever written. I am stoked about the message — the care with which God protects us from the enemy and his lies. The indisputable fact that God has placed His hand on us and has given His angels the charge of protecting our fragile state.
But, I also know the reading market has softened when it comes to these type of books. Maybe it is the glut of zombies and vampires and magic and fantasy in the world right now. Maybe Christians are tired of reading such Christian speculative fiction. I don’t think so. God is in the Story all around us. I have made sure God is in my story; my book. But, will anyone buy the new book? Will all of my hard work be for nothing? Am I just wasting my time and God’s time?
Such doubts haunt me. They make me pause as I begin to place my hands on the keyboard. These thoughts seize my mind; frigid now and cold in despair. Walk away, Bruce. You are a failure. This is a waste of your time. Go watch television. Go play a video game. Go eat something. Forget this fight against the enemy.
Do you feel my despair? Has this ever happened to you? Just when you are on the brink of massive success in the name of God, you give up and walk away?
Then, like a spark of warmth and light; a flickering ember of hope rose from the ashes of my perceived failure. I stumbled (Right! As if there are really such things as coincidences!) across Laura Story’s newest album. Her song, “Blessings” was a salve for our wounds when we were dealing with our daughter’s illness. There in the list of songs on her newest album was a simple title, “He Will Not Let Go”. I clicked on the song in iTunes and listened — and wept! Here are the lyrics:
It may take time on this journey slow
What lies ahead, I’m not sure I know
But the hand that holds this flailing soul
He will not let go
There may be days when I cannot breathe
There may be scars that will stay with me
But the deepest stains, they will be washed clean.
And He will not let go.
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay
When grief has paralyzed my heart
His grip holds even tighter than the dark
I’ve heard it said
This too shall pass
The joy will come
That the hurt won’t last
So I will trust
That within His grasp
I am not alone
For He will not let go
Go to http://www.laurastorymusic.com and purchase this new album RIGHT NOW! Listen to every song; every word. For here in this song, God has brushed away my pain and my sense of failure. God’s light chases away the dark, smothering lies of the enemy. God shows me in the struggles and triumphs of another believer’s life that I too can be victorious over this moment of paralysis.
And so, I put my hand to the keyboard.
I put my mind to the task of putting BOTH books out there. Someone needs to hear the message God has placed in the simple words of this broken man; this sinner saved by grace who is walking a path he never chose to walk.
Each word I type, each thought I convert to words on this page; each drop of blood that falls from my wounds leads to the foot of the cross — to my Savior. When I feel gravity grip me and the fall is coming I stop for a moment suspended in doubt and I close my eyes and I see the nail scarred hand reaching out and taking mine in its terrible but powerful grip and I remember with tears in my eyes and endless gratitude in my heart that He will not let go!
Recently at a book signing, I was asked the question that all writers get. “What is the writing life like?” or “How do you find time to write?”
Let me give you a snapshot of my life, right now. I never anticipated the writing life would be like this. I feel overwhelmed much of the time. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Let me say at the outset what I tell anyone who asks about time management. You don’t FIND time to write, you MAKE time to write. If you are serious about writing, you MUST sit down and carve out very specific times in your week to write. Some authors choose to write for a specific period of time, say, six hours a week. Other writers choose to write a certain number of words per day, say 1000 words per day. It doesn’t matter which pattern you choose. The point is to set aside a time for writing and then WRITE. Don’t check email. Don’t read blogs. Don’t read a book. WRITE. From the moment you sit down before your computer or your legal pad, WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!
Eventually, you will find yourself surrounded by DEADLINES. Some may be self imposed. Others are imposed by your publisher or a deadline for a blog for which you write. Deadlines are GOOD. True, they are a necessary evil, but they force you to MAKE that time to write.
Now, I find myself dividing my time between FOUR processes. First, there is the process of IDEAS. Second, there is the process of ROUGH DRAFT. Third, there is the process of EDITING. And, finally, there is the process of MARKETING.
Let me give you a sneak peak of my past two weeks.
In the IDEA area, I have already shared my experience at the International Christian Retail Show. In the aftermath of a divine appointment at the ICRS, I am in the process of developing ideas for not just one book, but an entire book series. This means research into the subject matter; examining competing works; looking for that unique “hook” that will make this book different from others; and collaborating with my co-author and mentor on the final content of a book proposal.
Also, in the IDEA area, I am working on two other fiction books and two other non-fiction book series ideas. Two publishers have expressed an interest in these books. And, if I don’t get something to them soon, they will move on.
In the ROUGH DRAFT area, I am finishing up my fourth book in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel for Realms. I turned in my third book in December and I have until the end of this year to complete my final draft of “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone”. I am setting aside an entire week in August to write everyday for six days.
In the EDITING area, I can count on spending January through April of each year heavily editing the book that will be released in October of that year. This editing process consists of an initial edit for story substance. I work with my editor and his suggestions are legion, but always right on the money. For two months, I will rewrite and edit the final draft to fit my editor’s suggestions. This takes hours and hours of my time. After this initial edit is done, my editor returns the line edit.
The line edit is a tedious line by line edit for such things as grammar and spelling. My editor(s) will make suggestions and I have to go through the document line by line and either accept or reject the suggested changes. Line by line. The entire manuscript. Literally, thousands of changes. Yes, it is tedious and it takes days! Now, once this line edit is done it is now April and I’ve been working on this final manuscript for at least three months. But, it doesn’t end there. Along about July, the galley proofs arrive.
The galley proofs are the final printed version of the book with the layout, fonts, pagination, title page, etc. Once again, I have to go through the entire book, word by word. On my first book, the software program used to lay out the book omitted an entire three pages. If I had not gone over the manuscript word for word, I would have missed it. Once I approve the galley proofs, the book is on the way to the printer and it is out of my hands.
In the MARKETING phase of the book, which covers the months from April through the release in October there is a LOT to do. First, I have to pick key scenes from the book that might be useful for the cover. Since I am an artist as well as an author, I visualize the cover and I make suggestions of exactly how a prospective cover will look. I am very fortunate to have the graphic team working on my books at Charisma. They produce some awesome covers and it is as if they have read my mind.
Second, once the cover is on its way to completion, I have to think about the back of the book and come up with “copy”. This is the blurb, or “sound bite” that will hopefully motivate a prospective reader to open the book and read the first paragraph. It is the “elevator pitch” so to speak. Once the back copy is completed then it is on to the endorsements.
Third, beginning in June, I must come up with a list of prospective authors who are asked to read my book and give me an endorsement. This is the trickiest part of the deal. Without good endorsements, my book will languish in limbo. Advice time. If you are an author, become a member of a blog tour in your genre. For instance, I am a member of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. This means that I have to read a book once a month and post a three day review on my blog. So, in addition to the other tasks in the MARKETING section, I must maintain and update this blog often. The blog tour drives readers, and authors, to my website. I contacted some of these authors and some of them agreed to read my manuscript and provide an endorsement. I have discovered this process is VERY important. If you just give your publisher a list of possible authors to endorse your book, the author is very likely to delete the request and never give it another thought. Also, I’ve learned to remind the author there is a deadline for the endorsement!
By late July, the upcoming book is done and in the hands of the printers. Now, the promotion phase begins. I am now looking at how to promote the release of my next book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” for its October release. Note that my first book was released in October, 2011; the second book is being released in October, 2012 and I have worked on it most of this year; the third book final draft is waiting for editorial evaluation in late 2012 and will be given back to me for editing in January, 2013; and I am currently writing the fourth book for completion by December. Literally, I juggle four books in a year’s time.
You see why I feel overwhelmed. My main concern is to make the time for each one of these important phases. And, it is amazing how many “things” I spend my time on that can be eliminated from my schedule. I do miss reading books. It is very difficult to work into this kind of schedule the simple pleasure of spending time with a good book. Now, when I read, I feel the pressure to hurry up and finish the book so I can post a review. I very seldom have the time to just sit down and savor a good book. I do miss that.
So, there you have it. I am currently in the IDEA phase; the ROUGH DRAFT phase; and the MARKETING phase. I can forget about heavy EDITING until January. But, it is coming and I’m loving every overwhelming minute of this journey. It can be done if you are willing to make the commitment and to pay the price of long, hard hours of work. If you have the passion to be a writer and the discipline to be a published author then go for it. When I get an email from a reader of “Conquering Depression” telling me the book “saved my life” it makes it all worthwhile.