Are You Working on Any New Books? - Elisabeth Klein

That’s one of my most-often-asked questions by well-meaning people in my life who care about me.

My answer is something fumbly and covering-up-y these days but the real answer is simply, no, not really. Which I say with an odd mixture of shame and it’s-okay-ness all at the same time.

The life of a writer/speaker/blogger/creator is a quirky one. One I wouldn’t trade for the world (I LOVE what I get to do) but one that is precarious at best, hard-on-the-soul at worst.

For those of us who write, we not only put our hearts out for all to see and judge, we not only bleed on the page for others to take in and then potentially throw stones at, but we are placed in a position where we must get enough people to like us to push us to the next level. (Icky.)

Allow me to pull back the curtain for you sweet readers who are non-writers (or perhaps for you sweet readers who are writers who think there is some magic key to unlock the mysterious doors of writing professionally…)

In 2000, I set out to find a publisher for my first book. I did things all backwards back then. Wrote the entire manuscript. Didn’t hire an agent. Just started sending the entire thing to one publisher at a time. And after fifty-two rejections (yes, FIFTY-TWO…good thing I have a thick skin), Kregel picked up my devotional, Calm in My Chaos. Hundreds of emails and a trip to Grand Rapids later (basically to make sure Kregel was a real publisher and not some creepy guy in his basement just messing with my mind), my first book was published by an actual publisher and I cried and I cried, I was so happy. Huge, glorious dream come true, to say the least.

But then, I wrote the next one. No publisher would publish me. Two years later and the demand for devotionals had dropped, I was told. I wanted new material to bring with me to have available at speaking engagements, so I indie-published In Search of Calm. I felt kinda weird about it, but I did it. And I’m glad I did.

I went on to self-publish three more books. Because, again, no publisher. Feelings of inadequacy at this point were beginning to overwhelm me. I was certain my first foray into the publishing world was simply a fluke, that I had somehow slipped through God’s cracks and he had just thrown me a bone but that I wasn’t ever truly meant to be a writer.

Because, in my mind, PUBLISHING A BOOK WAS THE PINNACLE, the only true validation of my worth as a writer. (Lie from the pit of hell.)

It was around this time that I wrote another entire manuscript surrounding a crisis that had descended into my life, and I even found an agent and had her shop it around. For a year. No takers. I felt foolish at this point. I kept writing because I loved it, and because I felt it was God’s calling on my life, but the external validation of the Christian publishing world was telling me loud and clear that I didn’t have what it took.

Until I separated from my then-husband and began writing about it. I wrote two books at the same time. One, a fiction account of a devastatingly difficult marriage (World Split Open), and two, a chronicling of my every emotion of going through a divorce (Unraveling). I decided to try my hand one more time at the publishing game, and secured an agent who gratefully loved and believed in both, and who ended up placing Unraveling with Abingdon. Meaning, I was being for-reals published for the second time. I was over the moon. It was a wonderful season in my professional life, a total beauty-from-ashes gift from God to help get me through the pain of my marriage ending.

But alas, that was two years ago now. Unraveling – I am sad and embarrassed to say – has sold only 2095 copies. In the Christian publishing world, that is pathetic. (My Christian writer friends are probably gasping that I shared that number publicly.) That is an I-wouldn’t-be-able-to-place-a-follow-up-book-of-yours-with-anyone/kinda-sorta-dropped-by-my-agent type of number. And it is a head-scratcher, with all the radio publicity I did, and seeing as how many women read my blog and who write me to tell me they’ve read my book and that it’s been a lifesaver. (They must be buying them at garage sales or passing around one sole, tear-stained copy at DivorceCare.)

But bottomline, that’s a career-shutting-down kinda number.

If I were to let it.

But I’m not going to. (So there.)

I don’t know people in the publishing industry. I mean, I’m in an awesome writers’ group, but I don’t have a foot in the door, I don’t have a well-known last name, I didn’t marry into anything, I wasn’t born into anything. I can’t get someone to publish me just because of my name.

(It reminds me of when you’re fresh out of college and you apply for a credit card and you’re told you can’t get one because you don’t have any credit. Umm, duh. That’s why I’m applying! We won’t publish you because no one knows you. But I need to be published for people to know me. Catch-22.)

However, since Unraveling, I have gone on to indie-publish three e-books, as well as World Split Open and the devotional, Holidays for the Hurting.

Since Unraveling, I have gone on to start several private Facebook groups for women in difficult marriages and who are going through a divorce, and those serve over 1600 women.

Since Unraveling, I have gone on to create and run a retreat for separated/divorced women called All Things New.

Since Unraveling, I have written hundreds of posts for my blog and have had countless women tell me it helps them feel not so crazy and not so alone.

And since Unraveling, just recently, I created a couple virtual mentoring courses to more deeply help some hurting women not feel so stuck in their pain, and the feedback so far has been wonderful.

I guess all this is to say, if I were to keep writing solely based on what the publishing world deemed to be “good enough” I would’ve stopped writing in 2002. It’s funny how there’s plenty of room at the table in the Kingdom of God but the slots seem to be pretty few and far between in the publishing world, even for a two-time “published-for-real” author. And for now, I’m tired of trying to scratch my way in.

(Caveat: I am not saying that everyone should be published. I get emails asking for writing advice from women telling me they feel they should write a book. Though I fully believe everyone has a story to tell, I don’t believe everyone has a book in them. I don’t say this to be elitist. I say this as in no one should hire me to be the head chef in a five star restaurant and no one would ask me to paint a mural on their living room wall and no one would want me to change the oil in their car and I won’t be winning The Voice anytime soon. We’re all good at something; we’re not all book-writers. So, I get that the doors should not be held open wide for every person who believes they should be published. Life isn’t like that. And yet…)

(Another caveat: If I had had a half-dozen books in a row picked up by a Christian publisher, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. This admittedly comes from a small place of sadness mixed in with rejection and bitterness {I’m working on it, but I’m human.} If I had had a half-dozen books in a row picked up by a Christian publisher, I’d be celebrating from the rooftop and wouldn’t realize how small the table was that I had been deemed worthy enough to sit at.)

Someday, I may try again. I have no idea really. (Unless this is a bridge-burning post, and I just lost any chance of ever being published again.)

But not today. Today, I’m going to be more than okay with creating my own kind of career that isn’t actually-published-by-an-actual-publisher-book-centric. I’m going to be more than okay with writing right here, with recording webcasts for my virtual courses, with answering emails, with adding a few more women to my private Facebook groups.

You see, this is my market. No, wait. Not market. Ew.

This is my platform. No, ugh. Not platform. Yuck.

This is my tribe. YOU are my tribe. YOU are my sweet girls. (And no one can tell me what my numbers need to be and no one makes me feel like I’m not good enough here, thankfully.)

And so I will tend to you. And write for you. And let God do what he wants in and through me and in and through you and in and through us. And there will always be room for all of us here.