by Billy Beasley
My second traditionally published novel, The Preacher’s Letter, released early last year. I finished another novel late last year. I was hoping for another level—a broader audience this time around. I submitted to six literary agents and was rejected by all. I have never been one to send out dozens of query letters at once.
The River Hideaway was my first novel. The second publisher I sent it too fell into the hands of a lady who loved it. Sadly, she could not persuade the board to select it as their one piece of fiction they published annually. That was in 1998. I still have her letter. So close that it had to happen soon, right? It was 2013 before a small press in California said yes. I gave up a few times along the way. 2013 was my first year of marriage and my new wife, Julie suggested I try again. It had been three years since I had tried. I sent it to one publisher to quieten her. They said yes.
The River Hideaway was probably rejected over fifty times. The Preacher’s Letter, probably over thirty times.
Last month, it was four a.m. and I was bleary eyed from another night of brutal insomnia. I googled publishers who accept material from writers without an agent. I saw a Southern Publisher listed and checked their website out. Their guidelines were easy. My query letter and the first five pages of the novel. To my surprise, they answered by the end of the day. We are interested. Send us the rest.
They followed up with another email to let me know they had received it and that they were fast readers and I should know their decision soon. In less than two weeks, they offered a contract. The first book was a relief and as long as no one asked me for money to publish, I was going to accept.
Footnote for authors who dream of being published, if a publisher asks you for money, they are not a traditional publisher. I certainly have made no money to speak of but at the same time I have not spent one dime to see my books in print.
I did two things right away. I sent the contract to my friend, Kristy, who has worked in publishing and is a tremendous resource for me. I also responded to the publisher with a request to talk. He preferred email, so there is that record of conversation, but he said, sure, call me. We had a good conversation.
I had a decision to make. Kristy liked the contract and that they did not want me to continue working on the story. Trying to find those little errors that you go bleary eyed trying to catch. No, they would do that when the time came and send it back to me to proof in book format. We would go back and forth until we were both satisfied. Julie and I talked and I could tell she wanted me to accept it, even though I wanted that chance that a good agent can provide. Her reasoning was this would be your third traditional book. Each one with a different publisher. Someone might take notice at some point.
We prayed. I said to her, “I can say no and wait for a bigger opportunity and I might spend five years and never hear another yes.” They want to publish this story and they stated they are drawn to the emotion in the story.
I always thought that was my strong suit as a writer. I have no illusions of being the next Pat Conroy. I can’t weave words or paint images like that. I do believe I write characters well and develop them well along the journey of a story. I can write emotion. I can move people, which is what I wanted to do from the beginning of this journey, when I hauled around a notebook, writing stuff down over twenty years ago, as my friend Matt reminded me recently.
I also did not want to wait to see this book in print because of some dear friends, who from day one, I wrote their character into this fictional story and the main character has an Australian Cattle Dog. I based this marvelous creature on our Cattle Dog, Teke.
As I let a few people know before announcing my signed contract on my author page, I kept getting asked if I was excited. I was not. Grateful, yes, but excited, no. What brought excitement to me was how excited they were. I have had some great support from a very loyal following.
Talking with my son, Micah about it always brings us to the first novel finally finding a publisher. I couldn’t talk as I left him a message, because I was crying so hard. The journey was not in vain.
During our conversation it dawned on me that this publisher was the only one I sent this story too and they said, yes. Maybe there is something there.
Maybe this is not the journey that I hoped for but maybe just maybe it is the path God desired for us. Time will tell.
What I do know is this. The biggest shift in my walk of faith, in which I always feel I am in last place behind all of you, is that I don’t want anything that He is not involved in. I do not care how lucrative that might be.
It would be nice to reach another level, but I have learned if He is not in it, we will not enjoy it.
Before, I would have said to any grand opportunity. “Yes, I am charging ahead because this is what I want. God, I will get back with you on the back end of this deal.”
It’s easy to do that, isn’t it? We want what we want. We don’t fully trust God to wait to see what He wants for us. I have learned that if He is not in it, I will not enjoy the journey.
The Girl in the River, releases July 21, 2020.
If the books fly off the shelf. I can only hope Teke does not get a big head.
About the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
Billy is the author of The River Hideaway - a traditionally published work of faith based fiction and the newly published novel, The Preacher's Letter. He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’.
You can read his “Sunday Inspiration” column on the 2nd Sunday each month
here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.