From concept to manuscript to contract - my experience of the publishing process
By Ann Shakespeare
Obtaining a publishing contract can seem like an uphill battle. Here, Ann Shakespeare, a columnist for the Church of England newspaper, a former writer for TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal and BBC World Service, and the former assistant editor of The Daily Journal lifts the lid on what went on behind the scenes of her first book, God’s Gift of Tremendous Power (Deep River Books), which reveals how the latest understanding of quantum physics not only supports Biblical teachings but can also help readers find a deeper connection with God.
Have you ever cherished an idea which has been teetering on the tip of your typewriter but which never quite manages to make the leap into print? If so, you are not alone, and I am here to encourage you to make that leap!
My own chosen theme happened to be the overlap between modern physics and biblical truth, but it could be any theme. We are talking about the principle of transferring ideas from our minds into publication.
Personally, I confess that, despite multiple efforts to write, I had been undermining them all by dragging my feet in the ground so hard you could almost cultivate seeds in the furrows. I would get so far and then my reason for the dragging would kick in each time: reluctance to put my head above the parapet and to “go public”.
Finally, it was a wise and brave friend – my longstanding spiritual director – who hauled my feet out of the furrows and caused my manuscript literally to catapult into existence.
Ann’s debut, God’s Gift of Tremendous Power, which is described as the first non-academic title to connect the discoveries of the quantum world with a comprehensive scriptural foundation, received critical acclaim. The Scotsman and others said, “God’s Gift of Tremendous Power reclaims an important idea from the fringes of theological debate and repackages it in easy-to-understand terms for the benefit of all Christians”.
In June 2017, he gave me a stern and non-negotiable ultimatum: “I want to see a completed manuscript on my desk by the end of October. And I don’t want to hear any more about it until it is delivered.”
In just five months’ time. No pressure then!
Actually, yes – but it was exactly the pressure I needed from someone I respected hugely, and who knew me very well indeed.
From day one, I could sense life starting to calibrate like a camera lens, bringing all that concerned my writing into vivid focus. I sat down and pounded out a book outline, pulled together my scattered volumes of notes and cleared my diary as much as responsibly possible.
There followed 20 extremely intense weeks of typing, tears, trashing, trying again, and – above all – trusting throughout that it was the right thing for me to do.
By the end of October, to my amazement and gratitude, I had a substantial manuscript ready to deliver to my spiritual director, as requested.
Insightful feedback, pruning and some creative new thoughts to be added. But none of that would avail much without a plan to make the manuscript public. However, having decided not to self-publish but rather to seek a publisher, I realised that it could take several years to get the manuscript accepted for publication. If at all. Especially since I was a newbie.
Then the extraordinary happened. One might call it miraculous. I certainly do. Within just three months, a respected publisher had mailed me a letter of acceptance and shortly after that I was staring wide-eyed at a formal publishing contract. I was utterly stunned, at one level. Yet, deep within me, I knew that this was how it should be. My book emerged beautifully into print earlier this year – and I will save what happened next for another blog!
Ann Shakespeare has been featured in a host of publications, including the Church of England newspaper (above), following the release of God’s Gift of Tremendous Power.
But may I conclude this post by encouraging you to press ahead with your writing, no matter the mountains that may seem to be looming to block your way? Press on through fear of failure, or fear of making yourself vulnerable, or whatever your particular mountains may be. I believe that humility is vital in the writing/publishing process, along with a passionate desire to share your chosen subject with others.
Oh, and a sense of humour helps – a lot!