NOTE FROM CHRISTA: I met Richard and his sweet wife, Kay, about four years ago at an ACFW Conference. His wit and wisdom are delightful, and I appreciate his honesty and dedication to his faith, his family, and his fiction.
I’ve recently gone through the launch of my fifth published novel of medical suspense, Stress Test. It was great…and exhausting. There were blog posts and interviews, tweets and Facebook posts, messages on GoodReads… The list goes on and on.
Of course, just before this flurry of activity I’d been working to complete the edits for my next book, Heart Failure, while trying to meet the deadline for the manuscript of the book after that, Critical Condition.
When I first felt the call (and believe me, it is a call, not just a notion or an idea) to try my hand at writing Christian fiction, I figured that the progression would be something like this: work for a year or so on my manuscript, revise it several times after input from knowledgeable professionals, maybe obtain representation by an agent, possibly get a contract from a publisher, and from there on in it would be smooth sailing. Wrong!
When an author signs a contract, the fun is just beginning. In addition to edits and revisions, there’s the task of finding endorsers and influencers, giving input on cover art, and a dozen other things that pop up, things about which a novice writer has no idea.
But at least a published writer has their foot in the door, so there’ll always be a contract out there for them. Right? Wrong again. A writer is just as good as his last book, and the magic words are “earning out the advance.” Despite our wishes to the contrary, publishers are not non-profit corporations…at least, not on purpose. Public reaction and reviews are wonderful, but the well-known bottom line hinges on sales. And if the publisher doesn’t get a return on their investment, they’re not going to offer additional contracts.
Oh, and even if you have books still under contract, there’s the possibility that the publisher will make a decision to cancel their fiction line, sinking your books like the Titanic. Think it can’t happen? Publisher Broadman & Holman just did that very thing.
People ask me all the time how to know if they’re really a writer. Here’s the test I give them: Stop writing. If, during the month that follows, you haven’t gone back to your computer to jot down an idea or refine a paragraph in a work-in-progress, you may not be serious about writing. But if you do find yourself doing those things, if you find that you can’t not write, then congratulations. You’re a writer. You may never get a publishing contract, but if you do, hang on. The fun is just beginning.
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Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of five published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. His novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. His most recent medical thriller, Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), was released in April, and will be followed by Heart Failure in October.