Rotten Potatoes


You have worked on your novel, and had it edited. Now here you are with a completed manuscript. You’re sure it is the very best you can do. You know it is inspired and that it will rock the world with its wisdom. Who should you send it to? How will you find that perfect publisher? Do you need an agent?

If you think that writing a novel is the end of your work, you are in for a big surprise. There are so many thoughts that I will share in the coming weeks about the publishing world. However, before you start on your journey into the publishing world, I would first like to address the attitude of the writer. I know many authors and find that there is a gamut of personalities that either promote or detract from the writer’s chance of getting published. And while the excellence of your writing may seem the most important quality, the way you present yourself counts heavily in the chance of finding a publisher.

Let me share the story of two very different authors.   Each of them on the very opposite end of the spectrum. Each of these artists are in the world of religious authors. The first writer had a fabulous story. It was unique and action-packed, a real spellbinder.  Yet he was humble enough about his skills to get professional help with the aid of two critique groups, beta readers and professional editing. He let me read the work and I found it fascinating. I was sure it would hit the best seller list. I encouraged him with lists of potential publishers and gave him advice on how to promote his wonderful work.

After not hearing from him in a long time, I contacted him to find out who was publishing his work. I was shocked! He had never sent it out. After all the years of work on his novel, he had placed the manuscript on a closet shelf and prayed about it every night. He told me he was sure that if God wanted the novel published, He would send a publisher to his door to ask about it. Unshakable in his faith, the author decided to wait for God to inspire a publisher to phone him. Needless to say, the manuscript is gathering dust.

The second writer was an older female. She wrote a wonderful historical romance that I loved so much I read it in one night. I encouraged her to send it to numerous publishers. However, she was so sure that her novel was inspired by God that she dismissed the ordinary channels of publishing. No query letters or subscription guidelines for her! She actually went physically to five publishing houses with manuscript in hand. Demanding to see an editor, she wasted both her own time and gained the wrath of numerous publishers. When her plan didn’t work she tried forcing herself on religious bloggers and television shows. She found the reception lukewarm. Instead of rethinking her strategy, she started accusing the ‘devil’ of blocking her way and indicated that those who turned her down were not real Christians. Needless to say, her work has never been published.

These examples are extreme, but I find that writers of faith usually fall within the spectrum of wanting God to do all their work for them, or thinking that their work is a mission from God and no one better get in their way. Only you know where you fall on the line. I only know that once your work is ready for a publisher to consider, your struggle has just begun.

The best way I can explain it is by comparing it to a farmer. A farmer may be inspired by God to plant a field of potatoes. God will send the water and the sun to make the potatoes grow. In due time the potatoes will be ready for harvesting, and it is up to the farmer to dig the potatoes up, put them on a truck and send them to market. Oh, it will surely help to pray for God’s graces. However, God is not coming down with a hoe, crates and a box truck to get the potatoes to market. If you are sitting on the front porch waiting, your potatoes will rot in the field.

In the same sense, your potatoes may be the best potatoes ever grown. They may be large and plump with sweet flesh just waiting to be baked. You can box them quickly and drive your truck around demanding that the market manager come out and see your potatoes. You can block his docking bay, threatening not to move until he unloads your bounty. That doesn’t give the produce manager a sense that you will be easy to deal with. When you tell him that your potatoes were grown by God and he doesn’t seem impressed, it doesn’t help to throw potatoes at him. After a while the grocery stores will all have your number, and no matter how good your potatoes are they will just rot away.

Next time let’s talk about the proper way to look at your work and find a way to look at your finished novel.

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4 Responses to Rotten Potatoes

  1. Kathryn,

    Just what I needed to hear as I am at the very beginning of even putting pen to paper/fingers to keys!

    • Ellen, thanks, but the actual writer of this piece is Karen Kelly Boyce. My name appeared because of a technical glitch that I did not pay attention to. I will pass on your remark!

  2. Great post. I think both your examples point to pride standing in the way of success. It takes humility to do the right work in the right way to see your ideas – your novel – come to fruition.

  3. DonMulcare says:


    Many thanks. Your examples would make great story lines for novels.

    I’m waiting for your next installment.

    God bless,