I've worked in the publishing industry for more than 25 years now and have been blessed to have my hand on a number of bestsellers. I tried counting that exact number up the other day and I know I've missed a few - and maybe not accounted for some returns or remainder sales - but I think I've worked directly on at least 18 books that have sold more than a million units and somewhere close to 70 that have topped 100 thousand units. Okay, sounds like I'm bragging, but really, I want to make a point, which is: I have a fairly decent feel for what will work in the marketplace.
That's what surprised me so much about publisher response to a book I represented as an agent, The Runaway Pastor, by a friend from my college days. Responses were tepid at best - and there was definite resistance by some. A few thought it was written as a negative indictment of ministers, the ministry, and the church. One publisher even waggled a finger at me! LOL. I spoke with a few general publishers who weren't aware that anyone in America goes to church, so they weren't convinced there is a market.
I admit, I was a little worried when David first asked me to give it a read. I was afraid that I would find the material poorly written and would have to figure out a diplomatic way to tell him that. But the book was very well written, exceptionally well for a first time fiction author. But what I thought the book really had going for it was a raw - but kind - honesty that gave it a couple of amazing "hooks" for several audiences. Because one thousand ministers leave the ministry every month:
* I thought this book would strike a nerve with pastors - duh!
* I figured most regular church attenders have been impacted by this career exodus, and that would make it a book of acute interest.
* I assumed sociologists - particularly those who observe religious patterns in America - would find it fascinating.
* I was certain that professors at Bible colleges and seminaries - and others who provide academic and professional development for ministers - would consider this must reading for themselves and those they work with.
* I even suspected that some critics and skeptics of the church and Christianity might find the title intriguing.
Now I know the publishing industry is distressed and not as many books are being acquired - and new-author fiction has always been a high risk venture. But I still assumed this book proposal would sell quickly. I've got other projects that have been selling in short order. So when The Runaway Pastor didn't have a taker within three months, David and I got back together and decided I would put this out as a micro-publishing project under one of my imprint names. He made me nervous - again - when he said his wife Shelly could design the book cover. I've seen a lot of author-directed book covers in my day and many have been awful. But I think she did a bang up job!
So voila. The Runaway Pastor is now available on Amazon and I think it is going to do great over time. I think it may get picked up by a major publishing house. I think it will generate a lot of publicity. In fact, David got an extended note from one person who reviews books for ministers:
I read The Runaway Pastor word for word, cover to cover this weekend and as far as realistic fiction is concerned, the book is nearly too realistic. The book reads so well also, causing the reader, especially one who may be prone to run away from it all, to consider the outcomes of running, to consider the options of seeking help, to muster the courage to wake up and tend to his/her inner life, his/her marital life, his/her emotional life. The book is a wake up for the Church as well. To consider its expectations of pastors as real or hyper-unrealistic, to consider a pastors marriage as something to be cultivated, to consider a pastor's life as more precious than the goods and services the pastor offers. David Hayes, in my opinion, has a winner of a book which I hope helps pastors seek the help and guidance they need. The events surrounding Pastor Trent and his wife Natalie's brokenness are all too real.
I'm not going to give a spoiler on how the story ends here. Just let me say that this book is a great tale of loss and redemption. A very clever storyline. Always respectful of the church, the ministry, and a life of faith. By the way, David knows whence he writes of. No, he didn't run away from it all, but he did experience a significant bout of ministerial burnout - and survived it! In fact, he pastors a church today.
The nature of my business doesn't require that I give a sales pitches on this blog - so I'm not real good at this - but I would encourage many who read this to strongly consider ordering a copy of The Runaway Pastor from Amazon right now.
(Publishers who are thinking maybe they should take a look at this ... you know where to reach me! LOL)