Monday, November 9, 2009

the runaway pastor

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)


  1. Looks interesting... though the cover looks like a John Grisham copy... just saying...

  2. Mark,

    I like the cover and since I've designed over 400 covers, I might have some idea LOL! It's simple and that's what I like about it.
    I'm not a big fan of fiction but may have to check this title out.
    God Bless,

  3. Just ordered it! I'll be interested to read this, being that my Dad is the ministry and I am a "p.k."

  4. Hey Mark ~ Thanks for having the courage and wisdom to run with this project! I can hardly wait to read the book! I agree with everything you said - a bit unsure about the Focus stats about 1,000 pastors a month leaving - if that were the case there would be more vacancies than are appearing in ministry job postings - or maybe churches are closing(?)

    You know I've been a pastor's wife for 30 years - what a journey! I could do a sequel called "Runaway Pastors Wife" - I have never run away - but could have and have known some who have:-(

    It's good to be back in touch. By the way I still have the manuscript for "100 Ways to Encourage your Pastor and Staff" - had sent it to Honor Books but they returned it...that was quite awhile ago. I still think that it is good - people don't know what it is like being a pastor and how important encouragement is for him and his family. ~ Bev

  5. Eric - I'm assuming you're talking about the first cover iteration for the firm from the mid-90s. I think it showed a full bodied man running down the street. Can't remember because it's been updated several times, including the latest mass market cover that shows the Memphis skyline across the Mississippi River. Not even close to being a copy!

  6. JC - send a private message with your contact information. Always looking for cover designers!

  7. Ginger - loved having you and Kyle and the kids at the house a couple months back. I forgot your dad is a pastor. Would love his feedback.

  8. Great to hear from you Bev and I hope you and Ross enjoy. Send me your feedback!

  9. Mark as David well knows this is where I am at and have been for almost two years or more now, and fiction or not it hits every cord that anyone in ministry feels. Sorry to say to Bev that you are more right than she knows on the statistic on Pastors leaving. I'm just glad you gave David the chance and The Runaway Pastor by David Hayes couldn't be written any better for those of us who have been there, are there and will be there at some point. Thanks Mark!

  10. I read The Runaway Pastor during a time when I needed it the most. The book represented my deep secret that I wanted to run away. Then as I worked through the book page after page, I realized that my deep secret was a wake-up call. I was in the midst of losing my first love...the same scenario that Jesus' revelation to John spoke of. Certainly, there may be a reader that jumps at the chance to run; however, that temptation is already there. The book gave me an opportunity to voice my deep secret and openly work on a solution to returning to the journey with fire and zeal.

  11. Mark: I'm so glad you decided to publish it this way; this is a needed message for the world and the church, and some issues are best addressed via fiction.
    Bless you!

  12. I relished those wagging fingers--seeing them in the back of my mind as I allowed these fictional characters to take on the marks of pain shared by so many in "the ministry."

  13. So excited for you! No one has a heart for authors like yours. Thank you for that...