Good Sex, Great Prayers: A Journey in Publication (Part 1: Origins)
It was sort of like the Machete trailer they showed in Grindhouse. I had the genre, the title, and a vague idea of what it would be about, but ultimately, Good Sex, Great Prayers was just something I used to fake people out regarding the ‘what are you working on now?’ question (see also: the dubstep novel, which is exactly what it sounds like). It was a joke, more than anything. I had no realistic intentions to write this so-called Christian-erotica novel that would be ‘Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Bible,’ as I often described it. I had the requisite trailer (a fake one), and it was effective in that it circumvented those long discussions regarding manuscripts in limbo and projects under gag order.
The reality is that I had a themed collection of short stories that my agent had yet to sell (although he assured me it was ‘getting there’) and another project I wasn’t allowed to discuss. Hardly what you’d consider engrossing bar talk, and so Good Sex, Great Prayers became a defense mechanism of sorts to combat the admission of having nothing new on the horizon. My debut had come out some time ago (Nov. 2008), but as many authors in the field know, the moment you come out with a book is the same moment people ask what to expect next. I didn’t really have an answer. My publishing future was up in the air.
Then two things happened right around the same timeframe: the first is that I started to take my own joke seriously. That is to say, I began to have ideas as to how Good Sex, Great Prayers could realistically function as a novel: protagonists, antagonists, the plot, the style, the format, etc. My little concept metastasized into a full-blown story, and I found myself outlining and writing out character profiles in my legal pad. I was researching and compiling information. Without really meaning to, this book had officially gone into the production phase, although with no clear-cut destination or plan. I was ‘just having fun with it,’ as they say. Then the second thing happened.
A colleague and friend by the name of Phil Jourdan had recently gotten his own publishing imprint, which he decided to call Perfect Edge Books. He told me about this over gChat, giving me a quick run-down of the business model and his goals for the label over the coming years. It was to be a small, refined operation for the time being, but he had plans for aggressive expansion. After going over the business side, he finally cut to the chase and said he wanted to know about my next project. It was that same ‘what are you working on now?’ question, only this time I actually had something. So I gave him the pitch (the first one of a serious nature) for Good Sex, Great Prayers, and it got the ball rolling. He was interested, and so the next step was the proposal.
I was set up with an author profile on the publisher's website, filling out information regarding the intended audience, unique selling points, and other things the publisher wanted to know. Answers to the questions 'who are we selling this to?' and 'how do we sell it?' It was all stuff that I could pull from my first novel's sales stats and Facebook fan page demographic charts.
The synopsis ended up being the following:
Father Jairy Johnstone is the epitome of virtue and a shining example of how to lead one's life according to the Good Book. His faith is unwavering and it's a well known fact that if you have a problem, you can always talk to Father Johnstone and he'll provide an answer. Even when it comes to sex.
Although Father Johnstone is technically a virgin, this has not stopped the members of his church from seeking advice regarding the mysteries of the flesh. Through a series of marriage counseling sessions, Johnstone dispenses sage advice in the areas of oral stimulation, pious role play, and Christian lingerie. Newlyweds and octogenarians alike seek out Father Johnstone for help, unaware that both his stoic nature and faith are cracking under the temptation of Madeline Paige, the congregation's newest member.
Will Father Johnstone renounce his faith or remain committed to the teachings of the Lord?
Good Sex, Great Prayers examines to role of sex in religion, and serves as a paramount resource for couples, whether they’ve been married five days or five decades.
This synopsis, along with all the other pedigree information about the book and myself, was presented to the head guy that makes the ‘yea or nay’ decisions. Phil Jourdan supplemented the proposal with a nice letter of recommendation, citing all the qualities you want to hear about an author: hard-working, a tireless self-promoter, and things of that nature. I didn’t even get the chance to experience ‘rejection anxiety,’ as some refer to it, because the verdict came back so quickly. Phil contacted me a couple days later informing me that we got the go-ahead to do this book, and the contract would be hitting my email shortly.
I reviewed the contract, signed it, and as a famous man once said, “This shit just got real.”
Now if you’ve been reading our articles on LitReactor or know even a little bit about the publishing industry, then you already know this isn’t normally how it goes down. Usually there’s a long and arduous writing process, and then that’s followed by trying to find an agent, and if by some miracle you get one of those, you begin the pitching process to various houses. Our own Rob W. Hart was kind enough to track his efforts in his Path to Publication series, which I highly recommend you give a look, as it follows the more traditional model.
Good Sex, Great Prayers is a little back-asswards in that the publisher sought me out instead of me seeking them. That, and the deal was locked in before the manuscript was written, and I didn’t even need to bring my agent in on it. These may seem like fortunate circumstances, but consider this: whereas most authors attempt to turn their hard work into a publishing opportunity, my publishing opportunity will be followed by hard work. I will not enjoy the luxury of a leisurely writing process. Papers have been signed stating that I will fulfill the task of producing a manuscript of 50,000 words (or more) in a given timeframe, and now I’m expected to execute. There’s no turning back or time to second-guess myself. Although signing a contract may seem like a cause for celebration (and to a degree, it is), the reality is that the pressure was officially on.
I went Facebook/Twitter official with the announcement that the book had gotten a publisher. I got a few pats on the back, made a celebratory cocktail, and got back to work. The long and arduous writing process was before me now, and there was much to be done.
Like Rob’s Path to Publication columns, this series will follow a specific book in its journey to publication, however, it will extend beyond signing the deal and explore the production and promotion process. There’s a definitive light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully, there won’t be too many missteps or fuck-ups along the way. If there are, you’ll definitely know about them. I’ll be forthcoming and honest about every aspect that I can, and like Rob, encourage an open dialogue in the comments section. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.
The next installment will cover the production process. Until then, feel free to post comments, questions, or non sequiturs.
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