Last week I sat in a darkened room, heart pounding. The setting was familiar, for I had attended the Christian Resources Together gathering many a year previously in an editorial capacity, sometimes thrilled when “my” authors would win awards in the various categories, and sometimes gutted when they were passed over. Last week, however, I wasn’t an editor but an author. And my Finding Myself in Britain: Our Search for Faith, Home & True Identity was up for the Christian living book of the year.
Alexandra McDonald from Macmillan Distribution presented the award, and as she announced the three shortlisted books I feared those next to me could hear my heart beating. “And the nominees are… There Are no Ordinary People by Jeff Lucas, published by CWR,” she said, and I thought, Jeff, Jeff, he’s an amazing, fantastic author and speaker. I will smile when they call his name. She continued, “Finding Myself in Britain by Amy Boucher Pye, published by Authentic Media, which you received last year.” Oh, I thought, she remembered how each participant found a book in their room! She continued, “And Katharine Hill, If You Forget Everything Else Remember This, published by Muddy Pearl.” Ah, I thought, another strong contender – Katharine’s work with Care for the Family is so important, and Muddy Pearl is a great little publisher.
And the winner is…
As we waited, both Rachael Franklin next to me from Authentic and I noticed that Alexandra looked like she was mouthing, “Finding…” I thought in the split second, Could it be? Could my book really have won? Oh Lord I can hardly believe it…
“Finding Myself in Britain by Amy Boucher Pye, published by Authentic Media!”
Donna Harris, who runs Authentic Media, grabbed my hand and up we went to receive the award. She said a few words, and I tried to garble out my thanks. With so much adrenaline pumping, and the lights so bright, I was not terribly articulate – I have empathy for Gwyneth!
What I wanted to share was how Steve Mitchell and the folks at Authentic Media were the only ones willing to take me on as an author. I had a fantastic US agent who had shopped around an idea for my first book to 16 publishers – but 15 said no. And Steve and the team said yes, and thankfully he and I soon said “goodbye” to my original proposal. With his many years of retailing experience, he advised me to write a through-the-year account of life in Britain as an American. A sort of Michele Guinness-meets-Bill Bryson. My marching orders complete, I set about writing it.
The writing and rewriting wasn’t all smooth sailing. I would draft a chapter and send it to Steve (by the way, not an editorial practice I necessarily recommend because of flow and voice, but with our tight timeframe and the trust we’d built previously it worked for us). He read them and give me loads of feedback, such as, “Hey, I feel like you’re trying to import Minnesota to England. I know you miss it, but…”
When he and I finished going through the chapters, I sent it to about ten beta reviewers, three of whom were writers/editors. I’ve written elsewhere about my hide-under-my-duvet response after the first thirteen-page response! But my reviewers were so right in their comments, and I was thrilled that one of the reviewers became my editor, Jennie Pollock. She helped me sift through not only the editorial feedback, but she pushed me to find my voice and go deeper. That she’s a lovely Englishwoman who spent several years in the States only added to the experience.
And then to the design and cover art and copyedit (with a few tears by me over British style – yep, really) and boom, it was time to think about marketing and sales. With the market changing so much and the UK losing probably 150 Christian bookshops over the past five years or so, the author can’t expect the publisher to be their only means of spreading the word about books. I had a wonderful marketing team headed up by Kate Beaton. My publisher was so fantastic with the campaign, not only, for instance, providing point-of-sale materials to bookshops but creating bookmarks and laminated recipe cards as well as giving me a huge sign for the book for my speaking engagements.
For a real joy over the last year was getting to speak at events at bookshops; I loved meeting people around the country and hearing a few of their stories. Ali Caesar at Quench in Wokingham hosted the first launch, with the next-door coffee shop, The Grange, filled with people chortling over the US/UK quiz she arranged. I was so grateful to go to Streatham and Marlborough and Hove and up to Glasgow on these jaunts.
It’s been an amazing journey and as I look back over the past year my heart fills with gratitude to God and to all those who have helped with the publishing and distribution and the getting-the-books-into-people’s-hands. And of course to those of you who have read it! I love how readers become friends as we share in finding ourselves wherever God has placed us.
To God be the glory.