I never intended to be an author

At times life leads us down roads we never intended to travel. For some this becomes a pattern, leaving us in unfamiliar territory time after time, struggling to learn as we go. Writing and publishing Tears Water the Seeds of Hope was as much an unexpected adventure as the journey that inspired the book.  

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope is the true story of an ordinary couple that is drawn into heartbreaking situations that ultimately compel them to establish a non-profit organization to save the lives of children in the end-stages of starvation in eastern Guatemala. My husband and I are the clueless and ill-equipped protagonists who unwittingly experience an Indiana Jones caliber adventure that crosses three continents and draws hundreds of volunteers and supporters to join the charge on behalf of the families of drought and famine stricken Chiquimula, Guatemala. The difficulty of the conditions described in the book and the sadness of the situations we encounter are often lightened with humor and joy as tragic losses are balanced with triumphant victories.

It was never my intention to write a book, but as others heard the true accounts of the harrowing encounters we experienced, they declared that we had lived a novel that many would enjoy reading. So one day I sat down at my computer and began to type. The writing and publishing process has been as challenging and perplexing as the daunting task of beginning mission work in a foreign country with no pertinent skills or training. I share what I have learned in hopes that it will help other new authors to succeed. 

Most major traditional publishers require that book submissions reach them via literary agents who often reject requests for representation by new authors based on a one page query letter. So unless your name is Danielle Steele, it is nearly impossible to attract the attention of the major traditional publishers. After researching several publishing options including smaller independent traditional publishers and co-publishers, I eventually decided on self-publishing as the best option for me.

I contacted the self-publishing imprints of several major publishers as well as a few independent self-publishers. Each offered vastly different options and publishing packages. I found that I liked various features of the contracts of each of three different publishers, but none encompassed everything I was hoping for. I began to negotiate with the self-publishing companies in an attempt to combine the best features of each contract into the arrangement I wanted. I eventually arrived at CrossHouse as my publisher and have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with them. CrossHouse publisher Katie Welch was happy to work with me to establish the contract I wanted and was available for consultation and advice throughout the process. The following are contract features that self-publishing authors should insist on.

1. The publisher must provide a publishing date commitment.
2. Final editorial control must stay with the author.
3. Book size, number of pages and price specifications must be set according to the author’s wishes.
4. The publisher must make a commitment to produce the book in formats desired by the author such as paperback, hard cover and various electronic formats.
5. The publisher should offer deep author discounts on an increasing scale based on number of books purchased.
6. The publisher should waive any publishing fees at a specified pre-order volume.
7. The author must have the right to terminate the contract and pursue other publishing options at any time.

Self-publishing companies often mimic traditional publishers by assuming responsibilities such as selling and distributing books and paying royalties. The contract must specify the royalty percentage to be paid and it should be clear whether the royalty percentage is based on net sales or net sales less production and shipping costs. The author should retain the right to order and reorder books at the agreed upon discount and to market and sell them anywhere and at any price desired. 

Self-publishing is the fastest way to get a book from the author’s pen to the public as traditional publishing can as long as two years. The process with CrossHouse, from signing a contract to publication, was only three months.  If self-publishing is not for you, it is wise submit query letters to many literary agents and traditional publishers who handle your genre, and be prepared to be patient. Each receives thousands of queries each year and large reading backlogs are the norm. Believe in your work and don’t be afraid to follow up. I eventually received several offers from publishers, one of which I had followed up with twice. But by the time they each got around to reading my material, I was well on my way to publication with CrossHouse. 

Guest post by Kim Tews. Kim Tews was raised in Madison, Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in Economics. She and husband, Randy, pursued careers in real estate before beginning mission work together in Ecuador, South America in 2001. In 2005 they established the 501 (c) 3 non-profit Outreach for World Hope to save the lives of starving children in eastern Guatemala. The couple lives in Verona, Wisconsin with their three children, traveling back and forth to Guatemala frequently to facilitate the ongoing programs of Outreach for World Hope.


  1. i found this post very informative and interesting though i was a bit ocnfused at the words selfpublishing and publisher. I was under the impression sefpublishing you do it all like at amazon with somthign like create space or Iverse to print the books.. I would love more detailed information on this.. Good luck!!


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