Did you know that if you read the New Testament with a curious eye toward Peter and the relationship he had with Jesus, you can actually watch Peter transform? It’s pretty cool. So I wrote about it, in a book called Follower: How Getting Close to Jesus Brought Simon Peter to Himself. It’s been really invigorating to write about spiritual formation through a biblical person’s story, since I spend so much time here on Pilgrimage and at church, encouraging spiritual formation in present-day people’s stories.
Unlike the last time I tried to pitch a book to anyone, I feel pretty confident about the value of this book, and also more confident in my ability to pitch. (This, I must tell you, is due in large part to the excellent work of Build a Better Us colleague, Ruth Buchanan. If you want solid help crafting a book and a proposal and starting to get your mind wrapped around the crazy intricacies of the publishing world, she’s your woman.) This time, I actually have at least two different real-live agents, whose work I’m somewhat familiar with, who would consider representing it. But not now.
Why? Because I don’t have enough “followers” to make a go of Follower. The irony is not lost on me. I need at least ten times what I’ve got.
Listen, friends. It’s not negative self-talk, but simply a piece of realistic self-assessment to say that drawing a crowd is not in my wheelhouse. (What is a wheelhouse, by the way? And does everybody have one? Much like water buffalo?) Even as I, too, get closer to Jesus, that particular quality does not seem like it’s ever going to be part of who I am. This doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to work at making the book viable in this market. I’m willing. But I’m also trying to stay level-headed about this, and to be aware that when it comes to priorities, balancing home life with my already existing church and Pilgrimage responsibilities (who, by the way, are all people), is more important to me than producing a bestseller.
I get that agents and publishers have different priorities. Having a book do well is vital to them, and is part of their service to the world. Also, I’m pretty sure it was God who told me to get back to book-writing this year and stop putting it off until some hypothetical sabbatical which I have no assurance of ever experiencing, but which has been my procrastination excuse lately.
So. If it’s the case that Follower is really God’s idea and project, and also the case that publishers and agents need books to do well, and also the case that I don’t have the time buffer or the skillset or the knowhow to do loads of networking and PR–well, we might have a “Gideon’s army” situation here. By which I mean God will have to be the one who makes this book “happen,” the way He helped Gideon and 300 guys evict something like 30,000 oppressors from his people’s land. (Just, I assume and hope, without my having to in fact cull followers. And without the enemy infighting that happened in that story. Or, actual enemies. This analogy is falling apart quickly here. Let’s move along.)
Okay, my point is. This whole process, whatever it ends up being, is spiritual formation, too. I have a role here. You might, too. Some agent somewhere, and some publisher somewhere, ultimately also will, I hope. But given the odds, there’s no way I’ll be able to take the credit for the end result. It’ll be God who gets that, for sure, because this situation is going to need something like a miracle.
I’m kind of excited about that. Stick around, and we can watch what happens together.