Friday, May 18, 2007

Celebrate Your Defeats!

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Wow, what a week.

Isn't it interesting how sometimes everything is flowing easily and effortlessly where you feel nothing could go wrong and then BAM! WHAM! you are hit with a most unexpected jolt, literally turning your world upside down?

Remember the miraculous encounter I had with a local woman (Katina) who was in the audience at one of my speaking engagements earlier this year? She unexpectedly volunteered to help me whip my book proposal in shape for her literary agent's review and consideration. Her thinking throughout my presentation that night was: Hey, Stephen where's your book?

Click here to read more about that fateful evening.

It had to be "divine timing" because it was providing me with an exceptional opportunity to realize the dream of publishing my first book through a well-established literary agent. Over time, Katina held a few phone conversations with him and I was told that he was very excited about the forthcoming book proposal.

Definitely a good sign, I thought. At one point, Katina even suggested that her agent was going to thank her for "discovering me."

Before we go any further, let us step back in time for a moment here.

Seven years ago (Year 2000), after countless rejections, I landed a reputable literary agent named Joe who once represented Mother Teresa. After months of working on the book proposal, he went shopping among the nation's top publishers only to be turned down due to "crowded book market conditions." When Joe and I went our separate ways, I remember thinking it was okay to move on because I knew the universe would provide me with another window of opportunity later.

Everything you experience, pleasant or not, is preparing you for the future. In August 2006, I wrote a three-part series on "Trust that Bigger Things are in Store for You" (Part I, Part II and Part III). Even my unpleasant encounter with the elementary school bully and "Harry the Bank Boss" were divine acts on the stage of life to become the person I am today.

When I met Katina at the speaking engagement, I recognized a new "window of opportunity" had just emerged. I marveled at the timing. After all, she was connected to one of the most powerful literary agencies. Many of their authors have seen their books turned into major motion pictures. What could be better than having someone like Katina from a tiny, sleepy little town of Akron, Ohio help me get my foot in the door?

This was finally going to be my year to publish! With great excitement, she and I revamped the original book proposal and created a short promotional video clip with the help of Ron Hoff (you can see the DVD clip here).

The book proposal/DVD package was finally FEDEX'd to Katina's agent in New York City last week. We tried to carry on with our lives, giving our best shot in "letting go and letting God."

But alas, it was not to be.

An email arrived yesterday from one of the junior agents whose message was courteous yet clearly in the format of a rejection letter: "Unfortunately, the intense competition in the current market forces us to be extremely selective and we believe that you would be better served by another agency. You should not take this as a reflection of your work, etc."


Shaking my head vigorously as if I was imagining things, I had to re-read it just to make sure.

When it became crystal clear what I was looking at, my stomach did a super flip flop and I felt a rare blanket of heaviness descend around me. It did not feel good at all.

Now what's the point of "Adversity University" if I can't be honest and share the good and the bad? Obstacles and other forms of adversity are going to pop up from time to time whether we like it or not. Like my business statement says, "adversity does not discriminate - no one is immune from it." No one.

W. Mitchell, a fellow motivational speaker says, "It's not what happens to's what you do about it."

The junior agent's standard rejection letter wasn't the first time I received one. So what's one more?

How did I handle it? First, I let myself sulk for a few minutes. Okay, it was a few hours!

Then I asked myself several questions:

Did this change anything about what I have now? (No)
Are you still alive and well? (Ahem, yes, I am!)
Do you still have your health? (Yes)
Are you homeless? (No)
Does this mean your writing sucks? (My goodness, it better not!!)
Is it the end of the world for you? (Don't be silly!!)
Do you have food in the refrigerator and a roof over your head? (Yes)
Do you have family and friends who love you for who you are? (Where would I be without them?)
Are you still in demand as a motivational speaker around the country? (Yes)

On a drum roll, I pulled up my gratitude list on the computer and reminded myself why I should be grateful.

Then I found previous blog entries like "Gratitude Reminders" and "The Power of Thanking People with Handwritten Notes," lifting me up even more.

In the end, I simply shrugged my shoulders, sent a very nice thank you email back to the junior agent, packed my gym bag and went for a vigorous workout.

Then I bought myself a cigar to celebrate!

Celebrate what?

Okay, here's the deal. Despite the so-called "bad news," I still believe everything happens for a divine reason.

Of course, I have no idea why everything happened the way it did. On the surface, it makes absolutely no sense that the universe would give me the opportunity to create the foundation for my first book proposal 7 years ago with the help of an agent who, despite his very best efforts, was not able to get me a publishing deal. And then I am presented with a chance encounter with Katina, who we all know by now is represented by one of the most powerful literary agents, only to have her agent say "Not for us, sorry."

Huh? What's the deal?

Isn't this why they say God acts in mysterious ways? Like my friend Joni says, "more will be revealed."

Perhaps a way is being paved to another path that I'm not yet aware of. Maybe an unforeseen opportunity even bigger than Katina's literary agency will come along. Or I'm being given an opportunity to consider other ways of publishing that I hadn't given serious thought before.

Like............self publishing.

Hmm...let me put it this way. All I've ever wanted was to have a traditional publisher do all the publishing-related work, pay me a nice little advance and then presto, I have a "legitimate" book. What perspective author doesn't want that?

On the same day I received the rejection notice, I heard from a good friend that I hadn't heard from in quite some time. She had no idea what just happened and innocently included in her email how she was saving money to self-publish a book so that audiences at her speaking engagements could take a piece of her message home with them after hearing her speak.

Was that supposed to be a "light bulb" message for me?

The bottom line is that I am faced with two choices:

1. Continue to slog my way through names of hundreds of literary agents and publishers in the hope of finding a creditable agent/publisher someday.


2. Take action now, pay out of pocket to self-publish and have faith that it will all work out.

Tomorrow I will post a blog entry from a literary agent's point of view on why agents pass on representing someone - it's quite interesting and I promise for those of you who are aspiring authors, you'll understand the elimination process, just like I did.

By the way, are you wondering what my book is about? The working title is That's Right, Stephen! and it's a collection of stories that you have already read in this blog!

That's right, I'm simply taking the best stories from here and turning it into a book. If you wade through past posts in "Adversity University," you'll get a glimpse of what kind of stories will appear in That's Right, Stephen!

Come to think of it, I'm contemplating the idea of creating a free downloadable e-book and putting it up on my website. Seth Godin, a famous internet marketing guru, did just that and then went on to publish a wildly successful book that was at one time a free downloadable e-book from his website!

It's called viral marketing where people have a chance to see what you have to offer and tell others about it before they decide to pick up a hard copy for themselves. The idea is if people like your book online, they'll want to own a copy that they can touch, feel and even highlight certain sections for future reference. Pretty cool way to get your work out there huh?

Stay tuned.......

Food for thought: We are all on a mysterious journey. Along the way, we are given obstacles for a divine reason. How we choose to respond to those obstacles is entirely up to each of us. The key is to stay faithful to your dreams and eventually you will get there.
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