From Self-Published Author to Traditional Publishing Contract By Ronnie McBrayer

I came to the world of self-publishing with some pretty clear ideas about what I wanted to do with my writing project. I didn’t want it over-hyped (something the Christian market is really good at – you know, turn a book into coffee mugs, cheesy little key chains, etc.); I wanted to exercise a great deal of control over editorializing the work to death; and I wanted the e-book option. After looking at all the self-publishing outfits out there, Booklocker was the obvious choice. So many of the others’ packages were filled with fluff. No matter how much they layer your printing package with marketing ploys and multi-layered extras, the hard word of promoting your project is up to you.

After just a couple of months my book was acquired by Smyth and Helwys. Their contract was essentially what I required in regard to “hype” and control, and the work defers back to me at the end of a designated period if mutually we decide that is what is best. Of course, there’s no real money up front (I’m an unknown commodity after all), but the cost of publishing is now on them, and if sales go well it could work out for us all. Smyth also has right of first refusal on my next manuscript and that’s a good thing, too.

Three things, I think, led to obtaining a traditional contract. 1) My location. I serve as a minister at the Seaside Chapel in Seaside, FL, a popular resort community (I can’t quickly explain how a hillbilly from Appalachia ended up at the beach; buy me a cup of coffee or a beer and I’ll say more); so the traffic through here is intense and far-reaching; 2) I write a weekly article in the South Walton, Florida paper, The Walton Sun. The article series just won a Florida Press Association Award and that was some unexpected coolness; and 3) Having my project in hand, with promotional, travel, and signing events already planned, was a huge plus. I think it showed I was willing to do the grunt work.

And let no one fool you: It is often grunt work. In my Christian publishing world, only Max Lucado, Beth Moore, Brian McLaren, John Shelby Spong, and the like get huge advances and the support systems that go with it. It’s work, but what great work it is.

Ronnie McBrayer is a husband, father, pastor, chaplain, speaker and writer. He serves on the staff of Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast in Destin, Florida, and as Associate Pastor at the Seaside Chapel in the resort community of Seaside, Florida.

In addition to his ministerial experience, Ronnie has served in leadership roles at non-profit and community development organizations, including the United Way and Habitat for Humanity. His post-Katrina relief work with Habitat for Humanity was featured by the CBS Evening News, the New York Times, and the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

Ronnie’s article series, Keeping the Faith, introduced last year in the Walton Sun, is a 2006 Florida Press Association award winner in Religion. The series is part inspiration, part observation, and all down-to-earth wisdom.

Ronnie also maintains, an Internet catalog of his writings and a resource for those whose journey of Christian faith has taken them outside the traditional church.

Read about Ronnie’s book, Dream the Impossible Dream. Holding to Faith When Life is Unfair – The Story of Joseph, at