A new book

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Our third book is on its way! The wheels of the book publishing world turn slowly and I want to share a little bit about the journey of how we got to this point.

My first two books were self-published, which comes with the blessing of being able to control everything, as well as the curse of having to control everything. I’ve been fortunate to work in publishing for years, so I am surrounded by a good crew of editors and designers. We’ve always told our kids that you don’t have to know everything, but it’s handy to know the folks who do.

So I was able to build a team of wise and talented people who helped me produce two books that showcased the stories and portraits of the people I have met in this decade-long journey asking people, “What does peace mean to you?” Along the way, we learned about printing, marketing and distribution, we won a few awards, and most importantly, we touched hearts and inspired minds.

These first two books focused on other people’s stories. I minimized my own voice with the goal of elevating theirs. But somewhere along the way, I realized I had a story I wanted to share, too. A story of discovery and hope. A story of recognizing my own blind spots and learning how to see beyond them. A story of dreaming big and having the stubborn determination to see a thing through, with all the struggles and grace we encountered along the way.

So I started writing. Two years ago. I’d squirrel away a day or a week in between programming. I’d write in coffee shops or hotel lobbies. Libraries, borrowed guest houses, the front seat of my truck, or beside our basement fireplace with our dog Bailey by my side. I must have added or edited words in twenty different states.

When the manuscript was finally done, I put it in front of a few trusted friends. Trusted, because I knew they would say things like, “This is good,” and “I loved this part.” But also trusted because they would say things like, “I’m not sure how you end a book like this, but that’s not it,” “You totally lost me on this part,” and “Congratulations…you have a first draft. Now keep writing and turn it into a good book.”

It’s all humbling, but a part of the bigger process. So I tore things apart and wrote a second draft. Then a third. We proofread and edited and finally it was time to look for a home for the book. You’ve got three choices, really; self-publish, look for an agent who will try to sell to a publisher or seek out a publisher on your own.

I’d self-published two books already. This time I wanted the legitimacy of a traditional publisher as well as their help with distribution and sales. I wanted the broader reach and exposure for A Peace of My Mind that a traditional publisher could offer.

Seeking a publisher or an agent requires a book proposal that talks about your platform as a writer, your social media footprint and your speaking schedule. It details the potential market and profiles the demographics of future readers. It analyzes similar titles in the marketplace and how this book would be different, better and more marketable than those. It’s like writing a whole new book to sell the book you just wrote.

I had just finished the book proposal and started dipping my toe into the waters of sending out query letters to agents when I heard of a thing called #pitmad on Twitter. It is a combination of gold rush fever and buying a lotto ticket for the author world. You craft a 280-word tweet to pitch your book and hashtag it with #pitmad as well as the genre of the book. It happens once each quarter and in theory, agents and publishers watch the thread to see if anything piques their interest. If they want to know more, they simply like your tweet, which serves as an invitation to submit a full book proposal.

So I crafted my Tweet:

“Frustrated by our increasingly polarized world, photographer John Noltner drove 40,000 miles across America to explore and document the humanity that connects us. He began with a simple question: “What does peace mean to you?” #PitMad #A #NF #Mem #Insp”

A few people liked the tweet, but a quick look at their profiles revealed they were just kind folks trying to offer support. Then it happened. A like from an acquisitions editor at a publisher. I clicked through to their website and went down my checklist.

Legit publisher. Check.

Sized to get the job done but still get personal attention. Check.

History of interesting titles. Check.

Then I read the mission statement at the top of Broadleaf Books’ website and I was sold: “Expanding the mind, nourishing the soul, cultivating the common good.”

It was the perfect fit. If I could have hand-picked a publisher, it would have been Broadleaf. I’ve had enough false starts in life to know better, but I started getting excited. I submitted the proposal and waited. We set up a phone call to talk and the acquisitions editor liked it. She pitched it to the publisher’s leadership and they liked it, too.

They offered a contract, I signed, and I’m excited to say that our new book will be released in 2021 by Broadleaf Books.

There’s still some hard work ahead. I’ll talk more about that as we go, but for now, it’s time to celebrate. Many of you have been following and encouraging A Peace of My Mind for years and this book feels like a milestone. I can’t wait to share it with you.

With peace and gratitude,

John

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