Meant To Be… Or Not To Be.

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I’ve been dreading this post for a couple months now. Truthfully, I thought about not posting it at all. But to not write about my failures, as well as my successes, just seemed dishonest. Because sometimes in life you work for something and it comes about, and sometimes you work for something and it doesn’t. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t.

My book proposal didn’t sell. It came very close, as close as you can come before getting the dreaded no. I had conference calls with publishers, rounds and rounds and rounds of rewrites, and months and months of waiting. It came down to one major publisher that was very interested, and for over a month, that editor tried to find a way to sell it to her company (editors essentially have to sell an idea to a team of department representatives within their company to make sure that every department is on board with the book before purchasing it), but it just didn’t go. The problem was that publishers didn’t know what to DO with my book proposal. It was a story of the first five years of our marriage, but it wasn’t necessarily a memoir. It included how-to information about surviving the first few fragile years of marriage, but it wasn’t necessarily a relationship or self-help book. It addressed spirituality and faith as part of your marriage, but it wasn’t necessarily an inspirational book. Several re-writes that publishers asked me to do had me carving the book into one of those mainstream genres in an effort to make it easier to market, but in the end it just didn’t sell.

I think the most heartbreaking part for me was how close it came. We have been watching the Olympic trials in the evenings, and I imagine I feel very similar to someone who has trained years for the Olympics, but then came in third at the trials. Just barely missing the cut sometimes stings worse than failing miserable. This all happened three months ago, and it has really taken me this long to let it go. I was so disappointed at first. Truly heartbroken. There’s just no other way to say it. I have wanted to be a published author for a long, long time, and it’s something I have constantly worked towards. Honestly, it is a small part of the reason I started my original blog and it is a large part of the reason why I actively sought out writing in other formats besides this blog. When something has driven you for so long, it’s hard to let go of the wheel, after a while.

In the months that I have been working through this disappointment in my own head, I’ve come to see that I viewed this book process as a test of faith. I think I believed that God owed me a success after all the things I’d been through in the past couple years. He owed me. I deserved this. And if I am really honest, I think I felt that way so deeply, that the idea of not succeeding hardly ever crossed my mind. You see things all the time that say, “Prayer is powerful,” or “God knows the desires of your heart,” or “Seek and ye shall find.” And even non-religious sayings confirm the idea of success being a decision, “Dreams don’t work unless you do,” “Believe in yourself,” and “Dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

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But this process has shown me that just because my dream didn’t happen doesn’t necessarily mean that I failed or that God didn’t hear me. What if in becoming published, I had to go on a book tour and Chris began to resent being left at home with the kids all the time? What if our marriage struggled because of my success? What if I didn’t give 110% at school because I was preoccupied with book sales and events and I missed the opportunity to reach students that really needed me? What if I had to quit my job because of book obligations? What if the book came out and received terrible reviews? What if I couldn’t keep up Marriage Confessions because of my book commitment? What if I gave someone terrible advice and their marriage ended as a result? What if I missed a milestone for one of my kids because I was out promoting my book? What if my kids felt neglected or put aside because I was too busy with the book?

Who knows what would have happened if I had reached that one goal, what other prices might have had to be paid in exchange for that one success?

I sent my agent an email sometime throughout this process that said, “I’m starting to realize that when one door closes, a good agent forces her way inside another!” It was a joke about how hard my sweet agent was working to get my book to sell. But what I’ve learned through this process is that sometimes, no matter how much we try to force a door to open, it’s best for us if it closes. Even if that’s not what we want. Even if we sit outside that closed door for three months, whispering through the keyhole, “Pssst…Are you sure, God?” Sometimes closed doors are the blessing.

When the call came from my agent that the publisher had decided to pass in the end, Chris did just as I hoped he would. He put his arms around me as I stood in our kitchen and cried. He didn’t say anything to try and make it better. He just let me be sad. In the following weeks, he very gently suggested that maybe this wasn’t the end. Maybe another re-write, another publisher, another proposal… and he’s right. I could try again. Third times the charm, right? But I can feel the weight of God behind that door I’ve been trying to push open. (And, trust me, it would ONLY be the weight of GOD that could keep me from pushing that darn door open!) I can feel him in this disappointment. And I can hear him saying to me very softly, “Just wait and see what plans I have for you, Katie.”

No disappointment is easy. No matter how much faith you have or how much you know it to be the right thing. A disappointment, especially after working so hard, is heavy and heartbreaking. But after those pains passed, I have realized that there is sometimes sweet relief when you stop pushing on that door. There is such divine rest that comes after you have given something all of your strength. And, for me, there is hope, too. Hope that if this incredible dream wasn’t part of God’s plan for me, then what other even bigger dreams does he have waiting? When the timing is right and I am able to walk through that next door, what kinds of joys will I find?

God knows.

And, for me, that’s enough.

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54 Thoughts to “Meant To Be… Or Not To Be.”

  1. Sara

    I really needed this today – thank you, Katie! You inspire so many to keep going, to keep trying, to keep waiting. I am thankful for you!

  2. Julie

    I don’t usually read memoirs; I’m not married; I’m not Christian. But I would have bought your book because I love the way you look at life, and the voice you use to write about it. Whether or not a book is in your future, thank you for writing such a great blog.

  3. Jessica W

    I think this might be the best post you have written. At the least, it’s my favorite. I admire you so much, in general, and particularly for the wisdom you have shared here. “I can feel the weight of God behind that door…” is such a powerful statement and something that will stay with me from now on, I can tell you that. Thank you.

  4. Nick Bodkins

    I don’t know about the rest of your readers, but I’d buy the self-published and as an ebook in a heartbeat.

  5. JenniferLO

    Thinking and praying for you Katie! What a blessing and HUGE comfort to know that no matter what God always has a plan and He promises that it is far better than we could have ever imagined!

  6. kelly h

    My hubby and I were just talking about this topic tonight (trying to force your way into God’s closed doors) and something our pastor recently said has really been sticking out in my mind. He said sometimes we settle for ‘good’the because we force things into being. We think
    what I want isn’t bad or harmful. Its good. This must be right and what God wants. But we don’t
    realize the ‘great’ that God wants for us. We force and settle for the good when we could have had so much more. I am sorry for the difficult struggles with your book. And as much as I wanted to read it, I commend you for learning and relaying to us such an important
    lesson!

    must be

  7. I am with the others! Keep your head high and self publish that puppy!!! I’ll buy it! 😀

  8. I would have bought your book in a minute. I’m not that religious and a self-help book wouldn’t have been engaging for me. I don’t want to know the 10 steps to making your marriage work, I want to read a story about marriage, changes, life, and love. I think your blog works because you provide a real-life prospective on marriage and don’t sugarcoat it like so many other blogs do. I could see your book working if you removed yourself from the story a bit and made it more like a fiction book rather than a memoir. No one has to know that it’s real! But then again, that takes away the real-life part that makes your writing so appealing in the blog world. You attempted to leap between two very strange and different worlds. I wouldn’t be happy if they pigeon-holed you into a certain category because it wouldn’t be the same.
    I feel like you’ve already done the marketing for the publisher. You have paying customers. I still want to read your book. The blog is great but I want more! This situation is quite the conundrum.

  9. Shannon G

    Don’t give up! You never know what can happen. Try, try again 🙂 Good luck!

  10. Lindsey

    Self-publish! Some of the best books I have read recently were turned down by publishers and the authors decided to self-publish. I would definitely buy your book! I love all of your honest, transparent posts. I love that you are human and you aren’t afraid to admit it. Chin up!

  11. What’s the one response I constantly hear God is whispering … “not yet”? Not yet, my dear. Not yet. And you’re right, He does have big plans for you.

  12. Be encouraged that there have been so many brilliant people that have been told no countless times by publishers, teachers, bosses, etc. Don’t lose heart. God has HUGE plans for you, bigger than you have ever dreamed. It may not be now, or tomorrow… but just know that it is to give you a hope and a future. I will buy your book when the time comes! I love your writing! Your blog posts have encouraged me during some tough times. Thank you for sharing your awesome gift of writing with us! You are making a difference in so many lives. God bless.

  13. Sarah H.

    That was so well written Katie! I have absolutely loved witnessing your growth during these past four years!!

  14. I agree with Nick, Lindsey and others – it may not feel the same to not have a traditional publisher but I say self-publish! I bet you would sell thousands of copies…better than some traditioanlly published books!

  15. So sorry that your book didn’t sell, Katie. I’ve worked (still work, freelance) in publishing, and it’s often almost as heartbreaking for the editor/agent as well. You do such good work here on this blog, you’ve touched so many hearts, marriages, families already, that we can be sure God has big plans for you, if you continue to follow Him. Thank you for writing!!

  16. good for you.
    i just wrote a downer post, myself, but i feel better being honest about the down times and not just the peachy ones.
    i would have read your book! you sold me! and i am grateful for your example and your faith in God.

  17. i rarely comment… but just wanted to say i’m so sorry to read it didn’t work out! hugs from nyc

  18. That is such an incredibly mature response to the situation. I am so proud of you for seeing the bigger picture and realizing that greater things may be waiting for you on the horizon. When I was a kid, I remember praying really hard for *very* specific things without ever providing specificity. And you might get it — maybe not at the time you anticipated and it might not be everything you thought it would be. In fact, as you described, many, many other things in life may be compromised because you accomplished one very specific thing. There are great things waiting for you, Katie – and when you get them, you will appreciate them more because of this experience. You’ve already gained: you realize the brightness of your job & dedication to students, you realize you like your MC community, and you hold close to your family, who inspire you to write every day. (There’d be nothing to confess otherwise!) Good on you for embarking on this adventure, for wholeheartedly pursuing it, and for realizing that it’s just another feather in your cap of experiences. Cannot wait to see what next adventure lies ahead.

  19. Gosh, Katie… so sorry.

  20. Rachel

    Thank you for being so open! My mom is an exceptional writer, and throughout much of my childhood she poured herself into a beautiful novel that deserved to be published in every way. She finally landed an agent (which is an enormous accomplishment on its own) who began to pass her book to publishers. It was a journey that lasted for years, and it never found a home. To say that the book industry is tough is the biggest understatement. It seems like today, only established authors can get published, and they just churn out different versions of the same stuff. It always makes me so upset to see horrible writing on the NY Times Bestsellers list, when I know phenomenal writers are struggling in the world to get anything published. It’s a tough industry, and you’re not alone! Don’t give up!!

  21. I hope one day a publisher will realize what a gem you are, because like so many said, I would’ve bought it!

  22. Sometimes God says “yes”, sometimes He says “no” and sometimes he says “wait”. I’ve found that the greatest joys in my life have come from the “wait” response to my prayers. He has created you to be an amazing person, Katie Brown. And He has bigger and better things for you and your life. Enjoy the moment and know He is taking care of things for you. 🙂

  23. So bummed for you but wow are you in a good place about it. It takes a lot of time and faith to get to this point (as you know) and sometimes I never get there. I just stay mad. It’s so hard for me to let go of control in certain situations and just have faith but I’m working on it. That said, publish an e book! You can link it to your site and not worry about going through a publisher.

  24. jenny-bird

    Much love.

  25. Carlene

    Oh no! I hate that that happened to you, Katie! Maybe it won’t be this book, maybe it won’t be this year. But some day. You have so many devoted readers here that appreciate your writing in the mean time.

  26. Katie, so sad! It is frustrating to put all that work in for what can feel like no reason. But as others have said, self-publishing is now a completely viable option. I cover publishing for a magazine, and I can tell you that I’ve interviewed multiple successful self-published authors, and they tell a similar story to yours: you’ve got an agent and an interested editor, but the publisher just couldn’t figure out how to market the book. First up, it is very hard to get an agent, and it is even harder to get an editor interested, so congrats! Also that means your book is good, which, sadly, is not the case with all self-published titles. You’ve got a platform and an audience already, which will also help with sales. Sometimes, if you self-publish a book to impressive sales, a publisher will then pick it up. You should talk with your agent about this if you are interested. You should also check out J.A. Konrath’s blog http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ , he is a bit of a vanguard in self-publishing and he has a lot of great tips if you do decide to go this route. Good luck!

  27. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most calming/reassuring/faith building passages in the entire Bible… He has SUCH GREAT plans for you… book deal or not! He’ll show you the way, and he put a dream in your heart for a reason… you’re an amazing writer, and you have a voice that NEEDS to be heard.

  28. Grandma Barnes

    I have tears in my eyes. Not from your missed book deal but tears of jpy that I have a wonderful granddaughter who has such an abiding faith! Remibnds me of the country song, “thankj God for unanswered prayers!” . . . berlive that “the best is yet to come!”

  29. Mariya

    I’m sorry it hasn’t worked out for you yet. I sure do love reading your blog everyday. 🙂

  30. Katie – I can honestly say that even though its not a traditional “book” you are an AMAZING WRITER. I know this because I started my blog after I read yours. And I keep telling myself that maybe one day I’ll be a blogger JUST LIKE YOU. God has plans for all of us and sometimes we don’t even seen what they are until after the fact, but let me reassure you. You wanted to be a writer when you “grew up” and honey, you are.

  31. I’m so very sorry, Katie. As someone who is working to publish a novel herself I was really rooting for you!

    It’s okay if it took you a few months to get over this disappointment. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have stayed bitter and sad for much much longer. You have such a good attitude about this.

    I truly believe that your book WILL sell at some point. Just like you said, when one door closes another one opens.

    Hugs, sweetie. Keep trying!

  32. Jennifer

    This is a great go-to post for anyone, when life happens. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to see what is behind the next door for you and your rockin’ family!!

  33. I’m sad to hear about the difficult journey but I agree with others — I would LOVE to read the self-published version!!

  34. Lindsay Campbell

    Katie, I am so sorry to hear that. I am actually shocked. I definitely would have thought with your amazing story telling and writing that it would have happened for you. I’m sure, just like you said, something bigger and better is just waiting. It’s just the waiting part is so hard. Wonderful post, made me tear up and it was really something I needed to hear right now in a different circumstance. You rock Katie! 🙂

  35. I’m so sorry to hear this news, but know that in your struggle, you have encouraged me. I just had a miscarriage at 16 weeks that was shockingly similar to Ginny’s and I am struggling with God’s plans and how something so devastating could be used for His glory. Thanks for sharing your disappointments as well as your successes!

  36. Katie, you are an amazingly talented and good person. Look at how much you have accomplished before age 30! Keep pursuing your dreams–you have plenty of time to do all sorts of amazing things!

  37. I’m sorry your book deal didn’t work out, but you write beautifully about what there is to learn from the experience. I think it just wasn’t your time yet, which possibly sounds trite or unhelpful, but I think this process is just a piece of a larger puzzle you haven’t put together yet. You’ll get there.

  38. Natalie

    Oh no – sorry to hear this but thank you for your openness and willingness to share both your ups and downs – it takes courage and is an encouragement to so many, including myself. I forward to getting to hear about whatever door it is that God opens next but until then, you’re in my prayers.
    Also, as some have said – self-publishing is a very intriguing option for authors these days. My husband’s book just came out this past year and he had a very good experience with it. It sounds like you’ve got several readers with experience and solid advice on this, but I’m happy to help if you have any questions.

  39. I am so sorry, but I have no doubt that there is something even better out there and you will get it. I know someday I’ll be buying your book and reading your story. Lord knows I could use those helpful pieces of information now!

  40. Ann

    Katie, I’m grateful that you’re willing to share your disappointments as well as your delights. Often when reading your blog I marvel at your wonderful family, talents, opportunities … and I appreciate your honesty about struggles.

  41. Katie, as a somewhat non-religious person, this post is still incredibly inspiring to me. I admire your faith and beleive that God has greater things in store for you. Keep on keepin’ on!!

  42. BFF Em-ly

    Katie, I’m so sorry. And I can only imagine what a huge dissapointment this is for you to swallow and understand… sometimes, as you said, we’re not meant to fully understand though and only when the next door opens does it all really make sense. Cheers to you keeping your spirits high and your wits about – you touch people in so many ways and though this is painful (and crappy), I hope you can find solace in knowing that book or no book, your words stretch farther than you can imagine. xoxo

  43. Dessi

    So sorry to hear this (because I would have been standing outside the bookstore waiting for the debute)! But I’m glad you shared you’re story with us! Things don’t always go as we plan, or as we think they should, but there is a reason for everything 🙂

  44. Amen.

    The comfort in hearing God speak a “not right now” is that he SPOKE! That in itself is humbling and encouraging, that he’s still there guiding you. 😀

  45. Trust me, I have been there. My memoir came oh-s0-tantalizingly-close and ultimately didn’t sell because “we can’t take on a Mommy Blogger book because none of the others did well.” I pitied myself for about five minutes (hours? days?) and had a chat with my agent about fictionalizing it. It’s debuting July 9. 🙂 You can still make something of it!

    And you can’t use the “what if” game as an excuse. All of those things could easily happen as a result of your day job, too. Trust me, a book tour (and they aren’t just handing those out like candy anymore) would be worth it!

  46. Laura

    Hi Katie, I would explore self publishing as an ebook. Not to stab your lovely agent in the heart, but the benefits are that your personal profit margin would be much higher (think Amazon gives up to 80%). Sometimes after books are e-published the publisher gets the proof they need that the book would be successful enough, then they pull the trigger on hard copy printing (think those “50 shades” books…I haven’t read them but heard that’s what happened there). I’m in a non-commercial publishing area overseas and it’s definitely something to consider! You haven’t failed, you still have an amazing book on your hands. Keep your chin up! You have an audience!

  47. Michaela

    Please please please PLEASE self publish it! I think the others are right- you have a built in audience- I would buy the book on the first day. You will get all that hard work out there, and we would all love to read it. Like Snarky Mommy said, you had the agent and editor so you know the book was great. If they were just trying to work out where to put it, I say find somewhere for it yourself! Your book would EASILY get promoted on a dozen blogs, and you can see all the support in these comments. I understand that you are devastated, and I really admire you for putting this out there. But please consider the self publishing- even just ebooks, and if the demand is there worry about printing.

    Finally, I am getting married next April, and would love to hear your thoughts and advice. So, if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for me!

  48. Rejection is so much a part of this business and it stinks–no doubt about it. I finished my manuscript in 1997 and it wasn’t published until 2005. It was a very bumpy road, to say the least. The fact that you have had that kind of interest is a huge amount of validation. And one of the best things about being a Christian is knowing that God has a plan. An AWESOME plan. So, hang in there, sweet thing and God bless.

  49. Emily

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months now but never comment. You are a beautiful writer with so much insight about friendship, family, and marriage. Thank you for sharing it with us all. I was just married last week and when I read the line in this post about how the book addressed navigating the fragile first years of marriage, my first selfish thought was “stupid publishers, I NEED that book!!!!!” So, I’m disappointed for me as well as for you 🙂 But I wholeheartedly agree with your views on what is meant…or not meant to be. There’s a James Allen quote that comforts me at times like these: “work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results.” You’ve already worked your butt off — now it’s time for the faith. I have no doubt that your efforts will bring about results, even if they’re not exactly the ones you hoped for or at the time you hoped for. Probably they already have, in the form of honing your skills as a writer, organizing your knowledge and insights about marriage, and teaching you how to navigate the publishing process.

  50. […] my book, (Laugh. Fight. Stay Married,) didn’t sell, I’ve been left wondering what to do with this giant draft. Years worth of writing would just […]

  51. Marina H

    This post is such an inspiration to the idea of letting go. I have been reading your blog for almost three years now and I promise you that you have made an impression on me without any book to help. You have such a gift as a writer.

  52. Gail

    I don’t know how I got here to your site..but God knows.. He tells me to tell you not to ever give up and maybe you should title the book differently “Truely Heartbroken”…those where the words highlighted to me in reading your letter of encouragement! The most wonderful thing we can share is LOVE…thanks so much for your testimony! Love Gail

  53. […] a year ago, I wrote this blog post about God shutting the door on my book.  I said that I thought sometimes God closed doors because […]

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