Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My First Rejection Opened Other Doors

By John Vonhof
2010 FCWC faculty

I attended my first writers’ conference in 1996. With visions of success, I had a book idea and a manuscript. It would catch the eye of an editor. It was a book about pastoral search – helping vacant churches find a pastor. I thought I had a winner.

Then I got my manuscript back. Yes, there was red ink. Lots. Apprehensive, I read the comments. No market. Too small a market. Not for me. Needs work. Not marketable. And more. I went home rejected.

But I believed in my book. I went home and did my homework. First, I taught myself how to do layout, design, and marketing – and in 1997 self-published my search book. Second, I researched the market and found an interdenominational publishing house, the Alban Institute. In 1999, Alban took my book and published it as The Alban Guide to Managing the Pastoral Search Process.

Has it been a best seller? No. It is a niche market book with a select audience. But, it has continued to sell year after year. Then ten years later, in 2009, I pitched a second edition to my editor at Alban. The revision, now called The Pastoral Search Journey, will be out this month.

That first rejection taught me a valuable lesson. Another lesson I never forgot was a woman sharing her book idea at another conference. It was a book for parents about protecting their children at school. The speaker told her it was not a workable idea. Several years later Columbine happened and the value of her book was evident to me. I don’t know what happened to her idea.

What’s my point?
  • Believe in your idea – but be willing to think outside the box if your idea is rejected. 
  • Study the market. 
  • Seek advice from freelancers at the conference. Most have had the same experience and can give you a fresh perspective. 
  • Spend time brainstorming how your idea can be modified or enhanced to make it better. 
  • Study other book that are similar. Realize that there are other publishers and research other markets. 
  • Work with a critique group to gain valuable insights to improve your proposal and manuscript.
I love talking to new writers who are struggling to find a home for their writing. It’s refreshing to hear their enthusiasm. If you come to Florida and need a listening ear, find me. I’d love to talk.

John Vonhof is teaching the pre-conference session, Thinking Like an Editor; three workshops: Fine-tuning your Writing Niche, Writing and Publishing an E-book, and Taking Your Writing Beyond Paper; plus two After Hours.


  1. I still believe your is one of the best resources around for those, like myself, who have not been to many conferences. I'm counting the days until FCWC!
    Blessings, Donna

  2. You sound like the exact person I need to meet when I get to the conference! Thank you for your words of wisdom. I will be looking foward to your class and hoping for an opportunity to talk further about this topic. See you soon!!!!

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