Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Blog by the Publisher of Shirley Tucker's "Diamonds in the Dust"

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Anthony Horvath.

Anthony Horvath is the Executive Director of Athanatos Christian Ministries.  ACM is an apologetics ministry that focuses on 'literary apologetics,' which is the defense of the Christian faith through the arts, and literature in particular.

Shirley Tucker's Diamonds in the Dust came *this* close to slipping through my fingers.  Her entry into my ministry's Christian writing contest came in relatively early compared to many of the other entries.  I was surprised when shortly after I was informed by Paypal that they were reversing her payment due to concerns about fraud.  Scratching my head, I sent an inquiry her way.  Soon, it all came out:  her husband, not recognizing the charge, took decisive action.  Thankfully, it was smoothed out pretty easily after that, but Shirley and I laughed about it later.

It's always fun to think about the 'what might have been' but the 'what has now happened' has been a very interesting ride, to say the least.

Athanatos Christian Ministries had already been sponsoring writing contests for a couple of years and was expanding into Christian novels.  It had also been publishing books for several years as well.  It seemed only natural to offer as part of the award an offer to publish, but we hadn't really considered the possibility that the author would live outside the United States.  Now, ACM was already familiar with the challenges of international collaboration.  Its first book, Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Bible was written by Joseph Keysor, who lives and works in Oman.  However, in that case, the main market was still the United States.  Shirley's audience and connections are in South Africa.

Immediately there are new considerations.  How is the book going to be distributed?  How am I going to get copies of the book there?  Can I find a reputable printer and just have the book printed there?  How does that work since South Africa has a VAT and I am a foreign firm?  And so on and so forth.  Indeed, at this point we are very close to arranging to have the book made available through (their 'Amazon') but complications such as different time zones and different accents have made it a slow process.

Given these difficulties, it is no wonder to me that non-US authors would have trouble getting published.  There has been a technological revolution in the publishing industry that makes it easier than ever to publish and distribute a book but there are many markets that aren't tied in to those networks.  South Africa turns out to be one of them.  With the costs of distribution higher in these regions, a publisher might be hesitant to give a book- even a great book- a shot.

In light of this, I might counsel foreign authors to rethink the paradigm.  This kind of rethinking is already in progress here in the United States and it isn't certain yet how it is going to play out. 

The prevailing paradigm for so many years was that in order to be a successful author one had to find a publisher and the book had to end up on book shelves.  The converse of this is that those who didn't release their book through a publisher and didn't have their books in the 'bricks and mortar' outfits were losers- surely their books could not be very good, or else a publisher would have picked up the book and ran with it.

But this turns out not to be the case.  In the first place, there are numerous examples of authors who were rejected time and time again only to finally hit the big time. This proves that quality manuscripts are rejected all the time.

In the second place, more and more titles emerging from small presses and through self-publishing are proving themselves in the marketplace.  The stigma is slowly dissolving.

Just as importantly, the ebook revolution is allowing authors to get their books out to the masses without the huge investment that used to be required.  Also, readers themselves don't have to make the same investment.  Instead of having to pay loads of money for a book they are unfamiliar with, they can buy an electronic edition at a much lower price- and the author still gets a decent cut.

Dispensing with the notion that one has proved he is successful merely because a publisher has bought the book can pave the way for the author having a more satisfying experience.

In saying all this, I am not necessarily trying to convince everyone to take up self-publishing.  Certainly, there will always be a role for publishers.  I know for a fact that many authors need a tremendous amount of assistance in putting their book together and then getting it out there.  Between the technical requirements and the marketing angle, there are some formidable skills that have to be mastered and we don't have unlimited time to do everything.  What I am trying to submit is that by rethinking our notions of 'success' we can be more nimble in recognizing and seizing different kinds of opportunities.

As Christians, we already have our marching orders:  be satisfied with where you are and content with what you have.  The world offers its own model for 'success' and we've all seen how that has worked out in many cases.  The Tabloids are bloated with the littered remains of those who found 'success.' 

I think something about this can be learned from Shirley's book.  Her main character, Ida Morgan, is a simple lady who found grief inflicted upon her.  She was not rich, or famous, or prominent.  When she had a bunch of neglected children dumped into her lap, her first thought was to pass them along to the 'professional.'  She called the police, who weren't much help.  As it turns out, though, she was perfectly capable.  She became their advocate, simply by deciding to do her best, right where she was at. 

Authors around the world will also find that they are quite capable, simply by doing their best, with the tools already available to them.  A little elbow grease and reasonable expectations can make 'success' much easier to find.  Indeed, it may be just right around the corner.

Note from Ruth Ann

Thank you, Anthony, what an interesting post.

Diamonds in the Dust will be available by Dec 1st, although you can pre-order.  The website is  I will be interviewing Shirley on this blog on the 6th December.

Here's a short description of the book:

Straight out of South Africa comes the poignant tale of Ida Morgan:  her husband murdered, abandoned by God, and alone in the world.  Ida’s road to healing and wholeness is paved by diamonds in the dust.

Author Shirley Mowat Tucker knows about life in South Africa.  She lives there!  The trials and triumphs of that country continue to this day and serve as the backdrop of Ida Morgan’s excursion into South Africa’s secret places: places where there are still wicked men doing wicked things…  places where the innocent and defenseless are preyed upon… places drenched in the same bitterness and grief that Ida Morgan now understands first hand.


  1. Thanks for this interview and for sharing about this new book, Ruth. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more about this book and Shirley Tucker's road to publication.

  2. Thanks so much Ruth and Anthony for this fascinating insight into "our" problem, because yes, I live in South Africa. My first book releases in the States next year, and my publisher, Revell, and I will face many similar issues.

    I look forward to you interview with Shirley, Ruth.

  3. Ruth Ann, thanks for introducing us to a new South African author :) Shirley's book sounds like a great read and I'll be looking out for your interview in December. It was great to hear Anthony's perspective on publishing and the changes that are rapidly taking place in the publishing industry.

  4. Anthony, I appreciate all you're doing to encourage Christian fiction writing, especially among YP. My daughter has won a couple of awards through those contests and they've certainly spurred her on in her writing.

  5. Anthony's assessment of the way publishing, and Christian publishing in particular, is developing, is certainly encouraging to an aspiring writer like myself. Thank you for bringing this to us, Ruth, and also for letting us know about Shirley Tucker's book. As someone who has just recently returned to South Africa after many years' absence I look forward with great interest to reading Diamonds in the Dust.

  6. We so desperately need more books with an insiders perspective on South Africa. I look forward to this. Thank you to Anthony for taking a chance on an international writer, and for letting us know the complications involved.

  7. It was my pleasure, all! As far as the complications go, I am convinced that the main complication is essentially TIME. Everything can be done if enough TIME is allowed. But we are so impatient... but we WILL get distribution set up in South Africa. It will just take TIME! (In the meantime, it just means Shirl will have to drop ship her own local orders)

  8. Many thanks for your blog post, Anthony, it has encouraged many of us.

    Thank you Lisa, Shirley,Narelle, Sandra, Steve and LeAnne for your comments.

  9. Thanks for these insights, Anthony! This was a very interesting read.

  10. Thanks for this insightful post. Good to get a publisher's point of view. I'm sure it is of interest to all of us who live in other countries and great to see a competition promoting novels.

  11. Diamonds in the Dust sounds wonderful. God bless your publishing ministery, Anthony. Ruth Ann, you find the most interesting interview subjects! Thank you. It's a boost to my faith to read of work like this around the world.