About the Episode
In this episode, we welcome special guest Richard Collins, who shares his challenges in the publishing journey for a novel outside traditional genres. Richard’s experiences serve as inspiration for writers navigating unconventional paths, as he discusses overcoming obstacles and finding alternative publishing routes. Discover the importance of building an author platform, leveraging social media, and establishing connections within the writing community.
Topics covered in this episode:
- Why Agents Reject Manuscript Submissions
- Utilizing the independent publishing route
- Book launching
- Having confidence in your genre and story
- Email lists, social media marketing, and podcast tours
- Writing as an act of obedience and faithfulness
GET RICHARD’S BOOK House of Souls ✅CLICK HERE👉 https://amzn.to/3od9qgP
About My Guest
Richard Thor Collins is a former freelance journalist with the BBC, filing stories for BBC Radio Four and BBC World Service in the 1990s. He now lives in the U.K. and works with Living Leadership, a charity which supports church leaders around the U.K. He has a Masters in Christian Apologetics from Biola University in Southern California, and blogs at www.stardust-books.com.
His first novel, HOUSE OF SOULS, was published by Stardust Books in November 2022. A narrative theodicy, it’s a story in which characters are invited to address the deepest questions of life. He lived for twelve years in Southern California with his wife, Bettina. He has three grown children.
RICHARD’s Newest Release
Click for Transcript
Richard: [00:00:00] I would send them my cover letter and my synopsis and I realized over time that the issue had nothing to do with the quality of the book. It had nothing to do with my cover letter. It had nothing to do with my first three chapters. Everybody who’s, who’s a writer, knows that you have to send these things into agents.
In order to even get to a publisher. The problem really was the genre. The agent simply couldn’t connect with the genre that they had no experience of.
Rachel: Welcome back to the Business of Christian Fiction. I’m Rachel Fahrenbach, and today my guest is Richard Collins. I’m very excited to have you, Richard. I think you’re gonna add such an interesting perspective because like you told me off camera that you’re the newbie. You’re, you’re brand new to this whole, um, publishing journey and, but you’re not new in the sense that you haven’t been at it, you have been working at, you’ve been learning, you’ve been trying, you’ve been trying to figure things out.
But what’s [00:01:00] new is that your book is just recently out. So this, this experience of walking through the publishing journey and trying to figure out what you’re going to do from that business perspective is really fresh in your mind. So I think that’s gonna be really valuable to our listeners today. So welcome.
Richard: Thank you. You’re thanks for having me.
Rachel: You’re welcome. So before we dive into like all the things that everybody wants to know about like marketing, business, all this stuff just tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you do? I believe you’re married and you guys live in the uk, is that correct?
Richard: That is correct, yes.
Rachel: Okay. Tell us a little bit more.
Richard: So, I am British, I have a Norwegian mother, she’s passed away now, hence my middle name, which is Thor. So my name is Richard Thor Collins .
Oh, that’s awesome.
Um, so I’m gonna leap actually to, 1994 and, I was working for the BBC. I was working in Mexico.
Okay. And, [00:02:00] um, doing some work for the World Service. And I met my wife who was raised in Mexico. She’s an American, but she has parents with Mexican heritage and she went to visit them. They, they were missionaries in Mexico. We met in 1994, um, a year to the day after we met. We got married in Southern California in Los Angeles.
Oh, you are just like all over the place.
I know, uh, I have, I have a little interesting story, which she might be, uh, my, my interest to listeners. So, um, I proposed to her in February of 1995 and we’re sitting there and I’m due to go back to the UK and we, we had a problem with me getting back into the country.
So, we, we thought, you know, we want a church wedding, we want the big wedding with the families and everything. But we had an issue with getting my papers. So we’re sitting [00:03:00] around with a couple of friends and we say, you know what, it’d be really handy if we actually got married like now, just so that we can have the paperwork.
But getting married in California, you kind of need a blood test. It’s a complicated thing.
So we ended up going to Las Vegas.
Yep. We went to Vegas and, uh, we, we had a drive through wedding.
Oh my goodness.
In March of 95. We sat in the car. We had that, some of friends and family in the back seat, and we sat and we, we did our vows.
And my wife, you know, she, she suddenly realized, you know, what am I doing? I’m getting married in Vegas, for goodness sake, you know, this is not, you know who I am. But I said, you know, it’s okay. It’s just for the paperwork. So we got married and then we had a big. Big, uh, church wedding in July of 95. So that was fun.
Rachel: So you’re, you’re a re very resourceful person it sounds like.
Richard: Well, you know, I’ve, I’ve traveled around the world. Um, I’ve been to many [00:04:00] different countries. I went, uh, during my year off when I was 18 years old, I went around the world. I came to the US uh, in 1981 and um, with a couple of friends, we, uh, we, we bought a van, we went down to Florida, we flew to Australia, and then I went through Southeast Asia, uh, you know, before I was 20 years old.
Rachel: I feel like this is just like setting us up for the fact that you are not afraid of a challenge. You are willing to figure things out. And I feel like you might have brought that to this publishing journey of yours.
Richard: Yeah. You know what I like to say about, uh, fiction writers, and I dunno whether you connect with this, Rachel, is that all of us who write fiction. We’re all a bit reckless . There is a reckless side to us, which means that we throw ourselves into the project because the desire to express the story is a driver, which makes us forget about all the [00:05:00] possible consequences that might come because the story must be told.
Rachel: Mm-hmm. Not just told, but experienced.
Richard: Experienced as well.
So, you know, when I get in a moment to talk about where the book came from, you’ll realize, um, you know, if I’d, I’d thought about, you know, what it was going to involve at the beginning, I would never have started the project.
I, I really, you know, when I got the idea, I just, it was so compelling to me. Um, I just had to sit at the computer and get, get the first few ideas into the computer because it was, it’s a, when you write fiction, the story comes from within.
And must be told it, it simply must come out.
And whether that means that you become a best seller, or whether it’s simply to, you know, to give to your family the story must be told. Mm-hmm. , uh, that’s what I feel about fiction writing.
Rachel: I 100% agree. I have felt that compulsion, that [00:06:00] like, it’s like this tingling inside of you that will not stop until you sit down and get the words out.
Richard: Yeah. And then after that, it’s all about the business of, okay, now that the story is developing, then I can think about beta readers and I can think about, you know, my market and everything else. But at the beginning it’s like, oh my gosh, that is, that’s a really good idea that that will fly.
Rachel: Yes. Yes. And I, and I think that sometimes fiction writers think that writing the story is, um, you know, they’ll google like how to publish a book, and a lot of the resources that we see have to do with the craft of writing.
But that’s like just one part of it. That’s like the first step. Like you’re saying, like first you have to get the words on the page. And I would say that some things can be congruent. Like I think you need to be building your platform as you’re writing your novel. But a lot of it, it does depend on that like, you [00:07:00] have this story that you want to tell and you have a s a reader you want to serve, but that’s just the first part of it. That’s just the first step. Then you, once you have your product, the thing that you want to offer the world, then you have to figure out how to get it into the hands of your reader.
Yeah. And that’s where this business side comes into play. And so how about you share with us a little bit your journey of figuring out how to get this book into the hands of your readers.
Richard: So I’m just gonna tell you basically my publishing story, which is that in 2007, a book called The Shack was released.
And many of your listeners will have heard of it.
And I, I read The Shack in 2008 and, um, it just left an imprint on my mind. And what I really liked about the book was actually not so much the writing, uh, not so much the theology. I had issues [00:08:00] with the theology
But what I really liked about it was the genre, you know, what kind of book it was.
And I’ve, what I’ve called it is a narrative, Theo-Odyssey. A narrative theodyssey is a story in which characters or a character directly addresses the issue of the problem of evil or the problem of human suffering. It’s all focused on that particular thing. And what I felt about the Shack was that the book, um, did certain sections of that really well, and other parts were not, not quite as good.
And I just felt that the, the genre was, was sufficiently powerful that it could be done again.
So I, I took the idea of a narrative theodyssey, and I came up with, with my own idea, which is what House of Souls is all about. I wrote the book, it took me a couple of years to write it. I did a lot of research for it. There’s a number of different [00:09:00] areas which needed a lot of, a lot of research.
So my publishing journey was as follows, which is I did what every other writer does, which is I contacted agents.
And I went through, and I’m sure that, you know, you’ve discussed this on this podcast before, there’s an agent directory you can get a list of pretty much all the Christian, uh, book agents out there.
Right. And I would send them my cover letter and my synopsis and, and I realized over time that the issue had nothing to do with the quality of the book. It had nothing to do with my cover letter. It had nothing to do with my first three chapters. Everybody who’s, who’s a writer, knows that you have to send these things into agents.
Yep. In order to even get to a publisher.
The problem really was the genre that my, the agent simply couldn’t connect with the genre that they had no experience of. They knew about romance, they knew [00:10:00] about detective fiction, they knew fantasy, they knew young adults. And here I come with a genre and I say, yeah, you know, it’s like the, the, the really successful book, the one that sold 18 million copies.
It’s in that genre. And they just blanked me.
Rachel: Did you get a lot of like, did. get rejections that had any feedback to them? Or were you just getting rejections?
Richard: Yeah, I did. I got, I got rejections. Like, I really like this, but I, I cannot take it.
Or, this is really good, but I haven’t, one of the things that they’ll write to you, I’m afraid to say, is we, I don’t have any room on my list.
Have you had that one before? I don’t.
I have a list.
Yep. And, and I don’t have any room for you this, this time.
Rachel: Yes. It’s not as widely known that publishers don’t publish that much fiction, especially the bigger publishers.
It’s getting the, the lists are getting smaller and small, smaller as far as how many they release each year. Um, I heard one publisher say that they only released 20, um, titles that year, [00:11:00] and only a small percentage of that was fiction. And so when you think about it in that terms, like yeah, they really don’t have any spots, especially when they’re working two years out. They’re not just being fluffy when they’re responding with it. They truly don’t have any other spots.
Richard: And you know what I, you know, to all those fiction writers who are listening right now, and I’m sure, I’m sure you’ve been told this before, when you get a rejection you have to work really hard
not to take it personally.
It really doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of your work.
It, I mean, your book may be good, it may be bad, your idea may be good or it may be bad, but the idea when you get a rejection, you, you’re getting a rejection because you know, everybody gets rejections.
That’s just part of the work. That’s just part of what it means to find a publisher is to go through this process. If you allow it to weigh you down, you’ll never gonna make it. You just have to be able to [00:12:00] move on to the next.
Rachel: Right. And the thing that I think fiction writers really need to take the heart is that it is okay to feel disappointed that you’ve received a rejection, it is okay to feel that sense of, man, this didn’t work out. I was really hoping… like your hopes have been crushed. And that is okay to admit that and say, I’m disappointed that this didn’t work out. But you cannot stay there. You have to keep, cannot moving forward because it is not a personal decision against you as a writer or your work even. It’s a business decision that a publisher or an agent is making for the sake of their company. It has nothing to do with you
Richard: Yeah. And also an agent or a publisher may have looked at your work and thought, you know what? This is really good. I wish that we could publish this, but we just don’t have room.
So they may have looked at it and really liked it. So to, to kind of move on, what had happened was I actually got a contact in with Zondervan. Mm. And I found a really, uh, [00:13:00] a lovely lady, uh, an acquisitions editor, a Zondervan, and she, I, I sent the book to her three times.
And every, and she liked it.
Okay. She liked, she liked it enough to take it to her committee.
And of course they turned it down.
Rachel: Yeah. Um, because it’s a hard, it’s a hard from their, it’s a hard, hard sell. Yeah. It’s a hard sell because from their perspective, when they’re thinking of it in marketing terms, it’s like, how do a market this, um, if they’re not prepared to do something a little bit outside the box?
It’s a harder sale sell for the editor to really convince the sales team.
Richard: Right. I feel as though I convinced her, but I, I, you know, I didn’t have any contact with the committee
And so it does go to a committee and it probably goes to the marketing people and the sales people, and they’re looking at it and going, you know what, why don’t we do another one from this author that we already ha is already selling, rather than going with the new guy.
Rachel: Especially when you don’t have numbers. Right. Let’s [00:14:00] just, let’s just use the terms they say. Right, exactly. You don’t have numbers to back up as far as platform goes, you might not have a large following on social media. Right, right. You might not have a network in your social circle that would directly translate, or, and it’s kind of hard with a genre like yours where there’s not a specific, um, word that you can label it when it comes to a network.
For instance, if you’re marketing a book, um, that’s to help single moms. You can find organizations exactly that help single moms and you’re like, Hey, my book really fits really well with your organizational mission. So like that, those situations, that makes it really simple. But when you’re, when you’re trying to market something in the genre like yours, it doesn’t have that very clear distinction. And so it’s very hard to market.
Richard: And I, and I tried to, I tried to say, you know what? I do have a target audience, which I would say
and this is gonna sound maybe a little strange, but my [00:15:00] target audience is educated American women. Okay. And there’s, there’s a, there’s a,
Rachel: Do you have a certain age?
Richard: Well, you know what the, you know, the really funny thing about this, Rachel, is that I have sold to, uh, people in the early twenties
and I have had the book read by a guy in his seventies.
and, and the, in fact, the guy in his seventies read the book in one day.
So, and absolutely loved it.
Rachel: So you, you have this idea of who you want to target with it. You know what genre it is, you know what the story’s doing, and you know how it’s doing it, and you’re talking to this publisher, but their sales team is coming back to them. Their pub board is saying, nah, not a fit for us. So where did you go from there?
Richard: So, so from there, what happened was that I was put in touch with, uh, UK publisher. Okay. And I found a small, uh, [00:16:00] independent UK publisher. And, and this is where I wanna just stop for a moment and speak kind of personally about something in which, which I’ve, I struggle to even think back on because there have been two times in my life when I’ve made decisions against my gut instinct.
Big decisions like moving. Mm-hmm. like signing a publishing contract. And when I met the woman who runs the publishing company, I felt uncomfortable even when I was with her. Mm. Uh, but what I did was I, I suppressed my reservations because she had a publishing deal and I wanted the publishing deal. Mm. So I signed the contract with her.
I’m not gonna mention names here. Mm-hmm. , because I don’t think that that would be app appropriate. I agree. And, and sure enough, I, I could have told myself if I’d been speaking to myself back then, that it was gonna be a disaster. And it was a [00:17:00] disaster. Right from the, from the moment go, I ran into problems with this particular publisher and she essentially took two and a half years of my life.
I, I fought with her. Um, she put the project on the back burner. She didn’t talk to me for months. And eventually I had to get out.
Rachel: And I’m assuming you were in a contract with. ,
Richard: I was in a contract.
I needed to get a lawyer friend of mine to get me out of the contract. She let it go in the end, and I was then free.
So then I found an agent living in the UK through a friend, and we went through the process one more time. I sent out a bunch of applications and same as before. So that’s the moment that I went for independent publishing.
Rachel: How long was that from the time you, you were finished with the manuscript and you’re like, let’s, let’s get this thing published to this moment where you’re like, all right, this is what we’re doing now.
how long was that? So it sounds like a like five or six years, right?
Richard: Yeah, longer. Oh my goodness. Oh my [00:18:00] goodness. It was, it was more like se seven, seven and a half years between finishing the book and finally finding my agent called Jonathan, who then put me on a path towards independent publishing.
Rachel: What kind of things have you done to help with that word of marketing? Have you done any book launch teams or, yeah.
Have you? What kind of thing?
Richard: So, here’s my marketing plan. Okay. You ready for it?
I did a launch event here in the uk. Okay. And I put quite a lot of effort into that. We had about 50 people come along.
Um, in a church hall, I sold a whole bunch of books right at the beginning. Um, took about an hour. I did a q and a session.
I read sections from the book. Um, I got together a team of people who, who believe in the book, who had read the book, um, people who love Me mm-hmm. and were prepared to put a bit of time and effort kind of getting the word out there. So I, I haven’t. I [00:19:00] didn’t put together a huge team. I, I mean, I’ve heard of people that have put teams together of like a hundred people strong.
Right. I, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t do that.
But I have, I have a bunch of people committed to, to helping me get, get the word out there. That’s good. The second that I also, um, although I was born a little long ago to, to have really got into social media, I do everything that I can. So I have a, a Facebook page, which is called House of Souls Book.
So pe it’s an open, uh, place where people can come and discuss the ideas in, in the book. I’m on Instagram, I’m on Twitter. They’re not my favorite things. I, I do what I can. The other thing I do a weekly blog and I do blogs to do with the ideas in House of Souls as well as other ideas because as part of my work for the charity that I, that I’m with called Living Leadership, uh, I do, I already do a weekly blog, so I [00:20:00] take some of those ideas and I develop those and, uh, it’s, you can find it all on the Stardust books, uh, website.
I have two other things, which, which are helping me right now, which is, uh, I did a master’s in Apologetics, uh, from Biola University. And so I know a bunch of the professors there.
Most of my family, my wife’s family went to Biola in uh, LA and so I have a bunch of professors have read and liked the book.
So I have the former Dean of Talbot School of Theology who, who did accommodation for me. You can see it in the book. And I’m working on I’m trying to get, I have a number of people together who have really liked the book, so I’m trying to get it to a critical mass of enough of the professors that they go, you know what?
We, I think we have something here that the university could really get behind. So I’m gonna [00:21:00] be on a bunch of podcasts at the university that are produced by professors.
Rachel: So you’re gonna do like a podcast tour?
Richard: Um, yeah. A little. That’s, that’s, that’s the idea. That’s awesome. I di I’d like to just speak briefly about this issue of what we call influencers.
Mm-hmm. I think all of us, all of us who sell books, we’re all hoping that somehow some big name is gonna see our book and we’re gonna end up on TV or radio. Yeah. And, and I just wanna say to, to, if, if you have a book out and you’re a fiction writer and you are, you’re thinking, well, maybe, you know, maybe, I don’t know, Stephen King will mention me, or, you know, John Gresham will appear on TV and talk about me.
Let me just say, it may happen, it may happen to you, Rachel, it may happen to me. Um, and this is where I, I, I become, if I can be just briefly, um, this is where I really think that if you’re a Christian, you have to trust [00:22:00] God
with the work that you’ve done. If you make your God’s success and you put a number on that, um, you may hit that number, you may not mm-hmm.
but if you make it your guard, that’s a problem for Christians. Mm-hmm. and I, I really feel as though the most important thing for Christian writers. , I have a little section in my book about this actually. Um, which is the most important thing is that we are obedient.
and that we’re faithful.
And that’s more important to me when I get to the throne of God at the end of my life, and I come before his throne and he says, okay, what did you do with the time that I was, that I gave you? He’s not gonna be looking at the number of books that I sold. And said, well, you know, you only told tell 10,000 and this guy over here sold 10 million.
So he’s obviously in a better, he’s not gonna ask that question, Rachel. What he’s gonna do is he’s gonna say, what did you do with, with the time, treasure and talent that you were given? [00:23:00] Little bit like Jesus parable of the talents.
you know, what did you do to invest what you were given?
with the best heart that you could to be faithful to what you were, to what I gave you. Mm-hmm. . And whether that ends up with selling. 10 million books, or whether it’s a 10,000 or a couple of thousand, is far less important than, than how I’ve lived my life day by day in being faithful with, with what’s been given to me.
And I, and I wanna encourage your listeners who may have some idea that there’s this number or this like, concept of success associated with six figures, seven figures in terms of selling their books, to try and get them to set that aside. And just remember that we’re all given a, we’re all dealt a different hand.
But we’re called to be obedient and faithful with what we’re given. And sure. We are going to do the things that I’m, that I’m sure that you do [00:24:00] a whole lot better than I do with the social media, building your platform, writing your blogs, all of those kinds of, we do all of that.
but we, we have to do it in a way which is obedient. And faithful. Yeah. And as long as we do that, then I’m happy to live each day just enjoying the grace of God in my life. Whether I sell 500 books, thousand books, 1500 books, whether it’s discovered by someone, it gets made into a movie, I don’t know what’s gonna happen with my everybody fantasizes about that book becoming a movie.
Of course, yes. . But, uh, i, I, it may happen, it may, it may not happen. But if my hope and my desire and my goal and my dream is if I don’t get this, then I’m not getting what I really want.
Then I think we have a real problem, because that’s not what Christians are about. We we’re here to serve
and we’re here to obey and we’re here to be faitful.
Rachel: Amen and amen. I [00:25:00] 100% agree with you, and I wanna point out that you, you just kind of hit on it a little bit, and I just wanna make sure to state it, because sometimes there’s a tendency to overcorrect, they’re like, well, I just wanna be faithful and I just wanna serve Jesus, and that’s all I need to do.
But you said something that’s so vitally important to remember as a fiction writer. The question is not, did you write the novel? The question is, have you been faithful to what’s been given you and you’ve been given resources and the ability to find resources. So if you have the ability to find the resources to help you get your book into the hands of a reader, your obedience requires you to do that too.
Like you’re, you’re being asked to do that. And so writing the book is the first step of obedience, getting it into the hands of your reader is the second step. And it’s really easy to just give up and say like, oh, well this is hard. This is, you know, trying to figure out the social media thing or trying to figure out how to be on these podcasts or trying [00:26:00] to figure out how to get on like, um, in front of a, a crowd of people doing a book signing.
Like all that’s hard. Finding out how to get into a library is hard. Like if you get so caught up in how hard it all is and you think that that’s some sign that you don’t need to do it, then you’re just as much as at fault as the person who’s made it their God. And so you just have to be very careful that you’re not just giving up because of its hard, the hardness of this, this thing that we do.
That’s part of that toiling is part of the cultivating, it’s part of the stewardship and it’s so vitally and important, like you said, that we’re obedient to that, that we have the ability to get it into the hands of our readers. Are we doing everything possible to do that? Because that’s what we’ve been called to do.
Richard: If they don’t have it, they can’t be blessed by the work that, and if you believe that your work is good
then you will do everything that you can to get the book into their hands because you know that it will bless them.
Rachel: I think that is a perfect place for us to end our conversation.
It is [00:27:00] such a great reminder and such a a, an encouragement and a, just a spurring on for the listener and for each of us, of just continuing to do the work that God has called us to and to not give up. I think it’s, it’s important for us to remember that. So thank you for sharing that.
Um, thank you. So as we wrap up, as we wrap up, why don’t you tell us where can, um, readers go to purchase your book? Where can they find you on socials? Um, how can they best support you?
Richard: So stardust-books.com. Okay. That, that’s, that’s where my blog is. That’s where the book is. You’ll find the blurb of the book.
You’ll find a bit of background about me. You’ll find a bunch of blogs. In fact, the first four, no, I started number two. Well, the first four chapters of the book [00:28:00] are on the blog. Oh. If you wanna go, if you wanna go to the blog, you’ll find chapter 1, 2, 3, and four on the blog. Okay. So you can get a little taste of the book without even buying it.
Just go, you know, what, what is, what is this about? I can, you can read the first four chapters right there. Perfect. Um, I’m confident that if you read the first four chapters, you’re gonna wanna buy the book. So I, I would like you to buy it off the but you don’t need to buy it off the website. If you’d prefer to buy it somewhere else, that’s fine too.
The, the most important thing is that you buy it, you read it, and then I just have one . I just have one request, which is if you do buy the book and if you, this is for you Rachel, and anybody else, if you do buy the book and you do read it and you do enjoy it.
I would love for you to do an Amazon review that would really bless me.
Um, if enough people do Amazon reviews, there’s a point at which the number of [00:29:00] reviews on the algorithm simply pushes your book. Mm-hmm. up in all of the search engines. So I really need Amazon review. The book is young still. It’s only been out a couple of months. Mm-hmm. and that may sound like a long time, but a lot of people will buy a book and then it’s on their pile and they didn’t get to it, and then they got sick and then the Yep.
Child was whatever. And then so
Rachel: my to be read pile is like this big.
Richard: Yeah. So, so if you buy it, it’ll go on the pile and you go, yeah, I, I bought the book, you know, in January, you know, after the podcast with Richard, but I’m picking it up in, you know, April and that, that’s fine. I, I totally understand that.
But when you’ve read it, um, an Amazon review. That would bless me.
Rachel: That sounds like a fabulous call to action. I love it so much.
Well, thank you Richard, for joining us on the on the business of Christian Fiction. I appreciate it so very much. And for those of you who are listening, join us here next week as we continue the conversation about what it means to write [00:30:00] fiction and sell it. Talk to you later.
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I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority.
You can learn more about how I’m in your corner here.
And you can learn more about my personal journey here.
One last thing, if you’re looking for a bit more rest in your life, be sure to check out the Rest & Reflect guided journal.