Sunday, March 11, 2012

And So It Begins – The Search For An Agent

Just last week, I finally sent my first email to an agent with the necessary materials. It is an interesting process since every agent has preferences about submissions – email or snail mail, attachments or no attachments, writing samples or no writing samples, and so on. It’s almost impossible to develop a single format that can be sent out universally.

The whole process makes me very nervous. I’ve spent almost two years now writing, re-writing, editing, and developing ways to promote the manuscript. I’ve committed my attention, my time, my passion and my heart to this project. I believe in it and I think it can provide hope for whoever reads it. Now I get to see if anything will come of it.

Agents have to be picky. They generally get hundreds of submissions a week. Simple spelling or grammar mistakes can tank your project. Not following submission guidelines is also a nice excuse to reject the proposal. I read through my email dozens of times before I sent it out because I was worried about a stupid error that would lead an agent to believe I am not a serious author. Once it was sent, I felt really on edge.

Even if your story is good, there is the whole question of whether your manuscript is marketable. Agents largely are not in the business to make people’s publishing dreams come true – they have to make a living. If they see something that cannot be commercially successful, the manuscript ends up in the garbage bin. They have to convince a publisher to print the book, which won’t happen if the book has limited appeal.

This first person I sent my materials to is an agent I was “introduced” to over email from another author. Referrals and introductions can make a big difference when trying to stand out from the crowd in a good way. Many agents don’t like it when authors send out their manuscript to other agents simultaneously and specify they may not get back to you with an answer for 2-3 months (if at all!). Translation – finding an agent can be a long, drawn out process.

If you know of any agents or publishers who may be interested in receiving a submission for YOU DON’T KNOW JACK: A MICRO-PREEMIE STORY, please email me: bennionjw@aol.com.

-Jon

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Two New Book Endorsements

I haven’t blogged in over a month. It isn’t because I have had nothing to write about. I have been working hard to secure a few more endorsements from prominent people and authors, which will help when I finally submit the full manuscript to publishers and agents.

Last month, I blogged about receiving an endorsement from a NICU doctor who wrote her own book about preemies. Just this month, YOU DON'T KNOW JACK: A MICRO-PREEMIE STORY received positive endorsements from two popular authors. The first came from Rev. John Ensor, who is well-known within pro-life circles:

You don't know Jack is a celebration of life.  But really, it's a war diary of the daily and monthly battle for life that is fought by those having a preemie, and choosing not to give up on them; and by those dedicated professionals who have made it their calling to save these precious babies. Jack was born a preemie, but as You don't know Jack shows, we are all a bit immature.  In fighting for these little ones, we all grow up a bit more.”

-Rev. John Ensor, Executive Director of Global Initiatives for Heartbeat International. He is the author of several popular books, including Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart, The Great Work of the Gospel, and Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Gospel of Life.


The next endorsement came from Jennifer Graf Groneberg, a fellow Montana author who has her own parenting book about her experience in raising twins – one of which was born with Down’s Syndrome:

"Jon Bennion's YOU DON'T KNOW JACK is the story of an expectant father's worst fear come true--a complicated, premature delivery that left both Bennion and his wife scrambling to find ways to make sense of their new world.  Heartfelt, honest, and compelling, YOU DON'T KNOW JACK is the invaluable voice-of-experience for parents who find themselves in similar circumstances, and more--it's an up-close look at the ways in which parenthood calls on us all to become our best selves."

-Jennifer Graf Groneberg, author of ROAD MAP TO HOLLAND (NAL/Penguin, 2008)

I’m very appreciative of all of these endorsements from diverse audiences. I am working on a few more with the hope that I can get at least one more before I submit the manuscript to agents and publishers.  If you know of any famous authors or people that may be willing to read the manuscript and write a short endorsement, please contact me at bennionjw@aol.com.

Also, all of your personal endorsements have been encouraging and helpful, especially if you link to the book blog on your own blog or Facebook page. Stay tuned for more endorsements and updates, including some promotional pieces we hope to roll out in the next few months.  


-Jon

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Who is the Audience?

When I first set out to write Jack's story, that's all I was doing – writing down what I could remember from his remarkable journey. I figured it could be a book, but I didn't necessarily have an audience in mind. I spent over a year putting down facts and feelings. Once I had a majority of it written, I took a step back and asked myself, "Who am I writing this for? Myself? Family? Anyone else? Would anyone outside my small circle even care about this?"

I knew that parents and families with micro-preemies would likely benefit from hearing Jack's story. I knew because I had searched for micro-preemie books when Jack was first born, and came up with only one book. There are several regular preemie books out there and dozens of reference books. But stories about the smallest of the small were usually only found on blogs scattered around the internet. I wanted to share what we had experienced with others in our shoes.

But I also saw how it was more than just a preemie story. As I thought more about what I had written, I realized how much people who value life at all stages would appreciate Jack's story. Watching a tiny baby spend almost half the normal pregnancy outside of the womb was a miraculous story. In addition, Jessi and I made some tough decisions early on regarding our son's chances at life, including on the day when we learned he may never have the kind of life we would chose for him.

And finally, there was no way to separate Jack's journey from our own spiritual journey. For me, that element of faith was as central to the story as anything else. Even though I struggled with my beliefs at times, I couldn't write about our experience as parents without my own inner conversations and pleas with God and the subsequent answers to prayer. I felt like people of faith would appreciate what we had been through and see hope for whatever difficulties they faced.

After taking that step back and reworking the story to speak to all of those audiences, I felt more confident that Jack's story should be shared. Whether it's parents of micro-preemies, people who value life at all stages, or believers, the audience was much broader than I originally anticipated. If you haven't shared the excerpt with one of these audiences, take a moment to post it on your Facebook wall or blog.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Endorsements

Last week in particular, people took time to reflect on those things for which they are thankful. We were no exception.

Over the past four weeks when we launched this book website, I've been extremely grateful for the dozens of people who have written reviews of the excerpts. Some of these came from family and friends, but many came from parents of preemies, people of faith, and everyday folks interested in the fascinating story of a tiny boy they have never met. Complete strangers are reading it. Jessi has tried to give a mention to everyone who has reviewed the book or made mention of it on Facebook.

We were fortunate to receive an endorsement from Dr. Sue Hall, a neonatologist and author of For The Love Of Babies, who recently had this to say about You Don't Know Jack: A Micro-Preemie Story –

“Not many fathers have the courage to expose their emotional vulnerability the way that Jon Bennion has in his uplifting memoir, You Don’t Know Jack, about life with his son born at 23 weeks gestation.  Bennion decided on the first day of his son’s life that “hope would overcome any negative feelings” he might have about his son’s difficult situation.  However, sticking with this decision, keeping his marriage strong, and maintaining his spiritual connection with God amidst the turbulence of his son’s first several years of life challenged every fiber of his being.  Writing with exceptional clarity about the challenges facing a micro-preemie and his parents both in the NICU and beyond, Bennion brings hope to us all, encouraging us that if we ask God for a miracle, we might just get one.”

We are readying letters and materials for agents and publishers. We hope to send them out before the end of the year. Endorsements and positive reviews can make the difference for publishers who are considering a manuscript. If you know of any other authors, pro-life advocates, pastors/ministers/priests, or bloggers with large followings who may consider reading the excerpt (or full manuscript) and doing an endorsement, please email me:  bennionjw@aol.com

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Rest of the Story

We are thrilled that almost 7,000 8,000 9,000 10,000 people have visited this site and read the excerpt in just the first week and a half! A great deal of thanks goes out to our friends, family and fellow bloggers who have read the excerpt of the book and recommended it on their Facebook page or website. It is immensely helpful as we start the search for a publisher!

We have received a great deal of positive feedback from the first three chapters, and many have said they wished they could continue to read it. We won't be releasing the rest of the book until it is officially published, but I thought I would  post the table of contents here. It gives you a small glimpse into the rest of the completed manuscript, which spans the first two years of Jack's life. As with the first three chapters, each subsequent chapter is short and very readable:

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE
ONE UNPLANNED DAY
A NIGHTMARE UNFOLDS
PROGRESS AND PUSHBACK
A LOOK INWARD
THE NICU WORLD
DON’T KNOW JACK
THE NICU IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
THE ROLLERCOASTER CONTINUES
JACKPOT!
JACK IN THE BOX
HIT THE ROAD, JACK
SOME ANSWERS, MORE QUESTIONS
WORLD, MEET JACK
JACK BE NIMBLE
BABY NO MORE
LIFE WITH A MICRO-PREEMIE
OUR HAPPY BOY
EPILOGUE

If you haven't read the first three chapters and recommended it to your friends on Facebook or your blog, we would be grateful if you did so. Also, if you want to read the current adventures of our boy, make sure to check out Jessi's blog at 
www.lifewithjack.com, or find and "like" Life with Jack on Facebook.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why a Book?

Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with the idea of writing a book. I would usually dream up works of fiction, design a cover with my limited artistic skills, and maybe write one or two pages (if that) before I lost interest. I had the dream to be an author - not the drive.

As an adult, I often think of what would make a good story. We may not have the imaginations we used to in those grade school days, but we still dream. Even if a person has a story in them, good luck finding the time when you have a job, a marriage, kids and...well...life.

The last thing I thought I would do when Jack made his premature appearance two and a half years ago was write a book. I may have wished it was fiction at times. It was too true, too real and too close to home for me to want it to be put into words. It was the scariest, most unpleasant experience of my life. Nothing in my first 30 years had come close to the fear, anger, self-pity, and denial I felt during those early summer months in 2009. Who wants to write about that anyway?

Without having the intentions of writing a book, I penned weekly updates during Jack's NICU stay to tell our friends how he was doing. In the beginning, these short emails were solemn and reserved. Over time, as Jack grew and showed signs of improvement, I allowed myself to actually enjoy writing the updates. Many friends and family members forwarded them on to share the story Jack was living. A few people encouraged me to write a book about the experience, but that was not high on the priority list. I just wanted all of my family back home for a normal, boring existence for a change.

Fast forward a year when Jack turned one. We weren't out of the woods, by any means, but life was not quite the tumultuous terraine that it used to be. I saw how miraculous our journey had been. I saw how Jessi was able to help the parents and families of other micro-preemies through her blog. I also saw an opportunity to put my own thoughts on paper if I did so in small amounts over a long period of time. But I didn't tell anyone -- not even Jessi -- just in case it turned out I didn't have the drive.

As another year passed, I had about two-thirds of the book done. I felt comfortable enough to show Jessi. I continued to work and edit until we both felt like it was ready for the world to see. We finally told family and friends last Wednesday, and the response has exceeded our expectations. We know Jack's awesome story can help not only the families of micro-preemies, but anyone facing a major battle. 

Thank you so much to the people who have posted a link to the excerpt on their blog or on Facebook. That is so valuable for spreading the word about the manuscript. If you are interested in helping us get Jack's story published, please consider reading the excerpt and posting about it on Facebook or your blog.


Thank you,


Jon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Website, New Book

Welcome!

We are so excited to announce a book about Jack's micro beginnings called You Don't Know Jack: A Micro-Preemie Story. The first three chapters can be viewed by clicking on the "Excerpt" button above. Other information about the book and author can be found through the "About", "The Author", "Agents and Publishers", and "Jack Today" links.

If you'd like to help us get Jack's book published and in people's hands, here are a few things you can do:

1. Read the "Excerpt" and write a review on your own blog or Facebook page;

2. Pass the link of this blog on to friends and family, especially those who work in publishing or are literary agents;   :)

3. If you haven't already, make sure to "like" us on Facebook for the latest scoop on Jack and his book.

We look forward to updating you on our efforts to get the word out and finding a publisher. Check back often to learn more about the book and its journey through the publishing world.