I’m pulling the curtain aside and telling you about what happened behind the scenes with the Cokers’ attempt to get published. It was never Bill’s desire to publish a book. When I and friends at church told him to write a book, he would say, “There are enough books out there already.” So when the boxes of Words of Endearment arrived, I put a book in Bill’s hands, saying he wrote a book. He said, “How did this happen?” I said he had preached the messages and I put them together as chapters in a book for the people who love him.
I did not try to keep the book a secret, but evidently it surprised Bill. You could say that I went through the process behind his back. We spend our days at our computers: my desk and computer against one wall and the his against a wall across the room. Thus, we have our backs to each other. Bill plays solitaire on his computer; I write, edit, and connect with readers and publishers.
Some evenings, while watching TV, sitting side by side on the couch, I often had the typed manuscript on my lap. Bill would ask what I was doing as I marked up the pages with blue ink. I’d explain it was one of his sermons. Avoiding the word “editing,” I’d say I was moving his preaching voice to a reading voice. That satisfied him―until the next night and we’d have the same conversation again.
Having no success securing either an agent or a traditional publisher, I chose to self-publish with Sermon to Book. When I told them the messages were on cassette tapes, they must have thought I was communicating from the Dark Ages. Our grandson Michael came to the rescue, converting cassette tapes into digital audio files. That became our foundation.
While this was pricey, the STB staff did an excellent job with editing, cover design, and communicating with me. Understanding they were dealing with a middle “man,” they showed respect to both Bill and me. I would get the edits, grateful for comments about Bill’s intellect and biblical knowledge. At times, an editor would write, “I had not thought of it this way,” or “He explains the text well.” If one asked for more material or wanted another illustration, I had to resist devising copy of my own. I’d say we had to be faithful to what Bill wrote and not expand, for he could not help and it was not my place or theirs to add copy.
I could not have done the editing and proofing without the help of Becky, Bill, Jr., and a team of beta readers. They found typos I had not seen, and they also pointed out weak points needing a bit of clarity. Thanks to all who helped behind the scenes, without applause.
When we received the first book off the press, our final proof, the thing that thrilled me most was seeing for the first time the spine of the book. This would be what potential readers would see on a shelf in a bookstore. We approved of the proof and it was off to Amazon to POD (print on demand). The first month Amazon reported 19 e-books and 119 paperback books sold. I have mailed over 180 books out with Bill’s stamped signature. And that should be only the beginning.