An Author’s Journey

I wanted our agency client Scott Douglas LaCounte to guest-blog today because of the anniversary it represents (see below) and how God worked through the publishing process and journey to encourage a writer and his family.

 8775659_origScott is quite modest. He is the head librarian for the Southern California Institute of Technology. Years ago, he was a regular contributor to the popular Christian humor magazine “The Wittenberg Door.” He has given presentations on mobile application development at several conferences, and is the author of a number of books on mobile app development. Scott appeared periodically on the Christianity Today “Ignite Your Faith” online area for youth among a number of other projects.

 What I liked about Scott when I offered him representation was his commitment to writing in whatever form needed for the message. After all, not everything needs to be in a long book.

 Today’s blog is about his journey with twists and turns, but behind it all, God was there. (Read to the end. It is worth it.)

 Guest Blog – Scott Douglas LaCounte

Platform. It can make or break a writer.

But what happens when you don’t have a platform? Are you destined to stay forever at the bottom of the slush pile sometimes known as the trashcan?

When I sold my first book, Quiet, Please: Dispatches From a Public Librarian, I had no problem at all finding an agent; I sent query letters to six agents and didn’t get a single rejection; that book started as a series of blogs for McSweeneys.net, and, it turned out, I had established a platform without even knowing it.

I followed it up with a self-published YA series called The N00b Warriors, which went all the way to #1 on Kindle’s bestseller list; this happened when Kindle was new and writers were just beginning to understand what this meant to self-publishing, so the market wasn’t quite so crowded.

For my next book, I wanted to break away and try something different: write about my faith. My wife was pregnant with our first child, and as I looked at her bump, I wondered how I would explain why I believe to my son one day.

Christianity wasn’t so hard in my youth. But as I aged, it seemed to get more…extreme. Crazy Christians were everywhere spewing hatred out of a gospel that was full of love.

Millions of Christians were walking away not because they felt God had let them down, but because Christians had let them down. One day, I knew my son would ask why I believe when so many Christians seem to be not so Christian.

#OrganicJesus was born out of this question. It was my attempt to explain the real history of the gospel to a generation born in a world where Christianity sometimes felt a little unloving—a generation that questioned how God could be real when so many Christians were deeply flawed. Christians who say hurtful and horrible things and use the Gospel to back up their agenda.

While I was still working on an outline and sample chapters, my son, Mordecai Max, died in childbirth. It was a cord accident that doctors would never be able to explain with any other rationale than “freak accident.”

I didn’t have the doubts or anger that typically follow tragedy. In the place of anger, I had a pen. While working through grief, I wrote the book that my son would never get to read because there were still people who needed to hear its message.

Writing it was the easy part. The hard part: platform. I had spent the duration of my writing career not really thinking about the word. I had built it effortlessly. But this book was something new—having a bestselling YA series and a blog series from ten years ago wasn’t the kind of platform agents and publishers would be looking for—especially when both of those things were in a completely different genre and the readers wouldn’t necessarily follow me over.

Before a publisher would look at it, I needed an agent; more than an agent, I needed someone willing to shepherd the work even though my platform was limited and I had never published a Christian book. In short, I needed an agent who was willing to bet against the odds.

As I worked on the proposal, I thought a lot about platform. Platform takes time. Years, even. Did I really have the endurance to spend five years working on platform before going to agents with this idea for a book that may or may not be relevant in five years?

I thought about how I could build a platform around the book; I thought about how I could make the book itself social and sharable. I added to the narrative sharable images, social responses, games, polls—dozens and dozens of things that would pull the reader out of the book and onto the Internet. It was an experiment. It was different. I needed an agent who was willing to see it for what it was and take a chance on it. Dan Balow was that agent.

Dan took the book, helped me develop a book proposal and patiently knocked on the door of nearly every English speaking publishing house.

On the one-year anniversary of my son’s death (October 2, 2014), I signed a contract with Kregel Publications to publish #Organicjesus. (Book link here)

The journey continues; in March 2016, I signed a contract to write a second book with Kregel…the same week I found out my wife was pregnant again.

Epilogue

cqzuwm5yJust before midnight on Thursday, October 13, Scott’s wife Diana delivered little Miko Rey LaCounte. She was born a couple weeks early and small (less than six pounds) but she was in hurry to join the family and get into her cool nursery, so who can blame her?  Here’s a link to her nursery. (They are into Star Wars) 

Dad, mom and the newest LaCounte are doing well.

 Diana LaCounte is part Japanese, and Miko means beautiful child; Rey is a form of ray. So they like to say she’s a beautiful ray of light from God.

13 Responses to An Author’s Journey

  1. Jeanne Takenaka October 25, 2016 at 5:43 am #

    What a great post, Scott. Thank you for sharing a part of your story here. I enjoyed reading what brought you to the ideas that became your books. And congratulations on the birth of your daughter. What a beautiful gift from God.

    As far as the platform element, I loved the idea of making the book shareable online. Though I’m working on fiction, it’s a good idea to think about how I might do this.

  2. Lisa Evola October 25, 2016 at 6:04 am #

    I love this Dan and Scott. You have put a name to exactly what I have been feeling, and precisely the conversations that I have been having with my older teenage sons. Unlike many Christian parents, I totally failed at the bringing them up in faith. I had my own brokenness and couldn’t see past it. And now I have a son who says things like “I hate organized religion” and “I just don’t believe as you do mom”. So I have been on a journey myself this last summer. I picked up the voice version of the new testament and have been only reading the gospels. I want to focus deeply on exactly what Jesus did, and thought, and said. I get so confused on Sunday sometimes by trying to grasp what exactly the pastors point really is, and I feel it has muddied my love for Jesus and my fellow man. I just got the kindle version and started reading it….I love the concept, thank you so much for putting a name to what I am feeling. When I tried to explain it to people, they just looked like they didn’t understand. And how could I explain it when I don’t either. God bless you and your words

    • Carol Ashby October 25, 2016 at 7:48 am #

      I want to offer an encouraging truth, Lisa. No one is guaranteed to become a follower of Jesus just because their parent did “everything right” to bring them up in the faith. You didn’t fail. No one’s faith is truly their own until they consider it during their teens or later and decide that they truly believe it. Until then, their “faith” is only a second-hand faith from their parents. God has no grandchildren, only children who have themselves decided to believe in Jesus. Matthew 16 reports on Jesus‘s visit to Caesarea Philippi just before the transfiguration. He asked his closest disciples, “Who do people say I am?” They started giving second-hand answers. Then he asked “But what about you? Who do YOU say I am?” He didn’t want to know what they’d been taught about him. He wanted to know what they believed in their own heart.

      We only get to where we can truly say we believe after we’ve questioned what we learned and discovered the truth for ourselves. Your sons’ questioning now may be what makes them rock-solid in the future.

      You still have a chance to explain to them that true Christianity isn’t simply organized religion where you do things to put yourself right with God. It’s recognizing that none of us can get right on our own, whether our sin is murder, greed, or gossip. It’s all about relationship with Jesus after we realize that he bought us out of that sin.

      Right now there are thousands of people willing to die for that faith, willing to sacrifice themselves so others can live and have a chance to discover for themselves how much Jesus loves them. Groups like RUN (Reaching Unreached Nations) are rescuing people regardless of faith from ISIS in Iraq, and many RUN workers have died trying to save others from ISIS so they can hear the Gospel and be saved for eternity. Many of them are adult converts to the faith from Islam. Maybe it would help for your boys to learn about Christians for whom the point isn’t Sunday morning attendance but salvation of lost souls, people who are willing to lose their lives for Jesus to give others a chance to believe in him, too.

      • Linda Riggs Mayfield October 25, 2016 at 11:03 am #

        Well, Carol, I think that even if I didn’t learn from and love reading the agents’ posts and the Replies, I’d still read this blog to get your insights into things. Thank you for this one–like Scott’s post your Reply was beautiful and powerful!

  3. Katie Powner October 25, 2016 at 6:17 am #

    I love that you wanted to do something different, Scott, and that Dan was willing to step into the unknown with you. I also love the picture of your daughter, what a doll! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Jann Martin October 25, 2016 at 6:26 am #

    Encouraging article. I too found my first agent and publisher quickly. Building my platform, learning SEO, and figuring out what topic my blog should be on are struggles.

    Cute nursery by the way.

  5. Norma Brumbaugh October 25, 2016 at 8:51 am #

    This is poignant. I’m glad for the happy ending. Congratulations. #Organicjesus sounds wonderful. I have similar concerns as you have expressed. The message is needed. The world is starved for authenticity. God bless you.
    God Alone,
    Norma

  6. Jaime October 25, 2016 at 9:07 am #

    This post really hit at a soul level. Evidence of a Holy Hand moving in the middle of all these things. And you’re right, Dan, his humility and good heart can be felt even through this post.

  7. Michael Emmanuel October 25, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    Never have I been really touched by a post on platform and being a Christian writer.
    Not much needs to be said again.

  8. Sheri Dean Parmelee October 25, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    Scott, thank you for a beautiful posting that touched my heart. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Best wishes to you and your new family.

  9. Linda Riggs Mayfield October 25, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    Scott and Dan,
    I think you march to the beat of the same Drummer. How marvelous to trace the path and all its side roads and detours that led you to each other for your mutual benefit and strengthened spiritual walk! My main and very encouraging takeaway that we all won’t build our platforms the same way, or in similar time frames, or at all–and that’s just fine. It’s God’s plan, not ours. Thanks for sharing this post.

  10. Karen Sargent October 25, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    Scott and Dan: This post is powerful on so many levels. Reading about platform sometimes makes me feel like crying, but this is the first time I’ve actually cried! Of course, the tears are happy ones…for your family, Scott. Thank you so much for sharing.

  11. Samantha October 25, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    I love the name Miko Rey. How beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring story, Scott, and may God continue to bless your efforts.

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