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Christian Literary Agency, Behind the Scenes | Alive Literary

Behind the Scenes

By Lee Hough

Same Kind of Different as Me has been listed on the New York Times trade paper Best Seller list for almost two years. This duration of consecutive weeks on the list is unprecedented in Thomas Nelson’s history, going all the way back to the 1800′s.

And no publisher wanted it. I mean I got turned down by everyone. No room at the Inn; no way; not interested. Acquisitions editors stepped over this book without even looking. And after about a year and a half of pitching, the story was still homeless and there was no place left to knock. Give up? I almost did.

Memoirs are practically persona non grata in the publishing industry unless there is a major name attached. I had an art dealer, pretty rare and rarely known, and a homeless man, literally. Not your basic star power. But everything in me knew that theirs was a life-changing story with hysterical and heartbreaking plot twists, multiple layers, and the kinds of scenes that people will remember for the rest of their lives. I just had to get people to stop long enough to see past our ‘nameless’ ensemble and really hear.

Publisher: “Who’s in it?”

Agent: “An art dealer and a homeless guy who grew up in virtual slavery and then landed in Angola prison after holding    up  a bus at gunpoint.”

Publisher: Eyes glaze.

Agent: “Wait, don’t go.”

A client recommended that Ron send his story to me for consideration. When I heard that it was a personal tragedy story, honestly, I cringed. Agents generally do in the publishing industry because we get these kinds of stories. A lot. And few, very few, are publishable. But Ron Hall’s draft actually wasn’t that bad. Rough around the edges, yes, clumsy at times, poor grammar and all that, but the story . . . even in its raw form, scene after scene vibrated with an emotional power that one rarely finds. I was hooked.

I pitched it to several agents that I worked with at the time for approval to represent it. They all nodded and immediately gave it a thumbs down. Undaunted, well, a little bit, I said I wanted to chase it anyway. The boss man, Rick Christian, to his everlasting credit said that I could chase it if I felt that strongly about it.

Fast forward, a year and a half and nothing but closed doors. I was doubting my literary instincts to the core on this one and the voices of rejection were getting loud. Am I a complete idiot? I wondered. So I asked a respected friend if he thought I should continue to fight. He simply said yes, your instincts are right on this. That’s all I needed to hear. I didn’t know what I was going to do (since every house had already rejected it), but I wasn’t going to give up.

So, I did what you’re not supposed to do. Nelson publisher; David Moberg and Greg Daniels, his acquisitions editor, came to Alive as publishers often do to hear about new properties. They had already turned down Same Kind of Different As Me like everyone else. So I waited until all the new works were pitched and then paused and said, “Look, I know you said ‘No’ to Same Kind and I respect that, of course. And I never come back to you with a property once you’ve turned it down. But, guys, honestly, I think you might have overlooked this one (probably not the smoothest way to woo a publisher). If you would just give me five minutes to retell the story, then if you say ‘No’, we’re done and that’s fine.” They graciously said yes, tell it to us again. I fired off with a year and a half’s worth of pent up passion. And, they genuinely listened. And then they actually asked some questions. Possible interest? Then more questions and head nods. I wanted to weep. They were starting to see it. Finally, they said, “It sounds intriguing. OK, send us the proposal and we’ll have another look.” And then they bought it.

I teamed Ron and Denver with Lynn Vincent to write the story and she did an absolutely brilliant job. The book released and Ron and Denver have been speaking non-stop and have raised well over 30 million dollars for homeless shelters across America. Presidents, First Ladies, governors, city councils, schools, universities, scholars, men, women, young and old alike have said it’s one of the best books they’ve ever read.

And so here we are—an unprecedented ride on the NY Times paperback bestseller list, closing in on 1 million in sales, and Denver was kissed on the cheek by former first lady, Barbara Bush after he and Ron received a standing ovation at the National Literacy event in Dallas, Texas.