Around that same period of time, I taught Sunday School at the Methodist church for the preschool age group. Fingerplays would be a wonderful way to teach the Bible, I thought. So I wrote one, and another one, and another. The simply, rhythmic verses could be sung to the tune of Frére Jacques (a.k.a. “Are You Sleeping?”) I read, researched, and decided which Bible stories to use from both the Old and New Testatments. The number kept climbing until I had written 101. So I set my sights on publishing a book of fingerplays. I wrote a proposal, sent out my manuscript, and waited. Little did I know what a long and winding road this book would take before publication.
After several rejections, I put the manuscript away. Every few years, I would get it out again, dust it off, and send it out, but to no avail. I asked other people to read it and give me feedback. The submission process was long and tried my patience. I was not offered a contract. What was wrong with it? I had no idea.
Approximately 15 years after I started writing my Bible fingerplays, I took my proposal and manuscript to the Heart of America Christian Writers Conference in Kansas City and paid $35 for a professional critique from a wonderful editor at Tyndale. The editor was so kind in her criticism of what was lacking. Her practical information on exactly what to do made all the difference. She told me that Sunday School teachers and parents looked for value in the books they bought. While the fingerplays were good, she had said, teacher and parents would want more.
She said people didn’t even know what a fingerplay was or how to use it. The book needed “front matter,” a table of contents, an introduction with the definition of a fingerplay, and guidance on how to use the book. They would want to know the Scripture reference. In other words, where could find the story in the Bible? They would want to read a verse connected to the fingerplay. “Pull that verse out and place it right at the top of the page,” she told me. They would want a simple version of the story in the book. The fingerplay was the focus, but including the Bible story, Scripture reference, and verse was key to helping adults and children understand it. Lastly, she said, there needed to be “back matter,” an index and cross reference to help teachers and parents find the exact story they needed for the lesson they wanted to teach.
With this excellent guidance, I found motivation and inspiration. I completed everything she told me within a few weeks. Then I sent the manuscript out with new hope. The publisher kept it for a year, but ultimately rejected it. Another publisher kept it for a year, seriously considering it, but ultimately rejected it (with the best rejection letter I had ever received—they all loved the manuscript, but felt the timing wasn’t right). Another publisher kept it for two years, and then offered me a contract. I asked for a few days to think and pray about it because the terms (a low offer) were not in line with what I had hoped. I asked my writer and editor friends what they thought. I also got in touch with the editor, Jennifer, from Group Publishing, who had given me the great rejection letter a few years earlier. I had done some curriculum work for Group and felt comfortable asking for her advice about the offer, as well as asking her if they might reconsider publishing my book. All of sudden things progressed very quickly. I decided to turn down the low offer. Within a few weeks, Group Publishing offered me a contract with generous terms. I probably wouldn’t have contacted Jennifer to reconsider my book if I hadn’t received the other offer.
After my book was accepted for publication, I touched base with the Tyndale editor who had helped me revise my manuscript, making it publishable. I thanked her and told her how valuable her critique had been. Eight years had passed since the critique. You know what? She was happy for me, but she was honest. She didn’t remember me or the manuscript! But I did. I remembered how I “got it,” after talking to her. She helped me discover what I had been doing wrong, and only then did I know how to fix it. God guided me to go to the conference, he placed her in my path, and my work was rewarded.
My book, THE GIANT BOOK OF BIBLE FINGERPLAYS FOR PRESCHOOLERS, was launched in 2017 and is sold through several channels: amazon, Christianbook.com, and more. With a big sigh of relief, a smile, and a prayer of thanks to God, my long and winding road to publication for this book ended, but my other work still leads me back. Other books have been written and published within this 20-year period, but the long road I traveled with this book makes for such a joyful arrival!
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For a free download explaining how to use fingerplays, plus a sample from the book, down the file below.
Amy Houts (amyhouts.com) is a grandmother, Joy Camp volunteer, and author of over 70 books.