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Our Tyndale House Story (aka how we got published)

I have had quite a few people ask me how we were able to contract with Tyndale House Publishers for our 3 book series or how we decided to work with them. If I was on the outside of all of this, I know that I would love to hear the story too. So, to save me copying and pasting the story so many times in everyone’s DM or emails, and to satisfy the curiosity of those who haven’t asked, and mostly to give glory to the One who deserves it, I will give the short (yes, this is the short version :) ) account below.

Because this is the short version, and I understand the fact that there may or may not be a toddler sticking their fingers under your bathroom door right now, I will save the story of how the book (You Are: A Book of Declarations) and the company (Generation Claimed) was born for another day. But to fill in the back story and bring you up where we start this short story, I will let you know that we had self-published and began selling our book in July of 2017. We were selling online, at craft fairs, at church conferences, etc to try to sell books, but also to meet as many people and touch as many lives as we could. We felt so strongly that if parents, grandparents, etc would see our book, then they would buy it, and it would truly change and impact lives.

OK, now you’re all caught up. This here’s some motivation for you on those cold, gray days when it seems like nothing is happening:) The cold, grey day I mention was an Independent Author’s Fair at our local library. It was planned to be part of the town’s outdoor Harvest Days celebration (luckily our event was inside), but it unfortunately the “Harvest Celebration” turned into our introduction to that year’s winter (and really who wants to celebrate that ;) ). Some part of me wanted to stay home, but I remember saying at least 3 times, “You never know who we might meet there.” (Remember, “words are powerful”). So we went, my son and I. (He is one of my favorite hooks, along with stickers :) , and also I believe in the value of hard work and teaching your kids to be able to talk appropriately with strangers.) Anyways, we went. We sold only one book (and that was to another author there ). But I am not one to sit quietly at my table, and after talking to another author, was referred to a MOPs event that she would not be able to attend. I didn’t know it at the time, but that event would change everything. The event I wasn’t invited to, wasn’t supposed to be at, and only was slotted in at the last minute (thank goodness for retired parents and their ability to last minute babysit). And now I think, “Praise God there was no one there on that cold, gray day.” What if it had been so busy that I had never left my table, never mingled and spoken to an author who couldn’t attend the event may well change everything or worse yet, decided not to go at all?

The event was a Christmas sale that the moms church group held only every other year. It featured vendors such as Rodan and Fields, Lularoe, Lipsense, etc. When I arrived, they were still in process of setting up. Tables were being rolled out and pushed around Tetris style, with the coordinator handing out instructions and apologies in all directions. “This was supposed to have been set up last night.” So as I was waiting, I began to introduce myself and make small talk with the girl nearest to me. We began to talking and I told her that I was selling books. She asked if I was Usborne, and I told her that I was selling a book that I wrote and had self-published. She told me she was from Tyndale House Publishers. (I am pre-warning you that throughout this story you may wish that you were here to smack me on the head, but bear with me. I eventually get it right :) ).

We eventually all got our tables set up and started mingling and looking at everyone else’s products before the shopping began. I went over to talk to the lady who was selling Mary&Martha products. She had already stopped by and seen my book. Gesturing to Tyndale House said something to the effect of, “Hey, maybe they’ll work for you someday.” I laughed, and she said, “Why not? You never know.” (again “Words Are Powerful” :) )

I killed it at that sale; I sold 54 books in a little less than hour and a half. I was signing and

The very 1st copy & current version.

writing notes in books, and attempting to make change and swipe credit cards all at the same time. I had 1 girl leave and come back after she realized she hadn’t paid in the midst of all the busyness. I had so many encouraging moms come talk with me; one in particular, said she used to work for a publishing company and had I ever thought about taking my book to a publishing company. I politely told her, “No,” and that it was really hard to break into children’s publishing, especially board books, and that self-publishing is what we thought God had called us to do. She said she understood, but once again encouraged me and told me that it was such a good quality and message that it could be published (I won’t say it again, but you know what I’m thinking :) ). I was flattered, but continued on with my frantic signing and selling. As things were winding down, I started packing up my books, but I began getting this feeling in my gut and chest that I know by experience to be the Lord. He was telling me to go talk with Tyndale House Publishers.

I felt God nudging me, and I told myself it wasn’t Him. I told myself that I wasn’t looking for a publisher and reminded myself of all the bad stories I had heard about publishing companies (for the record these stories are nothing like what I have ever experienced at Tyndale). I told myself publishers certainly weren’t looking for me, and no one published children’s books, especially not children’s board books. I told myself that the girls I had talked to that morning at that table had nothing to do with publishing; they were just moms and sales people. I told myself how desperate and silly I would look. I told myself that God would continue to grow our following and our sales the same way that we had been doing things.


But, God told me, “Go talk to them.”

So I stalled; I went to the bathroom. I finished packing up my books. I grabbed a cup of coffee. I went to the bathroom again. I shook my head and walked outside. I loaded everything into the back of my mom-UV (ha I don’t I wish I bought it for all of my off-roading and “sports” activities).

And it was cold, and it was raining. And I stood there in the cold and the wet, and I shoved my trunk door down… And I stood there… And God said, “Go.”

And I said I would go inside to use the bathroom one more time before I left and just see. (FYI if you were a mom or a vendor at this event who was noticing my many trips to the bathroom, please, note that I did not go to the bathroom 3 times because I was having intestinal problems. No, I just having some obedience problems :) )

Honestly, it makes my heart pound even now thinking about how close I was to ignoring God. I praise Him for His grace that continued to push me even when I didn’t want to listen. And this thought continues to cause me to stand in awe: ”Lord, what if I had ignored you? What would have this “little” disobedience, this fleshly reasoning, have cost me? … What has it costs me in the past?” May it stay so fiery in my mind, as to serve as an urgent reminder to my future.

So I went to the bathroom… again. And finally headed over to the Tyndale House table. There was another mom there, and I waited until she left. Sheepishly, I walked up to the girl I had spoken to when I first arrived. “You don’t have anything to do with publishing, do you? Could I give you one of my books?”

Her partner spoke up, “We usually don’t accept books from books from authors we don’t know, but since you’ve already been published, I guess I can give it to our acquisitions team.” (Side note: I ran into this sweet girl again just a few days ago, and I think I may have overwhelmed her with the amount of hugs and “thank yous” I gave her.)

“OK, I’ll go get you one from my car,” I replied. (I know; I know… I didn’t even bring a book in with me; this was my stubbornness and my unbelief of anything profiting from this conversation that I was so reluctant to have. “Lord forgive my unbelief”) So, I went out to my car, pushed open my trunk and grabbed one. As an afterthought, I shoved some boxes around and dug through my bag to find a business card and added my name and our personal email to it. I yanked my trunk shut and headed back inside.

“Here you go.” I started to give an introduction to the book or instructions or an apology or something, but stopped before I got started. “We’ll just see what God does with it,” I said with a shrug as I handed them the book. Then I headed back out to my car.

I barely mentioned it to Matt (my husband) or Lauren (our illustrator and partner). I was so sure I knew the path that laid ahead of me, so focused on what I thought was the way that God would use. (I know; feel free to insert lots of head shaking here.)

That was Thursday afternoon. Monday at 11:16am, I received an email from the head of Children’s Publishing at Tyndale House. She wanted to meet and was “very interested in talking about the possibility of publishing our book.”

Orginal "yellow" self-published book

A week and a half later, my eyes tracked our little, yellow book, with a little, yellow sticky note attached to the top, from her desk to the table that we sat at. “So,” she started, “How did this book end up on my desk?”

I’m a bit rusty on my short story skills, but I think I can just end with with something ironic, right? (I guess I could have gone with “the rest is history.” ;) ) Truly though, it is more than humbling and still so hard to believe what God has led us into. He alone has placed us at Tyndale House Publishers, and He alone deserves all the glory. I echo Mary in Luke 1:49 ESV “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” We believe that He is positioning these books and His Word to go forth and accomplish what He has planned for it (Is 55:11). He is so true to all of His Word, but this (for obvious reasons) has been the verse my heart keeps singing:

Ephesians 3:20-21 AMP "Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever." AMEN!

Through His Grace,

Emily Assell

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