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Publisher Marketing Omits Interesting Detail

I haven’t done much reading this summer, so based on the following publisher marketing, I decided to request this fiction title — The Reason by William Sirls — from Thomas Nelson on my blog account for Thinking Out Loud:

When Facing the Impossible, Can You Only Believe?

Storm clouds gather over a small Michigan town. As thunder shakes the sky, the lights inside St. Thomas church flicker . . . and then go out.

All is black until a thick bolt of lightning slices the sky, striking the church’s large wooden cross—leaving it ablaze and splintered in two.

When the storm ends—the search for answers begins.

James Lindy, the church’s blind minister, wonders how his small congregation can repair the cross and keep their faith in the midst of adversity. And he hears the words “only believe.”

Macey Lewis, the town’s brilliant young oncologist, is drawn to Alex, a young boy who’s recently been diagnosed with an aggressive leukemia. She puts her hope in modern medicine—yet is challenged to “only believe.”

And Alex’s single mom, who has given everything she can to her boy—is pleading with God to know the reason this is happening . . . to save her son. But she only hears silence and wonders how she can possibly “only believe.”

The Reason is a milestone debut novel, opening with a blast and never letting up as it introduces us to everyday characters who are wrestling with the questions: where is God when bad things happen? And does God ignore the prayers of the faithful? The answer each character receives will astound readers while offering an unforgettable call to hope, to change, to . . . only believe.

So far, so good. But then, on a hunch, I decided to check Ingram to see the page count, and turned up this interesting tidbit in the Publisher’s Weekly review:

Sirls conceived this, his first novel, before he was imprisoned for wire fraud and money laundering. After his release, he attempted to self-publish a much altered version, and an advance copy landed on a desk at Thomas Nelson, who signed the author to a multibook contract.

Imprisoned? Now seriously, how can I not mention that in my review?

Actually, TNI isn’t hiding this detail — though blog reviewers may have to seek to find it — as this press release indicates:

…Sirls, who began writing a novel in 2004, shelved his story after he made the decision to turn himself in to authorities and spend 29 months in federal prison, convicted of wire fraud and money laundering.  While in prison, Sirls began to understand what it meant to have a true relationship with God.  Inspired by his developing faith, Sirls picked up his original manuscript and began creating a spiritual backbone to his novel.

With encouragement from family members, Sirls decided to self-publish through WestBow Press, the self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson.  “I was looking for three things in a publisher—good editing, strong cover design and the ability to distribute,” said Sirls.  “WestBow, through the leadership of Alan Bower, exceeded all my initial expectations.”  WestBow and the author distributed 100 galley copies to readers who read and praised the book, and passed it along to others who did the same.  All told, nearly 200 glowing reader reviews have been collected from that initial distribution.  One of those advance copies landed on Thomas Nelson’s reception desk.

“Our receptionist at Thomas Nelson is a voracious but particular fiction reader,” said Allen Arnold, Sr. VP and Publisher, Thomas Nelson Fiction.  “When Marjo read it and loved it, we knew there was something to look into.”

Just weeks shy of the novel’s going to press at WestBow, Thomas Nelson approached William Sirls about signing a multi-book contract with its Fiction division instead.

“William’s path to publishing is certainly not common, but we’re always in search of the best possible storytellers and think readers are going to love this novel. We’re excited to have William on our roster,” said Arnold.

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