As a writer, especially a writer of faith, the gift of penning your beliefs is so inspiring. To have a connection not only with the subject matter at hand, but to feel that inspiration reach beyond you to your readership is simply euphoric. When you find the right partner in publishing to team up with it can make the whole world feel as if it’s coming up roses! But sometimes, it’s the thorns that get you first. What do you do with your gift, your talent, your passion, when you hit roadblocks out of your control? How do you find your footing when self-proclaimed faith-filled believers are the ones to let you down? Such is the focus of this series of articles I’m doing in the hopes of bringing about a sense of commonality and brotherhood. Stories of other Christian writers, like me, that fell on the sword of a bad publisher who, to coin a phrase, done them wrong. My hope is that by sharing our stories, we can ENCOURAGE other authors who have found themselves in this same spot; maybe even help a few potential authors avoid these same pitfalls. This brings me to the story of Shirley Kuzmunich.
Shirley Kuzmunich did NOT grow up thinking she wanted to become a published writer. In fact,
her career path was anchored firmly in children’s ministry. With over 10 years on the children’s and worship teams within her church, she felt her path was clear. It wasn’t until 1998 that her life took a glorious turn and writing came into focus. “When I became a grandma, I started writing down the stories I would make-up for my grandson. They were so much fun to create for him!” Not one to sit on her laurels, Shirley invested heavily into learning her craft. “I took a course for a full year with the Institute for Children’s Literature. I studied hard, and began writing books with the intention of publication. I even acted out the stories as plays within my church’s children’s ministry.” Kuzmunich was dedicated to not only writing, but writing WELL. She practice and honed her craft for nearly ten years before finally looking for a publisher. In 2008 she found Tate Publishing online and they immediately signed her onto the roster.
“When I started with Tate, it was an awesome experience. Everyone was very caring and proclaimed to be Christian. They loved their job and were excited to help me with my books.”
Shirley, like so many others, was eventually offered the “Publisher for Life” contract and she took them true to their word. “My goal then was to publish a new book EVERY year for as long as I could create.” Kuzmunich invested heavily in all the Tate services with complete trust that they had only her best interest at heart. Her relationship with the Tate family was a long-standing one right up to last year when Tate invited her to New York City on a book tour. “I met Ryan and Richard both. They were amazing. Ryan was so kind and sincere. I had no idea that the company was struggling the way it was.” All told Kuzmunich published a total of 3 faith-based children’s books with Tate.
From the outside looking in, Shirley’s goals to publish continually had no end in sight. Until, like so many others, suddenly Tate was unreachable.
“I found out Tate was closing when I went to their website. I had tried to call them and got no answer. It was dreadful. I was not able to contact anyone at any time within Tate. I received no responses to letters or emails. Had I not stumbled upon the website, I would have been clueless.”
All told, Shirley Kuzmunich is out over $14,000.00 dollars with countless amount of undelivered materials from Tate Publishing. “Tate owes me 4600.00 in product. $2800.00 of that is for the Cinematic Book Review that was set up by Tate Publishing with Kevin McAfee a Director/Producer with Goldenrule Association, about possibly my third book being considered for a film. Kevin recommended my book to Tate to go to the next level with his company. I signed a contract with Tate for the 2800.00 for the book review and Tate never gave it to Kevin McAfee. After I heard they closed I called Kevin to see if Tate gave him my money and he said NO. I also paid Tate $510.00 for my new books that never got printed. I paid 990.00 for the Publisher for life contract that I won’t get to use and another 300.00 for a website that Tate took down.” Kuzmunich says she is also owed a host of promotional and marketing items that she paid for but never received. And still, despite all the deceit and shady business, Shirley’s FAITH is what has carried her through and protected her heart from bitterness. “I ask myself, how would Jesus have wanted me to handle Tate’s financial problems? I know the Lord as a plan and I pray for the Tate family and all they must be going through. It breaks my heart to see all the pain caused by Tate’s closing, but I continue to pray for discernment and try to move forward.”
Still, Shirley did confess to having learned a hard and expensive lesson in all of this. “Just because a company says they are Christian, they are still HUMAN and capable of doing terrible things to their clients. I have lost my trust in publishers as a whole and I will never work with a publisher like Tate again. I will self-publish and do it myself.” And for all other would-be authors out there I recommend adding Shirley’s tale to the list of lessons that can be learned. Heartbreaking letdowns can litter the path to publication. But if you are confident in your goals, you won’t be stopped! As Shirley had to learn, as all us Tate fellows had to learn, sometimes we must take our lumps and find a way to PUSH FORWARD! Be intentional, be prayerful, proceed with eyes-open. If you are passionate about writing, then hone your craft and be unstoppable but JUST KEEP WRITING!
To learn more about Shirley's writing, check out:
Facebook: Shirley Kuzmunich
Amazon Author: Shirley Kuzmunich
To read more stories of Tate Authors, check out this compilation.