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We all rejoice when that amazing call comes telling us someone is offering a contract for our work. What a wonder! And it’s easy to think we’ve made it. That it’s all downhill from here. And yet, there are times when that wonder—and the contract—are canceled. Whether you know the why or not, that is a HARD hit. Guest Chase Replogle knows exactly how that feels, and he’s here to help you prepare not just for the hit, but for getting up and moving forward afterward!
About Chase Replogle
Chase Replogle is the pastor of Bent Oak Church in Springfield, Missouri. He has a degree in Biblical Studies, an M.A. in New Testament, and he’s currently a D.Min. student in The Sacred Art of Writing at Western Theological Seminary. He’s written for Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Ekstatis, Bible Engagement Project, and Influence Magazine. He also hosts the Pastor Writer Podcast, interviewing Christian authors on the calling and craft of writing.
Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!
Karen: Welcome friends. It’s time to go into the deep again. We are so looking forward to our conversation today with our guest, Chase Replogle. Chase, did I say that right?
Chase: Close enough. That qualifies.
Erin: I stumble over that, too.
Chase: A great author name, right?
Karen: We’re delighted to have you here, Chase.
Erin: Yeah, and I get to introduce him. Yay! Now that we all know how to pronounce his last name, we’re good. Chase Replogle is the founding pastor of Bent Oak Church. He holds a degree in Biblical Studies and an M.A. in New Testament. He hosts the weekly Pastor Writer Podcast, which you can find pastorwriter.com. On the podcast, he interviews pastors and authors on writing, reading, and the Christian life.
I’ve got to tell you, I’m a fan of the podcast. I learn about new books to add to my ever growing reading list. But that’s just the way it is, right? The podcast and the website, they also chronicle Chase’s ongoing writing projects and that’s one of the things we’re going to be talking to him about today. His first book, The 5 Masculine Instincts, comes out in March of this year, and we’re super excited for him.
That’s actually just in a couple of weeks if you’re hearing this when this first airs. Chase is a native of the Ozark woods. He enjoys being outdoors with his wife and two kids. They sail, and Chase says he likes playing the mandolin—he says badly—and quail hunting with his bird dog, Millie. Chase, it is great to have you here with us today. Welcome.
Chase: Thank you so much. I love listening to your guys’ show as well. It’s good to be amongst friends.
Erin: It is indeed. Well, Chase, we definitely want to ask you first and foremost, what does the deep mean to you?
Chase: I love this as your guys’ tradition. I knew it was coming, so I thought a little bit about it as well.
For me, so about writing is bogged down into strategy. What do you do if this happens? How do you approach this? How do you write that query letter? How do you write that proposal? How do you get that agent? What do you do in this situation? You know, you’re probably even thinking, what would I do if my contract got canceled?
I think this deep work that we’re doing means you have to do that stuff. You have to learn that stuff, but there should be something motivating you at a deeper level that sustains you through all of that. Don’t ever allow yourself to turn it into just strategy, just tactics.
Really fight to keep hold of that thing in you that is for me the faithfulness to what I believe God has called me to. Hold on to that. Even when you have to do the tactic conversations, the strategy conversations, remember the reason why you’re doing it. I think if you hold on to that, that’s the kind of deep work, the deep writing that I really want to do, that I want to be true.
Erin: Cool. Love it. Chase, I want people to hear about your experience getting a contract and what happened to that contract. Let’s just start there.
Chase: It’s funny, there’s all these sort of steps, as you know, in the publishing process. You have to be able to put together a proposal and find an agent and then usually they help with that proposal and then start pitching.
For me, that process started pretty quickly. I was lucky enough to find a great agent pretty quickly and cross that off the list and moved on to the next step. Like so many writers, we had some waiting and lots of hard conversations about platform and trying to continue to grow that. With time we sort of made it over that hurdle, and I was thrilled.
I signed a contract with Zondervan with the acquisitions editor Mick Silva, who I had gotten to know through my writing and the podcast. It was just kind of a dream. I loved working with Mick, and so it was just the best that I could imagine.
We signed the contract, and in talking with Zondervan, we had updated the proposal and they kind of pitched another concept. So I reworked the idea. It was going to mean going back and writing the manuscript again and changing some sections. But I was actually really excited about that. I felt like the collaboration with them was really good.
I set out to work on a new manuscript. I got about two thirds of the way into that process. I had about eight to ten months to finish that manuscript and got about two thirds of the way into it.
I remember very clearly that it was middle of summer and the middle of the pandemic, the first year. We were home during that season, and I got a phone call from my agent, which was kind of unusual. Normally we corresponded by email. She said, “I’ve got some bad news for you.”
She’d just received a very short email from the legal department at Zondervan that basically said due to COVID and a reprioritizing of their projects, they were terminating the contract that we had signed and that I was well underway writing. So it was unexpected.
Erin: Tell us about your reaction. That’s the worst news for any writer to get. I’m interested in your first reaction, because how I learned that that happened to you was that I heard you announce it on your podcast when it happened. I specifically remember I was painting windows. I remember what I was doing and I remember thinking, “That is just the best explanation. The most kind, humble explanation.”
But I want to know if that was your first reaction. I’m thinking maybe not? But maybe.
Chase: Let’s see if I match up to what I said then. I had two very distinct feelings. I remember very early the number one feeling sounds a little immature, but it was like, “This figures! This seems to be how it goes!”
Like anybody who’s tried to go down the publishing road knows, it is so confusing, and at times, so overwhelming. Things never go how you expect. It just felt like, “Well, okay, here we are. This is it.”
But I also had a very distinct feeling that I had to keep writing. I knew intuitively, “I’m two thirds of the way through this manuscript. If I stop now, like, I don’t know what that would mean. I don’t know if I have it in me to stir that all back up again.”
I remember even telling my agent on the phone, “We’re going to work on what comes next, but I’m kind of also going to pretend this didn’t happen, and I’m just going to keep working on what I’ve been working on.”
Erin: Wow. I think that’s super interesting. You actually then completed that book even though the contract went away?
Chase: Yeah, I did. I was two thirds of the way into it. I kind of knew where it was going. I had a plan on how I was going to get there. And it just felt like to lose the contract was a blow, but to lose the contract and stop writing felt like, I don’t know how I would’ve put it back together.
This is a little bit of a lesson with the whole process of publishing. One of the things I just continually keep learning is there’s so little of the process you actually can control. At the end of the day, the writing is one of the only things. I just held on to that as the thing that I could do. How do I keep making this manuscript better? How do I just keep the actual work in front of me?
Karen: We talk on our podcast quite often about the fact that writing isn’t about getting published. Writing is about obedience. God has really given you this task to perform. The important thing is being obedient to that task and then leaving the details up to him.
I love that you are connected with the agent that you have. She’s a great agent. And I love that it happened fairly early and easily for you. It was a good start, and it gave you a confirmation that this is where God wanted you.
But then to follow up on that and be obedient and continue the writing, that’s exactly what we need to do when things seem to just implode.
Chase: Yeah. It’s also important to remember that we were in the middle of the first year of the pandemic. As a pastor, it was already a very complicated time trying to lead a congregation and seeing people with very different views.
In some ways that season also, I felt very strongly, there was a lot changing for a lot of people in the world. And this is not as big as what it could be. It felt very big because it had been something I had spent so many years working toward. But it was a season where so many of us were having plans changed, and expectations dashed, and learning to do things in new ways. So it just felt like, okay, this is a part of that.
Erin: I love that, too, because that whole first time, the whole first few months and year of the pandemic, was such a season of loss for everybody. And you dealt with that loss by not really losing. I respect that. That you just went and kept writing that book almost like therapy, even. You know that this is who you are. You’re going to be a writer, and you’re going to finish and not throw it across the room in frustration. I love that. Tell us what happened next.
Chase: As I continued to write, my agent and I had a conversation. It was not a good time to pitch. We later found out that there was more going on at the publisher. They were changing some acquisition strategies and changing some parts of the leadership team. My contract was one of actually several that got caught up in that.
A lot of publishers were still uncertain about what sales would look like and how they should approach acquisition during the pandemic, and so it was just not a good time.
I think in the podcast episode you alluded to, I’d put out on the podcast just saying where I was because I’d been updating people along the way. We actually had a couple of publishers reach out to us through that process who’d had heard the episode. Publishers I’d connected with earlier on the podcast.
It started a couple of conversations. Those took a little bit of time, but we ended up signing a contract with Moody Publishers. Luckily they felt good about the concept and where the direction was. It got me back into it and set the trajectory for the book being released March 1st.
Erin: Did you end up having to make a lot more changes for Moody? Or was it just, you know, kind of the basic editing stuff?
Chase: I did some. Originally there were a couple of chapters at the beginning of the book that, to be honest, I probably would have ended up cutting even in the previous contract. In the writing process, the idea sort of condenses and tightens. Sometimes you write just to figure out what you think about something, and then it can get cut. There were some chapters that got removed, but for the most part, Moody seemed really on board with the concept and they’ve been great to work with.
Erin: That’s cool. In case our listeners are interested in reading the book, tell us a little bit about what the first book was and then what it turned into.
Chase: The first book was based on the story of Samson. I saw a lot of parallels in the life of Samson and myself as young man, and also in a lot of the young men I was pastoring in that there can be a kind of restlessness for adventure. The cultural narrative right now is often to know who you are. To find your identity, you need to leave home and traditions and go find yourself in this sort of adventurous quest.
I saw the way that was really weakening commitment in a lot of the men’s lives that I knew. So I worked on a whole book just based on Samson. When Zondervan and I first began talking, they, from a publishing perspective, wanted to see if we could expand the readership beyond just millennial men to men in general.
They had said, “Is there a way to cover multiple biblical characters? Sort of like which man type are you?” At first I didn’t quite resonate with that. I spent some time thinking and praying about that. Then I stumbled across Shakespeare’s stages of a man. That’s from the monologue, “All the world’s a stage, each of us players, and a man in his day plays several parts.”
Shakespeare goes through these stages and I immediately recognized, “Oh, Samson is like this particular stage Shakespeare is describing.” That gave me a framework for then recognizing stages. You can see these other stages at work in biblical men as well. That turned into the five masculine instincts that look at five biblical men across these stages that Shakespeare identified.
Karen: That’s very cool.
Erin: What I love is that transformative process. How we as writers need to hold those ideas, yes, but we have to hold them loosely and be open to suggestions and changes. Things that could push the book maybe not where we first thought, but push it into something that can be better. Or can match better with where the audience is for that publisher. They know their audience. It’s not like you’re selling out, it’s that you’re pushing to see where this book can go to better meet the needs of more people. So I like it.
Chase: I had a lot of people recommend I self publish after the contract fell apart. I thought about that for a little bit, too. We actually talked, my agent and I, about whether this was the season, whether that was the right next step.
But for me, the reason I’ve always wanted to go down the traditional route was I wanted to work with the best team that I possibly could. And to your point, I really value that. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some core conviction you’re trying to hold on to through the process. I mean, even as I sort of alluded to how part of that idea was not exactly resonating with me. But I also respect them enough to know they bring a certain expertise that I should be listening to.
So is there a way to sort of take all of that expertise and to sort of see if I can work that conviction, that thing I’m trying to do in the context of what they’re bringing to the table? For me, that’s the real benefit of working with a publisher. You can do that with self publishing, but for me, traditional publishing answered how I could build the best team around this book that I could.
Karen: As I listen to the whole process that you went through, it reminds me of Psalm 62:1-2: “I’m at rest in God alone. My salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, I will never be shaken.”
Quite a few translations say, “I will never be disappointed.” When you have your focus on God, and when you’ve submitted what you’re writing to God, and you trust that whatever is coming your way is coming through his hands and by his will, you can never be shaken. You can never be disappointed.
I mean, we’ll have emotions. There’s no way of stopping those emotions. We’re made in God’s image, and he has emotions. But we can put our trust in God. Not in a publisher. Not even in an agent. Not in other people. But put your trust in God and you will never be disappointed because you can know solid gold is the foundation. That he is doing what is best, not just for your writing, but for you.
Chase: Yeah, I think that’s well put.
Erin: I’m wondering, Chase, if given where you are now, the eve of your book releasing, is there anything that maybe you would have done differently if you could have? Or like what you would tell yourself if “future you” could go back to “old you” and tell you something, is there something you wish you knew or did differently or anything like that?
Chase: I alluded earlier to how I was thinking of the process as sort of boxes you checked, and then you move on to the next one. I think I had in my mind, like, “Okay, I’m going to do this next step the best possible way I can, and then I’m done. I’ll move on.”
I saw it very linearly, and I now recognize it’s more complicated than that. And to your point also, maybe you’re not supposed to rush through some of those steps just as quickly as you can to get to the next. Maybe there is something of the messiness, or the complexity, or just the passing of time itself, that can actually make the work richer than it would if you just rushed through the process.
It’s easy to say retrospectively, but I would’ve told myself, “Just keep focusing on the right work. Because there’s so much work that can be done, but what is the actual work in front of me right now that I’m supposed to be doing? The thing I actually can do? Stay focused on that.”
Erin: I love that. One of the things I also wanted to ask you about was your podcast. I’m thinking that you started it in general because, as we all know, writers need platforms. So I’m thinking that was kind of the reasoning behind starting it. But I was going to ask you, how does it now help your career?
You’ve already given an excellent point: Hey, those editors heard about my situation and they got back in touch with me. But I’m sure there are other things involved in why you chose to podcast and how that’s influenced your career.
Chase: It’s a really interesting question because initially, you’re exactly right, I wanted to find a way to build platform. I’m a small church pastor. You know, I’m a Midwest guy. There’s nothing, there’s no celebrity. So how do I build a platform that doesn’t feel like it’s me just promoting myself?
Well, I love this sort of thing. Just having conversations felt very natural to me. The other part was just sort of trying to hack my way into professional relationships. When I started, I didn’t know a single published author. I didn’t know a single literary agent. I didn’t know a single editor working at a publishing house. I mean, literally no one. My dad’s a cop, that sort of thing. Like, I didn’t grow up in that circle. So it was, “How do I just hack my way into these relationships?”
But looking back, if I was going to say the biggest thing the podcast has done—because it’s kind of evolved now, I don’t just talk about writing, we talk about books in general—I’ve come to realize how valuable relationships are. And to your point, editors heard about the opportunity through my podcast, but really it was because I had tried to build lots of relationships with editors even before I was pitching. I’d have them on. Talk to them. Figure out what their publisher is looking for and what they’re doing.
Many of them are writers themselves, so just talking about writing. How do I just build relationships? And over and over and over everything that has happened for good has been because of relationships. Not because I lucked into it or happened to really impress someone. It’s usually existed because I’ve taken the time to try to get to know people.
Erin: Yeah, that’s wonderful. I love how we think we’re networking, but then we realize the real gold is the actual relationships that we build. It’s some of the best, best experiences to get to know writers and editors and publishers. It’s one of my favorite things.
Karen: It’s amazing to me because some of my best friends are the people that I have met, and I’ve known for years now, in publishing. Yeah, it started out just as a work relationship, but it goes so far beyond that. Not just because we share a love of writing and publishing, but we share a love of the Lord and we’re able to come together in that and to support each other and pray with each other.
Erin and I are a prime example. We met at a writer’s conference, and I signed her as a client when I was an agent. But it’s gone so far beyond that. One of the first people I want to contact if something happens in my life is Erin. Not because I was her agent and she’s an author, but because we share that love of the Lord and he’s built in us a love for each other. Those are the gifts that are tucked away in the hard work of writing. I think God is just so kind to do that for us.
Chase: I feel that even in conversations like this one, we write in very different genres and I don’t know, maybe our lives wouldn’t have crossed paths outside of this writing, but the truth is writing is really hard and publishing is really hard. So when you find other people like this conversation shows that are struggling their way through it, there is a camaraderie in the midst of that suffering that I think forms pretty quickly, and you need it.
Karen: So from all of this conversation and all of the experiences that you have, do you have any final words of encouragement for our listeners?
Chase: Yeah. For me, it would just be, and I know this sounds like such a cliche and glib answer, but I think you have to enjoy the process. I know that it is so frustrating and so painful, but celebrate when you have even little wins. Like just know going into it, you should be thinking in terms of decade, not months, and just give yourself patience and time to see where it goes.
Enjoy that you’re doing it. Trust me, I know that it’s easy for me to lose that, but that’s the thing when I know I’m doing it at my best, it’s just, God’s doing something here. I get to be a participant in it and see where it goes. And I’m just going to enjoy every step of it.
Karen: Yeah. Enjoy the journey, and the detours are the journey.
Karen: Thanks again, Chase, for being with us. We really appreciate it and appreciate you sharing from your experiences, and here’s hoping God blesses the launch of that book with just massive amounts of sales!
Chase: Thank you very much. You guys are the best. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for the opportunity.
Erin: Thanks, Chase!
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Have you taken any hard hits in your writing career? How did you move forward after that?
Books Mentioned in the podcast
The 5 Masculine Instincts by Chase ReplogleGuest Chase Replogle shares how God helped him get up––and move on––after a hard career hit. @thepastorwriter #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
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Today we’re covering commandment #10: Thou shalt not be false to thine own brand.
What Thomas means by this is, and this is a quote, “Be true to who you are as an author. Your brand is not a photo, logo, genre, or collection of fonts. It is the story you tell about yourself. More importantly, it is the story others tell about you.”
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So encouraging–not just the “come back” story, but how he grew and changed through the process of having a monkey wrench thrown into the mix. I love stories about God’s detours.
I’m glad this encouraged you, Kristi! Chase’s experience really does help us grab hold of how this writing thing is so much more about the journey than the destination. : )
I agree, Kristi. They’re often THE BEST stories ever, aren’t they.
If you’d like to read a story of an amazing woman who God “detoured” out of missionary work (to her befuddlement) and what came of her after, look up:
“Count it All Joy” – by Phyllis Thompson. It’s older, but a gem.
ps – Amazon or Thriftbooks.com ALWAYS have out-of-date books available.
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