“Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang” Sold to Korean Publisher

One minute you’re staring vacantly at your computer fleetingly wondering how long it’s been since you blinked, and the next you’re reading an email from your agent telling you that a Korean publisher has made an offer on one of your books. That’s what I’m happy to say happened to me, anyway.

My book Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do, by God (as told to John Shore)” (I know: long title) has been sold to Seoul, South Korea-based Miraesa Publishing. (I don’t know much about the publisher, besides that they’re Joel Osteen’s Korean house.)

When the book comes out they’ll mail me five copies. I will put them on my shelf next to my five copies of the German-language edition of Penguins, which I also can’t read.

Penguins was one “Send” button away from never getting published at all. Every mainstream and Christian publisher known to man had rejected it. The ABA (American Booksellers Association) publishers had said they loved it, but were afraid of it angering Christians. (“I personally love this book, but pissing off Christians is always more trouble than it’s worth,” commented an editor so famous it’s a testament to my agent she even read the thing.) They also said they had no idea how to market it. (Can’t blame them there, either: Penguins is the only book I’ve ever heard of that cannot be classified as either fiction or nonfiction. Tru dat!) The CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) publishers said they couldn’t touch Penguins because it put words into the mouth of God. (And then, of course, five or six of the Christian publishers who had seen and rejected my book on those “blasphemous” grounds immediately published books of their own that also put words into the mouth of God — but were written by authors much more famous than I. But do I think those publishers read my book, saw an idea that worked, and then paid another writer to write a knock-off of it because they knew they could make more money off that author than they could off Totally Unknown me? Does every day of the week in in “y”?)

For about a year I had carefully tracked every publisher to whom my ABA agent, my CBA agent, and I had submitted Penguins. The total was at 71 publishers. There basically was no publisher left who hadn’t rejected it. My agents had reasonably given up on it months before.

In the wee hours of one morning I sat deeply slumped in my office chair, staring mindlessly at my computer, trolling, as had long become my habit, for any publisher, anywhere, with any credibility whatsoever, who hadn’t already seen and bounced my book. Through blurry eyes I saw that I had come across the website for Church Publishing, Inc. They had a little area where you could punch in a question to them. Instead of a question, I dumped the entire proposal for my book into that blank white square. I didn’t care. I knew it was hopeless anyway. And I knew — I really, right there, felt the truth of it — that this would be my last attempt to get Penguins published. I wouldn’t submit it again. It was over. There was virtually no one left. My book had failed.

Turns out this guy read the email I so sloppily sent at 1:30 a.m. that night.

And now here it is, three years later, and I find out that besides having come out in German, Penguins is also coming out in Korean.

That documentary was right. Penguins really do know how to survive.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Fantastic! If I spoke Korean I'd buy one. But I don't, so too bad for you.


  • Thanks, Skerrib. (Hey, I read on your blog the other day about ATTACKING DEER! Unbelievable. Post that link here so people can go read that.)

  • Sure thing. I'm glad to spread public awareness about this hidden problem…


  • I do speak Korean, but I read it at the level of a grade-schooler. So I think I'll have to stick with the English version for now…

    I might get my parents the Korean version! Yeah!

  • Congratulations, John, on the Korean Translation.

    Did/Does Church Publishing Inc. distribute your book?

  • Michael: Very good. Thanks! I'll sell you one of my five when I get them in. And I'll inscribe it to your parents. Then, when I become a world-renowned author, it'll be worth … probably about $10.

    Greta: Do you mean the English language edition? If so, yes, they do. Well. Sort of. Mostly it's just available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Anyone can order it from any bookstore. But it's not really, like, distributed nationwide or anything. It doesn't quite work like that–or at least, not with the smaller publishers.

  • I hope your book sells well for you in Korea. I have been living and working in Korea since 1990.

    I just happened across your blog by chance today and added you to my blogroll.

    Hope to have the chance to read your books soon. They sound very interesting,

  • Thanks, Jeffrey. I've been reading your blog, too. I like it, and have blogrolled you. Interesting times you're having there! (Hey, though. Do an "About Me" page, maybe?)

  • Congratulations John. So glad you didn't give up. I remember hearing Stephen King had gotten rejected so many times on what was later to become his first big novel, that he had thrown it in the trash. Supposedly it was his wife that dug it out and submitted it to that one last editor. "The rest is history" as they say.

  • Congratulations on a great accomplishment, no two great foreign accomplishments. Keep up the good work.

  • Mona

    John after reading your review – I may have to read this book. I write for Helium, so I might even do a review–but I’d better wait until I read the book…in English.


  • First, congratulations! I can’t help but wonder how your wacky brand of humor, which seems deeply rooted in the American culture, will come across in German and Korean. It’s not that I don’t think Germans and Koreans aren’t savvy enough to get your point, what I’m wondering is how your comedic timing will come across. You have a zippy style that seems effortless, yet one word out of whack and it might fall flat. Fingers crossed you get brilliant translators!

  • Yeah, it’s all about the translator, of course. I, too, hope I get a good one. Not that I’d know if I didn’t …

  • Looking forward to seeing you soon in California. Love your humor… it is humor…yes? Grins

  • Dan: Thank you very much.

    Grace: How are you seeing me in CA? (Dare I dream that I FINALLY have my own stalker?! Wooo-hoo!)

  • Kathy

    This is very interesting. My closest guy friend is a Korean (and non Christian) and ever since I read a week or so ago somewhere else on your website that a Korean edition was in the works I have been sooo looking forward to it, and wondeful!! It is confirmed. And I can't wait for it to be ready to be bought…

    Only question being… will I be able to find any selling in Toronto, Ontario, Canada?


  • Wow! What a wonderful story of success. Gives me a lot of hope! By the way, the link to this post appeared as an ad. on my blog. I was going to ignore it, but boy I would have missed something great to read. Congratulations! Keep it up.


  • Thank you, Ratna! (It showed up as an AD?? What the …? That seems .. entirely wrong. Awful!)