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A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about what I am looking for in authors I want to represent as an agent. Today I would like to talk about one of the things I am looking for: courage.
Fear is the biggest enemy of authors. It can ruin their writing. It can ruin their marketing. In this episode, we are going to talk about how to overcome fear and change the world.
How Fear Ruins Writing
Fear Ruins Our Output
Fear can keep you from finishing your manuscript. For some writers, it keeps them from starting in the first place.
It takes courage to write.
Fear Ruins Our Craft
The author who is afraid of offending someone often fills her writing with so many qualifiers that her point gets lost. Her short punchy sentences get watered down so as not to offend. Or she is afraid of offending specific people so she takes the vivid details out of his story until all that remains is a bland abstraction.
It take courage to say what you mean.
How this Fear Disguises Itself: Perfectionism
Perfectionism is a fancy word for fear. You will never be perfect, and neither will your writing.
Excellence = quality + speed.
How Fear Ruins Our Marketing
After I wrote the blog post Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed I got pushback from hundreds, if not thousands, of other bloggers. People wished my death on social media and left hundreds of negative comments. At one point my mom was in tears after seeing her friends hating on me on Facebook.
That can be the cost of having a million people read what you write.
During that time, I had a fortune cookie message in my wallet. It said simply, “He who gets the credit gets the blame.”
Writing is an act of leadership. You are either leading people to a new world in fiction or to a new way of thinking in nonfiction. People complain about their leaders.
If you are afraid of putting yourself out there, everything about marketing your book will be harder.
How this Fear Disguises Itself: Humility
A lot of authors think that promoting their work is in conflict with Christian humility. So, when is it okay to promote yourself as an author?
Let me answer that question with a story.
The Story of Dr. Barry Marshall
For decades, medical students were taught that chronic stomach ailments, including peptic ulcers and gastritis, were caused by stress, greasy food, or too much alcohol.
Barry Marshall’s research showed that this was 100% wrong. His research showed that while stomach acid caused the pain, ulcers were actually caused by bacteria that the acid helped fight. So taking an antacid was unhelpful, if not downright harmful.
The medical community was not impressed by this Aussie doctor telling them they were wrong.
He tried doing experiments on pigs but could not validate his theory. It turns out that pigs have a very robust digestive system.
He asked for permission to test on humans and was denied. So he drank billions of strands of H. pylori bacteria himself to see if he would get an ulcer. Marshall expected to get an ulcer in a year or two. He got one in three days. Then he took an antibiotic and it cured his ulcer.
He now had both the cause and the cure to a sickness affecting millions of people.
So, when was it okay for Barry Marshall to promote himself?
What if he said, “I don’t want people to think I’m some great scientist so I will keep this to myself”?
Dr. Barry Marshall had an obligation to the truth to spread it as widely as he could. He had an obligation to the truth to write articles, to be seen as an expert, and to convince the world to change their thinking.
False humility is just another form of pride. As Rick Warren once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking about yourself less.”
Guess who wrote the words “Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.” Moses did.
If you think humility is at odds with the truth, you either don’t know the truth or you don’t know humility.
If your book is filled with truth, you have an obligation to spread that truth even if it means becoming famous in the process.
How to Find Your Courage
Love your reader. The more you love your reader, the more courage you will have. Perfect love casts out all fear.
Is it hard to love perfectly? Sure. In fact, writing and marketing may never stop being scary. But that is okay. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is right action despite feeling terrified.
If you love your reader and your writing will help her, then you already have everything you need.
God has given you everything you need to do everything He has called you to do. So get to it!
Like I’ve said before, the world is broken. As Christians, we have the truth of Christ that the world desperately needs.
I want to partner with authors who are willing to face that brokenness and write the truth even when the truth hurts to write. Can you write truth to power while motivated by love? If so, I want to stand with you as you change the world. If you’ve been persecuted for your position, I want to see your proposal.
To be clear, I’m looking for more than just controversial books. Your book doesn’t need to be controversial to advance the Kingdom.
I am looking for authors with the courage to write clearly and the courage to promote their work publicly.
I’m looking for authors:
- with clear, simple writing.
- who are willing to tackle today’s controversial issues and topics.
- with a track record of putting themselves out there as the face of their message.
- who have a passion for the truth in their writing.
Oh and the rest of the story with Dr. Barry Marshall? He won the Nobel Prize in medicine. All those medical textbooks have now all been rewritten to include his research.
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The post 002 – How to Find Your Courage as an Author appeared first on Christian Publishing Show.
Boy, did I need this truth! Obviously, you’ve been inside a few aspiring author’s heads. Well said and sharing with my writing friends.
Lancia E Smith
Thank you, Thomas, for this post. I needed these words today not only as a writer but as a business owner. This is truly a welcome admonishment. Blessings to you and hearty congratulations on your new role at the agency!
Damon J. Gray
I have often said of myself (and encouraged others to say) if I am not getting under someones skin, I’m probably not doing my job.
Wonderfully encouraging. I have acted in three plays including a musical and I am no singer but I sang silly instead of pretty. And I’ve written one long novel. Believe me writing is harder. In acting, you’re using someone else’s writing, and you’re inviting the audience to Let’s Pretend, watch me! Like children do. And it’s fun. But in writing your baring your own heart and soul and thoughts and feelings And yes indeed it is scary. Thank you so much for a kick in the rear, and great motivation to finish.
It’s so refreshing to see someone encourage bold writing. Yay!
What are the distinctions among Christian Fiction, Biblical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction and Debut Novel and is it possible that one novel could be all of these at once?
My husband and I were wondering what difference knowing Jesus in the flesh would have made to the lives of the apostles after Jesus left and why no one has written anything substantial about these chaps, bringing them up to date with what we know today about human development, i.e.: who did these men marry, what sort of parents did they make, and how did they finance their work?
Since we are all faced today with these same questions, it makes perfect sense for some enterprising novelist to bring these men up to date in ways that believers can identify with and use to help them better navigate their own spiritual journeys,
I would suggest a series of twelve novels, each one an epic story that does justice to both the man and his mission with emphasis on the protagonist who has both a personal and faith story to tell. This is what the publishing world has not yet accomplished, mostly becasue the theology, the history and the literature has all been written by men for the past two thousand years and thus such a realistic analysis of the twelve apostles would not have been posible up until now since they were dealing with only half a deck, Now, however, that women and children are allowed to contribute, these men can surely thrive and grow in their influence, ready to serve believers in the real world who themselves have a personal relationship with Jesus,
Such a project would obviously take years of research and a mature spirit to accomplish. In spite of this, if you do agree that the project is worth doing, and also long overdue, then please do get in touch and I will be happy to introduce you to an author who has completed the first volume in that series. ,
This post is so to the point of where I’ve been stuck for awhile. I’m going to read it every day for awhile. And after that, hopefully determinedly bravely, write for awhile.
“False humility is just another form of pride.” Yes!
I uncovered this false pride buried in my own history and habit. I started school in a small farming community. Dairy farmers didn’t take long trips, and I’d been places my classmates hadn’t. When I talked of those places, my fellow students were at best disinterested and at worst unkind. So I started downplaying my experience, telling myself I didn’t want to make them feel bad. Truth be told, my 2nd grade mind thought I was better than they were. I was startled and ashamed to discover, in my 50’s, that I was still wrapping that old “I’m better than they are” in false modesty. God and I had several painful chats about my much-needed attitude adjustment.
I needed this article today, mostly for confidence to market my books. I’m an indie-published author who recently transitioned from general market to Christian – even revised a few books. It’s been a challenge establishing a new audience, but since I’ve retained a few loyal (secular) readers, I know I’m in a position to reach people who might not hear the Gospel message any other way. Your illustration of Dr. Barry Marshall gave me a different perspective and a new motivation to get my books out there. Thank you!
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D
Outstanding blog, Thomas! Thanks for sharing.
Excellent. I’m forwarding this to my critique team. Perfect timing.
Thank you. I needed to hear this.
L. K. Simonds
Great post! Following you is going to be fun.
I know I’m late to the party but this was amazing! It is exactly what I needed to hear. I’m planning on listening to it a few times, so it gets ingrained into my thinking. Thank you so much!