“Response” Books

When considering a topic for your next book, I suggest you avoid a response to another message in the media, especially in another book.

Publishers and readers love books which are fresh, containing original thinking, and are well written, creative, with an identifiable purpose, a strong message and usually not springing from what someone else wrote.

I am not talking about “connection” books, such as discussing the Christian message in the Chronicles of Narnia or something similar. Nor am I talking about responding to a trend in society. I am referring to a critical response to another book or some other media message.


Because books are way too slow and social media has become the response-medium of the 21st Century.

Our society is obsessed with something today, which then becomes old news in two weeks (or two hours) when the next thing captures our attention. The desperate pursuit of the “newest” and “coolest,” makes books the handwritten papyrus scrolls of the media world compared to Twitter’s ability to capture the moment.

I find it humorous that social media calls something “trending” when identifying something a lot of people are tracking at the moment. A trend has always meant something significant, which has long-term implications. A “fad” is the term for high-awareness at the moment, until replaced quickly by the next thing.

If we only change the term from “trending” to “fadding,” it more accurately portrays what is happening. (Or “fading” which is truly more the case!)

This has nothing to do with decreasing attention spans of readers. This is about choosing the best way to communicate.

Traditional book publishers have long lead-times and generally avoid response-books. Even self-publishing will take months to write the book and then might only sell for a few weeks.

By the time your book hits the market, the market probably won’t care about or even remember the thing you are writing about.

Basically, response-books are not worth the effort. Instead, blog your response. It’s faster.  Why spend two months writing something, which will be out of date in two weeks?

Next to feature films, books are the slowest of all media. They are slowest of all the print media by far. (Except for the ancient hand-written papyrus scrolls alluded to above.)

Sure, a few companies can speed through a process about an event or celebrity within a few months, hoping to catch a wave of high interest, but books are still the slowest of all print media.

Keep this in mind when deciding what to write. The slowness of books makes them terrible media to use when responding to just about anything in another media form.

Books about movies can work because movies are the only media slower than books, but once a movie finishes its initial run, the book usually stops selling, which could be a matter of days or weeks. Publishers who want books with staying power usually avoid movie-connection books as too risky and short term.

Books are best for detailed explorations of big subjects, for putting a stake in the ground, establishing a framework of thought and other big messages, which should be part of conversations for the next several years.

This doesn’t mean Christian writers shouldn’t respond to a message in the media, it is just that books are not the medium best suited for the response.

Responses should usually come in a form faster than the original message. So, writing a book responding to a blog post would be nothing short of foolish. But the reverse would be effective.

As an agent, I see everything as book proposals, knowing some do not need to be in book-form. Some should be a series of blog posts, some articles submitted to magazines and others organized into a seminar and presented in-person.

If you have a bone to pick with something in the media, use one of a myriad media-options to address it. More than likely it will not be a book.

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