Get Published

Write Like Paul

Somerset Maugham wrote, “There is an impression abroad that everyone has it in him to write one book; but if by this is implied a good book the impression is false” (The Summing Up).

Far be it from me to add to Maugham’s words, but I’m going to. So I guess it be not far from me, after all. I would say that many people (maybe not everyone) have a book in them, but relatively few have a marketable book in them. Much of the difference is in the writer’s perspective.

Many of us approach the task of writing because we have something important to say, without giving a moment’s thought to the reality that readers and book buyers don’t necessarily care about what we care about; they care about what they care about. That may be a tautology, but it’s worth remembering.

We can all profit from the apostle Paul’s example. When he visited Athens in the first century, we can be confident that he wanted the Athenians to know Jesus. He wanted them to know truth. He wanted them to know that God loved them. But notice where he started them on the path to such knowledge. He stood among the philosophers in the Acropolis on Mars Hill and said:

It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.

The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him (Acts 17:22-24, The Message).

Some preachers and scholars think that Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill was a failure, but I don’t think so. Paul found an entry point. He recognized his listeners’ hopes, dreams, and needs. He didn’t start with his agenda; he started with theirs.

That’s so important for anyone who wants to write and publish a book. Many of us orient our books from our perspective instead of the reader’s. We jump right into what we want to say and expect them not only to pay hearty attention but also to pay cash for the privilege of reading what we write. But readers—the vast majority of whom you’ve never met, remember, haven’t had the opportunity to be impressed and charmed by your personal magnetism—have their own agendas. Even when they’re walking into a bookstore or going to Amazon, the hopes, dreams, and needs at the forefront of their mind are theirs—not ours.

I fairly regularly ask writers, “Why would I want to read that book?” The title and subtitle may identify the theme of the book while ignoring my hopes and dreams. The hook may promise me something totally unrelated to my already-felt need. The author’s overall approach may be clever; but if it solely or mainly reflects what the writer wants to say rather than what I (the reader) long to hear, it may never reach the reader at all.

Any writer who has a marketable book in him or her asks, What’s my reader’s agenda? What is he or she looking for? What is my entry point?

Or, put another way, Am I writing like Paul?

 

[Feature photo: By Valentin de Boulogne – Blaffer Foundation Collection, Houston, TX, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=596565]

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Say It in a Sentence

Can you present your book idea in one sentence?

Can you present that idea in such a way that the reader is compelled to buy your book?

What motivates someone to spend money on a book? It is the promise that there is something of benefit to me, the reader.

Books are generally purchased for one of three reasons:

Entertainment Information Inspiration

If your book idea can make me want to read it, whether it is for entertainment, information, or inspiration, then you are well on your way to making a sale.

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Always Be Learning

During the Summer of 1978 the #1 hit on Christian radio was the classic “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (click here to listen). That same Summer I attended a Christian music festival in Estes Park, Colorado and decided to take a class on songwriting being taught by Jimmy and Carol Owens. I settled into my chair near the back of the room with notepad ready.

Just as the class was about to start a bearded man slide in the chair next to mine….notepad at the ready. To my astonishment it was Don Francisco. (I recognized him from his album cover.)

Here was a singer/songwriter who had the number one hit in the nation…taking a class on songwriting! What did he think he needed to learn?

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What Are Average Book Sales?

by Steve Laube


We recently received the following question:

“What does the average book sell today? An industry veteran at a writers conference recently said 5,000. What??? I know it all depends….but … nowhere near 5K, right?”

My simple answer?

It’s complicated.
It depends.

HAH!

Average is a difficult thing to define. And each house defines success differently. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at one publisher they celebrate and have steak dinners. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at another publisher you find staff members fearing for their jobs and in total despair.

Let me give you some real numbers but not revealing the author name (and there is a wide variety of publishers represented):

Author 1: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 8,300

Author 2: novelist – 12 books – avg. sale = 19,756

Author 3: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 7,000

Author 4: novelist – 7 books – avg. sale = 5,300 (Two different publishers)

Author 5: non-fiction devotional – 5 books – avg. sale 10,900

Author 6: non-fiction – 2 books – avg. sale = 5,300

Author 7: novelist – 4 books – avg. sale = 29,400

Author 8: non-fiction – 3 books – avg. sale = 18,900

Author 9: fiction – 7 books – avg. sale = 12,900

Author 10: non-fiction – 5 books – avg. sale = 6,800 (three different publishers)

So you can see it DOES depend. Depends on the author and publisher and topic or genre.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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Tips on Writing a Novella

Today’s guest post is written by one of our clients, Lynn A. Coleman (www.lynncoleman.com). She is the founder of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), as well as the author of more than 50 novels and novellas. She lives with her husband of 45 years, who is the lead pastor of a …

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Would You Buy Your Own Book?

When I ask a room of writers if they would buy their own book if they saw it on the shelf at a major bookstore I am met with a variety of reactions. Laughter. Pensiveness. Surprise. And even a few scowls. How would you answer that question?

But the question is meant to ask if your book idea is unique. Whether it will stand out among the noise of the competition.

It is not a question of whether your book is important or valuable or even well written. It is ultimately a question of commercial viability.

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