Every Book Doesn’t Need to Shake the Earth

If you look at any list of best-selling books expecting every one of them to be a literary masterpiece, you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment.

“Are you kidding me? A book about famous racehorses of the 20th century is a bestseller? People bought that instead of my 1,200-page book on linguistic anomalies in Hebrew and Greek biblical texts? For Pete’s sake, half of the horse book is pictures! What’s happening to this world?”

All those years studying literature, memorizing every writing style manual, and attending dozens of writers conferences are wasted.

And that class in college where the professor read the entire text of both Iliad and the Odyssey in their original Greek? Memories flood back and smack you like a wet towel after gym class. (OK, maybe that’s a guy thing; sorry to you women readers.)

In the Christian publishing market, some really fine books, worth paying for and reading, do not exactly shake the tectonic plates in the Earth’s crust with their esoteric and theological depth.

But they are helpful, inspiring, and part of the tapestry of publishing.

Books on prayers of the Bible, great Christian leaders, the words of Jesus, the names of Jesus, prayers for parents, Christian parent book of baby names, Advent preparation, Easter activities, etc., are all ingredients of Christian publishing, giving it some breadth and depth.

If you want to dive right into a scriptural basis for all this, read 1 Corinthians 12 about the body and its many parts. Applying this principle to book publishing is quite appropriate, in my opinion.

Every part is important.

Not every author writes every kind of book, and neither does every publisher publish all subjects. But when you combine the work of all Christian authors, there’s a complete “body” of books for every season, need, and person.

Granted, some books need to be big, important messages, written by highly qualified authors. But often, books that are read and reread can have relatively straightforward content:

The Best Sermons Ever Preached
The Best Quotes from Famous People
The Most Courageous Missionaries Ever
Prayers for Every Occasion
Backstories of Hymns

The key principle in all types of publishing is to look at the world from the perspective of the potential reader. Writers should ask themselves, “What would a reader want to read?” Or even more important, “What would a reader spend money on to read?”

You might seek to write a book giving the historical background of a certain theological concept, but readers might rather want to be reminded God still loves them or to have hope and be strong and courageous.

There is a place for books that focus on the head more than the heart. Finding a creative way to do both is what makes Christian books interesting.

Simply looking at books from the perspective of the reader might change your mind what you end up writing. When a writer and reader are in perfect harmony, good things can happen.

14 Responses to Every Book Doesn’t Need to Shake the Earth

  1. Darla Grieco March 11, 2021 at 5:47 am #

    Thank you, Dan, for this important reminder.

  2. Cecilia Bacon March 11, 2021 at 6:01 am #

    This is very encouraging! Thank you.

  3. Virginia Sue Graham March 11, 2021 at 6:43 am #

    Thank you, Dan. I do want to be in perfect harmony with my reader. Your advice is duly noted and I will refer to it often!

  4. Kristen Joy Wilks March 11, 2021 at 6:54 am #

    When I was first learning to write for children, my text book suggested that I visit the children’s section of our local library and ask the librarian for suggestions of books to read. What are local kids reading? What are some great children’s books? When I arrived all bright-eyed and ready to learn and asked her these two questions she gave me a scowl and demanded clarification.
    “Well, which do you want? Do you want good children’s books or do you want books that kids enjoy reading?
    Um … both? I answered.
    “The Newberry winners are over there and the Hank the Cowdog books are right there.”
    I got some of each and let me tell you, just like the non-discerning children of the Wenatchee valley, I too enjoyed the Hank the Cowdog books more. Sure, the author might rhyme “Chrysanthemum” with “chewing my gum” but despite any literary deficiencies, those books are hilarious. The others were beautiful and full of deep tear-jerker emotion. But one can only weep so often whereas laughter doesn’t really require as much regulation. I definitely learned something about the many types of books that make up the children’s section and about my own talents and sensibilities as a writer.

  5. Roberta Sarver March 11, 2021 at 7:02 am #

    To Kristen, who commented above: We used to read Hank the Cowdog books aloud to our kids when they all were home. They were among our favorites. I get what people say about families that pray together; it’s true. But families also need to laugh together, and we did plenty of that.

  6. Frank March 11, 2021 at 7:53 am #

    Right on point

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 11, 2021 at 8:15 am #

    My words, they will not shake the earth;
    that’s really not their style.
    Why they’re there, for what it’s worth
    is to maybe lend a smile
    in these dark and troubled days
    when all seems upside-down
    and the men who seek our praise
    are akin to wicked clowns.
    And so I write of gentle things,
    of dogs and cats at play,
    of the beat of heron-wings
    at the break of day
    that echoes down the sky above,
    the quiet whisper of God’s Love.

  8. Hannarich Asiedu March 11, 2021 at 8:45 am #

    Thank you, Dan,
    This is so encouraging, especially for me as a first-time author.

    I loved how you linked the different parts of the body of Christ to writing and publishing. I would have never made that connection.

    God bless you, Dan

  9. Linda Riggs Mayfield March 11, 2021 at 12:43 pm #

    How encouraging, Dan! I realized after reading this that I’ve gradually come to thinking no agent will be interested in my books unless they are, well, earth-shaking, and earthshaking is just not my style. I write the kind of books I like to read. Give me a good Gwen Marcey mystery by Carrie Stuart Parks any day over something that puts knots in my stomach, no matter how well-written the cliffhanger suspense. Life itself has enough cliffhanger suspense for me. I want to read about a smart professional woman who struggles with her own demons but trusts in the Lord and comes out of whatever twists the plot presents as the victor. I’ve written several like that. Do you think there are agents who are looking for those, too?

    • Dan Balow March 11, 2021 at 2:52 pm #

      Sure, just need to find them. Every agent is pretty transparent what they look for.

  10. Sally Matheny March 11, 2021 at 1:26 pm #

    Dan, thanks for this excellent insight. Your timing is perfect.

  11. Charis @ Charis Rae March 13, 2021 at 8:35 am #

    This is such an important point! Thank you so much for elaborating and explaining this! 🙂

  12. Kathy March 13, 2021 at 2:13 pm #

    This was a helpful and timely post, reminding us to focus on what readers need. Thank you!

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