Every once in a while, I’ll get a call from someone in my church who knows I work in publishing. The conversation typically starts with, “I have written...” or “I’m thinking of writing...” I love having these conversations. These good people dream of publishing a book, but they don’t know if it’s possible. They imagine writing letter after letter to traditional publishers and receiving rejection after disappointing rejection. It’s as though they’re afraid to hope that they might someday be a published author.
I love assuring them, “Yes, you can publish a book.” Then we talk about their dream, and their journey, and their message. I try to move them beyond the question, “Can you publish a book?” to the more important, and more difficult, question, “Should you publish a book?”
SHOULD YOU PUBLISH A BOOK?
The book publishing industry has changed radically in the past 30 years. The advent of desktop publishing and print-on-demand manufacturing has placed the ability to publish a first-class book with global distribution within virtually anyone’s reach. And, those with an audience like Twitter, Facebook or a congregation can often sell more copies of a book on their own than with the help of a large, traditional publisher.
Should you publish a book? The answer to that question is no longer whether you can get a traditional publisher to embrace it, publish it, and market it. That can be quite difficult. The answer to whether or not you should publish a book depends on how you might answer some other questions. The next question today’s would-be author really needs to answer is relatively simple: Do you have anything to say?
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY?
I’m not talking about your ability to carry on a conversation with the checkout clerk at the grocery store. There are lots of people who manage to keep talking long after they stopped saying anything. Just because you can’t stop talking doesn’t mean you have something worthwhile to say.
Still, many of those in leadership (like you) have learned things that have real value to others. It may be that your particular area of responsibility has revealed something to you about human nature, human behavior, the nature of an audience, an unusual marketing strategy or any number of other things. We live in a world that is growing increasingly complex even as it becomes smaller. We would be foolish to think we’ve already learned (and published) everything there is to learn and say about our world and the people in it.
And what about those of you who “publish” a message every week in the form of a sermon? You spend significant time reading, meditating on, parsing, researching and submerging yourself in the mysterious text we call the Bible? Think it’s all been said? Think your commentaries have exhausted the mind of God? We insult our God and the “unfathomable riches” of Jesus Himself when we imagine that we’ve done more than scratch the surface of God’s Word after a mere 2,000 years. The Lord’s prophets always deliver a fresh word from Him when they hold the biblical text in one hand and a contemporary audience in the other. If the Lord has given you a message, He may intend for others to hear it beyond those who heard it last Sunday.
CAN YOU SAY IT WELL?
After you determine that you have something to say, you then need to make sure it is said well. I’ve read and edited manuscripts that were genuinely rich and original. But, they were so poorly written, it was extremely difficult to discern the intended message. It’s as though the author was writing in a different language. The manuscript needed help.
I have good news! There are people out there who actually enjoy taking an average (or below average) manuscript and turning it into something that can hold someone’s attention and deliver your message. But wait! There’s more! You probably can write better than you may fear. That’s right. The first draft of your book manuscript may be less than stellar. But even the best authors will tell you the first draft of their book needed a lot of work. However, if you’ll commit yourself to writing, then reading, then revising, then reading, then revising, then reading more and revising more, you probably can produce a better manuscript than you think. And if you’re smart, you’ll let an editor go to work on it after that.
Sound like a lot of work? That brings us to the next question.
ARE YOU WILLING?
Even bad books don’t write themselves. Yes, you can find a ghost writer to do much of the heavy lifting, but you still have to develop the core message, otherwise the book isn’t really your book. Writing is work. Are you willing to invest the time and energy to write when it’s not easy? Are you willing to outline your message when outlining feels like homework? Are you willing to listen to constructive criticism when you’re confident the manuscript can’t be improved?
Your willingness to work hard, put in the time, and subject your work to serious review by others will help you determine whether you should write a book. But again, there’s good news available. You can do it!
The reality is that you are no busier or less capable than your favorite author. Think they have time to do nothing but write? Wrong. Good authors are busy people by nature. They are capable authors because they are willing authors. They have dedicated themselves to writing. And you can, too!
MORE GOOD NEWS!
The cost of publishing a quality book these days is very reasonable. Print-on-demand manufacturing means you don’t have to invest in large quantities to get started. And, good publishers have access to people who can help you hone your message and make it (and you) look good as well.
We at Four Rivers Media talk to potential authors like you all the time. We let you talk about your message and your publishing goals. We can create a custom publishing proposal just for you, work with you on budget and then walk with you step by step as your message becomes a book and you become a published author.
I hope that one of these days my phone will ring and I’ll get to hear you say, “I’m thinking about writing...” Then we’ll talk about your dream, your journey and your message. It will be a fun conversation!
This article was extracted from Issue 7 (Fall 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from us. Your information will not be shared.