You’re nearly half-way finished and you’ve been writing it for about two or three years now. But you probably also haven’t touched it very much in the last few months. Am I right?
Or maybe you haven’t started writing “your book” yet…but you’ve been considering it. Maybe even praying about it. You’ve got a topic you’re passionate about, that you want to tell other people all about, and you’re wondering if you should begin writing it.
I would encourage you to do so. If God places the burden on your heart, then go for it. Get on with it! Put your pen to paper, your fingers to the keyboard, and get writing.
Stop stalling. Tell the world your story and just do it. Many people will read it and be touched by what you have to say.
Look, it may not become a New York Times bestselling novel, but it just might impact people for eternity. Listen to that voice in your head and start today. Yes, today.
We’re All In The Same Boat
Like you, I’m also writing a book. Actually, I’m in the process of writing two books, but that’s another story altogether.
I have “finished” (notice the quote marks here) writing a book about discerning and understanding God’s Will in our lives. It is currently entitled, “Revealed: God’s Will”.
My book is about trying to answer the hard questions in life regarding what God would have us do (i.e. Who should I marry; What college should I attend; Where should I work; etc.). I call this God’s UNREVEALED will in our lives. And the way we answer these tough questions is by applying His REVEALED will in our lives, which is His revealed Scripture to us…otherwise known as the Bible.
But in my publishing naiveté, I didn’t realize just how hard it is to actually get published! I naively thought that actually writing (and…um…finishing) the book would be the hard part and that getting it published would be merely a small hill to overcome.
Boy, was I wrong!
The Challenge In Getting Published
In today’s Christian publishing world, it is next to impossible to get a traditional publisher interested in a non-fiction book, such as mine. There are tens of thousands of people each year who write books and there are only a handful of publishing houses to choose from (or rather, get chosen by). Therefore, these companies are looking for authors with an established Platform, which is an industry term used to describe your influence around the world.
In other words, why would people buy my book compared to such-and-such (insert here the names of the authors for the last few books you’ve purchased)?
Platform is influence. It is notoriety. When someone is famous, people will buy their book purely because they are famous. When someone is not famous (like me, for example), few people will buy my book. Or at least this is the mindset of most big publishing houses.
It is for this reason that most of the books you see in Christian bookstores (or Barnes & Noble, for that matter) are written by famous people, or people with an established Platform, or with a unique and captivating story.
But that also leads to the beauty of the exploding self-publishing industry (which is a topic I plan to write about more in the near future.). More and more people are going the self-publishing route, making a good dent in the literary world, and are controlling the publishing process from start to finish. Self-publishing has its challenges, but also its benefits.
Where Is The Publishing Industry Going?
I recently came across an article that was written a few months ago by Michael Hyatt, who is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Michael has a very influential blog which I tend to read frequently and thoroughly. The article has to do with finding an agent to represent you in the publishing world. Please note that I have taken bits and pieces from the article and pasted them below, so I’d encourage you to go to Michael’s site to read the full version. (click here to go to Michael’s article.)
Below is some information from that article which is fascinating to me, and quite helpful. Maybe it will be for you as well. Enjoy!
First of all, let’s revisit the facts. Last year, more than 560,000 new books were published in the U.S. alone. About half of these were self-published or “print on demand” titles. In addition, industry experts estimate that there are another four million manuscripts completed that have not yet found a publishing home. That’s a lot of competition.
Conventional trade publishers, like Thomas Nelson, receive thousands of unsolicited book proposals every year. We simply don’t have the staff to wade through these book proposals. Frankly, we can’t justify the investment. It is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The vast majority of proposals we get are not commercially viable.
I would like to offer eight concrete actions you can take if you find yourself in this place:
- Re-evaluate your commitment. Maybe you thought your idea was so good that agents and publishers would be clamoring to talk with you. Now that you have had a head-on collision with reality, it’s time to re-evaluate. You have no doubt already invested hundreds of hours in writing a book proposal (or the entire manuscript) and trying to find an agent. So far, you have nothing to show for it. Are you willing to invest the additional time and energy it’s going to take to see your book into print? This is the time to think soberly about the hard work still before you.
- Embrace the challenge. Getting published is not easy. Instant success is not the norm. And even if you got it, it wouldn’t be good for your character development. Trust me, once you land a publisher, you will face a whole new set of challenges. Stop complaining about how difficult it is. Nobody cares.
- Ask for feedback. Accept the fact that virtually no one will have the guts or the time to tell you what they really think. No one wants to hurt your feelings. This makes it particularly challenging to get at the truth. Whatever you do, don’t console yourself with some illusion that God told you to write this book or that you just know in your gut it’s going to be a bestseller. None of this will help you get published. In fact, both responses will turn off legitimate agents and publishers. Worse, they will keep you from discovering what is missing in your proposal or what is included in your proposal that is causing it to get rejected. Instead, ask, “What are the two or three things I could do to make my query letter or proposal more attractive?”
- Revise your proposal.
- Widen your prospect pool. You can start with my list of Literary Agents Who Represent Christian Authors. You should also try to network with agents, editors, and published authors through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and writers’ conferences.
- Build your platform. By platform, I mean an audience—people who want to hear what you have to say. I can’t overemphasize how important this is. Getting your book into print will require a big investment on the part of your agent and publisher. Both will be looking for ways to insure their success and minimize their risk. If they know that you have already built an audience, they are much more likely to take you on. The good news is that it’s never been cheaper to build a platform. That’s not to say it’s easy. It’s not. But with blogs and other forms of social media, you can begin building a tribe of followers. Frankly, this is often as important as the book itself.
- Resubmit your proposal. Yes, you can resubmit your proposal to agents who have rejected it previously. However, you have to be very careful. Don’t re-submit it right away. The market can change in the intervening months. Something that didn’t make sense then, might make sense now.
- Consider self-publishing. If you have built a following, you might want to consider publishing the book yourself. Make sure you do your research and don’t assume that this will be a cake-walk. It is not a panacea. Self-publishing will have its own challenges, not the least of which is that it will be up to you to create market demand for your book. (The truth is that you will have to do a good deal of this yourself even in a conventional publishing arrangement. Just ask any published author.) However, if you have the confidence, the money to invest, and a good marketing plan, it is worth considering this option. And, no, I don’t think it hurts your chances of getting picked up by a traditional publisher. It certain situations, it can help you.
Finally, don’t lose heart. Most authors have rejection stories. Rejection is part of the process. It doesn’t have to be the end. Like I used to tell my children, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
ACTION TO TAKE: Are you writing a book? Have you written one but it hasn’t been published yet? Leave a comment below and tell us about your book. What is the title of it? What is it about? Have you submitted it to any agents and what has been the outcome? If you haven’t written a book yet, are you thinking about writing one? What is the topic for the book you hope to write some day?
Image credit: Jeff Boriss (Creation Swap)