Myth #1: I'll make a lot of money.
Not true. Authors make very little on their books that sell in bookstores. Authors make most of their money speaking on their book, since speaking fees are generally much higher than book royalties. (After the publisher, distributor and bookstore are paid, the author gets what's left over…around 50 cents to a dollar on every $10-book that is sold.) So don't write as a way to make money. Write as a way to have a resource on what you speak about, so your listeners can take your message home with them. That leads me to the next myth.
Myth # 2: I can get my story out without having to speak.
Not true. Most publishers would rather work with a speaker who can't write, than a writer who can't speak. Most writers should already be out speaking on their message and once they've developed an audience, then write the book. Books written after you've spoken on something tend to be better books. Also, if you're out speaking on your book, that's a plus to a publisher looking for authors who will be actively promoting their books.
Myth #3: Once my book is written, it will sell itself.
Not really. Unless your name is Max Lucado, you will need to work hard marketing and promoting your book. That's why it's important to already have an audience out there for your message by the time it's in book form. If books don't sell a certain number of copies per year, they will likely be taken out of print…meaning your book will no longer be available in stores and you may be stuck with box loads full in your garage that you can't get rid of.
Myth #4: I have to have an agent to get a book published.
Not necessarily. I was fortunate to not have to have an agent when my first book was published more than 13 years ago. However, the publishing marketplace is getting harder to penetrate all the time, especially for first-time authors. An agent can not only get your work in front of publishers, but if you have a good one, he or she will also be able to offer sound advice and direction in terms of helping you become a better writer, marketing your book, making sure your book is getting the amount of marketing dollar it deserves from the publisher, overall career planning, platform development, contract negotiations, and so on.
Whether or not you have an agent is a personal decision. While I personally believe God is the best Agent I could ever have, I do have many author friends who have seen God work in their publishing careers through an agent. And I recently signed with an agency because I felt it necessary for my further development as a career author and speaker.
I recommend you do some research before handing your money to a person or organization claiming they can get your book published. Mac Gregor Literary Group is a great place to get answers to your questions about agents - and I believe they are one of the best if you decide you need an agent. You can get more information on the whole world of agents and how they work at www.macgregorliterary.com. (It would be advantageous to sign up for Chip MacGregor's blog, as well. He has valuable information for today's author or prospective author on everything from "how to be a better writer" to "marketing trends" to "developing your author platform.")
Myth #5: It's all who you know.
True. But here's the good news: if you know God, you know the Name above all names and you have access through any door. Remember that. If the dream to write is from Him, He will lead the way.
Is it your dream to write a book? We all have a story. We all have lessons learned that we'd love to pass on to others. But are you being called to write or is it just something you'd like to do? To begin, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you know if you are truly being called by God to write and publish a book:
1. Do you want to write a book simply because you have a great story to tell?
Or is there a burning inside of you that won't let up until you get your story or material down on paper and make it available to others for the glory of God? When the goal is for His renown, not your own, it's possible that He's putting that desire on your heart so He can accomplish it through you and be glorified in it.
2. Are you hoping to make some money through it?
Then book-writing is probably not for you. A true writer writes because she must, whether she gets paid to do it or not.
3. Is there a topic you are truly passionate about that people end up talking to you about when they need advice, encouragement or direction?
To be passionate about something is to be "willing to suffer" for it...to be so deeply convicted about it that you have to talk, or do something, about it. If so, that passion may be the subject of the book God is calling you to write.
4. Does writing a book seem like something fun to do or does it feel more like a burden and responsibility?
Although writers, for the most part, love to write, the books do not always come easily. Authors, in a sense, cut themselves open and bleed onto the paper, making themselves vulnerable and therefore credible to their readers. That kind of vulnerability can bring unwanted attention and criticism, at times. So a better description of your "calling" to write might be "an offering of sacrifice to the Lord" rather than merely a "hobby."
1. Pray about God's direction, leading and timing for your book.
We all want to write our story. But what is the story God wants you to write? I believed my first book would be called Pathway to a Prince about how to find the perfect husband and be fulfilled in life. Instead, the book God had me write was called Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, about how God – not a husband – is the Only One who can meet our deepest needs. God had a little different perspective on my topic, didn't He?
I also wanted to write my book as soon as my daughter was born and I was home full-time. But God wanted to do some work in my heart for a couple years while I was home raising a child, so I would be prepared, and a little older and wiser, to write that book. Take to God your ideas and questions and have Him refine your book by impressing on your heart what HE wants you to write. If He is in it and behind it, He will go before you into it, as well.
2. Start speaking on the message of your book.
Would people come to hear you talk on the subject of your book? If not, they won't buy a book on it. So shape your book topic into something that will benefit others when they hear you talk on it. Then tell everyone you know that you have a message to speak on. Start small. Share at your women's Bible study. Volunteer to be a guest speaker at a local Moms gathering. Eventually, people will tell other people that you speak and through word of mouth, you will begin to develop an audience. Have a newsletter for your audience to sign up and receive so you can begin to collect a database on your future book's target audience. As you craft your talk, make sure you include interesting stories, grabbing illustrations, practical applications, and action points. A speaking outline, if written effectively, often resembles the first draft of a book outline.
3. Know how to write a book proposal.
Few publishers today will accept a complete manuscript. Most will only want to see a proposal first, which is a summary of your book's idea and marketing analysis. (See my Sample Book Proposal.)
4. Do your homework by investigating the publishing industry.
It's important to know which publishers publish your type of book and what the requirements are for contacting those publishers and submitting your proposal. Order an updated copy of the Christian Writer's Market Guide by Jerry B. Jenkins (available at StuartMarket.com or Amazon.com). This book, published annually, contains a wealth of resources and lists every publisher of books and magazines in the Christian market, as well as their denominational affiliation, which types of books they publish by topic/subject, how much they pay, and more.
For great resources to help you be prepared as an author, help you know the market, and help you get published, see www.StartaWildfire.com.
Also, find a Christian Writer's Conference in your area and a local writers' critique group, as well, which are both essential for any serious writer.
5. Attend a Christian Writers' Conference in your area.
Once you have been speaking on your topic, and you have a viable proposal in your hands, it's time to attend a Christian Writer's Conference. (For a listing of these, by location, see the Christian Writer's Market Guide). These conferences are your opportunities to meet face to face with acquisitions editors of Christian publishing houses and actually show them your proposal and pitch your idea. Many editors attend these conferences specifically to find new faces and new material. But just make sure you've done your homework before you attend.
If editors don't take your manuscript with them, they will often suggest ways you can improve your proposal or idea, which is very valuable information for you in order to move forward. These conferences also have top-quality instruction courses for you on writing, working with publishers, coming up with great ideas for books, marketing your books, and so on.
6. Trust the process.
This is probably the most difficult step. Once you've done everything you can do, it's time to wait on God for His best for your situation. Sometimes it's a matter of waiting on Him for the best publisher for your particular book. Other times He's still wanting to refine some things in you, the author. It could be, too, that He has one more chapter for you to write that you don't yet know about.
Some writers, after going through all these steps and still not finding a publisher, will opt for self-publishing, which does require a monetary investment by you, but could be the direction you are to go. There are many self-publishing houses that will also work with you to market your book. Self publishing today is far better than it was years ago when I started out. Pray about it. If that's the direction God has for you, He'll provide the funds. (Self- or "subsidy-publishers" are also listed in the Christian Writer's Market Guide.)
Above all, don't get discouraged and give up. Few people publish books because few people stick with the process. Remember...if God is the One who is impressing it upon your heart to write, He will be the One to make it happen. Do it all for Him, and He will lead the way.
What is the main point of my book?
You should be able to summarize this in one sentence or a slogan.
Who am I writing to, specifically?
Women? Single Moms? Teens? Although we'd like every person on earth to read our book, we should have a specific audience in mind that we are writing to.
How is my book different than any other book on this topic?
Don't know? Then this is where you need to do some research. Visit a Christian book store or search bookstores online for books that are already published on your subject. How will yours be unique?