1. If you are going to write a book, write something you are deeply passionate about. Writing on a subject that you don’t know anything about (or care to know), or just bores the heck out of you, will not get you through the long haul of writing a full-length book. My passion for the content of “Borrowing Hope,” made it an exciting adventure. I also learned a ton of great information that has been beneficial to me and hopefully those I encounter on my journey.
2. Passion alone will not get you through. I encourage you to have a larger telos and vision for your creative work. Although I can admit to appreciating the prestige of my accomplishment, my over-arching goal was to be a good steward of the inner/outer resources I have been given by an amazing and loving God. Additionally, my goal was to encourage, bless, challenge, and transform those who read it. Feeling the above sense of purposes was rocket fuel for my publishing endeavor.
3. Write, rewrite, let it sit; pick it up again and re-write, revise , etc. I honestly can’t believe I gave my early manuscript to people to read. I can’t believe they got through it and still gave me endorsements and gracious feedback. James Danaher, a superb educator and author, and someone I deeply respect, shared with me some of his publishing wisdom. After barely getting through my manuscript, he told me I was definitely not done with it. He said, “Keep working it and reworking it until you get to the point where you realize that you can’t make it any better than it is.” I was sad when I read that. At the time, I thought I could not make it any better. Boy, was I wrong!! His words stuck with me. I wrote, rewrote, revised, etc., many times, and after 1.5 years, I was still revising it. When you think your done with it, you are not. Go over it, add/subtract/divide at least five more times from start to finish. I am now thrilled with the final results. Additionally, the publishing editor is going to kick my butt and refine it even further. I can’t wait!
4. I tagged so many people in my original Facebook post because writing, especially for someone like me as a first-time author, needed other’s eyes. I needed their wisdom in the form of feedback. I needed encouragement when I felt like quitting. Writing in community is a must. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others.
5. I realized that a deep thinker, doesn’t correlate to a brilliant writer. Writing, or I should say, writing well, is an art form, and takes practice. Therefore, practice, practice, and practice some more. Don’t worry if you are not a master writer. Just do it! After the grammar Commanders (editors), who spent years honing the craft of writing get done with your work, you will feel you should go back to school anyway. I have so much to learn when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of grammar but it didn’t stop me from securing a publishing deal.
6. You can always self-publish, or pay a publishing company to publish your book, but if you decide to find a reputable publisher and have them pay you an advance, you will need a literary agent. You can’t get a publishing deal by sending your work directly to publishers, especially as a first-time author, and especially if you do not have a large platform. It is extremely rare in today’s publishing world. Literary agents will be your best friends. Not only will they look to their vast publishing connections for a deal, they will also look over the fine print of the publishing contract. The agents will make sure you are not taken advantage and secure the best deal possible. They usually get around 15% of your total income (ouch!).
7. You will need a query letter to send to literary agents. A query letter is a short sales-piece/pitch of who you are. It will entail a brief bio, description of your work, target audience, platform, and other information. It is no more than a page and needs to be error free. Remember, this is your first impression, so seek out a proofreader to go over it before sending it out.
8. You will need a book proposal. The book proposal is a beast and can take months to complete. It is roughly twenty pages. It entails an overview, table of contents, chapter summaries, target market, comparable works, author biography, platform and promotion plan, endorsements, and sample chapters (1-3). It took me many months, and again, many rewrites, to get it polished and just right. Also, be prepared to revise it again if you get signed with a literary agency. They will want you to adhere to their unique proposal template. After they approve your revised proposal, they will shop it to publishing companies.
9. You need a platform, especially if you don’t have any publishing contacts. Publishers are in the business of making money. Christian or not, they are thinking about how many sales they can make. I didn’t even know what a platform was until six months ago. I got turned down many times by publishers who said, “Mark, we love your content, but you don’t have a big enough platform.” Big platform = more sales—small platform = small sales. Publishers like to see a large number of Twitter followers, blogs you consistently write, blogs you write on other people’s blogs, how many famous people you know (because their platform is your platform), how many people are subscribed to your blog, website traffic, speaking engagements, etc. They actually want specific numbers. Building a platform is something I am allergic to as a cave-dwelling, introvert. I blog when I want, and tweet when I want, and I very inconsistent. I know my publisher will push me on this platform thing. But, if you believe in your content, and that it is transformational, then why not expand your sphere of influence in the market place of ideas to get your material out there?
10. You will need a whole lot of patience. This particular book started as an idea in college, which emerged into a 20-page paper for one of my classes. Then when moving to Japan, I was jobless, with a lot of time on my hands, and was determined as an artist to create something (a stagnant artist is a prescription for depression). I started to write and it took about one year to write (including the dozen revisions), and six months: learning about the publishing industry, relentlessly trying to find an agent, receiving many rejections, and finally finding an amazing publisher. This is the second hardest goal I have ever had in my life, with the first becoming a licensed therapist. Patience, especially as a first-time author trying to navigate the publishing industry, is key!
Do you have this nagging sense you are supposed to write a book? Don’t let fear stop you from doing it. Do not hide your gift from the rest of the world. You got this!!
My book, tentatively entitled, Borrowing Hope: A Path To Healing A Broken Heart, should be available in the spring of 2017, through Kregel Publications!!