If you want to hear some really stupid mistakes I made as an author, then read the following with the hope that it might help you.
It’s never been easier to get a book published. There are still great commercial publishers that offer incredible services and promotion. But now there are many places to go for self-publishing, and this approach no longer carries the stigma that it once did. Indeed, many well-known authors are choosing this path more frequently. I must confess pride in LifeWay’s self-publishing arm, CrossBooks. Those folks are doing a great job providing a menu of services for their authors.
I frequently hear from pastors, staff, and lay leaders about some great book ideas they have. Some have already published them. Publishing has become a fantastic way to broaden your message.
I have authored, co-authored, or edited 24 books. So how many of those books were good books? I am embarrassed to say. Let me just confess that the number is far below 24.
For the first time in my life I have two top-selling books (I Am a Church Member and Autopsy of a Deceased Church), either in the top ten or top fifteen depending on the service doing the rankings. But my path has been arduous and full of mistakes. Maybe my confessions about these eleven mistakes will help you who are writing—or considering writing—a book.
- I forgot my audience. I wrote a book for me, not for my readers. I did not consider what they wanted or needed to hear. I became self-absorbed and wrote out of my ego instead of the needs of others.
- I expected my publisher to promote my book. Books that have great receptivity in the marketplace are written by people who have a platform on which to speak. I wrote books and sat back and waited on my publisher. Stupid mistake.
- I wrote a book expecting great financial returns. Very, very, very few authors make much money on their books. I am ashamed that it was a primary motivator for me with some of my books (Disclaimer: My royalties from B&H go to a charitable fund.). The book must be about the message. Not many authors can make a living only by writing.
- I did not verify “facts” in my book. I remember the first time my editor called me and said a statement in my book could not stand as it was written. The sentence began with these words: “Statistics show that . . .” I have since learned that you never write or say those words. You cite your source and the exact findings
- I did not seek outside counsel about my book. I bulldozed forward as if I were the font of all knowledge. If I had asked a few trusted advisors to evaluate my book before I submitted it, I would have saved a lot of pain.
- I argued with my editor. Several books ago, I just knew I had the perfect title for a book. My editor, who had probably helped launch several hundred books, said that my title stunk. I thought I knew more than he did, so I argued for two weeks over the issue. He finally told me to go ask any 10 to 12 people to choose the title. I asked 10 people. And 10 out of 10 people liked his title. Most of them laughed at my title. He prevailed and the book did well.
- I thought the best path to sell my book was to get it on the shelves of retail stores. I learned this lesson the hard way as well. Here is the lesson I learned: if a book has a message people want to hear, retailers will carry it. But if it has to be pushed on them to be put it in their stores, sales will be anemic even if they comply. Customers can buy any title they want via the Internet today. If brick-and-mortar stores see it’s doing well online, they will carry it in their stores.
- I did not connect the rest of my world with the book I wrote. So I let my book stand as a solo endeavor and did not mention it in other venues when I wrote and spoke. God has given each of us a message; a book is but one facet of that message.
- I acted like a big shot after I published book. This degradation in my life happened most vividly after I published my first book as a solo author. I learned painfully that lost humility is a stumbling block to the world, beginning with my family.
- I expected the publisher to clean up mistakes in the book. I put one book together hastily. It was filled with mistakes. My warped rationale was that the editor could take care of those things. That publisher never asked me to do a book with them again.
- I failed to clarify the book’s unique message. There are tens of thousands of Christian books written each year. In some of my books, I simply repeated what others were saying. I failed to communicate a unique message that would make my book different than others.
I am blessed to be a writer. It is indeed by multiple acts of grace by God and others that I still write today. I have made so many stupid mistakes.
Have you written a book? Do you have a message that you want others to hear? Do my confessions help you? What would you add?