Work First, Book Second

For successful authors of non-fiction, no one career or life-path is common.

Family situations, upbringing, education and experiences are unique to each person. Listening to an author explain how they became successful is always a combination of things someone else could never duplicate perfectly.

It’s like someone giving a business seminar titled, “This is how I did it.” It is rarely an exact blueprint or helpful to another person other than giving ideas and motivation to keep pushing ahead.

But there is one thing close to being a common factor among successful Christian non-fiction writers.

The book never preceded their ministry work.

In the Christian publishing world, best-selling authors of non-fiction didn’t write a book about a certain issue and then get started working in ministry or serving others using the principles of the book.

Ministries have expanded and grown through books, but are not needed to start a ministry.

If you want to help married people improve their marriage, don’t write a book. Instead, start with one couple and then another and another.  A book is an outgrowth of successful personal ministry, not visa versa.

Start serving, speaking, studying, teaching and leading, then once you have crystallized your thinking and proven the concepts over time, a book is possible.

But the book is never first.

Call it platform, credibility or whatever you want, but the best Christian books are an outgrowth of a growing personal ministry. They are the next logical step, providing resources for a growing audience, not the first thing you do to start the ministry.

If you are regularly speaking or teaching in your local church and beyond, books could come when you see a clamoring for more information or direction from those you serve.

Successful books rarely come from authors who were uninvolved in any sort of growing, vibrant ministry.

This would explain why writing alone rarely makes up for lack of platform, credentials and public persona. If a manuscript is the only thing you have, chances are agents and publishers will not be interested. They require a package of elements be present.

Let me illustrate how this plays out practically.

Maybe you have attended a seminar or read about the need to create an “elevator speech” to describe your work. The idea is to communicate in a succinct manner the theme and promise of your book as if you had just twenty seconds in an elevator with another person.

(By the way, it really is twenty seconds. You don’t get to press the red button to stop the elevator and trap the audience until you are done with your pitch twenty minutes later. In legal terms, this is called “unlawful restraint.” I am sure there will be some amount of jail-time involved.)

Most elevator speeches I’ve heard focus on the book and leave out the author, but it is the author and book together which make for a compelling description.

I recommend every elevator speech include something about you as the author and why you are uniquely qualified to write the book. It’s not solely about the book idea.

“After twenty-five years of ministry to the poor, my book compares how Jesus treated the poor versus typical church ministry today. The differences are important and life changing. I include a roadmap to revolutionizing local ministry to the poor.”

If you leave out the first phrase, the book is far less interesting. The book topic begs to have an author who has deep knowledge of and involvement in the issue.

Pick any book, even those on the best-seller list and the tipping point for its validity is the author, their credibility and ministry. Their credibility comes from serving first, not writing a book first.

Both you and your book need to ride the elevator together.


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