Tag s | Pitching

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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Are You Pitch Perfect?

A critical key to landing a book deal is the presentation of your idea in such a way that the editor or agent is completely sold out on the concept. In musical terms, perfect pitch is the rare talent to name or pick out a note without having any reference …

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How Do You Know What Will (or Will Not) Sell?

There is a mysterious magic embedded in the mythos of the publishing industry…the ability to pick successful books. I was recently asked “You say ‘no’ so often, how do you know when to say ‘yes?’” I wish I could claim that every agent and publisher have a secret formula that we consult …

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Know Your Genre When Making a Pitch

Awhile ago I received a call that illustrates a common error a writer can make when making their pitch…The problem of not knowing the genre in which they are writing. The call went something like this: Writer: I’m calling to see if your agency handles Westerns. Agent: That is a tough …

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Acquisitions Director: God

This subject has been covered before by smarter people at our agency, but I am hoping that Steve Laube considers imitation truly the greatest form of flattery! Every aspiring or experienced Christian author is alerted to avoid mentioning that “God told me to write this book” when speaking to an agent …

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Unsolicited Proposals: aka “The Slush Pile”

All literary agents receive dozens of proposal each week. Some in the mail and some via email. Last week was a slow week, only 30 unsolicited proposals arrived. (Unsolicited means proposals that are not from our existing clients. We get a number of those each week too.)  The variety can …

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News You Can Use – June 25, 2013

Elevator Pitches: If You Build it, They Will Come. – Excellent post from Susan Spann! Do the exercise on your own pitch.

Christian Stores See 8.5% Overall Gain in 2012 – Looks like the growth came from non-book items. That is good news in that it means traffic in the stores has increased and reversed recent trends.

101 Things to Do to Build Your Writing Platform –  My advice? Don’t try all of them at once, your blood pressure can’t handle it. But pick ten and see what you can do with them by the end of Summer.

Helen Keller on Optimism – Amazing. If she could feel this way (she was deaf, dumb, and blind), why are you complaining?

Helen Keller on Optimism – Amazing. If she could feel this way (she was deaf, dumb, and blind), why are you complaining?

“Writing and the Brain” infographic. – You tell me. Does this help you understand how you think as a writer?

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News You Can Use – June 18, 2013

Self-Published eBooks Account for 12% of the Entire Digital Market – Watch the stats for trends.

How People Read Online – Does this mean I have to shorten my blog posts? And if I do will you still skip the last 2/3rds of what I write anyway?

Three Scriptural Cautions Against Self-Publishing – Do you agree or disagree? (and then read the next link below)

Three Reasons to Support Self-Publishing – A rebuttal to the previous link. I appreciate careful discourse and debate that does not devolve into chaos. This point-counterpoint is a wonderful example of how to conduct this type of conversation.

Did You Forget to Pay Royalties for Singing “Happy Birthday”? – A fascinating article which tells of a company who is suing to get “Happy Birthday” declared public domain. Ever wonder why restaurants all have their own song for celebrating birthdays? They don’t want to receive an invoice from the copyright holder who makes $5,000,000 a year in royalties.

3 mistakes to avoid when following up on a pitch – This article can be applied to pitching editors and agents too.

10 Blogging Tactics To Maximize Long-Term Results – Excellent advice from Heidi Cohen. I get this kind of question a lot from authors trying to use their blog to market their books.

The Overwhelming Force of “Gradual” – Seth Godin talks about building low and slow for maximum success.

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Do You Have Perfect Pitch?

Thanks so much for all the ideas for my mini-conferences. I’ll put those together soon.

Speaking of conferences, while I was at a writer’s retreat awhile back, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers. This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if I would be interested in representing the author. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, made up of anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.

It’s the writer’s conference version of speed dating!

The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project and of the market that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that’s doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were. That took about 45 seconds of her 4 minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don’t know if we’ll pursue it–the writing is what tips the scales, of course. But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I’m considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I’ll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.

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