I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Re:Write conference. The highlight? Probably sitting between Paul Young and Ken Blanchard at dinner. They’ve sold more than 40 million books between the two of them! Priceless wisdom. And so down to earth!
Thought I’d share a little bit about my writing journey and ten lessons learned.
I felt called to write when I was 22, but it took 13 years to write my first book. I actually self-published it just to prove to myself that I could write a book. My first published book was In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. I feel as called to write as I do to pastor. At this point, 99% of my quantitative influence comes as a writer. To me, writing is an act of obedience. It’s not about how many copies you sell. It’s about writing for an audience of one. I don’t type on my keyboard. I pray on it and worship on it. I also take my shoes off when I write because it’s holy ground.
Here are ten lessons learned:
1. Deadlines are lifelines. Without a deadline, I’d still be working on my first book! I leveraged by 35th birthday as a writing deadline. Whether it’s self-imposed or imposed by a publisher, you’ve got to give yourself a deadline or you’ll never finish the first draft.
2. Content is king. If people love a book they will tell their friends about it. There is no substitute or shortcut that can compensate for life-changing content.
3. Be generous with your book. If you’re writing to make money you might as well quit right now! I lost money before I ever made money. I gave away the first 400 copies of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day as a reverse birthday gift and God honored it. Those 400 copies have multiplied a thousand fold. Lora and I give a copy of every book I write to every NCCer. It’s a way of giving back. And I’ve found that you cannot out give God.
4. Pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you. To me, a book sold is not a book sold. A book sold is a prayer answered. I pray that God would put my books in the right hands at the right time. But you also have to work like it depends on you. You’ve got to take speaking engagements and do book signings. There is no replacement for face-to-face encounters with readers. I love signing books because it creates a personal connection.
5. Curriculum. Curriculum. Curriculum.
It takes forever to sell books if you do it one-at-a-time. But if you can create curriculum so that churches can use it as a small group or church-wide campaign it’s a game changer. Then you’re selling dozens or hundreds at a time! The Circle Maker curriculum is one of the driving engines behind the success of the book. I just shot 17 videos for churches who are doing church-wide campaigns. That takes time and effort, but one of those churches has already sold 1000 copies.
6. Find the movers and shakers.
You’ve got to get your book into the hands of key leaders and decision-makers. That’s why I’ll gladly give a book to senior pastors or discipleship pastors. I know it’ll multiply if the book impacts their life. You also need to find tribes that identify with your writing. Praying Circles Around Your Children has found it’s way into MOPS circles. The book hits the bulls-eye of that target audience.
7. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.
You’ve got to leverage social media. word of mouth + word of mouse. One thing I do is hashtag my books and then tweet thoughts that will be inspiring to readers. The test is whether or not they are retweet.
8. Create a website. We have tons of free resources on thecirclemaker.com. I want to add value by giving freebies. We’ve got posters, bookmarks, placemats, sample chapters, sermon outlines, and the entire graphic package.
9. Publishing is a tag-team sport.
I’m grateful for an amazing agent and incredible publisher. You need to find a publisher who loves your writing and believes in your message. That way they’ll champion it. Of course, you can’t expect a publisher to do all the work. If you do, you’ll be sorely disappointed. You’ve got to pull out all the stops and work every angle when it comes to promoting your book. Don’t cross the line into shameless self-promotion, but if you believe in your book you’ll work hard to get it into people’s hands.
10. Celebrate your book when it gets published. Throw a party! Go out to your favorite restaurant. Then cherish every testimony along the way!