Monday, December 01, 2008

Five Things Christian Writers Should Know

Five Things Christian Writers Should Know by Pam Perry

“Just because you have a computer, doesn’t make you a writer,” said a publishing executive at a recent Book Expo of America.

Fact is 81% of all Americans think they should write a book (according to Write & Publish magazine) and only two percent of that crowd ever actually complete a manuscript – and get it published.

True computers have made writing a book easier and print-on-demand (POD) has made publishing a snap.

Problem is there are about 150,000 new books a year and they’re not all selling!

So here are some simple things to do to move you from book idea, manuscript to real sales!

1. Learn about writing. Taking writing courses. Go to and get info on their American School of Christian Writing, The Writer’s Institute and/or Writer’s Mini Course. Also subscribe to their newsletter (The Christian Communicator or The Advanced Christian Writer). Take time to go to various writers’ conferences where you’ll meet editors, publishers and other authors. You may even find a mentor at some of these events.

Getting a writing mentor is so critical to your success – if you listen and heed their advice! There are tons of book coaches.

Here’s a few I’d recommend: Minister Mary Edwards ( and Judy Cullins ( and Sophronia Scott ( They will help you get the book out of your head and on the page!

Finally, read! Best-selling Christian fiction author, Victoria Christopher Murray, said on a recent Chocolate Pages Show, “In order to be a good writer, you have to read good writing.” I am so surprised when I talk to many Christian writers and I ask if they have read any of the “best-sellers” - as least the Christian or spiritual books. They answer, “NO.”

Some have never even read “The Purpose Driven Life” (the best selling book of all time), The Shack (a Christian publishing phenomenon in the book world) or The Secret (at least take cues how they have marketed the mega-star of a book). Most Christian authors don’t even take note of any of the top ten New York Times or CBA best-sellers.

Ughh! You have to know what the market is buying and read it to see why the book is highly acclaimed. By doing a little homework, you can improve your writing. You have to move it from a hobby to a craft if you want a viable book.

Books Every Writer Needs at Their Fingertips!

A. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Knowlton Zinsser (Paperback - April 1998)

Best book I've read on what, specifically, makes up a great piece of writing.

B. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White, Charles Osgood (Afterword), Roger Angell--

Do you ever wonder where those punctuation marks go? Well, I do, too! And when I get confused, I reach for my little Elements of Style. It's short and sweet and handy as a pocket on a shirt.

C. Also subscribe to Writer’s Digest. Invaluable information every month! Also see all these links:

2. Learn about self-publishing and how the book industry works. I have had writers come to me and tell me their “publishing nightmare” stories. They talk about how printers or subsidy publishers took advantage of them.

Yes, there are companies who will swindle you. But, if you are well-informed, it will lessen the chances of someone ripping you off. Don’t rely on one source for all your information. Use Google and do some research! You must do your due diligence.

Take this test and see how if you are a good candidate to self-publish. (

Know where to get an ISBN, how to get national distribution, where to find a cover designer, typesetter, printer, etc. Ask other self-published authors what they’ve done and how it has worked for them. Follow the leaders. Do what they did to achieve success.

Study what Kendra Norman Bellamy, Stephanie Perry Moore, Marilynn Griffith or Kim Brooks have done. Most authors have their “publishing testimonial” on their website or offer publishing tips to new authors. Read their advice – you can learn from mistakes or from mentors. Mentors are cheaper.

3. Learn about marketing and publicity. Build a platform. No book will sell without telling others about it – over and over again. Not just once. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Creating “buzz” requires a strategy and a strong platform. (Click to hear this Podcast show where I talk about how to promote your book)

Once the book is published a lot of authors believe it will sell by itself. Many Christians sway the other way and are too humble to tell anyone about their book. They believe if they put it up on Amazon or tell a few of their “yes buddies” it will take off. NOT! Just like any product that is sold for cold cash, it must be marketed and promoted in order to sell. It takes money to make money.

4. Learn about agents. Agents are not your “literary fairy God-mothers.” They are in business to make money. And they make money by selling “marketable” writers to publishing houses. Besides having a great book, decent platform, an audience – you must also have a good book proposal. The proposal is what sells your book. Part of that proposal is the marketing plan. Again, it’s about the bottom line.

It took former Heart and Soul editor Stephanie Stokes Oliver 25 years to have her first book published. And she had a platform and was a professional writer. She had to find the right publishing house. She says she went through 10 agents and eventually got the divine connection and got three book deals.

5. Learn about Web 2.0, podcasting, blogging, social networking.
Did you know you can blog on if you’re an author? You can even put up video reviews. How cool is that? You must embrace technology and keep up with what is moving books. Obviously the best way to move books is to get people talking – and the more they hear your passion and get curious about all the “buzz” they keep hearing from you online – the more you will attract customers.

So, “get out” by joining Facebook, Linkedin, Myspace and Twitter. Do a Blogtalk Radio Show and get a Youtube channel. Post up your blogs in RSS feeds and even do some daring stuff like join a lot of “nings” or start one! Join the Chocolate Pages Network (a new social network for Christian Authors). There is so many ways for an author to get exposure online – hey, it may even up on Oprah as part of her “Book Club.” Cha-Ching!

See too!


Sandy said...

Great article, Pam!

I am a book publicist for Smith Publicity. An important part of my job is educating authors.

Authors often tell me the EASY part was writing the book!

Learning about distribution and promotion is often a new and uncomfortable place for them.

One author (who was a CFO at a Fortune 500 company) recently told me after he had 10,000 copies of his book printed, that he had NO IDEA the HUGE cut Amazon takes from authors. He was stuck with a garage full of books with no plan to break even on his project.

You are correct to tell people to do their homework at the early stages!

Carla Y. Nix said...

Excellent! Pam, thank you for this informative article.


Carla Y. Nix

Hajj E. Flemings said...

Great post. Writing a book is a commitment that goes far beyond creating the initial product. The things you listed out identifies the extend of that commitment which includes being engaged in social networks.


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