Think Like a Publisher First
“Ready, fire, aim!”
Is that how a marksman hits the target? Of course not.
Even people who don’t like guns know that you must aim before you pull the trigger.
Unfortunately, most Christian writers don’t understand this concept when it comes to writing a book. They are consumed with writing the book and “fire” first, giving no thought about whether it will sell.
That’s why Christian writers need to think like a publisher first.
Publisher Passion is Important
Most of us Christians love the living Word (the Lord Jesus) and the written word (the Bible). We even give considerable thought to the incarnation, especially at Christmastime, when God became flesh in the person of Christ.
Some people like to point out the Bible is a supernatural book; it is the thoughts of God translated into symbols — the letters, words and sentences that we can all understand.
However, in all this incarnational thinking. We miss a practical point. That is, in the New Testament, Jesus spoke the words and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote them down. But many others in that era, and in the 2000 years after that, made copies and distributed the fragments that later became the New Testament as we know it today.
Did those who copied the fragments and distribute them have a name? In earliest times many individuals did the work. In later times, the work was given to monks who painstakingly made Bibles by hand. They meticulously copied and bound them.
What do we call the people who print and distribute Bibles and other Christian books today? They are publishers. Publishers have, from earliest days, had a distinct and crucial role in disseminating the gospel.
In this age of self-publishing, it is important that writers be concerned with more than just writing — they must have publisher passion.
Think Like a Publisher First
The role of publisher is an important one. The publisher is responsible for editing the manuscript, packaging the book (which includes interior and cover design, whether paperback or eBook), and for selling it.
Too many Christian writers think like a writer rather making any distinction between the writing and publishing tasks. They undermine their writing efforts when they do that.
In my experience, Christian writers have a false altruism. Many of them say, “I don’t care if I make any money with this book, I just want to get it out there.”
That’s self-effacing, in my opinion. If you think like a publisher, you want to get the widest circulation possible. Why? Because it takes time and money to tell the world your book exists. You want to make money so you can gain a wide audience you think your book deserves. Writers don’t seem to get that concept, but publishers do.
Income is a measure of the success of a book. If Christian writers were really altruistic they would use contemporary methods to make sure their book got the widest possible readership. Offering the book free devalues the worth of the writing. Accepting money for it also allows you to invest the money in marketing that exposes your book to an even wider audience. Also, income often allows authors the freedom to write other books. If you, as a writer, have excess profits, you can give them to your church or a Christian mission organization that you support.
The point is that you must think like a publisher first. That includes being a responsible steward when it comes to editing your book, packaging it and marketing it.
Writing is a creative right brain activity. Publishing is a calculated, businesslike left brain activity.
How a Writer Can Think Like a Publisher
Here are two simple but important things any Christian writer can do:
Confirm that by making sure that someone wants to read your book. Christian writers believe that they get their ideas from God. As a Christian publisher you want to confirm that, and I have addressed that issue in another article. You think like a publisher when you verify in advance that your book has a potential readership.
Write a sales page before you start writing. The sales page is not an outline of your book contents, but rather is a list of benefits your book offers. You want to write your sales page in such a way that it grabs the attention of potential readers and draws them deeper into the content of your book.
Many Christian writers will think that writing a sales page first is crass. Nevertheless, it helps you be reader-centric. People are looking for benefits, so making them clear in your own mind in the form of the sales page will result in a better book.
A sales page is also persuasive in nature. People have never lived more distracted lives, and you need to give them specific reasons they should buy and read your book. There is nothing unspiritual about “pitching” your book to potential readers. In fact, you have a solemn duty to arouse their interest if you think you got your ideas, and your expression of them, from God.
When you do some market research, and when you write a sales page first, you get a new perspective on the book you are about to write. It will improve both your purpose and your focus.
You can and should think like a Christian writer. I want to underscore the importance of that. You have a vision for a book or blog post and it’s important that you fulfill it. However, you should think like a publisher first and then let your writing flow from that.