Advice for Writers from Christian Author Frank Viola
Guest post by Frank Viola
Many people have asked me for advice on writing and publishing. I’ve written six books published by four different publishers, and thankfully, each one has done well. While I claim no expertise in this area, I can share from what I’ve experienced so far.
This is a condensed version of the original article.
1. G.H. Lang once said that a person shouldn’t publish a book before age 40. When it comes to non-fiction, spiritually-based books, I agree with him. Let maturity and experience take its course.
2. Be sure your book contains unique content. Before you set out to the formidable task of writing a book, do some research and ask yourself: “Does a book like the one I’m wanting to write already exist, and is it in print?”
3. The reason you want to write a book is to spread certain ideas far and wide. Hopefully, the Lord will use those ideas to change lives. Books are still the greatest way to spread a message.
4. If you’re writing non-fiction, be sure that you’ve experienced what you’re writing about for at least 5 years. On-the-ground experience with a subject is vital to provide accurate, life-giving content.
5. Build a readership base. This is vital if a publisher will look at your work. Begin by creating a web site, a blog and use social networking tools like Twitter.
6. First time authors: Start talking about your first book on your blog, web site, and Twitter at least 2 years before it releases. Build momentum, interest, and anticipation. Build a relationship with potential readers.
7. If you want the book to have the most impact, seek a legitimate publisher to publish your book. I’ve self-published, and I’ve gone with publishers. The difference is night and day. Having a publisher gives a book credibility, a better look and feel, and far more distribution. Self-published books rarely get large traction.
8. Obtain a book agent. An agent can find you a publisher and will negotiate terms. For a listing of Christian book agents, get the 2011 Christian Market Writer’s Guide. This guide is a must for anyone interested in publishing a Christian book.
9. If you are writing your book on a “hot” topic, keep in mind that the hour might pass by the time your book comes out. It takes eight months to a year from the time you submit your manuscript until the book is available for purchase.
10. Try to get endorsements, but don’t panic if you can’t. Endorsements mean nothing to some readers. They mean a lot to others. But they won’t make or break a book.
11. Be involved in choosing the title, the cover, and the back cover copy. These three ingredients are key to the success of any book.
12. Don’t expect your publisher to sell your book. Yes, publishers have marketing departments and publicists, but you should expect to promote the book yourself.
13. If you are challenging the status quo in your book, expect opposition, character assassination, and even threats. If you aren’t prepared for such things, don’t embark on writing that kind of a book. Followers of Jesus should be unoffendable.
14. Keep your expectations low . . . very low. Life will be more enjoyable for you.
15. Identify and write to and for your specific audience. No book is for everyone. Give serious thought to who your audience exactly is and write to them.
16. There’s no one correct writing style or method. Everyone is different on this. Find your own style and method, and stick with it.
17. Expect to have seasons where you will grow weary of writing and lose inspiration and motivation. This is normal. That’s the time to explore how to recharge your creativity and discover what inspires you to write.
18. Find a writing schedule that works best for you. Experiment until you find your groove. Atmosphere, including scents, are important.
19. After you are published, be available to dialogue with your readers. Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc.
20. Consider co-authoring a book. If you have “writing chemistry” with another author, this can be helpful and fun.
21. Never forget that it takes a long time for the message of a book to begin to create a visible effect in the world. So be patient. You may see it in your lifetime. Then again you may not. Sometimes a book changes the world after the author has passed on.
FRANK VIOLA is the author of numerous Christian books, including the bestselling From Eternity to Here, Jesus Manifesto, Reimagining Church, and the new release Revise Us Again. His website, www.FrankViola.com, contains a vast array of free articles, podcasts, interviews, and discussion guides. His blog, www.frankviola.wordpress.com, is very popular among Christians.