I’m not a great “how to” guy.  Tons of people finished my book “Speaking of Jesus” and then emailed or messaged me and said something like:  “So. I’ve read your book. Great job. Loved it.  But what do I do now?”    🙂

So I’m really the last guy to write a how-to blog about anything. However, I’ve been asked dozens of times in the last year to explain how I did it.  The “it” is getting published.

If I were to list my credentials – which, of course, we all know isn’t very godly….here’s what I’d say:

  1. I self published Pillars and Prophets and sold 6000 copies right away.
  2. I think rewrote that book as “Muslims, Christians and Jesus” and published it with Bethany House (it’s been one of the bestselling books on Muslims in the three and a half years it’s been out).
  3. I then co-authored with Ted Dekker the fun travelogue “Tea with Hezbollah.” It was published hardback by Doubleday.
  4. I published a DVD series with a Participants Guide with Zondervan.
  5. One year ago “Speaking of Jesus” was released with David C. Cook.

They’ve all sold well.  Frontiers bought and gave away 20,000 copies of “Muslims, Christians and Jesus.”  We gave away 30,000 copies on Kindle in one week of “Speaking of Jesus.” The DVD series with Zondervan won the “Resource of the Year” with Outreach magazine.

Okay, yuck. Enough about that.  I’d love for YOU to be able to do the same and more. How?  Here are the 5 (not so) Easy Steps. And…I’m assuming you’re a first-time author:

  1. Write something good.  All other steps don’t matter if what you have to say isn’t good. But what’s “good” mean? Have you seen some of the stuff out there? Some is downright awful.  I would define “good” in three ways. It either has to be helpful, interesting or informative.  (Helpful and informative or not the same).
  2. Be willing to edit and re-edit. The average published manuscript goes through 7-10 rewrites. If you’re too sensitive for this – don’t start. You write it. Have some friends edit it. Hire an editor. And still plan to have the publisher tear it apart.
  3. After you have the best possible manuscript, find an agent. Google them. Ask around.  Go to writers conferences.  Spend a LOT of work on finding an agent.  A publisher will not talk to you without one. Expect to “spend” 15% on all your earnings.
  4. With the help of your new agent, write a proposal for the book. The agent will lead you through this process.  The proposal (not the manuscript) is what you (actually the agent) will send to the publishers.  They will “shop” your proposal around until a publisher is interested enough to read your full manuscript.  Ideally, you will have more than one publisher make you an offer.  “Offers” vary widely.  It used to be typical to get a 15-30 thousand dollar advance (advance against future royalties) but those are more rare now. You just want a publisher who believes in you and your work.
  5. Agree to the best fit and hand it over.  The rest of the process is a negotiation between you and your publisher (with your agent helping you understand what’s going on) about everything. Your book cover.  The title and subtitle. The manuscript itself. The way it’s released – when it’s released. How it’s marketed, etc.  From the time you sign with a publisher until your book is released is often one year.  Don’t grow weary!

Other Options!

A.  Now….after saying all of that – there are several other options. You can self publish (which is what I did at first). Basically you write and edit your own book and take it to a local printer (or ship it to China to have them print it). The advantage of doing this is threefold:

* It’s quick and easy.

* It’s cheap. You can print a full book for $2 a copy or less. And then you get to keep the difference. So if you sell your book for $10 a copy – you make $8 profit for each copy sold (you will average about $1.25 a copy going through a publisher).

* It’s just a lot less hassle.

The downsides are many though. You have to do all your own marketing.  You don’t have the built-in platform that a publisher gives you. And you forfeit their expert help.

B. You can publish it direct to the internet as an e-book (“e” is electronic). You can post it as a pdf and sell it through Pay Pal on your website.  You can upload it to iTunes or other such platforms. You can even sell direct through Amazon in their Kindle store.

This is really easy and extremely cheap. But you have all the downsides of self publishing.

C. You can blog your book. More and more would-be authors simply want their information or story out there. So they simply blog it.  Which is a great place to start. If you can’t write a series of blogs – that people want to read – you probably can’t write (let alone publish) a book.

Final thought about getting published – the publisher (and the agent before that) will look at your “platform.”  A platform is the thing you stand on when you give a talk. How tall is yours?  How broad?  If you don’t speak publicly or have thousands already following your blog or your Facebook or Twitter posts, you have an uphill climb.  Work on developing your platform.  If you have something to say – that’s helpful, interesting or informative – then you want to have a platform from which to deliver that message.

What else would you add to this?  Leave some comments about your experience.