Thursday, December 8, 2011

Independent Christian Self-Publishers Must Become Experts

Become an Expert
The advise of marketers is good: develop a label and then promote that label. This same advice applies to authoring, yet I fell into that trap. As a Christian non-fiction writer, I wrote three books in rather quick fashion, and each dealt with three totally disparate topics:
  • A linguistic study of the Bible focusing on chiasms
  • A topical look at Proverbs
  • A look at love as seen symbolically through flowers

All three topics had been and continue to be very interesting to me, but there is only so much of me to go around. God had inspired me to write each book, particularly the first and third, and much of the content had been composed by listening to the Holy Spirit. What I now find is that I must retool my skills so I become an expert in each genre, and that is most challenging.

The self-publishing industry also has its share of learning demands. We can initially out-source those areas where we lack the expertise such as the conversion of the manuscript from a word processor to print-ready format. Organizations such as Create Space can help with the first book or so, but eventually you will want to get out of that arena. You may find yourself creating your own book covers with a tool such as Photoshop, or using Adobe's InDesign to manage the interior of the manuscript. You will learn social marketing techniques such as Facebook and Twitter, and how to create compelling websites. All of these and more are examples of the expertise that the self-publisher will confront and eventually dig into.

To many, writing can be a lonely vocation with hour after hour spent alone researching and developing the next manuscript. As writers, I find that our industry can be one of considerable discouragement. I suppose it is the same with Christian fiction: very little interaction with people who would provide the needed support when the title does not meet our expectations.

Why do we write? It should be because we have heard the voice of the Lord instructing us that we are to proceed in that direction. Without that, we set ourselves up for failure.

For those of us that write, we often do so because built within us is a need to be heard. Some people stand around the water cooler, spouting opinions or concerns because we feel our voice counts. Others more quietly develop close circles of friends where we can share our need to be heard. Authors will often express themselves through the written word because of an envisioned audience that will theoretically listen.

My counsel is to re-think your reason for writing: compose because you want God's next revelation, knowing this is then to be shared.

For me, I recently choose to dig into the subject of Proverbs because two divine circumstances instructed me to move in that direction. Further, I want God's wisdom on that topic – and I have not been disappointed. Each time I dug further into the subject of Proverbs, I saw more and more that I had totally missed with my earlier efforts. Our Lord is in the revelation business, and that in itself allows me to keep moving forward.

Will I continue to develop the other two genres: chiasms or love/flowers? I don't know and wait further instructions from the Lord. In the meantime, I put the other genres on hold and dig deeper into Proverbs. That, I believe, is my instruction for today.

If your God-given topic is anger, become an expert on the subject of anger from a Christian perspective. If it is about a particular Christian leader, develop the genre by either pursuing more about that leader or finding other leaders that are somehow similar. If your topic is mental health, God alone can help you because this whole authoring/publishing business is driving me crazy.