How to Get a Book Published

I have a lot of people ask me how to get a book published?   This is usually not a short conversation.   I typically ask a lot of questions before I can even give somebody an answer. Maybe you are considering writing a book. Here’s my normal conversation I have with someone who asks how to get a book published. I hope this is helpful.

Who do you want to write for?

The first question that I try to get an author to answer is- Who is your audience?   I don’t think an aspiring author can put too much energy into learning about their audience.  You need to know what makes them tick.  You need to know exactly what they read, how they live, the type of music they listen to, what pulls at their heartstrings.

Here’s the problem.   When I ask this question to authors many of them have no idea who the audience is thier writing for. They literally don’t know who they’re trying to reach.   I tell them you have a lot of work to do before you can even talk to a publisher.   In fact, you really shouldn’t start writing anything at all until you know to whom you’re writing.

Women’s fiction sounds a lot different than men’s fiction. News Flash-  That’s because women are different than men.  They buy different books, they have different tastes, they read different than the other sex. Nonfiction is a totally different genre of literature than fiction.   The audience that reads nonfiction is typically a different audience than reads fiction. You can write for one but not the other.  So you have to know to whom your writing before you put pen to paper.

What do you want to write?

Here’s another great question. What do you want to write?   I found there are two types of authors in the world:  those that “have to say something” and those that “have got something to say”!

Authors that “have something to say” have a compelling story inside of them.   Like a painter or a sculptor this thing is brewing up inside them and they feel the need to get it out.   The only way to find release is to get this story on the paper.  After all, why would anyone go through the intense work of putting a book into print? It’s not an easy task!  Here’s the deal about those types of authors. It really doesn’t matter how many books they sell. Their goal is to tell a story well.   You can pick up any book in the world and figure out in a few minutes does this author have something to say or do they just have to say something.

The other type of authors are the ones that “have to say something”.   These are the folks that are clearly writing for fame or fortune.   In other words, it’s not about the story. They could care less about the story. Their interest, is in what the story does for them.  Don’t waste your time or your money on books by authors that “have to say something”.

Why do you want to write?

This question cuts to the heart of the matter. Why do you want to write?   Most people are not honest with me because they’re not honest with themselves when I get to this question. But when I press a little bit harder I find it usually boils down to one of three reasons why someone wants to write: fame, fortune or for God’s Glory.

Fame is a powerful motivator. People will go to great lengths to get their name out there. The amount of work that it takes to get a book in print is not easy. So, if fame is your motivation, maybe it will be enough to get the story onto paper, but I’m certain it won’t make the story compelling.    An author’s raw desire for fame will not keep the reader’s interest. The fortune that comes with writing can also be very tempting.  Write the next New York Times bestseller and you will probably make a lot of money. (By the way, the publisher will make a whole lot more than you will.)  But the overwhelming majority of books will never make a lot of money. So if your desire is fortune, the odds are definitely not in your favor.

When I talk to authors, I’m most impressed by those who want to write for the glory of God!  For these men and women, it doesn’t matter how much money they make. It doesn’t even matter if no one reads the book.  Their real goal is to bring King Jesus glory!   Just the very act of faithfulness accomplishes their goal. Putting words to paper is doing exactly what they feel called by God to do.   Obviously, they want somebody to read the book. Certainly, they want as many people as possible to read what they write.   But for this very small group of people writing is faithfulness to God. Faithfulness to God is success. So the act of writing is honoring Jesus in and of itself.

To be honest, maybe this is some of the reason why some Christian material is poorly written.  I challenge writers to keep in mind that everything they do should be for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).  The writing task must be for God’s glory!  Anything less, isn’t worthy of him. If you write for Jesus’ pleasure, then you should write well.   Everything should be done with excellence because our Lord deserves no less.   Christian material then should be Pulitzer Prize worthy books.  Christian books should be award-winners. A Christian author’s aim isn’t winning awards- rather writing in such a way to honor Jesus with what they write, and the way that they write it.

The bottom line…the heart of the matter really is a matter of the heart.   What is your heart’s motivation for wanting to write?   Be like Luke in his Gospel and the book of Acts.  He writes to influence Theophilus and to honor King Jesus. (Luke 1:1-4)

Further reading