I’ve been using Mondays to clear out my mailbag. This week, we’re talking about how to get started as an aspiring author, as well as 6 places to find inspiration for book writing.
Hello, Mrs. Flanders!
I hope you’re doing well. ? I saw your Facebook post about Jon Acuff’s Finish. I’m reading it now and enjoying it. He’s got me thinking about some of my goals that I should stop being a perfectionist about.
I’ve had an interest in writing children’s stories for a while. I know you have several published books. How does that process work for you? Do you self-publish or work with a publisher or literary agent? Do you have a certain routine from the beginning idea phase to completed product?
If you have time to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips. Thank you!
Your questions are ones readers commonly ask, so I’ve decided to answer them online. That way, other budding authors may benefit from the answers, as well.
For a never-before-published author to gain the interest of a literary agent or publishing house is difficult, though not impossible. Vanity presses will be happy to walk you through the publication process. Unfortunately, they are expensive and expect you to do most of your own marketing.
Paying to print a short run of your book on your own dime is also an option. That’s how I originally published my first book. But then you must figure out how to get the books to market and where to store them until they sell. Plus storage and shipping costs back and forth from printers to you to sellers to buyers can quickly eat up all your profits.
Try using a print-on-demand model
A faster route to publication (and the one I now use) is going through a print-on-demand (POD) service like Kindle Direct Publishing. KDP is very user-friendly, and if you do all your own formatting, editing, and cover design, there is no out-of-pocket expense to use it. Amazon will even market the book to buyers on your behalf by making similar-genre suggestions (“people who viewed this item also viewed…”). You only pay printing costs for copies of the book you order yourself. Otherwise, KDP handles everything. They’ll print and deliver your books once they’ve been purchased, then deposit your royalties directly into your bank or PayPal account.
As for the routine I personally use in seeing a book from concept stage to finished product, it differs a little depending on the kind of book I’m trying to write. I’ve published over two dozen different titles in several different genres at this point. Here’s a brief synopsis of how I’ve tackled each genre:
6 Places to Find Inspiration for Book Writing
Some books start with a burden
When I care very deeply about an issue, I sometimes feel as if I might burst if I don’t share my thoughts about it. This was certainly the case with my first book, Love Your Husband/ Love Yourself.
I started writing it the year my firstborn got married. Hearing some of the horribly unbiblical advice he and his bride were receiving was all the motivation I needed. For instance, one misguided soul told my soon-to-be daughter-in-law that the most loving thing she could do for her husband is to withhold physical affection. Despite the fact this advice is in direct opposition to I Corinthians 7:3-5, that self-appointed counselor claimed doing so would teach her husband to “die to himself and become more Christlike.”
Is it any wonder I couldn’t listen to that poison and remain silent? So I wrote 355 pages detailing why God’s plan for marital intimacy is amazing. And documenting the myriad ways both husbands and wives benefit when they prioritize that aspect of their relationship.
Some books start as a hobby
I’ve always been big on drawing and journaling and scrapbooking. I think documenting the past helps us to better carry the life lessons we’ve learned into the future. So you might say my series of devotional journals grew out of those favorite pastimes and longtime hobbies.
My first devotional journal, Moment by Moment, was so well-received by customers that they asked me to make a volume especially for wives and mothers. Those requests resulted in my writing How Do I Love Thee and Sweet Child of Mine.
My Color the Word series of coloring books also grew out of a hobby. I often draw while my husband reads aloud to me and the kids in the evenings after dinner. Many of the designs in my coloring books started off as doodles I sketched during story time.
Some books start with an assignment
Several years ago, a church women’s group in Houston invited me to speak at their annual Spring Banquet. I prepared a deck of PowerPoint slides and delivered my talk to small crowd of about 100 ladies. Several asked afterwards whether the material I shared had been published in book form. Some wanted to review it. Others wished to share it with friends and family members.
Although I’d never written a book on that particular topic beforehand, I had more than enough material to do so. (I’ve had to learn when speaking not to overwhelm my audience with too much information. Otherwise, it feels akin to drinking water from a fire hydrant.) Those requests were all the nudge I needed to write Balance: The Art of Minding What Matters Most.
Some books start as a compilation
Every December, I write a family Christmas letter to include with our holiday cards. These annual Flanders Family Updates allow me to freeze in time all my favorite memories from the preceding twelve months: Significant milestones. Everyday graces. Hard-learned lessons. Crazy mistakes. And funny remarks I don’t want to forget.
I’ve always been surprised to see how well the letters resonate with folks outside our family. People report passing them around the dinner table. Forwarding them to friends. Saving them in three-ring binders. We’ve even received postcards from complete strangers, asking to be put on our mailing list. That’s why we eventually published the letters in a book called Glad Tidings.
Publishing a compilation that spans years or decades of work may seem slow and methodical in the making. But it comes together quickly in the end. I’ve published half a dozen titles this way, including several volumes of themed printable resources I’ve used as subscription bonuses on my blogs. (By way of example, you can currently download my Collection of Pretty Prayer Printables for free when you subscribe to Loving Life at Home.)
Some books start as a blog post
One of the most popular posts I’ve ever published over at Loving Life at Home was a post entitled 25 ways to Communicate Respect for Your Husband. It took my blog from getting 40-50 views a day to getting 40-50 thousand. The last time I counted, this single post had been shared, pinned, and tweeted well over a million times and reposted on more blogs and translated into more languages than I can keep track of.
The post also generated over a thousand comments before my husband asked me to close the discussion. However, there was enough material buried in all the back-and-forth that I was easily able to expand the post into a full book. So that’s what I did. 25 Ways to Communicate Respect for Your Husband went on to win CSPA’s “Book of the Year” award the year it was published.
Incidentally, my husband did the same thing with a companion post he’d written called 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife, and it turned out to be the best selling book he’s written.
Some books start with a deadline
I’ve been buying Ultimate Bundles for years now. I love the incredible value they pack into these awesome digital libraries. Even though I usually read only a handful of books out of each, the value of those few alone far surpasses the price I pay for the entire bundle.
So when I noticed the UB team was seeking resources for an upcoming bundle, I naturally wanted to be included. The submission deadline was only a week away, but I decided to go for it. By repurposing a several dozen blog posts and writing even more chapters from scratch, I finished Get Up & Go: Fun Ideas for Getting Fit as a Family just in the nick of time. It was enthusiastically accepted and, as part of the 2014 Healthy Living Bundle, sold over 18,000 copies in the first week of its release.
Back to the question at hand…
So, what’s the bottom line? If you have a passion or a hobby that would make a great book topic, develop it. If you already have material from speeches, blogs, or other assignments that could be expanded into a book, consider beginning there.
Otherwise, I would suggest you start by writing a blog. Do so with an eye to organizing posts into a book once you have enough of them. Not only would this help grow an audience for your writing, but it would provide helpful feedback along the way. Besides, having a platform already in place can’t hurt. It would make you less of a gamble to literary agents or traditional publishing houses in the future, should you hope to eventually publish that way.