Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Publishers and Publishing: Tyndale House, Operation Mobilization and BookSurge

I love my publishers!

Tyndale House
believed in me and my first book, The Contemporary Christian Music Debate, back in 1993. They were professional, responsive, respectful, and landed me lots of radio interviews for publicity. But after a couple of printings, they questioned whether it would keep selling strongly for the long-haul. Every time a traditional publisher prints 5,000 copies, they risk having to store those babies and sell them cheap if they don't sell. I completely understand their concerns.

But I felt it could keep selling. So Operation Mobilization did a reprint and distributed it more globally. Other publishers picked it up in Spanish, German, Romanian, Dutch and Russian.
After OM ran out of copies, Cherie (my wife) urged me to explore self-publishing options. I resisted, assuming that I'd have to charge an exorbitant price per copy, since they weren't printing in large quantities. But four things made me look deeper:

1) Even Amazon ran out of used copies. Somebody was trying to sell a used one for over $500!

2) I realized that churches still struggled to determine their optimum style of music in worship, and that my book offered a sound, researched approach that could help.

3) I read a book that gave me a vision. In Damn! Why Didn't I Write That?, Marc McCutcheon showed me how he makes a living off writing books that stay on the publisher's backlist. They're not flashy bestsellers, just profitable workhorses that keep making their impact and leaving a check in his mailbox at the end of each year. And he profits enough to make a darn good living as a writer. "Intriguing...", I thought.

4) My wife got tired of waiting on me and called BookSurge, a subsidiary of Amazon, telling them to call me and explain their services.

I went with BookSurge and so far couldn't be more pleased. Here's what I got:
  • Extremely fast results. From that first phone call to the time it was available for purchase on Amazon was seven weeks. Basically, I sent them the book, they scanned it, printed it, sent me a proof, got my approval and it was done.
  • Professional-looking print.
  • Good pricing. Sells for $15.99 on Amazon. I receive 25% for every copy sold.
  • Reasonable up-front cost. I paid a total of $378 for them to set everything up.
  • It's available online. People can order from,, and It also appears in and
  • They help me to learn marketing skills. I'm attending my next webinar tonight. Extremely helpful.
So if BookSurge is so great, why do I keep sending new manuscripts to traditional publishers?
  • Respect. Many institutions and individuals know that a book with a reputable publisher has endured a huge selection process, making it more likely to be quality.
  • Distribution to bookstores. Traditional publishers market well to bookstores. You're much more likely to get into bookstores with a traditional publisher.
  • Publicity. Tyndale House set me up with nice brochures and got me around 30 radio interviews.
  • Up-front money. Traditional publishers pay authors an advance to publish the book. They take the risk that your book might not sell and they might lose money.
I'll keep you posted on my publishing experiences over time.

Friday, October 12, 2007

How I Write: My Chatty Muse

Authors differ widely in how they write. My method would drive some crazy. Take what you can use; flush the rest. I'll write this piece slowly, a bit at a time. So come back occasionally if you want more.

Where I Get My Ideas

I have a chatty muse.

Sometimes she bugs me relentlessly, feeding me ideas rapid fire while I'm driving, cooking, lifting weights or mowing. While I'm writing one manuscript, she taunts me by offering juicy morsels for other articles or books or Websites.

I never stifle her. (You don't want to offend your muse!) Instead, I'm never without paper and pen, a recorder, or a computer file to capture her musings. Ideas accumulate much faster than I could ever shape them into articles or books. I'm sure I'll die with hundreds of ideas that never see the printed page.

I'm not complaining. I can't recall any instance of writer's block in a lifetime of writing. Not one. My most difficult decisions involve what ideas to cut. (Remember, I write almost exclusively nonfiction. Writer's block may be more of a fiction-specific disease.)

Perhaps my muse is chatty because I feed her so well. I'm more reader than writer, more learner than teacher. In every conversation with both the "small" and the "great" (I find everyone to be my intellectual superior in some way), I'm driven by insatiable curiosity.

I read a wide variety of well-researched, well-written biographies and other factual books on a wide range of subjects. A healthy diet makes for a healthy muse. A healthy muse is a chatty muse.

Spiritually-minded readers may take offence to my giving the glory to my muse rather than to God. Actually, I consider it more offensive to attribute all my ideas to God, as some do. Since some of my "great" ideas are proven idiotic by later reflection or sound criticism, I hesitate to ever say dogmatically, "God gave me this idea."

Don't get me wrong. I believe that God is the source of all wisdom. But I also believe that we often err in distinguishing God's ideas from our own. The prophet Jeremiah blasted people for declaring "Thus saith the LORD" when He'd not spoken. Thus, I shy from routinely saying, "God told me," when the idea may later prove to be more ignorant than inspired.

Rather, I pray constantly for God's wisdom, humbly thanking Him for the great ideas, but attributing initial ideas to my muse with a little "m", which encompasses the ideas gleaned from others, my own reasoning, and the promptings of God's Spirit.