Why I decided to start writing books

Friends–particularly pastor friends–tell me they’re planning to write a book.  Or numerous books.  I tell them, “Well, get started.”

I thought it might be helpful to make a few comments on my own book-writing venture.  For what it’s worth.

One. It was perhaps ten years ago.  I was browsing inside the seminary bookstore in New Orleans–aka, Lifeway Christian Store–and a fellow I did not know stopped me.  He said, “You don’t need to be buying books; you need to be writing them.”

He walked away.

I never saw him again.

It was a word from God.

Two.  I’ve always wanted to write books, but it’s one thing to go from the desire to actually doing it.  Writing books is hard work.  From the inception of the book to the day you hold it in your hands  a hundred obstacles will appear to shoot it down.  As many books as are published each year, I suspect  twice that many  get half-written and never finished.

When I was in my early 40s, I decided to give it a try.  I had an intense desire to be published.  (I’d written magazine articles for ten years, so I felt the writing part would be second nature.)

After several aborted attempts,  a reality hit me:  I did not know enough to be writing a book.  I had so much to learn, so many “miles to go,” that the book-writing would have to come later, if indeed it did.

Three.  Once when I presented my Dad the latest book of my cartoons–I’ve had a dozen or more published over the years–he said, “When are you going to write  a real book?”  It was not mean-spirited nor a put-down.  Dad loved me and believed in me.  But he also felt I was not living up to my full potential.

Dad did not live to see my “real” books–he went to Heaven in 2007–but I’m okay with that.  I suspect he knows.

Four.  I  spent six months writing a book on Luke’s Gospel thirty years ago when I was, ahem, between churches.   Thomas Nelson Publishers in Nashville accepted it, liked it, told me they would publish it, and then for no discernible reason, rejected it.  That took six or eight months, which was discouraging.  Next, I sent it to Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, which had published nine volumes of my cartoons, and later to Word Books in Texas.  They all turned it down.  The manuscript sits in its original box not far from my desk.  I’ve gone back and reread it and decided I know why it was rejected. Only the first chapter is good; the rest is mediocre.

Five. The main reason I’m able to write books today is my blog.  They are a repository of several thousand articles on every subject imaginable.

If I wanted to have twenty books or more published this year–see below for how I do it–I’ve got the material.  But there are any number of reasons for not flooding the market.  Most are financial.

Today, I started combing through articles on this website on the subject of Scriptures, for a book we are tentatively callingTRIPPING OVER HEAVEN: Gaining a New Respect for the Word of God.  There must be a hundred articles on Scripture on this website,  far more material than the book will require and much of it repetitious.

Note: When I start on a book, I try to determine how big to make it.  It must be affordable and not so big as to discourage anyone from picking it up to read.  I’d rather have a book of a hundred pages that gets read than one of 500 pages collecting dust on a shelf.  I’d rather have a book that sells for $10 on which I might make a buck than one costing $30 which might profit me $10. 

Six. Twice people who were going to publish my books made promises, consumed a lot of my time and emotional energy, and then dropped the ball.  So, it’s not like I decided to take the easy way out on publishing my stuff.

Seven.  Dr. David Tullock is the “parson” in Parson’s Porch Publishers of Cleveland, Tennessee.  He publishes my books–three books of cartoons and three “real” books: “Help! I’m a Deacon,” “Grief Recovery 101,” and “Sixty and Better: Making the Most of Our Golden Years.”  The last two were written with my wife Bertha.

Here’s what we do.  I write the book in a Word Document and send him the email.  We exchange notes about the possibilities, what I want to do, the size, etc.   I place an order for the books, usually a hundred at a time.  He tells me the price and I send a check for that amount.  A book which I will sell for $15 will cost me around $10.  So, I’m my own bookseller.

No one is going to get rich this way.  In a year, I might sell 300 or more of each book.  You can do the math.  I give away lots of books.  In most cases, I pay the postage, buy the padded envelopes for mailing, and make the drive to the post office.  I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think it was worth it.  But it’s definitely not about the money.  (With the money that comes in, I turn around and order more books.)

Eight.  So, why do I do this?  Answer:  A book will a) reach people I will never see, b) cover more material with them than I could ever do, and c) linger long after I’m off the scene.  And, yes, I’d like my grandchildren to have my books when I’m gone.  It’s something tangible I can leave them.

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