A Plea To Christians Wanting To Write Their Very Own Book, Or Subtly Pushing My Ghost-Writer Resume

This is a thinly veiled open letter, and I am addressing it to anyone who is trying or even considering to write a Christian book.

Dear person posted up in the corner of the coffee shop who’s taking up a table in the mid-morning rush (and oblivious to the needs of your fellow man),

Hey I get it, you’re not gonna be in the who’s who of Christianity until you’ve published a book. A memoir, an ultra-glorified bible study, another wake-up call to the church –  whatever the genre is that you’re convinced your about to change. Just because you are writing a book to proclaim very interesting points about Jesus and the Christian life does not mean your writing will be interesting.

You may have a great point, even a series of great points all working in unison to make a grand point, but if you don’t write well then you are like a clanging gong. Please, take that advance the publishing company gave you and invest it in a ghost-writer. It hurts upfront but you are far more likely to have great returns, both in reader-response and book sales (not that this is a concern, as it’s all about getting your message out).

Quite simply, I’ve read way too many Christian books where the writing was excruciatingly bad. As in the lastfour Christian books I’ve read have been unbearable. To the point where I wondered if an editor, in good consciousness, collected a paycheck for their work – because there seemed to be strong evidence pointing to being uninvolved.

Now I’m sympathetic, I really am. You’re not a writer – you’re a pastor. You’re a teacher, you’re a leader, you’re the head of some organization who someone got ahold of my address and isn’t letting go. I realize you’re not a writer, yet you’ve chosen to write. And unfortunately having a great thesis does not guarantee a great book. In fact you may spend so much time discussing your thesis that you neglect what you’re saying. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.

Reasons to spend more time developing your writing skills:

  1. Not only will your main points be heard, but they will be felt. Readers will be moved, not merely informed.
  2. Your book will likely be much shorter. More than likely you will actually spend more time writing a shorter book, but more people will be able to get through your work when it’s not a 300 page epic.
  3. Your sermons or speeches may grow to be more effective with your newfound ability with crafting words.
  4. You won’t have to promote your book so loudly (and annoyingly) to the blogosphere, as we’ll be passing along the good word on your behalf.

I hope I have not offended you. I don’t fault you for not writing well, as writing is not your original gift. But I hope that you can see an extra investment here will prove to be profitable for all involved (and will save me being the first guy on Amazon who finally says “what are you all talking about this book was a mess ! I’ve seen more organized train  wrecks!”

Best wishes in your success (please keep me in mind for review copies),

Charlie

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8 Responses to A Plea To Christians Wanting To Write Their Very Own Book, Or Subtly Pushing My Ghost-Writer Resume

  1. Chila Woychik says:

    I must agree with this. Rather wholeheartedly, in fact. I think it’s a little bit deeper than that, but you’ve nevertheless said it quite well.

    Thanks!
    ~Chila
    http://www.PortYonderPress.com

  2. Chila Woychik says:

    Well, I’m actually working on a blog post about that myself, began it earlier this week. My post idea was prompted by one of my slushpile editors after a manuscript came in to us which basically said, this can be for either the mainstream or the Christian market, and since you’re not accepting anything just now for the Christian market, we’ll consider it mainstream.

    When I sent it off to my slush editors, I specifically asked them to give me their thoughts on whether it was truly suitable for the mainstream market (which, though you don’t know me well, to me “mainstream” doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “fouled up” with graphic sexuality and the f-word). No, to me “mainstream” means it appeals to the average reader who enjoys a good read, and can compete in the real world marketplace of NYT books and those admired by those who know books. Some Christians discount that simply because it’s not a “Christian” book, to which I cry, foul! Many many of the classics they read and enjoy /weren’t/ written as “Christian” books.

    Anyway, one of the slush editors said the material was definitely “too squishy” for the mainstream market, i.e., UNREAL. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean NASTY. Christians have this built-in radar for anything they feel isn’t “evangelical enough,” and when they hone in on that, to them it’s “sinful,” “unspiritual,” etc., yet they would find it very very difficult to tell you why, except for their pat and shallow answers without a shred of real substance to them.

    Unfortunately, this is how they approach writing as well. They feel that if they’re “spiritual” according to the requirements of evangelical American Christians, then their writing is automatically “anointed by God.” Oh, please. As an editor/publisher of some very fine books, the absolute worst writing that has crossed my desk consistently has been from Christians. In fact, I have a terrible time finding above-average, realistic, work written by believers. Go figure. And we should be the ones writing the BEST out there, not just in subject matter, but in style and form, creativity and beauty.

    Hope that helps, and feel free to watch for my blog post, Charlie. In fact, feel free to comment. I’ll be more than happy to hear your thoughts.

    chilawoychik.com. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter, and so is my press, Port Yonder.

    Best,
    Chila

    • You summed up my whole point much more eloquently “They feel that if they’re “spiritual” according to the requirements of evangelical American Christians, then their writing is automatically “anointed by God.”” It’as though they can do no wrong because they are writing about spiritual matters – to which I say well I’ve got a few samples I’d love to show you! I’m heading to your site now, thanks for the awesome comment, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed this (because lately I’ve been negative nancy on amazon after I read a crappy book and I see nothing but 5 star reviews – it’s absolutely puzzling).

      • Chila Woychik says:

        Yep, I hear you. I won’t put up the post I mentioned above until next week some time, so I have time to construct it properly. If I remember, I’ll shoot the link to you here. Take care!
        Chila

  3. jasdye says:

    Good one, Charlie.

    I’ve been hemming and hawing (proper statement?) on whether or not to get a few e-books from some prominent Christians (who aren’t named Driscoll, for instance), but have resisted due to qualms about their writing style. One I did recently get – that focused on blogging exclusively – was written pretty well, but all of his attempts at the funny fell flat. And he’s a humor blogger! (Also, they tended to be classist.)

    I’m sure you can help him out.

    As for me, I think I’m gonna go ahead and put out some micro-books. I’ve been working on a few for a few years now. The technology is there. I can make a little side money. Why not, right?

    • I definitely think that’s the future of Christian publishing – blogging and short e-books. Write a good one and the internet will catch fire. The alternative is starting a mega-church because if you get 5000 people to show up to your church Zondervan will send you a contract, but I suspect that’s not your game.

  4. That’s why I quit writing, I don’t believe in ghosts. :)

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