5 Things I’d Never Do If I Wanted to Write a Best-Selling Book

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Some of our friends groaned when they learned how we spent our honeymoon.

It’s okay. I can tell you. We read aloud to each other from one of our favorite books. (West With the Night. Have you read it? It’s lovely.)  I know, it might sound strange, but it happens to be a passion we both share.

It’s even how we first met.  My husband was working for Multnomah Publishing in Portland, Oregon and I was doing a bit of free-lance writing and editing myself. You could say it was love at first sight – in a number of ways.

We’ve been married 20 years now and have remained in Christian publishing ever since. Marketing, editing, agenting, writing: we enjoy anything that has to do with books. And, yes, we still talk about these things – and each other – as passionately as ever.

So maybe you’re writing a beautiful or incredibly interesting book of your own. One that you think just might be a best-seller. If you are?  Here are a few things I would never do.

Maybe you're writing a beautiful or incredibly interesting book of your own. One that you think just might be a best-seller. If you are, here are a few things I would never do.

If I Wanted to Write a Best-Selling Book, I’d…

1. Never be shy about making connections.

The rumors you’ve heard are true; it helps to know someone in the industry. The good news, however, is that the Christian publishing world is surprisingly small. The chances are strong that if you aren’t talking to the “right” person, he or she is only a step or two away from the one who is. So don’t hesitate to ask for contact information from people you meet, or to ask to be introduced to others.

2. Never broadcast your best ideas to the public.

Unless you don’t care who might take them and run with them. It’s not that your friends would intentionally give your secrets away, but good ideas spread quickly and might well end up on the Barnes & Noble bookshelves before you ever had the chance to get it out there yourself. Your book idea is a valuable commodity.

3. Never be too concerned about what others are doing.

Not that you can’t learn anything from other people – just don’t let that dictate what you feel called to write. Because what works for them? Might not work as well for you. So don’t pay too much attention to what’s happening out there.  What really matters is what’s happening in you.

4. Never stop writing until the book is done.

So many writers have started a potentially “best-selling book”, but far fewer have completed one. You’ll find most publishers are more interested to see if you can finish a book, than if you can simply begin one.

5. Never give up.

If you believe in what you’ve written, then don’t let it go. Did you know that the runaway best-seller, The Help, was rejected by over 60 literary agents before it was finally picked up? Astonishing, I know. And there are plenty of stories just like that one. So don’t be overly discouraged if your book is not contracted right on the spot. Press on.

I recently took out my copy of West With The Night and read it again. For the 10th time. I don’t know that it was ever a best-seller, but I do know that it sure inspired me. Both me and Ernest Hemingway, actually.

“As it is she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pigpen. But she can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers.” -Ernest Hemingway

I guess you never know what kind of impact your book will have on someone. So keep on writing!

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Photography: Hannah Acheson

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  1. I loved your list of five things! Thank you! I was introduced to West With The Night and recently introduced it to my book club and that’s the book we’re all reading this month. I, too, was struck by Hemingway’s words of commendation on the back cover. What a gem this book is (and the lady who wrote it)! And to think, had she never written it, we would be bereft of her amazing stories of her interesting life and her uncanny storytelling gift! There’s a lesson in that, too.

  2. Those are great ideas! I’m happy to say I love doing 1 and 3-5. Two is really really hard for me because I want to use all the ideas with my coaching clients and put them on my facebook page. But that’s where maturity comes in, I suppose. To be willing to trust God that the ideas are meant for a certain venue and to patiently set nose to grindstone until they come out when he wants… to the audience he wants. Thanks for this great post, fellow west coast Christian blogger! 馃檪

  3. Thank you so much for writing this!
    I’m new to this world of writing. I mean, I love writing- and have for forever- but didn’t take it seriously until last year, and after this crazy year of writing and writing, I’m thinking I want to make a career of it. 馃檪
    Thank you so much for writing this. It was really encouraging.

  4. Thank you for sharing. It is interesting to see how publishing has changed so much over the years. Now days, if you don’t already have a platform, publishers won’t even look at you. No matter how good the book idea is. It’s easy to get discouraged and give up. I wonder if it really is about content anymore. I am trusting God to direct in this process, regardless. And I am working at fine tuning my book. Ultimately, God is the one still in control. Right? ( :