Are you a triple-threat author?

I coached basketball for a number of years and taught my players to be in a “triple threat” position—where you can shoot, pass, or dribble at a given time. If you’re too far away from the basket, you’re no longer a triple threat. Or if you dribble the ball and then stop, you’re no longer a triple threat.

As I’ve worked with authors and speakers, I’ve identified three components that I feel make them a triple threat. All three of the following components must be present for authors to succeed. If one element is missing, the author and publisher are not able to fully maximize opportunities in the market. It’s good to remind yourself of these priorities as you prepare, write, and then share your book with others.

  1. Message
    • The author must be full—so full of the message that they’re ready to pour it out. That makes all the difference in audience impact, ability to write, promote, etc. If they’re not full yet, it’s not time for the book. It’s like when the Bible says, “In the fullness of time…” If it’s not the fullness of time, it’s not the right time for the book.
    • It must be from the heart (not just the head) and something the author has experienced (it’s his or her living message). The world has at its fingertips through the Internet more information than it could ever process and is in desperate need of hopeful inspiration that reveals a fresh perspective that will impact the heart, head, and hands (actions). Consider what makes you and your message unique and make sure that shines through.
    • It must hit a felt need, not just in concept, but be intentionally spun to meet a demonstrated felt need in the market and to your primary audience.
    • It must be well-written, or at least good enough in its core that an editor can help to make it great.
    • It must have a clear call to action. Connect the dots for your readers and help them come into what you’ve experienced.
  1. Platform
    • An audience or platform the author already has who is enthusiastic about the author and anything he or she has to share.
    • Connections to people and organizations with a platform they’re willing to share with the author.
  1. No-fear Promotion
  • Too many authors don’t like to self-promote because they feel they’re being pushy, manipulative, shouldn’t draw attention to themselves, etc. They must see themselves as a waiter at a restaurant and simply let people know what’s on the menu: their book! If I go to a restaurant and the waiter doesn’t tell me about certain items because he doesn’t think I’ll like them, and then I see something I really want on the table next to me, I’ll be upset at the waiter for not telling me what’s available. Authors telling their audience what’s available and how good it is is not prideful; it’s smart and wise stewardship of the message God has given them. If authors don’t believe enough in their message to promote it, they shouldn’t have bothered to write the book or risk the resources the publishing company has invested to publish it. You can’t share what people don’t know you have. You and your book are a light that should not be hidden, but give light to everyone possible (see Matthew 5:16).
    • Authors must get over hang-ups with asking for the sale. It takes numerous times for a person to decide what he or she wants and to say yes. Authors must be able to ask. More than once (without being annoying).
    • Authors must understand what people really want from their book and promote it from that place, not what the author thinks is most important (which goes back to #3 in Message: spinning the message to address the felt need).
  1. Bonus threat: Positive, hopeful, teachable attitude
    • It takes time to make traction. Be patient and proactive. There are many examples of books that took a while to get picked up in the first place or lay dormant for a period of time, and people who had to sort through many rejections. But then they hit a tipping point. Maintaining a creative, solution-focused approach that assumes everyone’s working as hard as possible makes traction happen faster.
    • With a publisher, the author has experts working on his or her behalf. It takes a team to make a great product and what we do together is better than what any of us can do alone. It is always wise to make working together as effortless as possible, collaborating, and learning together how to impact the people in this world that God wants to reach through your book.

These four elements when combined and prioritized create an unstoppable path to success for an author and the book.

Which elements do you feel are the strongest for you?

Quick tip: Two words not to use when you write

There are two words that I don’t ever hear people using in conversation, lecture, preaching, or teaching, but writers sure like to use them when they’re trying to explain something or make a point.

You see, people like to use the phrase you see and I’m not sure why. I was reading a classic best-seller last night and found the phrase twice in two paragraphs.

You see, to me the phrase is kind of patronizing and has an arrogant vibe, like the writer knows something that the reader doesn’t so the writer needs to explain it clearly. While this may be true, I feel it’s an unnecessary filler. Go back and take out the two occurrences that I used in this post. I don’t feel they add anything positive, and possibly add something negative, so it’s best not to use these words at all.  You see?

Quick tip: Be a writing doctor

I get to work with many great authors who have great things to say. But sometimes it’s too much for the space required to capture the message. When you’re full, you want to pour out. But unless the message can fit into a container than can hold it, you’ll just make a mess.

Don’t give away all you know. Just say what will accomplish your purpose.

It’s the difference between writing in a diary and writing a book. You can say all that can be said in a diary. In a book, only say what needs to be said to meet the felt need of the reader.

Doctors don’t share with you all they have learned about medicine. They only provide enough information so you can understand what’s going on and what you need to do about it.

Do that when you write. Be a writing doctor and administer your words with precision to address the need. Say what you need to say with fewer words. If your audience wants more, they’ll ask.

So tell your story, make your point, and get out of the joint (as a friend used to say). Don’t get too tied to all you know. God knows how smart you are. Say what must be said and realize that less is usually more.

Deity Pronouns: Is It Disrespectful Not to Capitalize Pronouns that Refer to God?

When I began to work with Dr. Brian Simmons and The Passion Translation for my work with BroadStreet Publishing, I did not realize how important capitalizing deity pronouns is to many, many Christians (especially in the West). Seeing Him, He, His, You, Your, My, and Mine when they refer to God was a part of my upbringing reading the NKJV and NASB translations and in most Christian literature.

For many, not capitalizing these words when they refer to God shows dishonor for the Almighty and is another sign Christians are allowing our society to affect our respect for God.

Yet after much prayer, thought, and discussion, we made the decision not to capitalize deity pronouns for the translation, even though we allow authors their preference in the books we publish for them.

Because this is such an important issue for some, below are some of the reasons why we made this decision. I hope this is helpful as you decide what you’re going to do in your book.

  • Original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts do not do this. To capitalize these pronouns is adding something to the original text that does not otherwise exist.
  • The practice did not begin until the time of King James, when they capitalized all words relating to royalty. This carried over into the King James Version translation of the Bible and into a few other translations such as the NKJV and NASB, but is not a standard practice in most translations available today.
  • One argument for deity pronouns is that it brings clarity. But more often it can actually cause a misreading of the text and limit the meaning the Holy Spirit may want to convey to the reader.
  • There is a very difficult consistency challenge when you begin to capitalize these pronouns and other words. For example, if you capitalize He, Him, His, My, and Mine, why not capitalize you and who, or other indefinite and relative pronouns.
  • Neither the Chicago Manual of Style and The Christian Writers Manual of Style recommend this practice.
  • Other highly-respected Christian authors have made a similar decision, so we are not alone. (Max Lucado made a statement online of this decision.)
  • Capitalization of deity pronouns is much less of an issue outside the U.S. and in many cases is not desired.
  • Once you start it’s very easy to get lost in all the words that should be capitalized due to a direct or indirect reference to God or any spiritually significant person, place, or thing. I have worked with Christian authors who want to capitalize words like glory, heaven, presence, church (as in the body of Christ), temple, pastor, priest, garden (of Eden), apostle, blood, angel, gospel, kingdom, ark (of the covenant) and the ark (Noah’s), baby (for baby Jesus), and many, many, many more. Even the Bible translations that choose to capitalize deity pronouns do not capitalize these words.

I realize this explanation may not be satisfactory to some, but we did not make this decision (nor does any translation team) without much thought, prayer, and struggle. Even if you do not agree with our final decision, we trust you can see it is not a simple issue.

This post here provides some additional reasons behind this line of thinking.

Question: What is your preference and why?

How You Can Write Better through Osmosis

One of the easiest, most enjoyable, least expensive ways to grow as a writer is to read well-written books. Let me explain.

Reading good books will make you a better writer.

Reading well-written books will make you a better writer.

My oldest daughter is an avid reader, excitedly devouring books since she was old enough to hold one in her little hands. In elementary school she amused my wife and me when she would use advanced words in everyday conversation, but mispronounce them (she still does that). The words came to her naturally because she had read them, but just had never heard them pronounced correctly.

At sixteen years old, her writing is outstanding, partly because she has a gift and she’s worked to develop it, but mostly, I believe, because she surrounds herself with excellent writing and can’t help but put out the quality she has put in.

Learning to write better can be like learning a second language. My family and I spent 2012 outside the USA and we were put in an immersion experience. The first two months were a challenge for my kids. When they came home from school frustrated with not being able to understand and reciprocate in the language, we encouraged them to:

  1. Listen (it’s how babies learn to speak).
  2. Be bold and put into practice what you hear (if you don’t use what you’re hearing, you’ll be among the many foreign language students who get top scores on a grammar test but can’t carry on the simplest of conversations).
  3. Be patient. You’re learning even if you don’t notice an immediate change (babies understand very early, but aren’t talking in full sentences until two to four years old).

In the same way, you can become a better writer if you will:

  • Read great writing.
  • Challenge yourself to write better each time you write, whether for an email or a full-length book.
  • Be patient and see small signs of growth.

At this time I read and write mostly nonfiction as an editorial director, and I primarily coach nonfiction writers. A critical element to writing well—even with nonfiction—is the ability to tell a story well. So for about the last six months I’ve been seeking out good stories to read to develop this side of my writing skills. Three books I read recently that I enjoyed include:

  • Falling into Heaven by Mickey Robinson. A gripping story of a skydiver who crashes in a plane, has a near-death experience and goes to heaven, and then comes back to earth to overcome multiple physical impossibilities and experience God’s miraculous intervention and healing.
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The amazing story of Louis Zamperini (it’s way better than the movie by the way).
  • The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. A modern classic about a shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure and discovers the true longing of his heart.

Years ago when I was an English teacher, one of my top students turned in a paper. As I read it, I realized that even though it was probably one of the best papers I would read from the class, I knew he had put it together the night before and didn’t stretch himself to learn anything new. So I gave him a lower grade.

When he saw his grade, he came to talk with me. I asked him, “Do you feel you grew in any way by doing this paper, or did you just use the skills you already possess just to get the assignment done?” The next paper he did for me was extraordinary.

I invite you to challenge yourself in two ways today:

  • Purchase and read one of the books I’ve recommended or another well-written book that will influence your own writing.
  • Each time you write. Don’t just churn out information with the same skill set. Practice makes permanent, so unless you’re improving, you’re actually moving backward.

Question: What’s the last really good book you’ve read that’s inspired you and helped your own writing?

Please comment below.