Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Rhinestone Writer

Hello, friends,

As most of you know, during the past twenty-five years I've been privileged to edit literally (no pun intended) hundreds of best-selling books by well-known authors, such as Chuck Swindoll, Patsy Clairmont (in photo at left), Billy Graham, Women of Faith, and many others. (I want to grow up and be just like them!)

I've also edited lots of books by lesser-known authors whose names I'd best not mention. The difference I see in the best-sellers and the least-sellers is usually based on the depth of insight, powerful stories, and practical helps presented by the authors.

Best-selling authors seem to reach out and grab your heart with the first words of the book, and they don't let go until the last word of the book, whether they are writing fiction or non-fiction. The content is thought-provoking, touching, life-changing. The books are filled with powerful stories and useful, carefully researched material that can truly make a difference in the reader's life. The writing is poignant, well-honed, repeatedly polished. These books are "more-ish"--you hate for them to end because you want more. (One of those books is reviewed below.)

Least-selling authors are often what I call "rhinestone writers." Their books are all splash but no substance, flash but no solid food, glitzy but not really good. They (and sometimes their publishers) try to mask their lack of real intellectual and/or spiritual meat with fancy interior designs and typesetting tricks to make the buyer/reader think there's more to the book than there really is. (True confession: I know this because I've helped publishers do it.)

The Challenge:

Don't be a rhinestone writer! If you don't have something of substance and importance to share with your readers, do these:

  • Wait to write until you do! Don't jump the gun and just throw something wimpy out there, even if you're a well-known author. "Wait on the Lord" (Psalm 27:14).
  • Research. Don't be a lightweight. Hit the research books and find the substance and support you need for the points you're making.
  • Read and study best-selling books by authors you respect. How do they do it? What are their techniques? Learn from them. Don't plagiarize their words, but copy their quality.
  • Search. Find compelling stories to illustrate your points. Remember: "Facts tell; stories sell!" Books without stories are boring and rarely successful.
  • Pray for God to speak the words he wants said through you, rather than writing what you want to say. And ask for his hand to be on your heart and hands as you write that he will be glorified, not you. "Not to me, O Lord, not to me, but to your name give glory" (Psalm 115:1).
Bottom line: books become best-sellers because the readers say so, not because authors say so. (If authors could make books best-sellers, then all books would be best-sellers.) It just doesn't work that way. If you want readers to spread the word about your books and promote them to best-seller status, give them something solid, practical, and valuable to talk about to their friends and families. It's an undeniable fact: wimpy books wimp out.

So, friend, if you want your books to be read and for God truly to be glorified, don't be a rhinestone writer--be a solid-gold writer!

Blessings and joy,



Joy Bach said...

I'm working on it.

Lisa Mikitarian said...

Thank you, Mary, for making me feel better about this looooong journey now then I felt five minutes ago.

Virginia said...

Wow, this was a really awesome post! It was just what I needed to hear tonight as I gear up for some writing/ re-writing.