This last week there has been quite a lot of controversy about the growing number of publishers who are starting self-publishing arms to their businesses and the effect that may have on the book industry as a whole.
As I read the different opinions on both sides, such as an agent’s opinion from Rachelle Gardner and the counterpoint to that from Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt, I couldn’t help but think about Abraham and Sarah.
The Bible tells us the story of when God promised Abraham a son.
Now, Abraham was getting rather old and so was Sarah, his wife. Sarah was barren and now well past child-bearing age. When God told them he would give them a child, they set about devising a plan for how to bring this about. The best solution they could think of was for Abraham to get one of Sarah’s servants pregnant – which he proceeded to do.
This story just blows my mind. Seriously, where did they ever get the impression that God wanted them to do this? God said nothing to suggest that anyone but Sarah should bear Abraham’s son.
From what I understand though, it was quite normal in that culture for a man to take another wife or even just a servant woman to bear him a son in the event that his wife was failing to do so – and that’s where the problem lies. All too often, we look to our culture for answers instead of looking to God.
Did Abraham ask God “Is Sarah going to bear me a son or should I find another woman to be his mother?”
The bible doesn’t suggest he did and the evidence doesn’t suggest it either. He just blindly took matters into his own hands.
So what do Abraham and Sarah have to do with self-publishing?
I realize that every situation is different and there are some people for whom self publishing is the best solution but there are many who, I fear, will use it the way Abraham used Hagar, the servant girl – as an easy solution that doesn’t require faith or perseverance.
Many people feel that God has told them to write a book. I know agents and publishers don’t like them to lead with this information, but it’s always sitting there at the backs of their minds.
As the rejection letters start coming in, it can get very frustrating and disillusionment can set in. At that point, these writers have manuscripts that they are certain God has told them to write, but they can’t find a publisher… so what do they do?
They act like Abraham and Sarah and start looking for their own solutions.
That’s where self-publishing comes in.
Some people do the right thing and go back to God and he sometimes directs them to self-publish, which is great. If God tells someone to self-publish then self-publishing is exactly what they should do.
Others don’t go back to God though. They just jump straight into self publishing assuming it must be what God wants because they can’t get published by traditional means.
Going this route means that they miss out on vital input and very often skip or miss editorial steps like:
- Having an editorial service edit their work
- Getting constructive editorial advice from an agent
- Going through the editing process with the publisher
These steps refine, develop and improve books immensely and lift a book from merely being ‘good but rough’ to excellent quality.
If these steps are skipped, the quality of the work will be way below what it ultimately could be – meaning that it’s far below the ‘best’ that the writer can do for God.
For quite some time now it has been possible to self-publish but these new moves by major companies to make it even easier and more enticing to produce attractive looking books is, in my opinion, just throwing temptation into the paths of writers.
If Abraham had been a writer, I’m willing to bet he would have taken matters into his own hands, skipped some vital steps and produced a book which was well below the quality that God desired of him – and I fear that many of us will do the same.
What do you think? Are self-publishing facilities a distraction and temptation? Will they draw people into lowering the standard of the books they are writing?
27 Reply to “If Abraham had been a writer…”
Part 1 🙂
Such interesting discussions! Everytime something new hits the market it creates quite a stir. It changes the way people do business. It changes who is pocketing the money. One of the great freedoms of this wonderful country is our right to make choices ( or thus far it has been our freedom).
Self publishing is a choice. Many of the self-published books are very poor quality. They don't read well, they are full of grammatical errors and the typeset is very distracting. In the end the author has produced a second rate product, but the public still has the choice of whether they will endorse it by purchasing it.
I am an avid reader and I have purchased many books that were released through traditional publishing houses that also were second rate products — the content leaving much to be desired. As a result, I have become more discerning with my choices.
In reality, I really don't think most traditional publishing houses have anything to worry about. Great writing, great editing and great content will continue to be the product of a great time investment.
To be continued ….
Part 2 I personally chose to self-publish. I am aware of six typographical errors in my book. You know what -the same errors that really bug me, also keep me humble. I wrote because I was honored to share my testimony of God's presence in our dark night. I believe God has honored my desire to bring glory to His Name.
Whatever you do — do it all the Glory of God! For me, it took seven years before I had the courage to write the book God had put on my heart. Then it took a great deal of prayer before I actually made the choice to self-publish. As a Christian, I want to be found true to the One and Only! The only standard I want to meet is His.
to be continued ….
Part 3 …must be a verbose Monday morning!
Each of the disciples could have told Jesus, I am not your man, I don't meet the qualifications, but instead they followed Jesus. A whole lot of writing and publishing books has little to do with the message and more to do with the ego – let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, then we will get out of the way and God will be at the center.
I love your blog Peter. You always challenge my thinking and thus stir my heart. It would be a shame if you stopped writing because you thought your content was below standard.
I had your wonderful book very much in mind as I wrote this post and it helped to temper my thoughts with the reality that self publishing IS right for some people.
It's not the people like you I'm concerned about, it's the people who are tempted to take shortcuts that worry me!
Thanks for a great set of comments!
I think your remarks are great. There are many shortcuts in life, but in the end they usually cost. I am a strong advocate of traditional publishing as the main source of books entering the system.
I love that you often quote Rachelle Gardner and Micheal Hyatt. They would both be my first choice for an agent and publishing house. They have both been involved in producing excellent quality material. To both of them I say, keep up the good work.
And Peter, my grandkids need another story – keep plugging, I want several of the first autographed copies…remember I have 12 grandkids!
Bless you brother.
I just decided that I need to start on book 4 – the Christmas story.
I'll get a copy over to you when it's done (hopefully by Christmas! 🙂
i guess it depends on the content, the audience, and the reason for it to get into the hands of the people.
when i read your ideas on self publishing, it made me think of benjamin franklin, http://sln.fi.edu/franklin/printer/printer.html , i think that maybe there are places still for self publishing, yet, i think that the reasons of most people will not always be to help those around them, or to put out information for the good of all.
yet, one can publish in ways other than a printing press.
also, maybe God has other reasons for having someone write something, other than having it published.
but, more along the lines of your thoughts…
i think that publishers certainly can make a book more presentable for a certain audience.
You're right Nancy, this subject is way bigger than I've made it seem and there are some very legitimate reasons for self-publishing.
Thank you for the great comments!
Great thoughts, Peter. Don’t just take the short-cuts IF God has something else in mind…
Also, for some reason I thought you were talking about Abraham Lincoln before I started reading the post- kinda weird… I don’t know why! I am little tired today. 🙂
Strike one for the Pastor who forgot there was a guy called Abraham in the bible 😀
Thanks for making me smile today, Jason!
I think it’s more the tiredness! But I’ll take the strike… 🙂
I have a friend who self published a book. It didn't work out all that great for her….she used savings, the economy tanked, she lost her job, and now wants her friends to rescue her by taking these books off of her hands and giving them away as Christmas presents. (I'm not really planning to buy gifts for any adults but mom and Bob this year. Lots of people in my family are struggling, and would hide out from embarassment of not being able to afford gift giving if we exchanged gifts this year, so we are doing an ornament exchange *grabbag* instead among the grownups) She has become more salesman than friend lately, though to her credit, when I brought that to her attention, she tempered it down a bit.
I don't want to be unkind or ignorant. Perhaps self publishing works for some, but I don't imagine that my friend is the only person with boxes of books and no retirement savings.
These stories are not uncommon and my fear is that they will become more and more common as self-publishing rises.
Writer's have to remember that writing books is a business and you should never invest more than you can afford to lose!
I keep thinking I want to write a post on all this self-publishing stuff, and then I figure it's already all been said. But maybe not.
(30 seconds pass as I sit staring at my computer screen, seeing nothing)
On second thought, I think I'll save what I was going to write here and do a post on it. Thanks for the inspiration, Peter! 😉
I look forward to reading your post, Marla. That's what I love about the human race, such a diverse range of opinions and perspectives!
Thanks for dropping by!
Hmmmm. Very, very interesting (and creative!) analogy. I think people will make mistakes and have fantasies either way – some will be disapointed, and some will hit paydirt. And God will still be there through the whole thing to help them pick up the pieces.
I do think you bring up a very good point for Christian writers – to think through what their plan is, to not take the easiest path with the greatest control, etc. But, really, do any of us know exactly what we are doing?
Thanks for the compliment on my analogy, I can't claim credit for it though, it just popped into my head!
Your question of whether any of us really know what we're doing is a key one.
I really think it comes down to talking to God. If you forge ahead without even giving him the chance to give you direction, you're highly likely to go wrong!
Good post … continually connecting with God about the choices in front of us is great advice, Thanks!
I think to self-publish or not to self-publish is definitely an individual, case by case choice and one can't say whether it's wrong or not. For me, I think it would most likely be wrong. Why? Because I would only do it out of an impatient spirit. A faithless spirit.
Let's just say I would be waiting a very, very long time for an acceptance slip before I headed in the self-publishing direction. And at that point, if I was absolutely, 100 percent positive that God gave me the words to write, then I would consider it, albeit hesitantly.
And of course, that's just how I would approach it. God deals with everyone differently. But yes, I think some people give up and don't have enough faith too soon. And it's a shame.
That's a great attitude, Brenda….
Even though I wrote this article, I'm not sure I'd have the faith and strength to not jump the gun myself! 🙂
The Lord might certainly lead a person to self-publish. With impatience, I thought about doing it myself. He made clear I am to wait upon Him. I don't want an Ishmael in my life.
I apologize for not taking the time to read the comments. But I'm very grateful I took the time to catch this. You nailed it.
I appreciate you taking the time to comment!
Peter, what an excellent post. Thank you for a brand new perspective. I’m in a long, dry spell of waiting and wondering if this is the right path for me–it’s so difficult. I keep bringing it to God and He continues to nudge me forward. As long as He does, I will labor onward.
May God bless you richly this week.
Keep listening to Him, Gwen.
Maybe he'll tell you to self-publish, you never know. Just keep listening!
Thanks for stopping by and commenting.