In the 1980s, I was an associate pastor in two different churches with primary responsibilities in Christian education and youth ministry. Some friends of mine in youth ministry from various backgrounds gathered together under the leadership of Abingdon Press to begin writing The Complete Youth Ministry Handbook and then Catching the Rainbow to provide youth teaching materials and curriculum for teenagers in various denominations and nondenominational churches. Synods, networks, dioceses, judicatories, parachurch, and regional gatherings of youth pastors and leaders began having workshop and retreats to equip one another for reaching youth for Christ.
As a contributor to these books and youth workers’ training events, I began building relationships with Church and lay leaders ministering to youth. A team of five of us, began traveling two to three weekends a month holding youth ministry workshops for Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholic youth leaders throughout the nation. It was hard work. Often flying in small, private planes to Christian retreat and camping centers, we left at the end of each week, started the workshops on Friday evenings and closed out with dinner on Saturday nights. Most weekends, all of us had to be back in our home churches and parishes on Sunday mornings to teach, help lead worship, preach, and hold youth meetings on Sunday evenings.
Our hard work paid off, not only in equipping youth leaders to reach teenagers for Christ, but also in building relationships throughout the country in Serendipity and Catching the Rainbow workshops. After a few years of traveling the nation, we had built an interdenominational network of youth ministry leaders who were hungry for all types of youth ministry program and discipleship materials. One of the leaders, J. David Stone, and myself were particularly concerned about all of the counseling, coaching, and mentoring youth pastors and lay workers had to do with teenagers related to all kinds of issues—family problems, making right moral decisions, building healthy friendships, addressing moral issues, drugs, alcohol, and spiritual ignorance. Most teenagers when they had problems to solve or decisions to make would turn to their peers for counsel not to their parents, youth workers, pastors, or teachers.
What Dave Stone and I discovered was that books and curriculum for youth had to meet needs or answer real-life questions in order to be effect in equipping them to solve problems and make right from wrong choices in life. So, we wrote the first book for youth and the adults working with them on peer counseling. In other words, we wrote to market.
Know your market—their needs and questions.
Write to the market.
Meet their needs; answer their questions.
So, we wrote a peer counseling training book for youth and the adults working with them and provided cassette tapes for sharing examples and peering counseling tools. In a two-cassette binder with the book inside it, we wrote, produced, and distributed, Someone There for Me.
Having this book and teaching resource produced and published required a business plan. We had writing goals and objectives, printing and publishing deadlines, and a budget to finance production and marketing of the material. We were self-publishers long before self-publishing became the norm for many authors.
A book is more than a published, printed product—
A book is a business plan.
A book is a business card.
And, a book is a profitable, entrepreneurial enterprise!
If a book doesn’t get publicized, marketed, distributed, and sold to the markets that need it, then the message never makes it to market, the financial and time investment in the book is never paid back, and a profit is not made to lead to more books and resources. Books that reach the market and are sold successfully change lives and make money. Dave Stone and I had to have a business plan to not only write a book, but also to produce, market, distribute, and sell our book.
A 4-Step Book Business Plan
Years later, our simple business plan would become a bestselling E-book, Self-Publishing Your Christian Book. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you one for free!) Writing to market involves these four steps:
- Getting Started
- Writing and Editing
- Producing and Publishing
- Marketing, Distributing, and Selling Your Book
All these steps take time, money, and hard work. As an author, you need to have a plan for writing and editing your book. Then you must do it. For years, I have been a disciplined writer getting up early five to six days a week, writing and editing four to six hours daily producing over sixty books, published in 12 languages, with over two million in sales worldwide.
Dave and I also had to find money to invest in ourselves and our book projects. This first book project later renamed, Friend to Friend, cost us $5000 each (which investors loaned us) to produce and publish.
Now, here are the keys to sales and becoming a bestselling book with our first book out of the chute:
- We identified a market profile (Christian youth and adults leading, guiding, teaching, mentoring and coaching them). We already had thousands of youth and youth workers that we had favor with—they knew us through our youth ministry workshops.
- Next, we wrote material that practically and truthfully answered their questions and meet their needs. How do we make right choices? How do we identify our real problems and understand our real feelings? Once we know our biblical options for making right decisions, are we willing to make the right choice and then do what’s necessary to live it out?
- Then, we invested in ourselves. Many authors want somebody else to invest in their book project. Listen, if you are not willing to invest in yourself—if you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect others to invest in you and believe in your message?
- We planned out a marketing, distribution, and sales strategy to sell our books. Remember that you don’t just sell book, you sell an author.
The author is an experienced, equipped,
and educated expert in the topic.
I had a doctorate in pastoral counseling and years of experience in youth ministry. Dave had decades of experience in Serendipity workshops and a M.R.E. (Masters Degree in Religious Education). We were marketing and selling ourselves and our message. We believed in what we wrote and the products and services we produced. They were excellent; they worked. Lives for changes by Jesus Christ through our Kingdom business. We planned out youth ministry events; mailed out flyers and sample books; sent publicity kits out to denominational youth leaders; and contacted everyone by mail who had been at our past youth training events. We asked everyone we knew to buy and use the books with youth in youth groups, support and rehab centers, family counseling centers, Sunday School classes, camping and retreat programs, etc.
- We went where we had favor. For the first six months after the book’s publication, we traveled around the nations speaking at and leading youth workshops, retreats, events, and seminar. We carried, shipped, and lugged around heavy boxes of books and resources, read all of them including our own, worked the book tables, reviewed and recommended books and resources, and sold all 2,000 books and cassette tape resources, not only making back our investment, paying back our investors, but also making a 100% return so we could write and produce more books and resources for youth ministry.
Becoming Bestselling Authors
When we went where we had favor, youth and youth workers not only bought our books for themselves, they would often buy two or more. Here’s our God-given sales pitch:
“Don’t be selfish.
Never just buy a book for yourself.
God has already shown you at least two other people who need this book.
Buy three (at a discount, of course).
Give two away to answer their questions,
meet their needs, and bless them.
Tell everyone you know about this great resource.”
Take your book and published messages, devotionals, curricula, novels, podcasts, streaming videos, newsletters, online courses, webinars, etc. to the world. All of this begins with reaching out to those who know you and your message. Invite them to pray, invest in you and your message, buy your books in multiple copies and by the cases, promote and even sell your book to their friends, church members, and work colleagues. All of this creates a buzz and market demand for your book.
One young, woman, youth minister on our training teams in the youth ministry workshops was a bubbly, dynamic Christian name Joani. She loved our book and cassette resource. A few years after our second printing, she married another Lutheran youth minister named Thom Schultz, who published a magazine for youth workers out of his garage called Group Magazine. Together they started Group Publishing and asked for our book, now called Friend to Friend, to be one of their first published releases. Over the next decade, that resource became a primary equipping book for youth in peer counseling not only in churches and in counseling youth, but also in training peer counselors in public and private high schools throughout America. After a decade, over 90,000 Friend to Friend books were published and sold making in my first bestselling book. Today it is also available in Mandarin and Portuguese as well. When you go where you have favor, God can certainly multiply your investment in writing a hundredfold and more!