A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about what I am looking for in authors I want to represent as an agent. Today I would like to talk about one of the things I am looking for: courage.
Fear is the biggest enemy of authors. It can ruin their writing. It can ruin their marketing. In this episode, we are going to talk about how to overcome fear and change the world.
How Fear Ruins Writing
Fear Ruins Our Output
Fear can keep you from finishing your manuscript. For some writers, it keeps them from starting in the first place.
It takes courage to write.
Fear Ruins Our Craft
The author who is afraid of offending someone often fills her writing with so many qualifiers that her point gets lost. Her short punchy sentences get watered down so as not to offend. Or she is afraid of offending specific people so she takes the vivid details out of his story until all that remains is a bland abstraction.
It take courage to say what you mean.
How this Fear Disguises Itself: Perfectionism
Perfectionism is a fancy word for fear. You will never be perfect, and neither will your writing.
Excellence = quality + speed.
How Fear Ruins Our Marketing
After I wrote the blog post Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed I got pushback from hundreds, if not thousands, of other bloggers. People wished my death on social media and left hundreds of negative comments. At one point my mom was in tears after seeing her friends hating on me on Facebook.
That can be the cost of having a million people read what you write.
During that time, I had a fortune cookie message in my wallet. It said simply, “He who gets the credit gets the blame.”
Writing is an act of leadership. You are either leading people to a new world in fiction or to a new way of thinking in nonfiction. People complain about their leaders.
If you are afraid of putting yourself out there, everything about marketing your book will be harder.
How this Fear Disguises Itself: Humility
A lot of authors think that promoting their work is in conflict with Christian humility. So, when is it okay to promote yourself as an author?
Let me answer that question with a story.
The Story of Dr. Barry Marshall
For decades, medical students were taught that chronic stomach ailments, including peptic ulcers and gastritis, were caused by stress, greasy food, or too much alcohol.
Barry Marshall’s research showed that this was 100% wrong. His research showed that while stomach acid caused the pain, ulcers were actually caused by bacteria that the acid helped fight. So taking an antacid was unhelpful, if not downright harmful.
The medical community was not impressed by this Aussie doctor telling them they were wrong.
He tried doing experiments on pigs but could not validate his theory. It turns out that pigs have a very robust digestive system.
He asked for permission to test on humans and was denied. So he drank billions of strands of H. pylori bacteria himself to see if he would get an ulcer. Marshall expected to get an ulcer in a year or two. He got one in three days. Then he took an antibiotic and it cured his ulcer.
He now had both the cause and the cure to a sickness affecting millions of people.
So, when was it okay for Barry Marshall to promote himself?
What if he said, “I don’t want people to think I’m some great scientist so I will keep this to myself”?
Dr. Barry Marshall had an obligation to the truth to spread it as widely as he could. He had an obligation to the truth to write articles, to be seen as an expert, and to convince the world to change their thinking.
False humility is just another form of pride. As Rick Warren once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking about yourself less.”
Guess who wrote the words “Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.” Moses did.
If you think humility is at odds with the truth, you either don’t know the truth or you don’t know humility.
If your book is filled with truth, you have an obligation to spread that truth even if it means becoming famous in the process.
How to Find Your Courage
Love your reader. The more you love your reader, the more courage you will have. Perfect love casts out all fear.
Is it hard to love perfectly? Sure. In fact, writing and marketing may never stop being scary. But that is okay. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is right action despite feeling terrified.
If you love your reader and your writing will help her, then you already have everything you need.
God has given you everything you need to do everything He has called you to do. So get to it!
Like I’ve said before, the world is broken. As Christians, we have the truth of Christ that the world desperately needs.
I want to partner with authors who are willing to face that brokenness and write the truth even when the truth hurts to write. Can you write truth to power while motivated by love? If so, I want to stand with you as you change the world. If you’ve been persecuted for your position, I want to see your proposal.
To be clear, I’m looking for more than just controversial books. Your book doesn’t need to be controversial to advance the Kingdom.
I am looking for authors with the courage to write clearly and the courage to promote their work publicly.
I’m looking for authors:
- with clear, simple writing.
- who are willing to tackle today’s controversial issues and topics.
- with a track record of putting themselves out there as the face of their message.
- who have a passion for the truth in their writing.
Oh and the rest of the story with Dr. Barry Marshall? He won the Nobel Prize in medicine. All those medical textbooks have now all been rewritten to include his research.
The course of the week: 7 Secrets of Amazing Author Websites. Use coupon code: “welcome” to get it for free.
I just spent the morning looking for an agent to pitch my novel to and getting more and more discouraged (YA historical fiction, so not your interests). I came across this article, and it made me smile and gave me something to think about. I particularly loved Dr. Marshall’s story, because I’m a scientist who watched this story unfold.