Six Tips for Becoming a Successful Author

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Rather than list some of the common suggestions for attaining success in your career as an author, I bring forward a few others not always discussed…

(1) Write for you! Yes, pick a genre and try to stick with it. But who’s to say you can’t invent a modification to a genre you enjoy writing? After all, the goal of composing a novel or some other creative piece is primarily to entertain readers, but also to bring satisfaction to you as the writer. The goal should not be to make a boatload of money. If this happens in the process, wonderful. If not, that’s alright too. You’ll always have some audience, even if it is a very small one. I think you can apply this to other careers as well. Would you rather make a ton of money or be stuck in a career that is unfulfilling?

(2) Take your time. Yes, you want to produce, and to write in a regular, consistent manner. Yet don’t neglect to take the time to carefully check your work, not just for spelling and punctuation, but also for factual errors. We live in a litigious society, so you want to do your best to avoid people suing you! Beware of copyright issues, too. Like patents, you work of writing is unique to you and you should ensure that you are not copying someone else’s ideas. Using the Internet is a great tool to double-check that you are not stealing content that is already out there in the public domain.

(3) Take a course! This piece of advice was given to me by my father, and I recommend it. Like any skill, education will further your ability to perform in a given area. You can learn a lot from folks who have already travelled ahead of you down your chosen career path. There are lots of courses in writing, for example from places like Winghill Writing School, where I took my novel-writing course. Since the Internet has taken off, it has made correspondence courses that much easier.

(4) Start small. I’ve found that like any endeavour in life, taking baby-steps is the best way to move forward. That is why I published The Factory Challenge and Energized, which is a book comprised of two short stories. This allowed me to break up my writing into two bite-sized chunks that were easier to bring to market than a longer work. Now that I have that experience under my belt, I have learned from my mistakes and published a couple of non-fiction books. I also have a novel in the works. Never be afraid of failure! It is only by making mistakes that you truly learn how to succeed the next time. You may want to consider submitting a short story or writing an opinion piece / article for your local newspaper. This will purchase credibility with your audience, get your name out and allow you to continually practice the skill of writing.

(5) Try your hand at self-publishing. You will, in all likelihood, have to hire an editor to fine-tune your book. I did this, in addition to having my wife help proof-read my work and act as a sounding board. Hiring an editor should improve the style of your writing tremendously, as well as your storyline content. A professional second set of eyes is always a worthwhile investment! Try looking up on your local, provincial/state or national editing association’s website as a good place to start your search for a reputable editor who is interested in taking on your work. Once your writing piece is complete, there are many self-publishing venues for you to take advantage of these days, such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and CreateSpace. These can be easy, straightforward ways to market your books. And did I mention social media? It goes without saying that learning how to effectively use this technology is a boon.

(6) Sell your book. Depending on your confidence-level as a person, or in the quality of your writing product, this can be one of the most challenging and exhilarating steps along the writing journey. Feel free to approach both independent and chain bookstores with your book. Know that the chain bookstores will often refer you to someone called a “Customer Experience Manager,” who is specialized in liaising with self-published authors such as yourself. When you contact these individuals, carefully explain to them your background and any detail that would set you apart from the crowd as it pertains to your writing. See if you can secure a book signing! Take advantage of publicizing and getting the word out about your book in as many ways as you can! Word of mouth is powerful. You should use your existing social networks to promote your writing, and try to get a review in your local paper or community / work newsletter if at all possible.

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All In Conference

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Earlier today, I attended a full-day conference in the West end of Ottawa. The “All In” Conference focused on creating a culture in our city for orphan care, fostering and adoption. I attended, with my wife, and we went to a breakout session on “Infertility and the Gospel,” as well as a session on “Loving Well in a Broken World.”

The highlight for me was learning about James 1:27, about caring for widows and orphans in their distress, and keeping ourselves pure from the world. This is what it means to follow God! Another highlight was remembering how God calls us to suffer, but that we, as the body of Christ, can come alongside others in their suffering (2 Cor. 1:3-6).

I also had the opportunity to explain and pass along my book, Father to the Childless, which is an encouragement particularly to those dealing with infertility. The first part of the book was written before I got married, and contains general thoughts on Christian living.

The Amazon Tribe

So for those who follow the Forbes 400 list of the world’s wealthiest people, you may have realized that in the last several months Jeff Bezos of Amazon eclipsed the top position, for now. Bill Gates is often at the top or near the top of the list, along with Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathway and Jack Ma of Alibaba Group, as well as Brazilian telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim and media consortium giant Rupert Murdoch.

Why am I writing this post, might you ask? Simply the fascination that Bezos, in building his very successful Internet tech company, has now branched out into various endeavours like television production, a platform for a suite of products outside of books and even space exploration! In venturing off to that last category of pursuit, Bezos has put himself with the ilk the likes of Elon Musk and Richard Branson, electric car and battery entrepreneur as well as media businessman, respectively.

What drives any business to branch out into such seemingly diverse product offerings? Where’s the suggestion that these are profitable lines of business? The answer: customers. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Google are tech companies that have capitalized on the information age in such a way that they have positioned themselves as strong leaders, with very strong customer bases.

Companies like Google and Amazon are not afraid to invest the large amounts of cash necessary to explore bold frontiers for their customers. By their nature, tech companies are riskier endeavours than the oil and gas industry, for example. But so long as these tech titans listen and remain responsive to the customers that helped build their collective wealth, they will be able to stay ahead of the curve, so to speak.

 

The Giving Pledge

While billionaires Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have signed on to the Giving Pledge, Jeff Bezos has not (for now). And that’s okay.

Where are Amazon resources going? It is being invested in space exploration and this cash-heavy endeavour remains one of Bezos’ focuses. To be fair, Bezos and his company have given and do presently give away money to charitable causes.

Right now, however, Bezos remains committed to his core business activities. I imagine later on, in the same way that Buffett, Gates realized, Bezos will figure out what philanthropic causes energize him, and he will give away money to them.

My new books: Father to the Childless and Living in Our Times

It’s finally here in paperback! My devotional for couples struggling with infertility, entitled Father to the Childless. This non-fiction book is meant to encourage anyone who is facing life’s major trials. The first part of the book was written before I got married and includes various sections on Christian living, such as on self-denial and the fruit of the Spirit.

I am including the cover pages of Father to the Childless, as well as Living in Our Times. The latter is a treatise arguing that we need to prepare ourselves spiritually by living godly lives in Christ Jesus, given the times in which we live. With the turmoil in the Middle East, a growing Russian bear, an aggressive and dangerous North Korea, as well as a rapidly changing world technologically, we need to be vigilant in prayer. At the same time it is crucial to get the gospel out to all corners of the earth, making disciples “as we go” about our daily comings and goings …

Stay tuned – later in the year I will be having a book party at my house celebrating the release of these two works!

Father to the Childless_Cover - website-1

 

Living in Our Times - revised cover - website-1

Shed Cleaning

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This week, I along with my dad and wife, have worked at the family plot of land to try and tap Maple syrup. So far, given the cooler temperatures, there really has only been one tree that has produced any sap.

The majority of my time has been spent trying to tidy up the property. Most of the day today I spent cleaning up the shed, and transporting wood from it to the outdoor newly created pile. Completing the clean-up was satisfying! It had been neglected for several years when my grandfather fell in ill-health. The squirrels seemed to have gone berserk in the shed! There was a ton of walnuts in that I had to shovel outside.

Probably the coolest part were the objects I found by chance in the shed. It felt like an archaeological dig! I unearthed knives, forks, spoons, a can opener and a really neat tin.

You know, sometimes our faith can feel like that. Like, we’re trudging through everyday life, and then all of a sudden in our Christian walk, Jesus shows us some hidden gem that we hadn’t noticed before, though we’d seen it a thousand times before. These treasures can appear small, but don’t pass them by! It could be a special relationship you never gave much thought to, an old routine that has freshness infused back in into it, or a warm memory bringing back a rush of feeling and excitement…

Inductive Study

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Doing inductive Bible study last night with friends at small group reminded me of my Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) days! I was on the leadership team for this ministry at the University of Ottawa during the 2006-2007 academic year. This was a formative experience, and I really found that IVCF helped shape me in my faith, and was a faithful witness to folks on campus.

The fact that inductive study is still popular is a testament to its effectiveness. Instead of being spoon-fed deductive reasoning from the Biblical text, participants can delve deeply and 1) make observations about what the passage is saying (as well as how it’s being said); 2) ask good questions of the text and 3) try to figure out application to real life.

Participants can freely mark up their text, which usually is pretty plainly printed out on the page. You can use BibleGateway.com to strip away chapter numbers and subtitles that could be distracting for students studying the Word.

Last night, we examined Matthew Chpater 1, as a roomful of participants. We pooled theories about the genealogies in the first half of the chapter and talked about how Jesus broke in to humanity’s bloodline by appearing in the flesh! A good time was had by all…

When people defy logic

For those of you who are science of mathematics aficionados, it can be tempting to believe that all people react logically to the circumstances around them. While some people employ reason in decision-making, for others this statement could not be farther from the truth.

Could Hitler or Stalin be described as being logical? Or Bashar al-Assad? None of these people are above God’s grace, but some people do not respond to reasoned arguments.

The problem lies with the human heart, which is “deceitful above all else” (Jer. 17:9). The ancient major prophet pegged the problem correctly when he referred to the corruption of the human heart.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul correctly encapsulated the human condition: “I do what I do not want to do” (Rom. 7:15). Thankfully, the antidote is Christ (1 Cor. 15:57)! He gives us the victory…

Although we do not always understand our patterns or impulses, the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that if we submit to Him and His ways, we can have abundant life here on the earth and a future in eternity!

Being a Prayer Warrior

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Praying should be a regular part of everyday life. It is a Biblical command to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). The Puritans made a habit of pursuing a rigorous prayer life.

Yes, busyness can get in the way. But a morning quiet time is a good place to start. Are you praying for a breakthrough in your family / marriage? At work? A career or personal goal? It starts on your knees, before the Lord.

Aside from the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9-13), which helps us formulate our own, I appreciate Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

The Lord can change circumstances in our lives, but other aspects remain the same. Trials come and go. But our faith should not. This Serenity Prayer has been the mainstay of many 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous.