Friday, July 31, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 17 of 22)

Will you give us one "do" and one "don't" for someone aspiring to be a writer?

First, do learn the craft. I can't say that strongly enough.

Second, don't try to be like other writers. Don't imitate them. I see so much fiction that reads as if they all had the same ghostwriter.

To combine those, learn the craft, don't imitate other writers, and strive to sound like yourself.

When people read me, they may not like my style or my topic, but I don't want them to think I write like someone else.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 16 of 22)

What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?

I hate to limit it to three, but here are the ones I think of immediately—which means they probably are the most important.

1. I wish I had been able to accept rejections objectively. Like any serious author, I throw myself into everything I write. It hurt deeply when I received my early rejections.

2. There is no place to stop improving. I assumed that once I became a good, well-published writer I could relax. I work harder at the craft now than I did in my early days. And part of my joy is in learning how to write better, even in small ways.

3. I wish I hadn't compared myself with other writers. When I did, they always seemed better or more successful than I was.

Nowadays I say to myself, I'm the best Cec Murphey in the publishing business.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 15 of 21)

You've mentored hundreds of writers. Why has mentoring writers been such a priority for you?

First, I'm not sure hundreds is accurate—it seems like an exaggeration. But it is a priority for me.

Second, it's part of my passion. When I was still a novice and written perhaps 100 articles, I knew several well-known writers and asked them for help—nothing big, just answers to a few simple questions. Not one of them responded.

That's when I promised God I'd never stop learning and I'd do whatever I could to help other writers. Today they call that mentoring, but I'm more comfortable with the old-fashioned terms, helping and encouraging.

Third, publishing is more difficult now than it's ever been since I've been in the business. Newer writers need all the help they can get. As much as I can, I try to help those on their way up.

Fourth, I love to spot talent. It's usually not developed, but when it's there it makes me want to show them how to polish and turn themselves into first-class authors.

A couple of people I've worked with have done that, and truthfully, they're better than I am. And I can smile because I know (and so does God) that I've done whatever I could to help them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 14 of 22)

If you had known what you know now, what would you have done differently when writing your first book?

I would have written faster, written more books, and written with more self-assurance. Not really.

I don't know that I would have done it much differently. That is, I gave myself to each project and tried my best. I wrote with all the passion and knowledge I had at that point.

Here's what many don't grasp: Writers improve by writing. Each time I receive the edited version of my book, I learn things. Furthermore, if I had known it all in the early days, being a fulltime, paid author wouldn't have been exciting. I would have known all the answers and faced few of the challenges.

Sure, I hate rejections, and I love acceptances. That means every time I write, I'm anticipating wonderful results. Sometimes I get them. When I receive a rejection, these days I remind myself, "The next one might be a big one!"

I wouldn't want that taken away from me.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 13 of 22)

Do you recommend self-publishing or working with a publishing house that can handle the marketing? It seems to me marketing, selling, and distributing my own book would be a big hurdle to selling enough books to pay for my investment of time and expenses, not to mention the need to make a profit.

This question usually comes from a host who has writing aspirations (obvious, I suppose).

That's difficult to answer. First, it's true that publishing houses do little to promote books. Even if they have an excellent staff (or even one talented person), they have too many books to promote. And many publishers put out a new list every three months. That means, unless your book takes off with big sales figures, that's all the attention you receive.

Either way, these days—even if you don't like it—we, the authors are the primary marketers. But also think about these things:

* If you can afford it, you can hire someone to set up interviews and speaking engagements for you.

* Self-publishing still carries a stigma, mainly because there are so many, many badly written and barely edited books out there that bookstores rarely carry them and media hosts won't look at them. There is also the assumption that no one would buy the book, so the author went into self-publishing.

* If you're savvy about marketing and can put your book in front of people, self-publishing may work for you, but it's a big, big, big job.

* Those who are primarily speakers, and have many opportunities each month to speak, might do well with self-publishing.

If you have marketing skills and know how to generate sales, try self-publishing. But remember, just putting your book on Amazon doesn't automatically mean sales. It's hard work—unless you have a talent for it and then it's fun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 12 of 22)

Do you start with a marketing perspective, brainstorm chapter ideas, research the topic, or unleash the burning message locked deep inside your heart?

The short answer is none of the above. I have to decide if it's a project I think I can sell to a publisher. Some ideas have been wonderful, but the reading audience for that topic is too small. Or there are already too many books on the topic. These days, personal experience books are difficult to sell; fiction is also in a heavy downswing.

If the idea sticks with me, I play around with it until some form or structure comes into my head.

The one thing that hasn't failed is this: When I know the first sentence, I'm ready to write. (I may edit that sentence five times, but it tells me where to begin.) Once that happens, the book begins to unfold and takes shape.

I want to add that I'm a runner. Usually the idea turns around inside my head, and one day when I'm hitting the pavements that first sentence pops out. Then I know I'm ready to begin. This is just as true whether it's my own book or a manuscript I'm writing for someone else.

For me, marketing is one of the last things I consider—other than asking myself if I think it will sell. I'm absolutely terrible at marketing; however, I have a wonderful virtual assistant, Twila Belk, who intuitively knows more about marketing than I could ever learn. So after I write the proposal, I ask Twila to help me. (Please don't tell her; I don't want her to think she's important.)*

The above paragraph is to say that I know what I do best: I write. I could spend much of my efforts in marketing strategies, which I did badly—in the past.

I focus on what I do best;
I get help from those who do what I can't do effectively.

* * * * *

* A note from Twila: Mark this day in history. Cecil Murphey said something nice about me. Wow! But don't tell him I know. He doesn't think I can read. (Twila smiled.)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 11 of 22)

When you have a book concept, what's your development process?

We're all different. I don't always start with the concept. Occasionally a publisher has said, "We'd like you to _________," and they let me know the theme or thrust of the book.

Most of the time, it's an idea that won't let go of me. I get ideas—lots of them—almost every day. Out of every 100, perhaps two of them have the kind of impact that sticks with me. I'm not one of those individuals who writes down ideas because that doesn't work for me. If the idea is important, I don't worry about forgetting it.

That's no guarantee a publishing house will offer a contract, but it helps me know what issues are hitting me. And occasionally, I've had a wonderful idea but the time wasn't right and five years later I sold it.

There is only one way to develop your book—
the method that works for you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 10 of 22)

Many of your books are collaborations. What is the difference between writing collaboration and ghostwriting?

For the first dozen years I wrote for others, it was truly ghostwriting. That means readers didn't know who wrote the book. For example, I wrote books for celebrities such as Joyce Meyer; Franklin Graham; and Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A.

Collaboration has two meanings. First, you get credit on the book—shown by with Cecil Murphey, as I did with Gifted Hands and 90 Minutes in Heaven.

Second, if you write with someone but much of the writing is yours, you're also a collaborator and you have the word and before your name. (I did three additional books with Don Piper, all with and.)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 9 of 22)

How important is it for authors to think of every kind of personality of their readers as they write? Has that helped make you successful as a writer?

My best friend says he'll never be a writer, "Because I always think that some won't understand or they'll disagree."

It's a trap to try to figure out the personality of your readers. Most of us know the age group or the type of people for whom we write. To attempt to be "all things to all people" is paralyzing.

I know writers who think that way. They're so careful to be orthodox, culturally correct, and not offend anyone, and their writing doesn't come from deep within. This is especially true of Christian authors. They don't have to prove their faith; they have to show their faith by opening themselves. When they're honest, even people who don't agree can accept them.

As I keep saying in this blog, I write from my heart and throw it out into the world. Not everyone likes my writing or agrees with my worldview. And I get criticized sometimes.

Here's one of my maxims:

I'd rather be disliked for who I am
than to be admired for who I'm not.