Innovative Ministry
17 Steps For Writers and Speakers To Catch The Attention Of Publishers And Conferences
Publishers and conferences are always looking for good content. Here’s what I’ve learned about creating something they need.

Just a few years ago, I was happily pastoring a small church, expecting to spend the rest of my ministry that way.

Then I wrote a book about it, and everything changed.

Now I have two books out, a third on the way, and I’m asked to speak at dozens of conferences every year.

What happened?

Why I’m Writing About This

Before I answer that, I need to give you three qualifiers:

First, being a published author and conference speaker is not better than pastoral ministry. It may be more desired by many people, and it is fulfilling in many ways, but if I could only do one, I’d pick pastoring every time.

Second, many aspiring writers and conference speakers have asked me how they can catch the attention of publishers and conference promoters.

Third, while this information should be helpful for whatever you’re writing about, I really want to help other small church pastors step up and write, speak and share their expertise.

With that in mind, here are 17 principles to consider if you want to become an author or conference speaker:

1. Get good at something

Writing and speaking doesn’t come first. Being good at something worth writing and speaking about comes first.

Writing and speaking doesn’t come first. Being good at something worth writing and speaking about comes first.

The first line in your speaker/writer profile won’t be how well you turn a phrase, it will be the expertise you have on the subject.

2. Find a need and fill it

Once you’ve found your area of expertise, ask yourself “what do people need to know about this that isn’t being adequately covered by other writers and speakers?”

For example, in my case, I wanted to write for pastors (my area of expertise) but it seemed like every possible angle had been covered. Then I realized that, while 90 percent of churches are small, less than 10 percent (maybe less than 1 percent) of church leadership writing and speaking addressed the needs and blessings of small churches. That just happens to be where I’ve spent all my pastoral ministry.

My experience + an overlooked need = something to write about.

3. Start a website

It’s never been easier, faster or cheaper to get your message to an audience. And the best way to do that is to create a website, then promote it using social media. This is called an online presence.

But please note the order above. You cannot create an adequate online presence solely through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube or Instagram.

You need a website that you own and you control. Social media is where you promote what you’ve created, not where it originates.

4. Post your content consistently

The rule for online content is the same as it is for preaching. If you do it regularly you’ll get better at it, and if you don’t, you won’t.

Plus, if you’re not creating content at least once a week you won’t create enough material to matter, and your name won’t come up enough to get noticed.

5. Create quality content

There’s simply no substitute for quality.

There’s simply no substitute for quality. If you write, learn to write well.

If you write, learn to write well. Be compelling. Spend the necessary time to create a good title, strong opening sentences and helpful illustrations. Then have a proofreader look for issues like repeated words, misspellings, grammatical errors and so on.

It’s the same with podcasts and video. Watch or listen to them before you publish them. Make sure the audio is clear and shots are well framed. Do solid intros and outros. Stop saying fillers such as “um” or “like” and reduce dead air (silence) to a bare minimum.

6. Pay for good design elements

Whether you write, podcast or shoot video, spend some time watching how the top people in your field present their product and set up their website. Pay attention to details like page layout, color, fonts, logos and graphics.

While you may want to do everything else yourself, this is the one area you have to pay for. Unless you’re a professional photographer or graphic designer, you can’t afford to do this yourself. It will show.

7. Have a point of view

Your regular audience should know what you stand for. And yes, you can do this without becoming predictable.

In your web name and description, avoid using words like “musings”, “random”, “ramblings” and “thoughts”. Those telegraph to any potential audience that your point of view isn’t as focused as it should be.

8. Tell us what you’re for

There are a lot of angry voices out there. And some of them have built up quite a following. But if you want to attract publishers and conference promoters, along with the mainstream audience they’ll bring you, be for something positive.

Standing against something isn’t enough. It has no staying power. It exhausts everyone but the narrowest sliver of zealots.

When you say what you stand for in a positive, compelling fashion, you give people something to come back for.

9. Be concise

Generally, shorter is better than longer – even though you can’t take this article (one of my longest) as an example.

Most well-read, watched or listened-to content is on the shorter side. If what you have goes long, either cut it into shorter pieces, or make sure the quality is strong enough to keep your audience with you to the end.

10. Be helpful

It’s okay to write something in order to get it off your chest. Just keep it to yourself. Readers don’t want to hear you vent, they want to read something that helps them in a tangible way.

Before you hit “send” or “publish”, don’t think about how it makes you feel, ask “how will this help the people who read it?”

Before you hit “send” or “publish”, don’t think about how it makes you feel, ask “how will this help the people who read it?” If it doesn’t, don’t post it.

11. Add value to the online conversation

The first step in adding to the online conversation is to monitor it. Find and follow the people who are putting out the best content in your field, and any related fields.

The best way to do that, while spending the least amount of valuable time, is to set up an RSS feed. (Feedly is the industry standard and the free version is all you’re likely to need.)

It takes almost no time to set up. Then, in just a few minutes a day, you can scroll through all the headlines from anyone who’s writing in your field, tag what you want to read later, and keep up to speed with what’s being discussed.

Once you have a sense of the ongoing conversation, you’ll be able to add to it intelligently.

12. Be generous

The old rule of promotion and sales was “never give away your best stuff for free.” The new rule is “produce great quality content and give it with no strings attached.”

In the new Wild West that is the internet, if you give great content away, there are enough potential customers that you can make money off the small percentage who will pay for your product after sampling your free stuff.

But the free stuff has to be good because it’s the only indicator your potential audience has that your paid content will be worth spending money on

13. Have a sellable product

If people like your free stuff, they’ll want to buy your product.

Make sure you have something.

Ideally, you want a full book or album to sell them. But until you can create that, a $2 e-book, or a $1-a-month paywall for premium content will be bought by more people than you think.

14. Promote, but don't be pushy

Once you have a sellable product, people need to know about it. But don’t make the mistake of creating content that’s nothing but glorified advertising.

15. Share your struggles as well as your successes

No one wants to hear stories from someone who seems invincible. They want to hear how you struggled and overcame a problem, or even how you’re still struggling to overcome one now.

No one wants to hear stories from someone who seems invincible. They want to hear how you struggled and overcame a problem.

They’re struggling with something. That’s why they came to your website. For help. If the only thing you tell them is how great you are, you will seem unrelatable.

People want a guide to walk with them through their struggles, not a too-smart-for-the-room expert who doesn’t seem like they know what regular folks go through.

16. Be patient

Online success seems like an overnight phenomenon. It’s not.

On average, it takes three to four years of consistently producing quality content before you start to get traction.

So you need to love doing it, assemble a big backlog of quality content, and have the patience to keep at it.

17. Never stop learning

No one wants to know what you learned a decade ago. But that doesn’t mean your experience doesn’t matter (see point #1, above).

Learn something new today, filter it through your experience, then share it in a helpful way. That’s the wisdom your readers, listeners or watchers want.

Information is everywhere. And it gets stale fast.

Wisdom lasts.

Wise people are always learning – and always sharing it with others.

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The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.

July 10, 2019 at 2:00 AM

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