6 Lessons from Pride and Prejudice


Posted: January 28, 2018

1. We can see ourselves and sin in its characters.

If we read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with an eye on our own tendencies, we may recognize some of the more unappealing qualities of some of its characters in ourselves. Jerram Barrs, author of Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts says this:

‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a comedy of manners and a critique of individual and social snobbery, as well as class folly. The story is subversive and works like Jesus’s parables. The humor and the ironic insight into human weaknesses and moral failure are very attractive to our hearts and minds, for we readers and viewers are invited to join Austen in her awareness of these flaws and to hold them up for our amused critique and rejection.

But then we find ourselves caught up in the story and our own ironic dismissal of others’ behavior, and we discover that we are on board for Austen’s very serious journey of understanding into the human condition. And it may very well be that we discover in ourselves the very flaws at which we have been laughing with such enjoyment. . . . the humor and the brilliant characterization make it easier for us to be touched by the moral issues at the core of the book.

2. Marriage is an honorable estate.

Given the emphasis placed on marriage in Austen’s works, it is safe to say she valued the institution and had thoughts about what a good and wise marriage looks like. Barrs says:

In ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Austen presents husband and wife as moral and intellectual equals—that is her ideal, and it is clearly the teaching of Scripture. We see this in the developing relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy; though we should also notice that each of these two thinks of the other as the superior, which is what genuinely Christian love and a Christian approach to marriage require of us.

3. It is good to honor thy parents.

Familial relationships in the novel express the importance of honor and respect. Jane and Lizzie exemplify what it looks like to their parents this way. Barrs explains:

Despite the many flaws in their parents, particularly their mother, they are unfailingly polite and respectful in their presence and when speaking about them. They maintain this respect even when they finally feel the need to express problems, for example, when Elizabeth talks to her father about his failure to restrain Lydia.

Echoes of Eden

Echoes of Eden

Jerram Barrs

Art is all around us, but few people truly understand it. Barrs helps readers evaluate and define great art through an investigation of the work of Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling, Shakespeare, and Austen.

4. Kindness should not be reserved for those like us.

Status and wealth may influence who we decide who to spend time with, but this is not the reality in the kingdom of God. In Scripture, Jesus is often turning old stereotypes on their heads, teaching that the first will be last, and the last first. Austen’s writing seems to reflect the same belief. Barrs notes:

Fairness and generosity to those who are under one socially are shown to be thoroughly praiseworthy, and also rare; for Austen recognizes that most people with money, status, and power get carried away only with their own interests.

In this regard Darcy is a paragon of virtue. He is viewed with the greatest respect by those who have worked in his house and on his estate. A man who is well spoken of by those under him is indeed a good man. There are very few such men in this world. Basic decency, kindness, and a willingness to give oneself to the service of others are virtues held up for our praise.

5. Gentleness is a virtue.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves gravitating towards characters who display qualities that we esteem as admirable. Jane is an excellent example of this, notable for her gentleness of spirit. Barrs explains:

She is a portrait of the qualities of love as set out by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. Jane is patient and kind; she is not envious or boastful; she is not arrogant or rude; she does not insist on her own way; she is not irritable or resentful; she does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jane bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Her love never fails. One of the remarkable achievements of Austen is to present Jane as a lovable and delightful person.

6. We are to love what is good.

The characterization and narrative of Pride and Prejudice lend themselves toward a celebration of morality—even Christian morality. The book, Barrs, says:


. . . constantly touches deep moral chords in the human soul. The book and the films teach the importance of self-control, courtesy, a mannerly consideration for others, humility, love, kindness and generosity, respect and honor—and many other virtues.

But these virtues are presented not simply as pleasant social behavior that will make society run more smoothly, but as truly moral characteristics—ones that arise from the profound sense of a Christian moral order pervading this book and all of Jane Austen’s novels.

We are invited to love what is good, what is kind, what is just, what is merciful and faithful. And we are invited to laugh at, and to loathe, what is unfaithful, dishonest, selfish, proud, and mean. Perhaps the deepest issues of all that are dealt with in this book are the importance of personal humility, the readiness to see one’s weaknesses and failings, and then to desire to change.




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New Research Explains How The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard

How do you take notes? On a computer? with a pen and paper? Not at all? Well a new study is showing how taking notes a certain way may actually help you more effectively learn information. We wish we could tell you it was the easy way, but at least you know if you put in the effort, you’ll get some great results out of it.

In her graduate assistant days, psychological scientist Pam Mueller of Princeton University used to take notes just like everyone else in the modern age: with a computer. One day, Mueller forgot her laptop and had to take notes the old-fashioned way. Rather than being held back by pen and paper, Mueller left class feeling as if she’d retained far more information than usual on that day. She decided to create a case study that could prove her hunch that writing longhand was actually better for comprehension than typing.

The study she created, published in Psychological Science, indicated that taking notes by hand is a more effective method than typing them on a laptop when it comes to processing information conceptually.

Via English 106

In the first of a series of studies led by Mueller, 65 college students watched various TED Talks in small groups, and were provided with either pens and paper or laptops for taking notes. When the students were tested afterward, the results were overwhelming. While the groups performed equally on questions that involved recalling facts, those who had taken longhand notes did significantly better when it came to answering conceptual questions.

Mueller found that this was the result of laptop users trying too hard to transcribe the lecture rather than listening for the most important information and writing it down by hand. It may be an era where computers have made handwriting seem useless, but Mueller isn’t the only believer in the importance of longhand.

Via Michael Bentley

An article in TIME discusses Karin James, an Indiana University psychologist, who published a 2012 study indicating writing is particularly important in the cognitive development of pre-literate children five and under.While using a computer for note-taking in some situations makes sense, it’s important not to overlook the longhand method.

Learn more about the benefits associated with writing notes out by hand

…and bring a pen and paper to the next work meeting or classroom session.



Posted On The Writer’s Circle Facebook Page

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Presidents’ Day

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

The story of Presidents’ Day date begins in 1800. Following President George Washington’s death in 1799, his February 22 birthday became a perennial day of remembrance. At the time, Washington was venerated as the most important figure in American history, and events like the 1832 centennial of his birth and the start of construction of the Washington Monument in 1848 were cause for national celebration.

While Washington’s Birthday was an unofficial observance for most of the 1800s, it was not until the late 1870s that it became a federal holiday. Senator Steven Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas was the first to propose the measure, and in 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law. The holiday initially only applied to the District of Columbia, but in 1885 it was expanded to the whole country. At the time, Washington’s Birthday joined four other nationally recognized federal bank holidays—Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving—and was the first to celebrate the life of an individual American. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, signed into law in 1983, would be the second.

The shift from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day began in the late 1960s when Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Championed by Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, this law sought to shift the celebration of several federal holidays from specific dates to a series of predetermined Mondays. The proposed change was seen by many as a novel way to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers, and it was believed that ensuring holidays always fell on the same weekday would reduce employee absenteeism. While some argued that shifting holidays from their original dates would cheapen their meaning, the bill also had widespread support from both the private sector and labor unions and was seen as a surefire way to bolster retail sales.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act also included a provision to combine the celebration of Washington’s Birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s, which fell on the proximate date of February 12. Lincoln’s Birthday had long been a state holiday in places like Illinois, and many supported joining the two days as a way of giving equal recognition to two of America’s most famous statesmen.

McClory was among the measure’s major proponents, and he even floated the idea of renaming the holiday “President’s Day.” This proved to be a point of contention for lawmakers from George Washington’s home state of Virginia, and the proposal was eventually dropped. Nevertheless, the main piece of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in 1968 and officially took effect in 1971 following an executive order from President Richard Nixon. Washington’s Birthday was then shifted from the fixed date of February 22 to the third Monday of February. Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day were also moved from their traditionally designated dates. (As a result of widespread criticism, in 1980 Veterans’ Day was returned to its original November 11 date.)

While Nixon’s order plainly called the newly placed holiday Washington’s Birthday, it was not long before the shift to Presidents’ Day began. The move away from February 22 led many to believe that the new date was intended to honor both Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as it now fell between their two birthdays. Marketers soon jumped at the opportunity to play up the three-day weekend with sales, and “Presidents’ Day” bargains were advertised at stores around the country.

By the mid-1980s Washington’s Birthday was known to many Americans as Presidents’ Day. This shift had solidified in the early 2000s, by which time as many as half the 50 states had changed the holiday’s name to Presidents’ Day on their calendars. Some states have even chosen to customize the holiday by adding new figures to the celebration. Arkansas, for instance, celebrates Washington as well as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. Alabama, meanwhile, uses Presidents’ Day to commemorate Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).

Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders, but Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some lawmakers have objected to this view, arguing that grouping George Washington and Abraham Lincoln together with less successful presidents minimizes their legacies. Congressional measures to restore Washington and Lincoln’s individual birthdays were proposed during the early 2000s, but all failed to gain much attention. For its part, the federal government has held fast to the original incarnation of the holiday as a celebration of the country’s first president. The third Monday in February is still listed on official calendars as Washington’s Birthday.

Like Independence Day, Presidents’ Day is traditionally viewed as a time of patriotic celebration and remembrance. In its original incarnation as Washington’s Birthday, the holiday gained special meaning during the difficulties of the Great Depression, when portraits of George Washington often graced the front pages of newspapers and magazines every February 22. In 1932 the date was used to reinstate the Purple Heart, a military decoration originally created by George Washington to honor soldiers killed or wounded while serving in the armed forces. Patriotic groups and the Boy Scouts of America also held celebrations on the day, and in 1938 some 5,000 people attended mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in honor of Washington.

In its modern form, Presidents’ Day is used by many patriotic and historical groups as a date for staging celebrations, reenactments and other events. A number of states also require that their public schools spend the days leading up to Presidents’ Day teaching students about the accomplishments of the presidents, often with a focus on the lives of Washington and Lincoln

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Why FISA-gate Is Scarier Than Watergate By Victor Davis Hanson

The Watergate scandal of 1972-74 was uncovered largely because of outraged Democratic politicians and a bulldog media. They both claimed that they had saved American democracy from the Nixon administration’s attempt to warp the CIA and FBI to cover up an otherwise minor, though illegal, political break-in.

In the Iran-Contra affair of 1985-87, the media and liberal activists uncovered wrongdoing by some rogue members of the Reagan government. They warned of government overreach and of using the “Deep State” to subvert the law for political purposes

We are now in the midst of a third great modern scandal. Members of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice sought court approval for the surveillance of Carter Page, allegedly for colluding with Russian interests, and extended the surveillance three times.

But none of these government officials told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the warrant requests were based on an unverified dossier that had originated as a hit piece funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump during the current 2016 campaign.

Nor did these officials reveal that the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, had already been dropped as a reliable source by the FBI for leaking to the press.

Nor did officials add that a Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, had met privately with Steele — or that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, had been hired to work on the dossier.

Unfortunately, such disclosures may be only the beginning of the FISA-Gate scandal.

Members of the Obama administration’s national security team also may have requested the names of American citizens connected with the Trump campaign who had been swept up in other FISA surveillance. Those officials may have then improperly unmasked the names and leaked them to a compliant press — again, for apparent political purposes during a campaign.

As a result of various controversies, the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, has resigned. Two FBI officials who had been working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in the so-called Russia collusion probe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, have been reassigned for having an improper relationship and for displaying overt political biases in text messages to each other.

The new FBI director, Christopher Wray, has also reassigned the FBI’s top lawyer, James Baker, who purportedly leaked the Steele dossier to a sympathetic journalist.

How does FISA-gate compare to Watergate and Iran-Contra?

Once again, an administration is being accused of politicizing government agencies to further agendas, this time apparently to gain an advantage for Hillary Clinton in the run-up to an election.

There is also the same sort of government resistance to releasing documents under the pretext of “national security.”

There is a similar pattern of slandering congressional investigators and whistleblowers as disloyal and even treasonous.

There is the rationale that just as the Watergate break-in was a two-bit affair, Carter Page was a nobody.

But there is one huge (and ironic) difference. In the current FISA-gate scandal, most of the media and liberal civil libertarians are now opposing the disclosure of public documents. They are siding with those in the government who disingenuously sought surveillance to facilitate the efforts of a political campaign.

This time around, the press is not after a hated Nixon administration. Civil libertarians are not demanding accountability from a conservative Reagan team. Instead, the roles are reversed.

Barack Obama was a progressive constitutional lawyer who expressed distrust of the secretive “Deep State.” Yet his administration weaponized the IRS and surveilled Associated Press communications and a Fox News journalist for reporting unfavorable news based on supposed leaks.

Obama did not fit the past stereotypes of right-wing authoritarians subverting the Department of Justice and its agencies. Perhaps that is why there was little pushback against his administration’s efforts to assist the campaign of his likely replacement, fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Progressives are not supposed to destroy requested emails, “acid wash” hard drives, spread unverified and paid-for opposition research among government agencies, or use the DOJ and FBI to obtain warrants to snoop on the communications of American citizens.

FISA-gate may become a more worrisome scandal than either Watergate or Iran-Contra. Why? Because our defense against government wrongdoing — the press — is defending such actions, not uncovering them. Liberal and progressive voices are excusing, not airing, the excesses of the DOJ and FBI.

Apparently, weaponizing government agencies to stop a detested Donald Trump by any means necessary is not really considered a crime.

Posted: February 8, 2018


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Happy Birthday, President Lincoln!

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5 Christian Athletes to Watch in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics | Brett McCracken

From the opening ceremony on February 9 to the closing ceremony on February 25, the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, are sure to be packed with compelling storylines. Nearly 3,000 athletes from around the world (including 22 athletes from North Korea) will compete for 306 medals in 102 events, including four events debuting for the first time (big air snowboard, curling mixed doubles, alpine skiing national team event, mass-start speedskating).

Among the athletes competing are five Olympians who have spoken openly about their Christian faith. Learn a bit about them below and root them on during the Olympics as they seek to glorify God by excelling in their sport.

Kelly Clark (Snowboarding Halfpipe)

Few people ever get to compete in one Winter Olympics. For Kelly Clark, PyeongChang will be her fifth. Sixteen years ago, Clark was only 18 as she won gold in the halfpipe at the Salt Lake City games. She’s since picked up two more medals—halfpipe bronze in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. Now 34, Clark will become the first U.S. snowboarder to compete in five Olympics, joining up-and-coming stars Chloe Kim and Maddie Mastro—at 17, literally half Clark’s age—in going for halfpipe gold.

After she achieved fame and success in the 2002 Olympics, Clark found her life lacking meaning and fulfillment. At 20, she overheard a conversation in which four words caught her attention: “God still loves you.” Clark couldn’t shake these words, which set her on a path to accept Jesus Christ, changing the course of her life and giving her a new identity.

“I started to understand that I didn’t get my worth from people or from the things that I did,” Clark said. “It was from Christ. If I hadn’t had that shift in my life, I think my world would have come crumbling down.”

Watch Kelly Clark compete in snowboarding halfpipe on February 11 (qualifying) and February 12 (final). Follow her on Twitter at @TheKellyClark.

David Wise (Freestyle Skiing Halfpipe)

Four years ago in Sochi, David Wise became the first Olympic gold medalist in men’s halfpipe skiing. His winning run earned a remarkable score of 92.00 and instantly cemented the Reno native as a legend in the young sport. In PyeongChang, Wise—a 27-year-old husband and father of two—will attempt to defend his halfpipe gold in the event’s second Olympics appearance.

Wise has said his Christian faith is both grounding and pressure-relieving—in a sport that is not often grounded (literally flying through the air) and full of pressure to posture and perform.

“Faith plays a huge role because it enables me to be confident,” Wise said in 2014. “I don’t have to worry about what’s happening or the outside influences as much because I feel like I can trust God, and he’s going to see me through. I can look back on my path and realize that God had a pretty significant part in taking care of me. It takes the pressure off and I can enjoy it.”

Watch David Wise compete in freeski halfpipe on February 19 (qualifying) and February 21 (final). Follow him on Twitter at @MrDavidWise.

Elana Meyers Taylor (Bobsled)

Elana Meyers Taylor met her now-husband, Nic Taylor, in 2011 as part of a Bible study near the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. A few years later the two were engaged and then baptized at Saranac Lake Baptist Church. Now, the couple is headed to PyeongChang together, both members of the U.S. bobsled team. Nic is an alternate on the men’s team, but Elana is the leader of the women’s team, hoping to win a medal for the third straight Winter Olympics.

After achieving a bronze in Vancouver 2010 and then a silver at Sochi 2014, Elana went on to win gold at two of the last three world championships. Will she win her first Olympic gold this year, after missing gold by one-tenth of a second in Sochi? The 33-year-old has a good shot, but whatever happens, her faith in Christ frees her from crushing pressure.

“We’re talking about the Olympics. We’re talking about trying to win the gold medal. All of these things can be overwhelming,” Taylor said in a 2016 interview. “But regardless of whether I win a gold medal or never compete again, I just have to trust that God has a plan for my life and I’m called to be his representative through the sport and outside of the sport.”

Watch Elana Meyers Taylor compete in women’s bobsled on February 20 and 21. Follow her on Twitter at @eamslider24.

Katie Uhlaender (Skeleton)

“It is all about letting go and finding speed by generating momentum with your body.”

That’s how Katie Uhlaender described the (insane) sport of skeleton, where athletes lie face down on a sled and race down an icy track at speeds reaching 80 miles per hour.

But it could also describe Uhlaender’s approach to life in the face of adversity. The 33-year-old is headed to the Olympics for the fourth time, but she has yet to win a medal. In Sochi she came painfully close, missing bronze by only four-hundredths of a second to Elena Nikitina of Russia. Then, when it appeared likely Nikitina’s medal would be stripped because of doping, the bronze seemed within Uhlaender’s grasp. But that too slipped away when an international arbitration court, on February 1, controversially overturned the ban on 28 Russian athletes accused of doping.

Still, Uhlaender, who lost her famous father—former MLB outfielder Ted Uhlaender—to a heart attack in 2009, has tenacity and perseverance, in large part because of her faith.

“Quitting is never an option, so why would I quit on God?” she said. “He guides me and gives me the strength to keep going.”

Watch Katie Uhlaender compete in women’s skeleton on February 16 and 17. Follow her on Twitter at @KatieU11.

Gigi Marvin (Hockey)

Since debuting as an Olympic sport in 1998, women’s hockey has been dominated by two nations: Canada and the United States. The U.S. team won gold in the event’s inaugural Olympics, but Canada has topped the podium ever since.

Gigi Marvin was part of the U.S. team in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, winning silver both times. She’ll be on the team for her third Olympics in PyeongChang, striving for her first Olympic gold. But for 30-year-old Marvin, winning on the ice is not the whole mission.

“My mission is more than winning another medal or championship,” she told FCA Magazine. “It’s about sharing Christ and leading others to him.”

In spite of her two Olympic silvers, five world championship golds, and many other accolades (including as a star player for the University of Minnesota), Marvin doesn’t let her hockey success define her.

“I know my worth is not found in what I can achieve in this game,” she said. “Instead, my identity and value is only found in Christ, my Redeemer and Lord.”

Watch Gigi Marvin and the U.S. women’s hockey team beginning February 11. Follow her on Twitter at @GigiMarvin.


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On Writing Books and Getting Published By Kevin DeYoung

It’s one of the questions I get asked most frequently: “I want to write a book and get published. What advice do you have?”

Sometimes the questioners are just looking for an in, as in, “Can you send this to your friends and get me a deal?” But usually the questioners are genuinely looking for any insights they can glean from others. I understand the question. I asked it of my published friends before I wrote my first book. It was always a dream of mine to write and—maybe, just maybe, someday before I die—get published by a real publisher. I never imagined the open doors the Lord would provide.

Although I didn’t get published because an insider greased the wheels, my friends certainly helped me along the way with good counsel and realistic advice. Let me try to do the same for the good folks out there with good book ideas rattling around in their heads or on their computers.


We’ll start with writing and then move to publishing. There is no one right way to get a book written. I’ve known pastors who write from 10 p.m. to midnight, and others who get up at 4 a.m. and write for several hours in the morning. Some authors crank out books in months or weeks (or days!). Others labor for years, struggling over every word.

This is what works for me: I don’t do well writing books in fits and starts, or a couple hours at a time. I did that with the homosexuality book and found it the least enjoyable of the books I’ve written (the difficult subject matter and the tedious review process were also partly to blame). I much prefer to write a book from start to finish during an extended study leave. Most of my books have been written in this way.

Whether it was the book on holiness or busyness or the mission of the church, I started 6 to 12 months out by reading everything I could on the subject. By “everything” I don’t mean exhaustive academic research. I mean everything I can easily get my hands on. That usually amounts to 15 to 20 books over the course of a year and a smattering of articles and blog posts.

During the reading process I’m constantly playing with the shape of the manuscript in my mind. I underline, jot down notes, and begin sketching out chapter titles. After 6 to 12 months of reading (which I squeeze into whatever time I can find—on a plane, before bed, waiting in line), I usually have a good working outline of my chapters and some subheadings within those chapters.

When I come to my four-week study leave, I’ve done most of the research and a lot of the heavy thinking already. That means I’m ready to write on day one. I’m typically a pretty fast writer once I know where I’m going and what I want to say. I may write 1,000 to 2,000 words a day, which amounts to a short book (25,000) or a medium-sized book (40,000+ words) in a month. That may sound like a lot, but I’m not doing academic research, I’m not cramming in tons of footnotes, and I already know (fairly well) where I’m going when I first sit down at the keyboard.

How can you improve as a writer? That’s a tough question. There are good books out there that can help with the craft. But without a doubt the best advice is to simply write and read a lot. You need both. You’ll never learn new words, discover new arguments, and adopt new forms if you don’t read. And you won’t get better at writing without lots of writing.

And not just any writing, deliberate writing. You already write texts and emails and Facebook updates and tweets and Christmas cards, so why not do these things excellently? Force yourself to use correct punctuation. Give yourself a word limit. Be punchy and succinct.

The other piece of advice is to read your own writing out loud. As often as I tell students to do this, they must still skip over this step, because they make so many mistakes they would easily catch if they had to verbally speak their own sentences.


Okay, you’ve got a great book already written. You just need a publisher. Now what?

  1. Find an honest friend. I’ve met many people over the years who want me to see their amazing book idea. They try to tell me, with appropriate humility, how all their friends have raved about the material and how it obviously needs to be published. More often than not, their friends are poor judges of literary merit. Get a critical, honest friend you can trust. Don’t ask me what I think! Ask him or her whether your writing is good. Be prepared to have your feelings hurt.
  2. Don’t expect wonders from your author or publisher friends. You may have a good buddy who works with a publisher or who has written a book himself. Of course, you should feel free to ask him questions and seek his advice. But don’t look for favors. I’m wary of passing along manuscripts to people I know in the industry. It’s not because I don’t want to help, but because I want to help everyone. That means I don’t want to flood my friends with unsolicited manuscripts that they now feel obligated to read. That may sound hoity-toity, but it’s what my friends told me when I started out too. I respected them for their integrity and honesty with me.
  3. Publishers don’t stay in business unless they sell books. To be sure, this is not an excuse for publishers to care about nothing besides the bottom line. And yet, they do have to care about the bottom line, which is why they generally want to publish books that actually sell. It’s hard to get into publishing, because most publishers work with recognized authors (whom they trust to write good stuff) and/or with recognized agents (whom they trust to pass along good stuff). It’s not a perfect system. Good stuff gets left out, and bad stuff gets put out. But all those I’ve worked with at Crossway and Moody have been godly people trying to do the best they can to publish solid material that can still recoup their investment.
  4. Go ahead and submit a couple chapters. Most publishers don’t take unsolicited manuscripts, at least not officially. But publishers still have someone taking a look at the manuscripts that come in. When Ted Kluck and I were shopping around the emergent book, we got lots of no’s. It only took one person at Moody to like what we sent in and give us a chance.
  5. Be smart about your submission. Shorter is better. Don’t brag about yourself. Don’t oversell your book as the most important thing since the Ninety-five Theses. Don’t send in the whole manuscript. Do, however, include a couple endorsements from trusted authors, scholars, or leaders. I know it helped our emergent book see the light of day that we had already lined up David Wells to do the foreword. There’s other homework you can do too. Specify a target audience in your proposal (claiming that your book will bless everyone doesn’t count), and show that you know what kind of audience the publisher tries to reach.
  6. Getting a book published is like a horse race. This is the analogy my published friend told me years ago when I was still dreaming of writing a book someday. His analogy has always stuck with me. In publishing, the author is like the jockey, the topic is like the horse, and the cultural moment is like the race track. Publishers generally want at least two of the three to be in a strong position for success. Take the emergent book, for example. The jockey (me) was nothing. Ted had written some books, which helped, but no one was interested in what Kevin DeYoung had to say about anything. The topic, however, was relevant, and we were young at the time. Likewise, the cultural moment was just right; the emergent movement was at its zenith. We had two of the three factors in our favor, so Moody took a chance on some unknown jockeys.
  7. You need something unique to say, or some unique way to say it. If you’re Tim Keller, thousands of people are already eager to hear what you have to say—about almost anything. For the rest of us, we need to work hard to come up with something unique. Actually, that last sentence isn’t fair to Keller, because what he does so well is take familiar material (for example, prayer, marriage, work, justice, apologetics) and present it in a way that feels fresh and original. People are eager to hear from Keller because they know he will provoke them to think about something in a new way. Sorry to say, unless you are a world-class scholar or extremely gifted communicator, most people don’t care about the devotional you’ve written, your latest sermon transcripts, or the Bible studies you’ve done on Ezekiel. Maybe people should care, but they don’t. You need a hook that makes your work worth reading. When I pitched another “find the will of God” book to Moody, they were skeptical, but when I came up with the angle “just do something,” it became interesting. Along these lines, you should mention the “competition” in your proposal. Make the case that your book on parenting is different (a new approach, more research, more readable, personal stories, and so on) than the three dozen other books on parenting.
  8. Publishing is not a divine assessment of worth. We all know there are plenty of crummy Christian books. In fact, the bestselling books are often the worst. Conversely, there are faithful resources out there, full of truth, that never see the light of day. Publishing does not always reward great writing and profound truth. Some publishers do the best they can. Others don’t. Either way, the system will never be foolproof. Some things are out of your control. So go easy on the self-promotion. Don’t retweet commendations. Don’t do humblebrags. Don’t puff your own stuff. If you do get published, let people know about the book, point people to more information, and then move on.
  9. Self-publishing is not a failure. My first book, Freedom and Boundaries, was self-published. This wasn’t my first choice (and now the book is out of print because the publisher went belly up), but it wasn’t a bad second choice. The book got an ISBN number, it went on Amazon, I gave it to people at my church, I had something to recommend to my friends and family. No shame in any of that. Similarly, consider writing articles before you dream of writing a book. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are the good books about Rome.
  10. If you like to write, keep writing. Whether you get published or not, if you have something true and useful to say, it will be a blessing to someone. Start a blog, get some traction, see what happens. Most books sell in the thousands, if not the hundreds. Publishers stay in business behind a few mega-hits. So even if you don’t get published, if you work hard and have an important, well-written message to convey, you may be able to get your stuff out to almost as many people. If your real passion is to get published, you’ll likely be disappointed. Check your motives. Write because you love to write.

There you go. I hope I’ve given the right mix of optimism, pessimism, and realism. Writing is good, and you can get better. Publishing is hard, and it may not happen. Don’t stop reading. Hone your craft. Learn, grow, be self-aware. And as Calvinists like to say, good luck!





Posted:February 6, 2018

Posted in Current Events, education, words, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment