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The Unforced Error Most Authors Make: The Formula For Influence, Part 3
2023-07-27 Champions Weekly
1. The Bomber Bombed
I was really bummed out by The Bomber Mafia.
I had looked forward to Malcolm Gladwell’s 2021 release. After Outliers and Tipping Point, I’d become a big fan. Perhaps you’ve heard me talk about my affinity for his journalist tone, which takes the reader on a journey of discovery, rather than coming down from a mountaintop of knowledge. I even reverse engineered the structure of Outliers in a blog post on how to structure a book, which Invite Press author Arthur Jones said was key for him to unlock the ideas which led to his book Solid Souls (which is a gem if you haven’t read it, by the way).
But The Bomber Mafia was different. It was marketed as the others had been, and of course it has sold well because it’s a Gladwell, but from my vantage point, it lacks the same compelling thesis-with-a-twist vibe that characterized his earlier work. It was episodic and shallow. Then I realized… oh. This reads like a series of podcast episodes. Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast is interesting in its own right, but here’s the rule: different media require different structures.
In fact, not only that, I have observed a phenomenon that has held up for the over 25 years I’ve been involved in the writing and publishing industry: the book comes first.
As I continue this series, The Formula for Influence, let me clear: publishing a bestseller is extremely hard, and extremely hard to predict. A book needs several, perhaps as many as a dozen, things to go its way. Last week, I wrote that a book has to be personal.
This week, here’s the bottom line: Authors make an unforced error when they create ancillary products first.
Why? It’s the cart before the horse. The tail wagging the dog. Counting chickens.
Even in the year of our Lord 2023, the book has one unique, compelling advantage over other media: It is the only medium that requires you to think deeply enough about a topic to generate truly original thinking. Here’s the formula:
Book —> Book Plus (ancillary products such as a podcast, sermon, study guide, masterclass, and so on)
It’s NOT this:
Sermon Series —> Book, or
Podcast —> Book, or
Seminar —> Book
Sure, you can START a book that way, and many people do, but don’t just let your final work exist as a transcript of another medium. A book based on a sermon series or podcast season is more likely to comes across as episodic, shallow, a light read, perhaps helpful but ultimately not a high seller / game changer. The kind of book where you could read the intro and a chapter or two and then you’re done.
You’ve got to take the reader on a journey.
Consider Solid Souls. Arthur had been chewing on the thesis for years. He ultimately did a sermon series on it, but that came after. The book came first. You think differently about the content when you order it this way. When you read Solid Souls, you’ll see what I mean. It is compelling. It introduces a thesis and then builds on it over time. It takes you on a journey. It isn’t episodic.
Yes, there are exceptions. Mere Christianity began as a series of radio lectures. But the exception proves the point, as C. S. Lewis was forced to construct an entire thesis before he even began the first radio lecture. (And it was the 1940s.)
Books are dang hard to write. Do the hard part first, and then extend to other media and forms.
2. Championing Invite: Growing the Press
I realized this week that there’s still confusion between Invite Resources and Invite Press.
Invite Resources is the name of the ministry organization. The mission of Invite is to share the promise of Christ’s New Creation. That involves book publishing, but is not limited to book publishing.
Invite Press is our flagship imprint, and the first pillar of a multi-faceted vision for the next several years. We began in March of 2020, and as of our new fiscal year, July 1, we’re proud to announce that we’re expanding our press operation even more.
Keep your eyes peeled: We finished the spring list with 9 new titles, which totals 30 in the first three years. And… we’re about to double it. We have 30 more in the queue for the twelve months!
The rate of our published titles keeps growing, and the rate of proposals keeps growing, too. If you know of someone who wants to submit a proposal, have them contact Lori Wagner at email@example.com. Also, send them this new template for what we need in a good book proposal: