I often receive questions from people about how to write and publish your Christian book. Some are simply inquisitive and others are considering writing one themselves. Of course thanks to Amazon and the like, you can now write and self-publish your own book – there is no longer any need to seek that much desired publishing deal!
So what can I say that will help you to write and publish your Christian book?
Why write a book?
For me it has to start with the fact that you have a subject that you’re passionate about and want to put into print. That you have that sense that you have something worth saying that requires a wider audience.
When I wrote “Imagine” – I’d preached it as a 6 week sermon series and later felt compelled by God to put it into a book which resulted in a 54,000 word book, with 254 pages, 17 chapters and small group study notes (with teaching later recorded on YouTube for each session). Amazing where things lead!
So you could share your story, your big idea, what you’ve learned or how God brought you through a certain situation etc. I would encourage you to be as open, honest and transparent as you can and use real life illustrations from your own experiences.
Make it biblical, life giving, faith filled and full of hope, and don’t forget some great quotes and humorous anecdotes! Perhaps include some helpful prayers, exercises or study questions at the end of each chapter. Consider your audience and what would help them and be clear about the purpose of your book and stick to it.
Just to say – I have certainly NEVER written for profit – the sheer sense of joy and fulfilment I receive from the many emails, incredible testimonies and reviews I’ve received have been reward enough. NB – if you use a professional publisher the income you receive will be much less than if you self publish however there is a lot more work involved in self publishing!
How to write and publish your Christian book
My experience concerns self-publishing non-fiction books and there will be a completely different way to write a work of fiction.
As I’ve mentioned you need to be passionate about something enough to start and I would suggest you create an outline (mind mapping is helpful) and then start writing.
Take your time. I’m not sure you can rush a book. The longer you allow the thoughts and ideas to marinate the better it will be. As time progresses you will find fresh revelation comes which will bring depth to what you’ve already written.
This is obviously so important. Soak it in prayer.
I also used to pray every time I sat down to write and ask God to breathe all over it and download His thoughts and prayers.
Be open for God to drop ideas into your head at any point. Learn to write them done immediately and look at them later. Use an app on your phone.
It can be challenging for busy people with jobs and perhaps dependents to find time, space or quiet to write a book. My tip would be write perhaps 500 to 1000 words a day (one hour approx) and rise early, when your mind is clear, pray and get started. Personally I find early morning the best possible time to write, prepare sermons and pray. Set some weekly targets if that helps. Then just write (type) and get your ideas down on paper. At this point don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. Just get it down on paper.
Tip – Receive feedback during the writing – don’t just talk to people about what you’re writing. Ask people you trust and who will be honest with you to read it through and make comments, suggestions etc. They may notice something you haven’t.
Publishing your book
There and so many different ways to do this today. You can attempt to find a publishing deal but these are rare and I’m not sure you actually get value for money. Whilst they may do all the ground work and get you into book shops there aren’t really many other benefits.
Self-publishing means that you do everything – you are responsible for the editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design, registering, publishing on Amazon and other platforms, marketing etc. You do the lot – however you are in complete control, own your own work and can for instance, change the cover, the price, create promotions etc. I would estimate that average self publishing costs would be approx. £1200 if you use professional editors, formatters and designers.
Placing your book on Amazon costs nothing and a higher percentage of the profits are yours than if you used a publisher, particularly if your books are available on Kindle which has a higher profit margin as there is no physical book to distribute.
There are various hybrid models wherein you will pay a publishing company anywhere between £1500-£3000 to do the editorial, cover design, formatting etc for you and provide you with say 250 copies to sell. They all vary in what they offer. Be careful – there are some quality companies out there that provide a great service and some ‘not so good’ ones – seek recommendations and always read the small print.
Get your book professionally edited
I’ve read a few books where the author clearly hadn’t bothered with an editor. The structure was inadequate, the thoughts were disorganised and the writing quality and grammar was poor. Pay a professional editor. For a book of 45,000-50,000 words this is likely to cost you £500-600 but it will be more than worth it.
Editing will be your greatest expense but most critical one. Time wise – I usually allow 3-4 months for the editorial work to go back and forth. My editor provides two edits and a proof read and helps with the endnotes and edits my endorsements.
Choosing your book title
Something I learned after publishing my first book is this – choose your title and sub-title with care.
Consider the fact that at any online/offline book store the title or sub-title must contain the main subject of the book. People must be able to find it when they search for it.
So for example, my wife’s soon to be published book about being widowed with three little boys, needed to contain the words that people might be searching for and so the sub-title is ‘a story of hope in the midst of grief and loss’. We chose this partly because it is what the book is about but also because we know that people are searching on Amazon and elsewhere for books on ‘grief and loss’.
So make sure that your book title or sub-title describes what it is about and can be easily found when people search for it. If you don’t – nobody will be able to find your book on Amazon (or elsewhere) and remember – people go to Amazon to find books on the subjects they want to read about.
How do you find what people are searching for in Amazon? Go to the search box and begin to type a few words in, that describe the content of your book and see what it auto fills. These are the words or phrases that people are searching for.
Tip – you can learn much from looking at what other authors are doing, what their covers look like, their sales pitch, pricing, and which categories they have placed their books in (an important topic for another day). Incidentally – whilst the average word count for a book is approximately 50,000 there does appear to be a trend towards shorter books of 15,000-25,000 words. So if you don’t feel you could write 50,000 words – that’s ok.
Designing your book cover
There are sites such as Canva and Bookbrush that allow you to create your own, which is included in the monthly subscription charge. You could also use some one on Fiverr. Personally I use a graphic designer who costs more but who will create an original cover design. The last thing you want is to publish your book only to discover a few months later that the stock imagine used by the cheap designer has already been used several times by others – trust me it nearly happened to me.
Our cover designer is Leila at Tiny Designs. Below is the cover design for my wife Julia’s soon to be published book:
Formatting your book
Your finished work will need formatting for print and for Amazon and Ingram Sparks (who supply all the other bookshops around the world) plus printed copies for you to use. For print you will need a version in PDF form or Word and for ebook retailers such as Kindle, Apple books, Google, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo etc you will need mobi or e-pub format.
Professional formatting could cost you anything from £150-£250.
I’ve actually just discovered this company – www.word-2-kindle.com who provide an excellent and fast service and format both print and e-books.
How to publish on Amazon
This is a vast subject but Amazon provide lots of help online to guide you through the process and there are also plenty of quality videos on YouTube. Below is a screenshot of my Kindle Direct Publishing page which is where you load up your book cover and manuscript for both Kindle and print version.
Amazon also have some great tools including a previewer to check what your book looks like in different mediums.
Providing that the manuscript and cover are acceptable to Amazon it should only take you 2-3 hours to provide all the information and then load it all up. Amazon normally need 24/48 hours to check your book and publish it. You can though fill in all the information as you go along and before you publish. All work can be saved.
I would recommend you purchase your own ISBN – they can be purchased direct from Nielsen
Amazon will tempt you with a free one however you cannot use the Amazon ISBN to sell your book anywhere else creating a massive headache (trust me!).
One issue that I came up against was the cover size. First – make sure that you have your cover designed in one of the standard Amazon sizes. I use 8.0’ x 5.25’. Second – the quality of interior paper you use will have an impact on the thickness of the book that will in turn impact the spine size. This is another benefit of having a professional cover designer, who can alter it quickly and send it back to you. Amazon will not let you publish until everything fits ok for printing.
I would also recommend that you order a proof copy to check that everything is in the right place before telling everyone your book has been published. The last thing you want is your customers writing awful reviews because the book is full of formatting errors.
Once your book has been published for a month or so then why not sign up for KDP Select?
This allows you to run price promotions quarterly (see countdown below) and to reduce your book to say 99p/99c and then increase it, over a week or a weekend, back to full price. This is a great way to create interest and get your book in front of new potential customers
KDP Select also allow your book to be part of Kindle Unlimited. This means that those people who have a monthly Kindle Unlimited subscription can read your book for free and you receive a small amount per page read. Now this might seem a bit unfair and there are definitely positives and negatives.
Both my books are in the programme and I’ve found that people who would never have discovered my book have given it a try and then written great reviews and even purchased the paperback. In my opinion it is well worth it and great marketing.
Amazon advertising is great if used well but that’s a vast subject and I haven’t time to write about it here. Basically you choose key words (Amazon suggest them too) and pay per click for people to see your book when they search for that topic.
It has worked really well for me particularly in the UK and other countries. Care needs to be taken not to spend too much though and you need to monitor it regularly. Again – lots of training available on YouTube.
Monitoring your sales
Wondering how many books you’ve sold or how many pages have been read on Kindle Unlimited? Amazon have a reports page which you can check whenever you want. It’s constantly updated so will give you a pretty much up to the minute idea of sales. There is nothing better than waking up in morning and discovering overnight sales of your book while you slept.
Marketing your book
Someone once said that the day an author publishes a book is the day the hard work actually begins. That is so true!
If you’re blessed enough to have a professional publishing contract you would expect the publisher to market your book. Yet when was the last time you saw an advert for a Christian book? Precisely! Another reason, in my opinion, to self-publish.
So it’s down to you – there are lots of helpful websites with suggestions on marketing. Social media is great but DON’T spam your friends or grow your friendship list just so you can spam people! Find a healthy balance and occasionally mention your books, remembering that not everyone sees your posts in any case.
Tip – make sure it’s easy for people to discover your book – add a link to your sales page on Amazon (or wherever) directly to your social media bio’s, Linkedin page, CV, email signature etc. Don’t be afraid to let people see it. Share any reviews you’ve received on social media. Celebrate your success.
Creating quality marketing images
I discovered Bookbrush about a year ago and it is a brilliant tool. It’s almost identical to Canva and has thousands of images however it has been designed for authors. Basically you upload your book cover and you can place it at different angles on whatever back ground you like (see example below that I created).
They also provide set templates for different seasons which are fabulous and also images for all the major book sellers. I use it all the time. It has saved me a fortune and provided me with a continuous stream of marketing images.
Deciding the purchase price of your book
If you self-publish you can pretty much choose whatever price you like. Personally I’d rather more people read the books that I’ve written than sell a few at a higher price. It doesn’t work. I know unknown authors who insist on charging way more than a market price and then wonder why they sell very few books.
I suggest you experiment but I’ve found the sweet spot for me is £7.99/$9.99 for print and £3.99 /$4.99 for kindle. Of course my books are some 46,000 and 54,000 words in length but if your book is half that size then you need to price accordingly.
Amazon has a pricing page where you can set the price and also choose to set it at a similar price in all the other countries it will be published. This is very helpful and it also tells you how much profit you will make at the price you choose. So you can have a play with the numbers and choose what suits you.
Purchasing print copies
If you’d like to have your own copies to sell at church or other events or to give away to family and friends then the cheapest way to order bulk copies is through Ingram Sparks who I mentioned earlier. They will be much cheaper than buying in bulk from Amazon.
I regularly order a box for my own personal use. If bulk copies are required by churches – I order them at Ingram Sparks and have them delivered direct. NB: you need to have your book available through Ingram Sparks to order from them.
Creating a website/blog
Starting this blog in 2014 was a massive help to me. It enabled me not only to find my writers ‘voice’ but also develop my own writing style.
It also created a platform for my books. There was already a ready made audience who enjoyed my writing and were ready to read more of my writing. This was a massive bonus.
It’s quite simple to set up a website these days or you could perhaps pay someone to set one up on your behalf.
In addition I can use my blog to advertise my books and promote them to my readers.
How to write and publish your Christian book
I hope this article helps you discover more about how to write a Christian book. There appears to be a lot involved but it’s up to you how little or much you do once it’s written and published. I enjoyed learning about the different aspects and it’s become a bit of a hobby.
I’m actually convinced there is a book within each one of us just waiting to be written.
We all have stories and experiences that will help others to navigate life.
Others will create fictional stories and characters that will captive audiences.
Why not give it a try….over to you.
There is so much help available on line – here are several sites packed with helpful information.
NB – None of the links above are affiliate links. I receive nothing for advertising them.