Creative Leadership

Don’t Just Write Pastor Books, Write Serious Books

When most pastors write books, you can bet they’re compiled from sermon notes and manuscripts. Preach a series on fear, and they end up with a book on the subject. Same with marriage, prophecy, grace, epic Bible stories – whatever. I don’t discourage that, but don’t think for a minute that’s a serious book. Writing is different than speaking, and editing sermon notes into a readable manuscript and then calling it a “book” isn’t very impressive. If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, here’s what I recommend:

1) Go ahead and do these books I call “pastor books.”  After all, content should be maximized, and when you preach, that should be available  online, through radio and TV, podcasts, and other places – including book form.  But understand where these books line up on the food chain. These are books that will mostly help your congregation and other members of your social media or broadcast tribe. These books can often be good, but rarely make a big impact.

2) Next, focus more on your life’s work, or what I call your “One Big Thing.”  Every 3-5 years, create a book that you pour your life into. Do the deep research, interview expert sources, and do everything you can to make it significant. Sit down and actually write it – don’t just preach it. That kind of book deserves serious planning, a real publisher, marketing campaign, and possibly an agent. It should be something you’re incredibly proud of and will stand the test of time.

Pastor books are good for teaching, as fundraising premiums, or product offers through your media platforms.

Serious books change people’s lives. But you’ll never write one if you think transcribing a sermon magically becomes a book.

If you’re serious about your message, you need to think about writing serious books.

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7 Comments

  1. “Pastor books are good for teaching, as fundraising premiums, or product offers through your media platforms. Serious books change people’s lives. But you’ll never write one if you think transcribing a sermon magically becomes a book.”

    I agree with your point for the most part. I think one reality left out is that it is a needle-in-a-haystack miracle for most pastor’s to land a publishing deal these days. If your pastoral bio isn’t “led a church from 50 to 5000 in weekly attendance” the traditional publishing world won’t give your work a look. That said, the segment I copied above is significant to me — pastors can turn sermons into an extension of their teaching, a fundraising tool, and help build their “platform” in a valuable and “doable” way. So I’d say, preachers, DO THAT while you’re dreaming up your life-changing literary gem.

    Darin Michael Shaw, 21 year pastoral veteran turned full time writer,

  2. Thanks for this great piece. I found it very interesting as I’ve just started writing my first book on a topic that’s not typically “Christian” or “churchy”. However I’ve found myself using a lot of biblical references to illustrate the various principles I’m trying to teach. I’m not targeting the book to Christians only but would like it to appeal to corporate leaders and workers as well… Will the biblical contents hurt my objectives?

  3. Reminds me of when I was part of a ‘professional speakers’ group. The in thing at the time was to publish a book on whatever your speaking subject was, so you could sell them at your gig. Only thing was these books were just as you described above Phil. Cheap, quick & quite ordinary.

    After a while, I realized that whatever you produce, it needs to stand on its own strength. So don’t rely on your speaking reputation to sell your book – your book should be strong enough to sell, even if the purchaser has never heard you speak.

  4. I usually write my books and then preach from them instead of going in the other direction by transcribing sermons like many pastors do. The difficulty with writing “serious” books is that it is hard work and takes a big time investment. But, I agree with Phil that more ministers should write serious books. Part of the problem with the book industry right now is that there are so many books available and it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    After self-publishing 14 books, I am just about ready to publish my first book with a real publisher. Check it out: http://gracewins.net

  5. “I don’t discourage that, but don’t think for a minute that’s a serious book. Writing is different than speaking, and editing sermon notes into a readable manuscript and then calling it a “book” isn’t very impressive.”

    Well, to be honest, if this isn’t helpful, impactful, or serious, then by extension you are saying Biblical preaching isn’t any of these things and that, at best, preaching sets second to book writing. Where is that written (other than here)?

    1. Wow! You really made a leap there Jack! No matter how great your sermon, just taking a typed transcript and turning that into a book will be far less effective and compelling than if you wrote it as a book to begin with. Pulpit preaching and book writing are two very different media. To begin with, we don’t talk the way we write, and we don’t structure books in the same way we structure a sermon. It’s not a matter of one medium being better than the other. The point is that whatever we do, we should communicate in the best possible way. Today we have too many pastors just copying their typed sermons and making them into books, when what we really need are thought out, structured, and well written books.

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