Have a chair, drink some coffee or tea, and relax. I’m still rethinking my blogging purposes but as far as I know my site is back in working order. I’ve switched all you email followers to a mailchimp list and you should receive any new posts that way. If you’d like to be on that list, sign up in the sidebar. You’ll receive a follow-up email to ensure that it was you that entered your address and that you really want to go ahead.
Thought for Today
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
1 Peter 4:10 NLT
Some people seem to have many gifts, and some have fewer. But all of us have at least one. It doesn’t matter so much how many gifts we have. What does matter is how we use them. The person who only uses his gifts to gratify or glorify himself has lost a big blessing. So does the person who refuses to use his gift, for whatever reason.
I like how the NLT gives this passage, even though it is somewhat of a paraphrase. God has given you a gift, and probably more than one. Use those gifts unselfishly.
Blessings to you today. Have you been blessed in some special way? Drop a comment below and tell us about it!
I ran into a snag recently, so I’ve been looking for a new theme for my site. I’ve finally decided on this one, but it will take some reconstruction to get it where I want it. You can, however, read my blog and all the other pages. I’m keeping everything operational as I work on it.
If you have thoughts or suggestions, add them to the comments below or go to the Contact Me Page. I’d be happy to hear from you (as long as you’re not a spammer).
I recently got an email asking about my experience self-publishing with a certain publisher. I think most of the following points are applicable to most self-publishing services. This post is not promoting or denigrating any particular publishing service.
Pretty well any publisher will provide stability to a project, too often missing in self-published books. [Be sure to do an internet search for other people’s experiences because there are a few bad eggs out there.]
They provide some editorial and design services.
They put you in contact with sellers like Amazon and Barnes & NobleThey take care of the e-book formatting, etc.
Many will allow you to pay for their services over a ten month period.
I have heard and experienced mostly good reports from in house “publishing experts”
The price often seems very high for the services they provide.
In my case I needed to find my own contact editor. The publisher said that they edit the books but it was only a copy edit, and they didn’t edit structure or story flow. This is a very important editorial function and a normal sized book will probably cost you an additional thousand dollars or so. When I contracted with them, I thought this was part of their editorial process. My book was too far into the process for me to pull, so it actually didn’t get the editorial treatment I like for my writing to have. [Make sure you know the details.]
I ended up doing a suggested cover layout of my own. Their designer added finishing touches which were good, but I’m not sure what they would have done otherwise. I get the feeling they have certain templates they use that allow them to fast-track design. You have to be clear in your expectations and not afraid to ask for changes. BUT each change request adds a month to the process. My project ended up taking close to a year.
The first uploads to Amazon and Barne’s & Noble had obvious errors in the descriptions. While my publishing expert was quick to get this fixed, it again depended on me to ask for it. I felt that for the price I paid, they should have been more careful about details in various times throughout the project. I asked for advice different times and it seemed like the person in charge of my project was reluctant to step out with concrete suggestions.
Maybe my expectations were too high. But it is the little things that derail the success of your book. If you feel comfortable being your own general contractor, here is what you probably need to expect.
You need some good reviewers, not just people who pat on the back for your “wonderful work.” You need critics. Cost? It depends on who you know.
You need a good content editor. Say a thousand dollars? Depends on book size.
You need a thorough copy editor. Another thousand? Amazon has both available, but look for some good freelancers. I’d say that a good content and copy edit would cost you at least $1500 and maybe as high as $2,000, depending on the length and complexity of your book.
You need someone to design the layout and the cover of your book. Maybe $750 or so.
You need someone to design / format your e-book. Another $500 – 750.
My publisher also did a video trailer, which makes a good sales point, but I’m not impressed with mine and I don’t think it will really generate a lot of sales. They gave me a page on their website, but I have my own website. They do a press release, but I don’t know how many get printed or read. They do make the book available on a world wide distribution network. I’m waiting to see how much their marketing efforts will help my book. But I suspect that in most cases, you will have to do your own promotions to make it work. It is hard to know who much these things help and how many simply make a good sales pitch. I don’t feel that they are dishonest, and a lot of people do seem to like their work.
The books I have from them are good quality. I paid them around $4800, most of which I borrowed. Add content editorial and I would be at close to $6000. [That was CND $$. US $$ might be cheaper.] To produce the same thing on my own, if I had to hire everything, would cost around $3500. Say $4000 to be safe. So the extra $2000 goes for services like getting an ISBN, getting the book into the distribution chains and online, and giving me some security. Is it worth that? I’m glad in some ways that I took this route for my first self-published project. I know what to expect now. However, I used to do layout and cover design when I worked for Rod and Staff Publishers, so I could probably knock up to another $1500 off that.
If I do another self-published project I’ll likely do it myself. But my next book has already been accepted by a regular publisher, and they have made me an offer on writing future books for them that I really can’t turn down. It takes some of the variables out of everything. Especially, they pay for editorial and review and do all the design without me financing it. That should be your long term goal. Look at self-publishing as an investment in your future. But be sure that you do a good job of it, so that you can use your books to sell yourself to a publisher. I haven’t been very impressed with many of the kindle books I’ve download from Amazon to try to get a feel for the market. Blessings on your work. If you have more questions, feel free to ask in the comments, or contact me using the contact form. However, I’m finding my way as well, so I’m not an expert. Note that the costs I mentioned are off the top of my head, but they should be close.
UPDATE 1: This book has now been on the market for about nine months. I have found the biggest downside of self-publishing through a publisher to be the fact that you can’t set your own prices. You can’t do any kindle give-aways, or sell hard copies at a discount. My impression is that the pricing is about 25% to high.
The marketing my publisher did for me [if any] accomplished nothing, as far as I can tell. On the other hand, about four months ago a traditional publisher released a small book that I wrote. I didn’t really expect much of it, but someone I knew wanted a book on that subject. They sold over a thousand books in the first three months. No cost to me for editorial, marketing, or layout. I won’t tell you how many self-published books I’ve sold in the past nine months.
UPDATE 2: I received a report from the publisher stating that in December they sold 165 copies of my book. They don’t give you any details further than that, but they now finally owe me some money. They said it would take two to four weeks to generate a check, so we’ll see how that works out. I’ll update again when I get the check so that you can see how it turned out.
One day a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus. Jesus told him that unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. This confused Nicodemus. How could he, as an adult, be “born” a second time?
Nicodemus didn’t realize that Jesus was speaking about a spiritual birth, rather than a second physical birth. Jesus clarified that — first you are born of water (a natural physical birth), then you are born of the spirit (a spiritual birth). He even restated this — your flesh is born of someone else’s flesh, and your spirit is born of the Holy Spirit.
By now Nicodemus was more confused than ever. Maybe you are too.
Born of the Spirit?
Jesus explained to Nicodemus about the Spirit. The Spirit is like the wind. You can’t see the wind blow, but you can feel it blow. You can also see the results of it blowing. So, the wind blows, and the tree branches move. Or the shingles fly off your house. Or garbage blows across your lawn. You can’t see the wind, or where the wind is coming from, but you can see what it is doing.
That is one way to know if you are born again. Is the Spirit doing things in your life? Things that you can’t tell where they are coming from? For instance, something might tell you to give a twenty-dollar bill to a homeless person. Or to pick up a hitch hiker and speak to him about Jesus. Or apologize to someone for something you said about them.
By default, we do bad things, ugly things, selfish things. But when we are born of the Spirit our default changes and we want to do good things.
A Child of the Light?
Jesus also talked to Nicodemus about the Light. A person who has not been born of the Spirit doesn’t like Light, because it exposes him. It shows clearly how selfish and evil he is. But when a person has been born of the Spirit, he embraces Light. The Light helps him to see. It leads him to do good, to be unselfish, to be unafraid of being seen.
If you are born again, other people will see it by the changes in your life. And you will see it because you are no longer afraid of the Light revealing you.
“Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.”
My son-in-law’s dog likes to ride in the front seat of his truck and snooze. But when someone else is driving, he’s very alert and ready to jump in and help where needed. In this case, my daughter is driving, so he knows that he better not go to sleep.
Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6:6, The Message)
Lord, I have shut the door, Speak now the word Which in the din and throng Could not be heard; Hushed now my inner heart, Whisper Thy will, While I have come apart, While all is still.
Lord, I have shut the door, Here do I bow; Speak, for my soul intent Turns to Thee now. Rebuke Thou what is vain, Counsel my soul, Thy holy will reveal, My will control.
In this blest quietness Clamorings cease; Here in Thy presence dwells Infinite peace; Yonder, the strife and cry, Yonder, the sin: Lord, I have shut the door, Thou art within!
Lord, I have shut the door, Strengthen my heart; Yonder awaits the task— I share a part. Only through grace bestowed May I be true; Here, while alone with Thee, My strength renew.
Over the past several decades, I have taught a number of writing classes. I thought you might like to meet some of my students. Some were outstanding because of their talents, but I remember most of them best for other reasons….
Student No. 1
I have experimented over the years with journal writing in various classes. Allan was in one of those. I wish you could have met Allan, since he was one of those people who were genuinely spontaneous and interesting. I always knew when Allan had arrived at school because he was always talking. But the unusual thing about Allan was that his conversation was always interesting. Not always worthwhile, mind you, but always interesting.
Allan always had a crowd around him, and he was a loquacious story teller. But when journal period rolled around, Allen met his Nemesis. His innate creativity floated out the window as soon as he looked at a sheet of paper He could not and would not write. His quota for 15 minutes was about two sentences.
I had some fairly good writers in the class, and often after we were finished writing, I asked various students to read their creations to us. Poor Allan. He hardly ever had anything much to contribute.
But one day, Allan made a discovery. He discovered somehow that writing a story was simply talking on paper. He also discovered that he could get the same kind of attention for his written stories as he did for his verbal ones.
I have never ever seen such an enormous change in a student as I did in Allan. All of a sudden he looked forward to journal classes. And whenever it came time for Allan to read his journal to the class, everyone sat up and paid attention.
Again, what he wrote wasn’t always worthwhile, but mark it down, it was always interesting!
Student No. 2
Sue was different from Allan. Her talent for writing was well developed when I first met her. Her characters were so realistic that they practically came alive and walked around on her paper when she wrote about them. In fact I would say that Sue had tremendous potential as a writer.
But Sue had one problem. She had never learned to use her talent to the glory of God. She wrote because it was fun, and to impress her friends. She enjoyed the writing class—writing classes are always more interesting than doing actual writing.
I haven’t met Sue since that class. I don’t know where she went from there. But I have never seen her name on a story or book. I wonder if she is still just writing for the fun of it, or whether the fun got stale.
Student No. 3
As I recall him, Sam was a lot like Sue. He too had real potential. He was a thinker and could write penetrating essays that made issues come alive. He knew words, and just where to put them. I was quite impressed with his assignments.
But I had a rude awakening one day. I discovered that Sam would only write when it suited him, or when he felt like it. He too had never learned that God gave us our talents to use for His glory. I am still not sure whether Sam was just moody, or whether he was lazy. Perhaps he was both.
Student No. 4
Amy was more difficult to evaluate. She was a very serious minded girl. She was also very tender hearted, and had evidently been raised in a very sheltered environment. But she put her heart and soul into her writing, and because of this it was good.
She had talent too. But it takes more than talent to make a good writer. A good writer must be able to put his soul into his writing. When you read a book by a writer like this, you feel like you have made a close friend.
Amy was that kind of writer. She lacked only one thing—experience. This made her writing a bit naive. It was easy to forgive her for this, but I was troubled at what I knew Amy would face in life when it finally caught up with her. The time was coming that a world full of troubles was going to bombard her, and she was going to realize for the first time what life was all about. I hope the Lord is gentle with her.
I haven’t seen any writing by Amy either. But I think the Lord is educating her. When He has taught her some of the lessons about life she needs, I think she will remember her writing talents and start to put some of those lessons on paper. I will buy her books, because I know they will be good reading.
It is amazing how you can get to know someone in a writing class. Most of my students would have been a bit shocked to know how well I could read them. Each of the students I have highlighted here had potential as writers. Yet each had areas they needed to work on to become the kind of writer that the Lord could really use.
Perhaps you have seen yourself in one of these profiles. If so, allow the Lord to do His work in your heart and make of you the writer that He wants you to be. God will only do so much for you. He gives you the seed of a talent, but He expects you to invest the effort necessary to make it useful for him. It would be very sad indeed to get to the judgment only to have God tell us that we buried our talents in the sand.
Maybe you like the praise of others, and when you don’t get it, you give up. Maybe you are just out to have fun, and don’t feel like getting serious. Or perhaps you are too lazy or moody to put yourself into developing your talent. Take time to read Matthew 25:14-30 and take it too heart.
I want to give you one more example. I never had this brother for a student, but I want to tell you about him anyway. When I met John, I didn’t think of him as a potential writer. He was friendly and conscientious, but I never thought of him as a writer. However, he had a secret urge to write. If I recall correctly, he worked at writing for around ten years before anyone ever accepted an article or story from him. He had disappointment after disappointment but he persevered, and he finally accomplished his goal.
John had less talent than any of the students I mentioned above. But he has accomplished more with writing than all of these others put together.
All of the people I have told you about are about the same age. You will probably note, as I did, that the factor that makes a successful writer isn’t necessarily exceptional talent. It is perseverance and a dedication to bringing glory to God.
That is the most important lesson that any writer can learn.
I wrote a column entitled Literary Spectrum for a (now defunct) paper for youth called the Vineyard Laborer a number of years ago. I took this post from one of those issues.
If you see the extortion of the poor, or the perversion of justice and fairness in the government, do not be astonished by the matter. For the high official is watched by a higher official, and there are higher ones over them! The produce of the land is seized by all of them, even the king is served by the fields. (Ecc 5:8-9, NET)
Solomon looked at this subject from a philosophical perspective, not a human rights perspective. The poor were oppressed by those who were stronger than they were or who had more authority. Those people in turn were oppressed by those above them. The chain of oppression reached all the way to the top and may have even included the king.
The perversion of justice is common. In some countries of the world, a person is better off to accept oppression than to report it or to try to get justice. Solomon wasn’t commenting on the right or wrong of this (it is obviously wrong). Instead, he was describing a basic reality of life along with giving a little lesson on economics.
Solomon used a field as a simple example of economic supply and demand. Many people needed to live from the economic product of the field. The people who planted the field, watered it, and harvested it were the most obvious economic beneficiaries. In Bible times these people didn’t own the field or finance the crop, they were just laborers who were paid for their work. So they needed to get enough of the field’s economic product to live on, probably in the form of wages. The man who owned the field financed the crop and paid the laborers. He too needed to receive a benefit because he also had to eat and probably had a family to support. He may have sold the crop to a miller, who produced flour from it. That man also needed to make some income from the field’s product to feed his family. So he sold the flour to a baker, who baked bread and sold it to a local store. The local store finally sold it to the person who ate it. So the laborers, the farmer, the miller, the baker, and the store all needed to have a share of the economic product of the field to live.
But the process goes beyond that. Some of these people might have borrowed money to finance their operations, so the economic product of the field also paid the interest on their loans. And finally, the government collected taxes from these people. So even the government lived from the field’s economic product.
Now none of this is wrong. But it does give a lot of opportunity for doing wrong. At any link of this economic chain, someone could oppress the person who depended on him for his income. The most obvious point was at the bottom of the ladder. If the farmer was greedy and many people were looking for work in the fields, he could make extra money by paying unfair wages. The laborers had little recourse because they had less money and less authority and fewer powerful friends than the farmer did.
Some people try to take advantage of others by bribing them. Some threaten them by using their authority. And on and on it goes. The king (i.e., the government) was at the top of the ladder and had the most power and authority of all. It is very easy for government to use this power to take advantage of the population.
The process of corruption is prompted by greed, of course. But it is also prompted by the fact that the economic resources of the field are limited. Finally, you can only stretch a natural resource so far. The people in the line for getting a piece of the pie are afraid that the economic profit won’t reach around, and so they fight over it. In cases like this it isn’t the early bird that gets the worm. Rather, the biggest bird gets it, even though he may the last one to reach the table.
People living in democratic countries like to think that these things only happen in third world countries or countries run by dictators or crooked governments. But anyone studying the effects of capitalism, lobbying, and big money in our time will soon realize that these things happen to us as well.
Corruption is one of the realities caused by the love of money. If we depend on money for happiness or meaning in life, we will be disappointed—which, I believe, was Solomon’s point in these verses.
Watch for more excerpts from this book in future blogs...