Advice for Aspiring Authors

Over the past 12 years, I have had the opportunity to write a number of different books for students and adults in the area of apologetics and relationships. As a result, aspiring authors have often asked my advice for how to become an established author. Here’s a few tips I have learned along the way.

1. Don’t Be in A Rush to Publish. Because we live in such an “instant” culture, it is easy to feel the need to publish something immediately. But this is often a mistake, for at least two reasons. First, once something is published, it is there forever to be found whenever someone Googles your name. Second, people will often judge you by your first book, so make sure it’s good! There is much wisdom in taking longer to write a great book than rushing out an average one.

2. Write from Your Passion and Expertise. My first book was Ethix: Being Bold in A Whatever World (2006). When I initially considered writing a book, I asked myself a few questions: “What am I an expert in? What unique contribution can I make? Where is there a whole that needs filling?” My graduate training was in philosophy and I was teaching high school students in worldview and apologetics. I personally had a need for a student ethics book that offered careful philosophical and biblical thinking on “hot” issues of the day such as abortion, war, and homosexuality. And so I wrote it! You can do the same.

3. Develop your unique voice. When I first started writing, I found myself mimicking the voice of other authors. I tried to write with the authority of J.P. Moreland or the clarity and persuasiveness of Philip Yancey. But this question was lurking in the back of my mind: “How has God wired me to communicate? What experiences has God given me that shapes how I uniquely communicate?” Personally, it felt like my writing “voice” started to emerge in my early 30s and is probably best seen in A New Kind of Apologist as well as the unique contributions I made to the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdict. If you are an aspiring author, prayerfully focus on developing the unique voice God has given you.

4. Develop a platform. Unless you have an utterly fresh idea or experience, blogging regularly is critical (as well as using others kinds of social media). First, it will help you become a better writer. There is no shortcut to becoming a good writer: write, write, write. Second, blogging helps develop your platform. One of the first questions publishers ask when they see a proposal is: Does the person have a platform? If not, few will take the risk on a new author. Third, you will be able to gauge if people value your writing. Do people read your blogs? Do they repost them? A successful blog is a good sign you will write a successful book.

5. Find Your Identity in Christ. Although mentioned last, this is the most important tip. You will inevitably face criticism if you write a book. Some people may be harsh. If your identity comes from the praise of others, or how many books you sell, you could be in for a difficult ride. But if your identity is grounded in Christ, then you will be free to do your best and leave the results to God. Grounding your identity in Christ begins long before you write a book. Consider asking yourself a few questions: “Why do I really want to write a book? Can I bring glory to God through both the process and the end product?” You don’t have to have perfect motives but be sure you can truly love God and other people through the process. If so, go for it.

Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. He connects with audiences in a tangible way through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support for viewing all areas of life through a biblical worldview. Sean is an associate professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. He is the Resident Scholar for Summit California. Sean still teaches one high school Bible class, which helps him have exceptional insight into the prevailing culture so he can impart his observations poignantly to fellow educators, pastors and parents alike. In 2008, he received the Educator of the Year award for San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The Association of Christian Schools International awarded Exemplary Status to his apologetics training. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot School of Theology with a master’s degree in theology and another in philosophy. He earned a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies in 2014 from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Traveling throughout the U.S. and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities and conferences. He has spoken for organizations including Focus on the Family, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Backyard Skeptics, Cru, Youth Specialties, Hume Lake Christian Camps, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean has also appeared as a guest on radio shows such as Family Life Today, Point of View, Stand to Reason, Common Sense Atheism and the Hugh Hewitt Show. Sean has been quoted in many publications, including the New York Times. Sean is the author, co-author or editor of over 18 books including The Fate of the Apostles (Routledge, 2015); A New Kind of Apologist (Harvest House, 2016); The Beauty of Intolerance (Barbour, 2016); Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, with John Stonestreet (Baker, 2014); Is God Just a Human Invention? with Jonathan Morrow; and Understanding Intelligent Design, with William A. Dembski. Sean has also written multiple books with his father, Josh McDowell, including The Unshakable Truth, More Than A Carpenter and an update for Evidence that Demands a Verdict (2017). Sean is the general editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. He has also written for YouthWorker Journal, Decision Magazine and the Christian Research Journal. Follow the dialogue with Sean as he blogs regularly at seanmcdowell.org. In April 2000, Sean married his high school sweetheart, Stephanie. They have three children and live in San Juan Capistrano. Sean played college basketball at Biola and was captain his senior year on a team that went 30-7.

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