Self Publishing and Self Promotion

In the post on Pink Fluffy Bunny Women’s Studies, I mentioned my burden for women’s Bible studies that do 2 things.  First–that walk straight through Scripture.  I believe we are in danger of selling women in the church a lie — that the stuff specific to them in Scripture is made up of a piecemeal compilation of small sections of Scripture from a few select places in the Old and New Testament. Ephesians 5:22 isn’t the only Scripture particularly applicable to women in Ephesians. The WHOLE BOOK of Ephesians is written to women. Men too. But don’t make the last part of Ephesians the only part we speak particularly to women.

Second, I am burdened to see studies that go straight through Scripture that also relate Scripture back to the real issues facing women.  Right now, the majority of books that go straight through Scripture are either heavy commentaries written by men or middle weight commentaries also written by men.  There are a few examples of what I would like to see more of.

Hoping For Something Better by Nancy Guthrie (on Hebrews)
The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James
The Promises of Grace by Bryan Chapell (on Romans 8)

The first study I ever read like that was How to Overcome Evil by Jay Adams, a study of Romans 12.  For some reason, studying Romans 12 in that format was really helpful to me.  Adams gave a concise explanation that was right at the level I could handle.  It wasn’t fluff by any means, but it also wasn’t overwhelming in its detail.  And he wrote it in a way that was pointedly relevant to my daily experience. 

All that to say, I have written a study of this nature on Ephesians.  In my discussions with experienced authors and publishers in an effort to get this published, I have realized that mainstream Christian publishers do not have a nook for this type of book.  I think these types of studies have not done very well in the past.  Commentaries written by men with degrees do well.  A study of the same Scripture written by a woman with a lot of personal application, not so much.  And yet, I believe that there IS an audience who will never read Martin Lloyd Jones’ 6 volume commentary on Ephesians who still would benefit greatly from studying through Ephesians. 

I have been turned down by 3 mainstream publishers.  And in terms of self-identity and my need for affirmation, that was initially crushing.  Is this God saying no to me on future publishing?  Is my writing not of the quality that a mainstream publisher needs?  I really want to write Christian studies for women.  It’s my burden.  I grow so much when I do it.  Is God completely shutting the door?  Then I stumbled across self publishing.  It has over time become an attractive option to me.  But I struggle to get past the impression of self promotion.  I could never be a used car salesman (no offence to those who are).  It doesn’t sit well with my psyche to promote myself.   I won’t publish anything until my husband and pastor approve it, but I still miss the feeling of an entire corporation putting its stamp of approval on the cover with their own publicity person that promotes me to others.  However, my options now are to file it all away or attempt self publishing.  And I think I am going to try it. 

Unless God shuts the door, my goal is to release By His Wounds You Are Healed:  how the message of Ephesians transforms a woman’s identity in March.  Here is the tentative cover. 

Back Cover Blurb:
Who are you? How do you describe yourself to others? For what do you want to be known? And in the stillness when no one else is around, how do you view yourself? If you (like most of us) struggle with your identity or security, this study of Ephesians will point you to answers that will sustain you for a lifetime.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul defines our identity and security in Christ. He tells us in detail of the real benefits we have as daughters of God. He shows how these benefits equip us to reclaim our identity in Christ. And he draws a straight line from all these truths to the heart of our insecurities today.

This study of Ephesians walks straight through the Scriptures and shows how each truth presented is particularly applicable to the struggles we face as women at every stage of life.

This post isn’t a lecture to myself.  It’s simply self disclosure to my audience of my burden and struggle.   If you have a comment on the value of such a study or the issue of self publishing, your feedback is appreciated here.

25 Responses to Self Publishing and Self Promotion

  1. Bina January 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    This sounds awesome. I'll be the first in line to buy it. I loved Practical Theology for Women, and I think I will love this new book even more. The truths of our true identity in Christ and the richness of what that means is foundational to our fruitfulness in the Christian life. We all need this!

  2. Mommy, M.D. January 10, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    This is one of the elders at our church and a dear friend: http://www.lucidbooks.net/. Blessings!

  3. kellycowan January 10, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    i think self publishing is a great idea! i have been to a couple of writers conferences here at SPU hoping that one day i too might write. lots of writers there self published. i think “winepress” selfpublishing was one resource that was helpful. i agree that it seems like mainstream publishers decide what is selling and if want you want to do doesn't line up with the $ then move on to self publishing. but i have gotten the imprression too that it takes more “out there” selling. yikes! but you've got this blog and your church. and? i will buy it!! i would love to use it for our bible study.

    also, question. we are starting a women's study this month and want to do romans. based on what is out there, what would you recommend to guide us? or if we do straight scripture study what would you recommend i use to study for my questions etc?

  4. Wendy January 10, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Wendy January 10, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Kelly, I haven't read this one yet, but I'd recommend anything by John Stott. Here's a link to his commentary on Romans.

    Romans

    I find his commentaries are the right depth for someone who doesn't have hours to study one word from one verse.

  6. Prasti January 11, 2010 at 1:06 am #

    awesome! i like the self-publishing idea. my sister did that last year through lulu.com. wendy, i REALLY loved your practical theology for women classes @ MH (way back when), and i have never found anything else like it. i'm thankful that you now have a blog :).

  7. Dean and Jen January 11, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    This study sounds amazing. I am working through your Practical Theology for Women book with a group of ladies and it has prompted such great conversation and is definitely something different and better than many women have read in the past. Thank you so much for using your gifts by writing books that aren't fluffy, but are so applicable to women. I thank the Lord that you have a burden to continue to write studies that work through Scripture verse by verse. All of this to say, that I truly hope you do self publish the Ephesians study. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for it!

  8. Cathy McKay January 11, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Wendy, I'll really look forward to it. There is a desperate need. The mainstream market doesn't know what it needs most.

    You seem to have a really great platform within Reformed audiences, so that is a great place to start, which might generate some momentum to get into the mainstream “market”.

    I think keeping a healthy integrity about hidden obedience (the core ministries that other people don't see much) is critical for women teaching publicly.

    Some will see what you are doing as self promotion, but be willing to be maligned for the sake of building Jesus' church. If you can do that public stuff, as you keep serving Jesus in private, then time will prove the slander false.

    Do what you can do, self forgetfully. If you need to self publish in order to serve, then do it with a clear conscience. Don't feel you need to justify the decision.

    Praying for fruitfulness and the resources you need to get it done!

  9. Wendy January 11, 2010 at 1:36 am #

    Wow. Thank you, thank you, thank you all for the words of encouragement.

  10. Ali January 11, 2010 at 1:54 am #

    Dear Wendy,

    Let me just add one more (word of encouragement, that is). I don't have anything useful to say about self publishing (except there are those that view blogging as self publising anyway, in which case millions of people are engaged in it and you would just be putting yours in a different format – and my experience working for a large publishing, though secular, company tells me that for them decisions are entirely about the money, so be not discouraged) but I would be very keen to read your study and always read and appreciate your blogging.

    In Christ,
    Ali

  11. Angie DeHoop January 11, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Wendy, I've loved learning from you since MH days too! Thank you for faithfully teaching. 🙂 Check out Blurb.com for self publishing!

    -Angie DeHoop

  12. Meags January 11, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    You may consider publishing it as an ebook and selling it online directly instead of incurring the costs of printing. A lot of authors are doing that on the Amazon.com Kindle store and having moderate success.

    Good luck!
    Meagan

  13. Jackie Lyles January 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    Go for it Wendy! I'd like to place an advance order for 10 copies! As others have said, the mainstream publishing companies seem to be more $$ driven than message driven. God has given you a burden and a gift; He will show you the way to get the message out there.

  14. Dea January 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    Wendy, will definitely be a someone who wants to study Ephesians verse by verse and with practical application and almost certainly will get your book. However God chooses to publish it, I will be digging to its treasures using your study as a guide. But… I would doing it in the intent to see if I could use it in a Bible study group. I ordered your other book for that reason but although great material and a blessing and resource for me as a teacher, my classes are too large to have a round table discussion–let's just it just won't work, at least right now. My classes for the most part want “work” to do before class. I think mostly to keep themselves accountable. I say all this to tell you that I have been working through Nancy Guthrie's book you mentioned (and has blessed me so) but there are no leader helps about possible ways to use this in a group. I hope it's not too late or maybe you can use the blog but leader instruction about how you, the author, envisioned the book being used (if in a larger Bible Study) so that we don't feel like we have write our own questions. Do you get what I am saying???? I've thought about writing Nancy about this. She has great questions for personal study but bringing them home to a group up to 20+ ladies is presenting itself as a challenge and I will probably have to put off teaching it this winter so I can have more time to make it “right” for my class. (I talking mostly about application questions and direction.)

    Do give up. You may “need” the approval of publishers who put their stamp on it but the only real Person that matters has given you approval already. You are not promoting yourself. You are promoting the delving into the beautiful mysterious of an Awesome God!!

    This is probably more than you need to know but I have been leading all kind of pink and yellow and whatever color Bible Studies for almost 20 years. I want this to work for you but it will work when it is easy for a teacher to know how you intend for it to be use, how they best can approach the material with a class.

  15. Dea January 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    You know I meant DON'T give up. I need an editor. Sorry Dea. 🙂

  16. Wendy January 12, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    Dea, that's a good observation. Nancy has a link to a guide for the Hebrews study on her website. I've emailed others study questions to go along with Practical Theology for Women. If anyone wants those, I'm always glad to send that.

    In a small group, I keep a pretty simple format of very open ended conversation on whatever impacted the reader from the assigned section. That works with groups up to around 20 ladies. I assume that with your larger group, you are doing some teaching at the beginning? The best I know to suggest for that format is that you take time to review the points of a section from the front and then break the group into smaller groups for discussion with the study questions as the guide for that time.

    Hope some of that is helpful. You articulate a good point.

  17. bekahmae January 12, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    Hey Wendi,

    I know how you feel about publisher rejection. I had an article that I wrote and use in counseling that has been well received by everyone who has read it except for editors and publishers. You have to remember that while writing and teaching is a ministry, publishing (even Christian publishing) is ultimately a business, and the truth is that today, Truth doesn't always sell. Sometimes you have to self-publish, pray God gives the increase, and then use that track record of sales to show future publishers that you're “sellable”.

    Have you looked at Xulon Press for self-publication? I've used a couple of books published by them in counseling, and I've learned that some of the most straightforward and effective writing comes from those who self-publish; our words tend to be what's “needed” and not necessarily what's “wanted”. But Xulon has several different packages for editing and PR to get the word out about your book.

    I recently graduated with several women who share your burden for publishing non-fluff but still applicable studies specifically geared toward women. I've been working on a couple of writing projects and when one of them gets to the publishable stage, I will most likely go with them.

  18. Wendy January 12, 2010 at 2:35 am #

    Bekah, I'm using Amazon's CreateSpace at this point, though Mommy, MD's suggestion looks very good too. I will check out your recommendation as well. Glad to hear of others with similar burdens. 🙂

  19. Kristen January 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Wendy, by all means go for the self-publishing. As a success story, I helped a friend (he wrote it, I did the layout) who self-published his own book on reaching Muslims. He mainly did it so he could keep control over the content. He also went with Xulon. Then basically gave it away so it could “get out there” (not suggesting you do that), but this book has now been translated into several languages and has been picked up by a major publisher. Sometimes it takes getting your stuff out there before the major publishers see it and see the value in it.

    We are looking at starting a Ladies' Bible Study at our church soon. I would love to see some more of your Eph. Study to see if it would work for us.

    So glad you see this need and are doing something about it! I get so tired of “fluffy” books!

  20. Greg Verrall January 13, 2010 at 7:40 am #

    Hey Wendy, go for it!
    My personal preference would be for e-books, as I live in Australia, and the shipping cost are enormous, but also from a production and printing point of view – you only have to do it once! You save heaps of trees, and lots of money. That money can be passed on as savings to the purchaser, or it can be funneled back into a charity that relates to the book. I also like Facebook as a means of promotion. Creating your own page can have a viral effect in you use it well.

  21. Lisa writes... January 13, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Our Bible study group recently finished Nancy Guthrie's study of Hebrews, Hoping for Something Better, and I second your recommendation! I too want to see more studies like it! However the Lord leads, may He richly bless your commitment to encourage women to know God's Word in its entirety for themselves! I'm definitely one that would be interested, no matter the format or publisher.

    Oh, and your burden for women's Bible studies–something I too have observed and am greatly concerned not only about the piecemeal aspect but the culture of personality that seems to become more and more prevalent.

  22. Sean January 14, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    Great i like the self-publishing idea. All of this to say I truly hope you do self publish the study. I will definitely be keeping an eye open. Youth for Jesus | Nothing is Impossible with God

    Sean

    Youth For Jesus

  23. Rebecca January 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    One of the “fluffy bunny” writer's books was in the waiting area at my mechanic. She specifically stated that she had done an in-depth study that was then “edited” for a “mass market” publication. That is self-promotion!

  24. steph stiles January 15, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Wendy, I would buy copies and recommend it to every woman I know. This is a spiritual gift you have and I am so greatly blessed by your blog and would be thrilled to purchase several copies of your book. This is exactly what I need, the last two posts have spoken right to my heart in terms of idolatry and identity. Thank you and much love 🙂

  25. Wendy February 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    Hi, all. Just wanted to update those who expressed interest in this that a publisher contacted me and is interested in this manuscript. They'll make a final decision Feb. 16. I'll let you know when I hear.

    Wendy