Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Ministry Of Writing: Putting Jesus Into The Business Aspect Of It
By Rhonda McKnight

“But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:33

Last month our writer’s group had a craft session on “Vertical Writing”. Dee Stewart, the facilitator defined vertical writing as “the process, whereby the author’s writing either moves the reader toward having a centered communication with God or keeps the reader centered.” I don’t know if vertical writing is an actual term or one she coined herself. I do know it was a powerful lesson; one that reminded many of us that in the mist of spinning our stories, not to forget the purpose God has called us to as writers of Christian fiction.

I was comfortable with the verticality of the written word. I’d been careful to pray God’s will for my novel from the first to the last page, but something was niggling in the recesses of my mind, I hadn’t done something right. This led to deep pondering about the ministry aspect of my writing and then the business as a whole. I call it ministry-business, because in my world, all ministry is serious business. I pulled out my mission statement and marketing plan. The niggling became a loud voice that chastised me for moving from the writing, selling phase in my own strength; apart from God. I hadn’t even talked to HIM about it at all. I thought the marketing, i.e. the business side was my thing. After all, I “do business” five days a week for a paycheck. In my humanness I had left HIM out of the most important aspect of the ministry…getting the book into the hands of the people. I had let my education and training, govern my choices and motivate my actions instead of letting God guide me in a way that would honor the ministry most.

I thought about the lesson on keeping it vertical and decided that “it” needed to be HIM and me all the way down the line. From every word I write to every book I sign. So I developed a weekly habit of to ensure I keep the up and down lines of communication open. Here is a list of what every author should do to ensure verticality:

1. Pray about your target audience. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. One of the great things about writing in our genre is that God has already promised us a great harvest. There’s room enough for us all. But we write a diversity of stories. Some of us like to believe we can evangelize the world, when in fact we have a specific people to minister to, because in the body of Christ each one has their role. Like the arm sees and the ear hears, Novel A may evangelize the unsaved, while Novel B may minister to those in the pews. Neither is any less important than the other, but they are different. As writers we must look at our work objectively and through a narrow lens, not a broad one. Ask God who the message is for. Then you write a marketing plan to go after that audience. It’s Marketing 101 and its Bible 101 to keep it vertical by asking God HIS will.

2. Pray about your marketing budget. How much God and where do you want me to get it from? After you’ve set your budget, figure out a way to track what works. There are some aspects of advertising that can be measured such as the back end of your website or surveys to your readers. Ask them how they learned about you. Remember we serve a God of multiplication. No matter how limited your budget may be, it will be enough. If you keep it vertical, God will stretch it. He’s still in the fish sandwich business.

3. Pray about the vendors. This is with respect to purchasing promotional materials, placing advertisements, etc. Never spend money outside the will of God. Easier said than done, right. We’ve all done it before; made a rash purchasing decision and regretted it later. Keeping it vertical will eliminate costly lessons.

Another point for consideration when choosing vendors is that as Christians we’re a part of a system that God uses for Kingdom business. Sometimes the Lord will want you to use a particular vendor because that “Christian” needs the business; likewise the Lord will bless you with in the same way. People will buy your books, because you need a sale. This may require you to occasionally pay more for a particular product or service, but in the end the payoff in the spirit realm is worth every dime. This is not to say that we should pay more for goods or services from Christians all the time, it’s just a reminder that sometimes things are bigger than us and we need to be mindful of that. Keeping it vertical will help us to lean not to our own understanding. HE will direct our path and our checkbook.

4. Pray about your book tour. All authors tour or should tour. Be it one city (the one you live in) or twenty cities across the country or all over the world by virtue of a virtual tour. A tour is necessary. When Jesus entered a town the people flocked to him. But honestly, it wasn’t all supernatural that they flocked to him in the crowd. Many heard about his arrival before he entered the city grates. This can be seen in several scriptures such as Matthew 4:24, Mark 27, Luke 18:36-37, Luke 14:23 and in John 4:39 it tells us the Samaritan woman became a personal P.R. campaign for Jesus. You need to publicize your tour with as much publicity as you can possibly get. Pray about the right newspapers and radio shows. Don’t always go after the big fish; remember a lot of little fish can reach a large audience as well.

I have two writer friends who recently shared stories about their book tours. One was ecstatic about her tour. It was short, less than a week I believe and she visited several cities in the Midwest, sold lots of books and learned from the other authors and readers. Another friend has the exact opposite story. She’s even retained an attorney to get her out of the legal obligation to continue with this nationwide tour group. I surmised from the conversation that God had nothing to do with the decision making. Ask God where your readers are, so you don’t waste your two most valuable resources – time and money. Keeping it vertical and God will make it fruitful.

Are you starting to see a common theme here? It all begins with prayer…with keeping the communication between you and God moving “up and down”, from HIS lips to your ears and heart.

In closing, I’ll acknowledge the fact that most writers don’t like to market. Some even resent having to do it, because they believe it’s their job to be creative and the publisher’s job to promote and market the book. While this makes sense, it’s just not the reality of this business anymore. Not unless you’re Karen Kingsbury or Frank Peretti, who should be selling egads of books based on shelf space alone. I want to caution you to be careful about disliking the marketing of aspect of your ministry, because it’s the things we like the least that we procrastinate about and sometimes never do. Remember, the Lord had you to write your story for a reason. There’s someone out there, I believe many someones who need to read it. Put Jesus into every aspect of the business and you’ll reap the harvest if you faint not.

Dee Stewart on Vertical Writing at
Scripture text Matthew 6:33 taken from God’s Word®Translation

About the Author

Rhonda McKnight Nain’s novel, Issues of the Heart will be released under her pen name, Rhonda McKnight December 2009 with
Urban Christian Books.

I live in an Atlanta suburb with my family. I work full-time as a policy and training specialist for a federal food and nutrition program. I like it, but I think I'd enjoy being a full-time writer much more. I love the Lord, love the Bible, love to pray and love to meet other folks who enjoy the same. Oh, I also love to read, a good book and really enjoy socializing and making new friends. Please visit me at:


Ty said...


This is a wonderful article and timely reminder. Our writing in particular should be reflecting God's love and grace to our audiences.

Dee S. said...

thanks, Rhonda for continuing the conversation on vertical writing. it is something isn't it? yet what separates us from the unsaved is the urgent need to tap into The Ultimate Power Source. We can't control this business, but we can control how we come to the marketplace.

I invite all to our(acfw-vip)free teleseminar on september 13.

Linda Beed said...

Rhonda I thank you so much for bringing the focus of why and for whom we write to the forefront of your article today.


Rhonda McKnight said...

Thanks Ty, Dee and Linda. I'm honored to participate in this awesome showcase. It's been a great month of learning.

Veronica said...

Rhonda, thank you for helping all of us keep things in perspective.

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." NIV

Rhonda McKnight said...

Well said, Veronica. Well said.