Today’s interview features Tim Shoemaker, author of Dangerous Devotions for Guys.Welcome, Tim!
Can you give me a little bit of information about your publishing history?
I have seven books published. Five of them are still in print. The latest, Dangerous Devotions for Guys, is aimed at small group leaders of high school guys. It has 24 object lessons on essential topics for guys.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
Far too early! Initially I worked on fiction for 8-12-year-old boys. I showed that to a publisher long before it was ready. I’ve learned to get input from other writers and do a lot of polishing before I would consider showing a project now.
With the most recent book, a publisher I met at a writer’s conference asked if I’d be interested in writing a proposal for a book project. They accepted the proposal and Dangerous Devotions for Guys was born.
What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
I’ve seen publishers go through editor changes mid-project. Your book can become an orphan really easy that way. I’ve seen plenty of struggles I could note, but I think fighting discouragement is the one that has the most toxic effect.
What has been the best part about being published?
There is a heady feeling that comes with it—but that doesn’t last long at all. You can measure it in days. Beyond that, a published book gives you an element of credibility with people. It can help open doors to speak. But the best part comes down to faith. It has to do with believing God will use the book or article to help others in ways I’ll probably never know about.
Will you share with us how you come up with ideas for your books?
The non-fiction devotionals for families were born out of my own frustration. I was trying to lead family devotions at home with my wife and three sons, and I just couldn’t find books that held the boys attention for long. I started writing my own material using object lessons and activities. I found it worked like nothing I had tried before. When I’d pray for ideas, they always came. I didn’t start out trying to write a book. I think that is important. I wrote so I could teach my boys about God and the principles he’s given us to live by. It came as a surprise sometime later when a publisher showed interest and eventually had me write three books for them.
Coming up with the ideas for Dangerous Devotions for Guys was similar. As I prayed, God always gave me ideas. And I wrote for my boys, now involved in ministry at our local church themselves, and for others that my heart went out to.
Fiction is a little different. Again, I start with praying. And then ideas come from all over. Out of my imagination, certainly. But often there is an element of truth in everything. Some experience I had or heard about will end up in my fiction.
Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
When writing fiction, I always start with a loose outline. It isn’t a detailed one. I have a general idea of where I want to go and modify it as I write.
What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your book?
If we’re talking non-fiction, I want the readers to take the tools I give them and use them to teach their kids about God. I want them to remember how important it is to genuinely live the faith and to pass it on to the next generation.
With fiction, there is always a principle there, a life lesson I’m hoping the reader will learn right along with the protagonist. I want my fiction to entertain, absolutely. But I want it to help 8-12-year-olds to avoid the traps in life and to become men and women of God.
What are your dreams for your writing?
I’d like to have a fiction series for 8-12-year-old boys. Writing that will help them grow to be Godly men.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given/learned in your life as a writer?
The whole process of writing and getting published takes time. You need to persevere. It isn’t always the best writers that get published, but the ones that stick to it.
What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?
Nothing more than I knew at the time. Not that I was so smart. The fact was I was really naïve. I thought editors would see potential and be happy to work with me to polish my writing. Like I said . . . naïve. But I’m glad I didn’t know how long and frustrating the journey could be. If I had known up front, maybe I wouldn’t have kept going. Thankfully I only knew enough to take the next step.
Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?
I think when you’re writing from your heart, out of your passions, the ride is always going to be a little bumpy. Tough times teach us priorities in life. They humble us. Strengthen us. Drive us to hang onto God tighter. Without some tough times helping to conform us more to Christ, I’m not sure we’d have anything much of eternal value to share in our writing.
For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?
About 18 months.
Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?
Yes, I have an agent. His name is Terry Burns and he is with the Hartline Literary Agency. Terry represents me in the fiction work I do. Having an agent is a good thing. Some publishers won’t take a proposal unless it comes from an agent. They probably feel the agent has already screened the project, insuring a higher caliber of writing.
If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?
I’d like to buy a boat. I could paint the title on the side of it so it would advertise the book as I drive around. Okay, you said if money was no object. Right? I know, I know. This wouldn’t exactly be a successful promotion—but it would be fun!
How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?
Self-promotion is really important, in most cases. Now, I don’t like the idea of just going out there and beating your own drum. I feel uncomfortable with that. But I do believe if you are really passionate about your book, the message it carries, you can promote that. I go to churches and teach parents how to do family devotions in a way that works, even as the kids go through their teen years. I am passionate about helping equip parents, opening their eyes as to what is happening and how they can make a real difference in the lives of their kids.
I hadn’t planned to do workshops like this. When my first book came out I felt like I had really accomplished my mission. Parents would be able to connect spiritually with their kids in a way they hadn’t been able to before. Lives would be changed. Trouble was many of the people who needed the message wouldn’t pick up the book. They felt family devotions couldn’t work and avoided the topic.
I found myself commenting to a pastor that I was confident I could get parents over the hurdles that held them back if I could just get them in a room and talk to them. He turned to me and invited me to come to his church. The Family Devotions Workshop was born—and I’ve been at it ever since. It isn’t that I had to come up with some way to promote my books. The key was the speaking came as a direct result of a need. I think that is a pretty important distinction.
Where can readers find a copy of your book?
Purchase or order it through a Christian book store. Hey, they need our support. If that is out of the question, you can get any of the books on Amazon.
Thanks for taking time to answer these questions, Tim. I wish you great success!
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