I LOVE COFFEE. But not in the middle of the day with people who say they want to talk to me about writing a book.
The last time I did coffee with one of those folks was perhaps a decade ago.
The fellow was a soccer dad; our sons played on the same team.
When he found out that I made a living writing books about the Bible and Christianity, he asked me to meet him at a coffee shop to talk about a Christian book he wanted to write.
When I got there, he had a big cup of coffee. I sat down with him. I got no coffee and was offered no coffee.
The gent started talking about his book idea as though he was trying to sell it to me.
Yak, yak, yak.
I can’t remember what his book was about. I do remember thinking it was a bad idea. And I remember telling him to stop talking about it and write up a proposal to pitch the idea to an agent.
He didn’t want to do that. He wanted to write the book first.
I said that’s crazy. Publishers want to be a part of the process. Most of the time they want to help develop the idea. They want to react to a good proposal—an overview of the book, including sample chapters.
Two hours later, I left the coffee shop. Ticked.
I had wasted my time. And I didn’t get any coffee.
Leaving the shop, I decided to never do this again.
I have had plenty of friends, acquaintances, and strangers ask to meet me over coffee. Most wanted to talk about a book idea they have. Some don’t bother to tell me what they want to talk about. They just ask if we can have coffee sometime.
Well, no we can’t.
When folks ask to meet with me to get tips about writing their book, I refer them to my agent and to another agent I admire. Both agents, whom I consider friends, have wonderful how-to sections on their websites. Their articles walk would-be writers through the steps to getting their book published.
Step one: get an agent.
Some Christian publishers will suck you dry with their contracts and then they’ll call it good stewardship.
One New York City agent I once hired said he hated working with Christian publishers because they use religious jargon like that to rationalize their exploitation of writers.
Maybe someday I’ll tell you the story of my first bestseller, which I wrote without having an agent.
Someone got millions of dollars. It wasn’t me.
Get an agent.
Another reason I don’t do coffee with would-be writers is because I doubt most will bother to write their book.
Wanting to write a book is different than wanting to write a book.
Some people want to write a book to have written a book.
Other people, like me and folks who make a living at it, want to write a book because they’ve got to write a book. They’ve got all this stuff going on inside their head and they’ve got to get it out.
So they write. They don’t simply want to write, and sit there with their coffee, wanting.
Writing is for people who write. And love it.
Painters love to paint; you can’t stop them.
Racers love to race; get out of their way.
Actors love to act; give them a good script.
If you want to write a book you have to want to write a book…the way a painter wants to paint, a racer wants to race, and an actor wants to act.
You don’t need coffee and a pep talk. You’re already wired to write. You’re already writing because you love to write…even if it’s in a journal.
What you might need is the how-to.
You won’t find it in a coffee shop. You can find it on the website of most any good agent.
But if all you want is to write a book to write a book, consider the possibility that you’re an ear wanting to be an eye.
“If the whole body were an eye, it would not be able to hear…. God put all the parts, each one of them, in the body as he wanted them. So then there are many parts, but only one body” (1 Corinthians 12:17, 19 NCV).
It takes all kinds.
We’re wired differently.
If we’re fortunate, we discover what exactly it is that we love to do. Then we do it. And we give it our best.