Stories from Vietnam: “Out of the Dark Night”

A new collection of stories by Vietnamese Christians, Out of the Dark Night, launched before an audience of multiple Asian nations in Singapore on September 28. Originally published in Vietnamese, this English edition by Graceworks Publishers aims to share with a wider audience powerful testimonies and lessons learned amidst adversity. “Our brothers and sisters in Vietnam have much to teach those of us who follow Christ in freer societies,” said publisher Soo-Inn Tan.Front cover lo-res Vietnamese testimonies book

The book began with a small gathering of motivated women in Ho Chi Minh city five years ago.  These writers listened, learned and put their fingers to the keys.  They honed skills and refined ideas in workshops during MAI’s three-year training program. Within the first year, they had launched their women’s magazine, Hat Muoi (A Grain of Salt). The first issue quickly sold out, and now they regularly print 8,000 copies per issue.

Motivated to share Christ, these women painstakingly compiled stories and edited a book full of testimonies of local people whose lives had been changed by Jesus Christ.  The book’s stories range from dramatic mental and physical healings to a believer inviting a friend to church.

“I was blown away by the kind of testimonies inside this book,” said Bernice Lee, editor and publisher at Graceworks Publishers.  “This book is such a powerful reminder for all of us that there is hope.”

Out of the Dark Night is available for purchase online at Graceworks Publishers or from MAI (email [email protected]) for $10 US plus shipping.

By Debbie Pederson

Win over Your Reader in Your First Chapter

Your opening chapter is your most important one because that is where you strike your deal with the reader—his or her reading time in exchange for what you’re offering. The cover, title, back cover and table of contents are all selling opportunities to bring the reader to this decision point. By the end of the first chapter, the reader will have decided whether and why to continue reading.

To win over your reader, the opening chapter should generally address five Ps:Man-Reading-Kindle-by-Tina-

1. Problem—What’s really wrong and why it really matters to the reader. The best problem is one the reader is highly motivated to address in a reading experience, or would be if he or she knew what the author knows.

2. Premise—How this book will approach and resolve the problem in a unique and promising way. Describes the insight(s), principle or strategy that could solve the problem. The best premise feels fresh, powerful and promising—the reader should, for example, have an “aha!” response on first hearing of it.

3. Personal angle—Why the reader can trust this author to deliver a credible, helpful reading experience. Personal angle may be rooted in experience, education, observation, access to data, or a combination of these. The best angle is the one that shows that the author is not only the best source for help, but understands and respects the reader’s experience, and sincerely wants to help.

4. Promise—“Here’s a preview of what you’ll learn/how you’ll change by the end of the book….” Describes the take-away benefit for the reader. The best promise strikes the reader as credible, likely to be life-changing if applied, and worth paying for.

5. Plan—“In the pages ahead, here’s what will happen…here’s what you’ll think and feel….” Describes the reading experience ahead. The best plan is simple, intuitively sound and strongly motivating.

Alice Crider photo copyAlice Crider is an editor, an author, and an author coach. Since 2011, she has combined her life coaching skills with her writing and 15 years of publishing experience. Alice shared these ideas at LittWorld 2012, gathering many of them from Steps to “Bring about Life Change” by David Kopp.

Photo above by Tina Phillips, courtesy Freedigitalphotos


Selling the Benefits (part 2 in bookselling success for publishers))

By Tony Wales

This is the second article in a four-part series to help publishers succeed in selling their books. This article describes the second key: selling the benefits of your publications.

The first key is preparing yourself with proper knowledge of your publication. See the article, Four Vital Ways to Improve Your Success in Bookselling

When I go to the store to buy a shirt, my main concern is not my collar size or sleeve length. My 16 inch collar and a 33 inch sleeve are mere features, helpful background information. Rather I go looking for a shirt which will serve various needs. These may include benefits such as: Are the shirts in the store are well made (no loose threads or other flaws)? Will it be long-wearing, good material? Will it look good on me and work with my other clothes? This mixture of personal and practical needs informs my decision to buy. They are the benefits that may lead to my purchase.

Similarly, when we are selling publications, we need to focus mainly on benefitsNepal by Owen Salter not features. Provide your customers with answers to questions such as: What will this publication do for the reader? Does it fit with the customer’s profile? If your customer is a bookshop, will your publication fit in? For example, if your book is a novel, do they have a fiction section into which it can go? Or if your customer is a church, what will your book offer that particular congregation?

Although product details are important, our temptation is to load up our customers with detailed features, such as length, price, author or even content. But these facts are insufficient. I have often seen books and their product info presented to potential customers without the key reasons to buy: the benefits to the customer and end-user.

Increasingly successful selling depends on you being prepared with a clear idea of the benefits that your book will bring to readers and therefore give your customer reasons to buy your publication. Always remember that your customers are making an investment by putting your book on the shelf. You need to prepare them to sell it to their own customers.

The late motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar made a key point with this simple poem:

“If you want to sell John Jones what John Jones buys,
You’ve got to look through John Jones’ eyes”

Too often we try to sell our publications without looking through our customer’s eyes.

So here are some action points you can take:

–  Prepare your reasons for the customer to buy your publication

–  Include the book’s benefits in all your sales materials and especially on the cover of the book. Review your sales materials, catalogues and book covers to see if they reflect this important principle. Don’t be afraid to make changes!

–  Aim to constantly try to understand your customer’s needs as you present your publications

Selling the benefits is the second step to successful selling. Next time we will look at the third great principle of sellingAsking for the order.

Tony Wales is a board member and trainer for MAI based in the UK. See his first article on bookselling for publishers.

Photo above courtesy of Owen Salter

Do you love to read?

Then pray for writers.

By Beng Alba

If you are passionate about the written word, why not carve out a space to pray for writers?  Here are a few points to help you get started:

Growing relationship with God.  Pray that Christian writers continue to increase in their knowledge and love for God.  More than anything, a writer’s love for God should be what moves him or her to write.  In the same way that the Holy Spirit inspired the words of Moses, David, and Paul, pray that writers today recognize their complete dependence on God.

Love for people.  Pray that the writers become sensitive to the needs and interests of their readers.  This should spur them toward producing literature that will validate those needs and point the readers to God, the Ultimate Source of help.

Strength and wisdom.  While there are those who can afford to retreat to a log cabin to write, such is not always the case.  For many, writing is what they do on top of meeting the demands of their families, full-time jobs, and church.  Pray that writers learn to manage their time wisely as they cope with life’s daily demands.

Protection from the enemy’s attacks.  Writers get sick, tired or discouraged.   Many grow weary and lose heart when they don’t see tangible results from their months of toil.  At such times, Satan’s whispers can sound more convincing:  “Give up.  There’s no use spending another day writing another page nobody is going to read.”  Bathe writers in prayer to wash away these negative thoughts of the enemy.  Satan and his minions will do everything possible to keep God’s message of love and salvation from being published.

How to Critique Manuscripts in Languages You Do Not Read

By Miriam Adeney 

Working with writers using languages you don’t read can be tricky. However, even if you cannot read every word of every piece, with a little help you can still provide critique.  Here are a few hints on how to help writers make the most of workshops.

1. For your first public critique, select manuscripts in the language written by the majority of the class. Use these to demonstrate the application of the principles you have taught. Invite suggestions for improvement in organization, research, and biblical and cultural depth and balance. Modeling this process will help minority and majority language writers critique their own work.

2. Ask all writers to provide an outline for their manuscript in the majority language. Their outlines should include ideas, arguments, events and summarized illustrations in the order they appear in the writing.

Simply by studying the outline, the class can formulate questions, such as:

  • Miriam AdeneyIs there any research to support that point?
  • Here’s a suggestion for an illustration.
  • Does the sequence of arguments make sense?
  • Have you considered this cultural value?

You may ask writers to translate paragraphs or the beginning and ending of their work to give a sense of style. Try to minimize your requests so as not to disrupt their creative process.

3. Require writers to find someone who reads his or her language to critique their work. This may be someone from the class, community or home region who can keep in touch via email. Provide a simple critique tool — possibly a series of questions — to help the reader offer feedback on strengths and weaknesses.

Put these tips into practice and you should be able to offer useful advice on ideas, organization, research, audience and some aspects of style to all members of your class, regardless of their language. Plus, writers will complete the workshop with practical tools for future critiques.

Photo above: Miriam Adeney (right) leads an MAI workshop for Middle Eastern writers creating books in Arabic.

Author and educator Miriam Adeney equips and encourages emerging Christian writers around the world. She is a trainer for MAI and a former board member. Miriam has written several books, including her most recent release, Kingdom Without Borders:  The Untold Story of Global Christianity.