I've shared before that I think SHREWD by Rick Lawrence is one of the most under-appreciated books in the last five years. I think it's a must-read for every Christian, especially those in leadership. As a work of writing, it does the enviable for a book – it gets better as you read it. In an age where you “get the idea” of a nonfiction book by the fourth chapter, you must keep reading Shrewd to the very end. The last two chapters are among its best.
About three years ago, I was stuck with a book manuscript that I couldn't get published. Even with super agent Holly Root representing it for a year, we were having difficulty finding a publisher who wanted it. Well, it wasn't difficult to learn that NO ONE wanted it in 2009. No one was interested in taking a risk on a still relatively-unknown author at the time.
But, in 2013, the subject matter of the book still resonated. Christian leaders were still having personal problems that were knocking them out of their positions. And people were still not sure how to help and step in to help others.
This book was going to help them. I knew it. However, the temptation to give up was pulling stronger.
So, I called Rick and asked if he'd help me process what to do. It'd been a six years since I had completed the book proposal and began shopping it. In fact, I had written and published four other books with a major publisher in the meantime. But THIS was the book I cared most about.
Rick graciously spent an hour with me on the phone and walked me through a discerning process based on the book. I jotted down notes from the call that I still have today (photo).
A few days ago I found the notes and I realized that some of what Rick shared may be helpful to others. And I certainly want to be an encouragement to you. Maybe there's something here that you can use this week on something you're facing.
The first set of questions get to the heart of the matter:
- What do you want?
- Would Jesus feel comfortable with that?
- Do you have a clear understanding of how this works? (Could it be that you haven't presented it well enough? What makes it distinctive? Maybe it's not selling for an obvious reason?)
Look at things “Sideways”
Building off of the themes in his book, Rick walked me through the problem by stepping sideways. It's part of being “shrewd.” Sometimes that means you have to sneak up on a problem. It also means that you have to be persistent. I knew all about that, I had been working on this proposal for seven years!
As we talked about working sideways, we came up with four clear options:
- Go another round and shop it once more with major publishers you knew well.
- Do a Kickstarter to generate a grassroots movement for the book and fund its production as a self-published book.
- Publish it as an E-book, staying targeted for the youth ministry world I had been writing in.
- A variation of this was to make it a series of 12 articles that I published. I didn't like this, but I knew it was an option.
- Do nothing.
I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I was not giving up.
Differentiation. One of the problems at the time was being a bit of an unknown. Publishers passed because the book wasn't promising enough and, just past the 2008/2009 market crash, they were nervous about any risk in an industry already hesitant to take risks. Rick encouraged me to find a way for the book to stand out.
Upend or Wow. Since I had decided to go another round, I had to think like someone who had no idea who I was. I needed a title that would stop people in their tracks. And the writing had to be of such quality that when someone read it, he/she said, “Wow.”
No problem, right? Ha. None of these was my strong suit.
I refashioned the proposal that summer and checked in with the two publishers I knew would give it the best chance. If didn't go with them, I'd move to another option. But, I sent it to them to see if there was any life left in the book. One passed. The other bought it. And THE SELF- AWARE LEADER comes out in March with InterVarsity Books. I am so pleased and will tell more of the book's 11-year journey next spring here and in my podcast.
Your Next Steps
So, what project are YOU working on, unsure about, or just feeling stuck? Consider Rick's steps (from his book) to help you get unstuck and moving forward:
- Answer the question, “What do you want?“
- Is your answer honorable and given with pure intentions? Would Jesus be comfortable with your answer?
- What is your understanding of how that works? Do you have it properly framed? Would others say you really know what all is involved? Evaluate if you really know the core issue and the scope of the situation.
- What are all of the ways you can move forward? List as many ways as you can think of for how to move forward. Come up with 4-6 responses.
- Which one of the options seems to you like the best first direction to take? Try the one that seems to work well for you and see how it goes. If it doesn't work, do the process again and try something else.
And let me know how it goes for you!