Jerry B. Jenkins talks about goals, success, and the changing face of publishing.
Thank you for stopping by AuthorCulture, Jerry. It’s nice to connect with again since my Christian Writers Guild course ten years ago. You’ve had a long and amazing career in the writing and publishing industry from, among many facets, writing biographies, to how-to books, articles, and teaching, to writing best-selling internationally recognized fiction and children’s stories. Can you share with us the top three elements of the formula that led to your ultimate success and how you made those elements combine for a well-rounded full-time stellar profession?
Actually, I have no formula. At the risk of sounding falsely modest, I believe I have been bestowed only one gift and thus I feel obligated to exercise it. I don’t sing or dance or preach. Writing is all I do. I don’t worry about competing with anyone or anything except my own capabilities. I believe we most honor God by being the best we can be at whatever it is we’re called to—whether that means we’re the best in the world, or the tenth, or the thousandth. It’s possible for the thousandth best writer in the business to be working at his/her fullest potential and for the number one author to not be living up to his/her potential. If a person makes the mistake of shooting to be number one, should he/she be depressed if they wind up second or fourth? Better to be the best you’re capable of and leave the results to the marketplace.
Does your momentum keep you rolling these days, or do you still have to convince someone to tackle a project for publication?It is nice to have enjoyed a level of commercial success that makes publishers trust that my ideas have merit. That said, we still hammer out which would be the best idea to pursue first, etc.
If you had to stick to only one type of writing from now on, what would it be and why?
I do love being able to specialize in adult fiction, though there are the occasional nonfiction people books that intrigue me.
If you could work in only one aspect of your career, what would it be and why?
Ironically—though there’s little money in it—I’m probably a better editor than I am a writer. If I could edit and show others how to become ferocious self-editors, I could be happy with that. But had I done only that, I’d probably be destitute by now. J
Outside of your flesh and blood family, who mentors/critiques/edits and encourages you these days?SolStein has been a mentor. My current editor is Phyllis Grann, a legend.
Who’s your biggest hero in today’s writing world and why?
I believe the best living American writer is Rick Bragg (former New York Times columnist and now an author). My favorite of his is All Over but the Shoutin’, his memoir of being raised in the deep south by a single mother. It’s poetic and a masterpiece. Some writers I long to emulate. Him I simply surrender to.
You have a well-recognized passion for training up authors. I came on board the CWG train soon after you took over and credit the Apprentice course with my transition from secretary to writer. Please share about the importance of getting the appropriate education and encouragement.
Writers at every point on the spectrum, from unpublished to bestseller, must realize that the education process never ends. I still read everything there is to read about writing, and I attend writing seminars as a camper and not always a teacher. The more I learn the more I realize I don’t know. We never stop being students.
Norm Rohrer, my old friend and founder of the Guild, used to do it all by mail with a typewriter, personally mentoring hundreds of writers at a time. He was patient and pastoral, knowing his students’ needs and wants and families and even prayer requests. My goal has been to reproduce Norm dozens of times—not easy—and manage all these personally mentored courses via email. Our annual first novel contest winners have been successfully published. We also had a teenager land a multi-book deal. I recently hooked up a brilliant octogenarian with an agent.
The publishing industry has changed so much even in the last five years that we are seeing the need to help people publish their own books when necessary.
The courses are expensive – there’s just no other way to say it. I appreciated the one I took. But if a hopeful author simply cannot swing the cost, what other training can you suggest?
I would argue that the courses are cheaper than college, but there are always alternatives for those on a tight budget. The internet is full of blogs, courses, training, books, etc., from which a committed student could benefit.
Thank you for your time and insights.
Author of more than 180 books with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series, Jerry B. Jenkins is former vice president for publishing and currently chairman of the board of trustees for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Jerry’s writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. Twenty of his books have reached The New York Times best-seller list (seven debuting number one). Jerry released Matthew’s Story in February 2010 from Putnam Praise and The Last Operative in July 2010 from Tyndale House. The Brotherhood / A Precinct 11 Novel, a police thriller set in Chicago, released in February 2011 from Tyndale, the first of a trilogy. The second, The Betrayal, released in Septermber of 2011. The third, The Breakthrough, is scheduled to release in the summer of 2012.