The balance has shifted

BalanceChessboard-ScotlandCommonsFlickr240wI was approached by a major publisher last week to write a book. Flattered, I asked what they had in mind. I figured they had a series of books that had a hole my expertise could fill.

Their reply? A generic book proposal form. “Here, think of something that you’re getting asked alot. Or something you want to write about. Then fill this out and we’ll see if we’ll work with you.”

Thanks but no thanks.

The shift is about access

I’ve written seven books now, two with publishers and 5 self published. It used to be that publishers had the access to readers. It was like that in every area of media:

  • If an author wanted to reach readers, they’d go through a publisher.
  • If a DJ wanted to reach listeners, they’d go through a radio station.
  • If a TV personality wanted to reach viewers, they’d go through a network.

Now that has totally changed. Authors can reach readers for free through blogs. DJs through podcasts. TV personalities through YouTube. Not only reach them, but grow a base of fans.

This shift has been going on for a while now. Since before I started blogging in the late 1990s. But it’s even more prevalent now.

Still a role for the “legacy” systems

There’s plenty of room for all of us in this game. One very important role for publishers, radio stations, and TV stations is filtering. Some call it “curating.”

Just because anyone can create content doesn’t mean all the content is great. Publishers and others can respond to the shift by focusing on credibility and trustworthiness.

To the content creator, they can emphasize the credibility they provide. Sometimes that is internal. It’s great to know I’ve been published by a publishing house. That makes me feel more “legit.” And there is still the external credibility, that to readers, of having a publisher’s name on your book. That is the trustworthiness. Legacy systems could say, “You don’t need to sift through the chaos of information out there. We’re saving you time by doing that for you and bringing you only the best.”

But I’m not seeing that shift yet. Instead, I’m seeing legacy systems trying hard to make what worked last century work today. And being surprised to find that it no longer works.

It used to be that they held the upper hand. It seems to me that we’re now closer to being peers. But I wonder how the legacy systems will adjust to realize they now need to market to both the content consumers and the content creators.

Much is about marketing

I wonder if that is the key. If much of the shift in balance has to do with marketing rather with access. Access alone isn’t enough. We all have access to each other. But only those who market well get heard.

If the legacy systems like publishers were good at marketing, then going through them would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, they’re not. A couple years ago, I was excited to write a book with a publisher because I wanted to learn how to launch the book. I knew there had to be a system for marketing books and I wanted to find it.

I did work with three rounds of editors. That was an important process for me to experience as an author. But the “launch” never happened. Rather than having a marketing system, they seemed to be making it up as they went along. All that access I thought they had? They appeared to think I’d had it all along and were looking for me to give them access to my audience. Worse, I don’t own the content I created with them and they won’t even send me copies of my book despite repeated promises. (Copies I’d be charged for.)

Still room for a mix

I still believe there room for a mix of legacy systems and whatever we call the new reality. Micro-publishers? Content creators? Free range publishers?

But it needs to start with us playing the game more as equals. What about you? Have you found legacy systems that realize the shift of balance has changed?

Would you help me build a 2014 “over the top” love playlist?

Frederick Beuchner on God's astounding loveThis quote from Frederick Buechner was on one of my Facebook friends streams around Christmas. (Sorry I don’t remember who’s!)

The full quote is:

“Once we have seen Him in a stable, we can never be sure where He will appear or to what lengths He will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His wild pursuit of men.” – Frederick Buechner

I love the phrase “ludicrous depths of self-humiliation.” I too often forget this about God. This Hosea-like seeking and giving second chances over and over again. This love that makes you look totally foolish.

That’s our God. And I want to remember that in 2014.

Crazy love playlist

Honestly, it’s an aspect of God that makes me a bit uncomfortable. I’m reminded of the line in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, about Aslan being good but not being tame. But I think David tapped into it when he danced his clothes off.

How would I live my life if I was firmly convinced that God is crazy in love with me? That he delights in my quirks and individuality? That, like Zepheniah says, He will rejoice over me with singing?

To help me remember this in 2014, I’d love to build a Spotify playlist. Would you help me? I’m looking for songs that celebrate this aspect of God’s love for us.

I immediately think of songs like John Mark McMillan’s “How He Loves” with lines like “He is jealous for me” and “Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” Especially: “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us.” Kim Walker and David Crowder have also done versions of this.

I also think of songs like Alanis Morissette’s “Everything.” I can’t help but think of God when she sings about how human she is and then sings, “…you’re still here.”

What other songs should be on the playlist?

If you were building a playlist about over-the-top love, what other songs would you add? Worship music, pop music, I’m not really particular where the songs come from.

Leave them as a comment here, tell me on Twitter @marcapitman, or send me an email I’d love to know the song, the artist you prefer, and the reason you think it fits.

After it hits 5 or 6 songs, I’ll share my list on Spotify. I plan on continuing to add to it throughout the year.

(If you’re on Spotify, check out my “Kingdom in Unexpected Places” playlist. It’s a list of songs that remind me, unexpectedly, of God.)

The difference of one week – Remembering Mom

A week ago at about this time, I got the call that my mother had died.

It was a shock.

Mom was human, so I knew she’d die at some point. We all do. (Well, except for Enoch.) And on March 28, Mom was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” So I knew that, barring a miraculous act from God, her death was sooner than we’d foreseen.

But it was still a shock.

There’s a lot to be thankful for:

  • Mom died peacefully, in her own bed, falling asleep–no struggling or pain.
  • My brother-in-law, an RN, was with her at the time–no “should I have done more” second guessing for the non-medical people in the family (like my sister and me).
  • She’d had a day full of conversations the day before. I wonder if she’d decided it was a day of goodbyes.
  • She’d even gotten to say an extra special goodbye to my dad before he went to work. She knew. And it was ok.

I’m so glad she won’t have to suffer the worst of ALS. She died while she still had some control of her muscles and her movement. And I’m so glad my family’s made the choices it has–self employment, distance learning, and home school– to be able to drop everything and drive down to be with family the moment we heard.

It still stinks. And people familiar with this side of grief tell me that it’s going to get worse after the service tomorrow. (I’ve counseled people through death, but this side is really different.)

Mostly humbling gratitude

What a week. Time is all wonky. I sit down to do something and all of a sudden two hours has gone but I have little to show for it. I feel like I’m not getting much accomplished but I’m exhausted by 6 p.m.

But I have to say, I’m mostly grateful. Mom is in a far better place. The last time I got to talk to her, she told me that she’d lived with so many fears, but now Jesus had taken those fears away. And I’m grateful that she wouldn’t put up with any of us feeling sad for the rest of our life or beating ourselves up for the things we didn’t say!

I’m grateful for a family that works well together. My wife and kids are a tremendous team. My sister and her husband have been a constant presence for Dad. My dad is pretty remarkable in his own right. Mom’s brother and sister-in-law are amazing (always have been). All the people our family’s adopted or interacted with are surrounding us. Even more, the Body of Christ, the followers of Jesus that were praying for her and my family are all around. (Our church in Waterville has been amazing even though we’re not physically there right now!)

And the widest circle of all, the people that don’t share my faith tradition or relationship with Jesus but care enough to express their support and gratitude.

In the midst of the sadness, it’s humbling for this kid from Maine.

How can we help?

For all who’ve asked “How can we help?” — we Pitmans are stubborn-as-mules do-it-myself Yankees. We have generations of practice not asking for help. We stink at it. So honestly, we don’t know. Prayer is always welcome. It’s doing more than you know.

But I know that doing something tangible (not that prayer isn’t), is comforting too. My friends over on Facebook are building a list of things. The constant refrain? Our families will need the help for months to come. (And apparently the most help involves food. I’m good with that!)

If you’d like, you can make a donation to your favorite charity. We give addresses for The ALS Association Northern New England Chapter, The ALS Center at Dartmouth, and Pathway Vineyard Church in Mom’s obituary.

I guess I’ll say, please don’t let our ignorance in knowing what we need stop you from trying. But please honor us, especially dad, if we say, “Thank you but please stop”! :)

Also, we’d be honored if those of you who knew Mom would share a picture of mom or story or memory about her, even just a couple lines over at And if you’re unable to come to the service tomorrow at 1 p.m., we’re going to attempt to stream it over at

Most importantly, please keep lifting Dad up in prayer. I can’t imagine losing your best friend of over 45 years.

What have you found helpful?

It’s only been a week, and though we were preparing for Mom’s death, I don’t think we were quite ready. Not sure if you ever are.

What have you found helpful in dealing with grief? And for getting through those moments when it catches you unaware?

What if this Easter celebration is real?

Easter sunrise service

Easter. The day that splits people.

Many appreciate Jesus. His life. His teaching.

And feel sorry that “the man” or “the machine” killed him.

But ressurection? For so many, that’s going too far.

If that’s you, this Easter try something different. Rather than scoff, mock, or feel sorry for those of us otherwise sensible people that believe in this raised-to-new-life thing. Rather than chuckling at this notion of Jesus not becoming zombified but actually becoming a new, more real creation.

What if?

Why not ask “What if it’s real?”

What if the pagan rituals of spring were just echoes, pantomimes, hints of a much deeper truth? Like the deeper magic Aslan releases?

Happy Easter!

However you choose to commemorate today, I wish you a happy Easter!

Gooey Brownies: My Three-Minute Fiction That Didn’t Make It

Logo image Three-Minute Fiction Contest - Round #9
I’m a writer. I’ve been blogging for about 14 years and have written 6 books. But all this writing has been nonfiction.

Ever since I read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” I’ve wanted to try my hand at fiction.

Last fall, I tried my hand at NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction.

All the direction NPR gave was:

For Round 9, guest judge Brad Meltzer asks you to send us original fiction that revolves around a U.S. president, who can be real or fictional.

Mine lost. It didn’t even merit an on-air mention. But I console myself knowing that there were around 4000 submissions. :)

Here’s what I wrote:

Gooey Brownies

by Marc A. Pitman

BAKE    SALEAs Ellen watched the young women’s hesitant approach, she thought long wait behind the table was about to be rewarded. But then the woman reached insider her jacket and seemingly out of nowhere a man in the dark suit lunged at her, pinning her to the ground, knocking a single dollar bill she had been reaching for out of her hand.

Ellen sighed. She knew Sam meant well but was overzealousness. As she lost her third sale of the day, her mind went back to daydreaming. For years she’d hated bake sales, so it was odd that she’d been looking forward to this one. She’d felt like she was being delivered a subpoena when her daughter Katie had come home with the school’s photocopied announcement that all parents had to contribute to the class’ fundraising event. Didn’t she already pay enough in tuition to Sidwell Friends? Taking time to bake something that would be sold for a quarter seemed a waste. Didn’t they know how valuable time was?

But she’d missed most of Katie’s school events since taking this new job. The six years had flown by. Katie was no longer a cute seven-year-old second grader in pigtails; she was now a maturing young woman. A teenager almost in high school. With only two more years left in this position, Ellen realized she needed to seize all time she could before Katie was out of the house.

So she’d determined to make changes. Starting with this silly bake sale. Her staff hadn’t taken this decision well. They fussed about the appointments needing rescheduling and the people that might feel slighted. But Ellen stood firm with the resolve that had brought her to this position in the first place. She was a pioneer, this bake sale was yet another case of her blazing a new trail.

She and Katie had a blast. She’d insisted on not letting the cook help beyond making sure the ingredients were at hand. Using her grandmother’s “Gooey Brownie” recipe she felt the weight of her current responsibilities to melt away, reconnecting her with a simpler time when answers were easier and love tasted like fudge brownies straight from the oven.

Ellen smiled as she remembered Katie’s shocked reaction to her first bite of Baker’s chocolate. “Isn’t this supposed to be sweet?” she’d asked. And Katie’s whooping with laughter at Ellen’s futile attempts to crack eggs with one hand. Good thing they had a dozen!

Somehow, working in the kitchen making the brownies had brought them closer than they’d been in years. And working together on the brownie recipe, it seemed like her grandmother was right there with them. They knew, just knew, that these treasured family brownies would be a huge seller.

But that was still yet to be seen. As a blushing Sam picked the flustered young woman off the ground, he turned to Ellen shamefacedly saying, “I’m sorry Madame President. I thought she was about to harm you.”

Ellen sighed. With the Secret Service just doing their job, she wondered if the school would have been able to raise more money if she’d stayed at the White House. Was her really worth it?

But just at that moment, Katie came running down the hall, throwing herself at Ellen with one of her huge bear hugs and shouting, “I’m so glad you came! Thanks for being my mom!”

“Yes,” thought Ellen. “This was definitely worth it.” Being the leader of the free world was an amazing honor. But being Katy’s mom was even better.

Market your book before you start it

How to write a book...and get it publishedAs you’re drafting your cover and creating your book proposal, be sure to start letting people know. Book creation is more fun when you’re in conversation with your intended audience. And it’s smart marketing too.

Build an email list

The biggest mistake I see people making is keeping the book a secret until it’s published.

Huge mistake!

People will be more likely to buy the book if they’ve helped in the process of writing it. And it will be a much better book if you get readers’ feedback along the way.

You could simply start by telling people you’ll be writing a book. It’s even better to put drafts of chapters on a blog. That way people can interact with what you write and you can clarify and improve as you go. Plus the pressure of writing a blog post can keep you disciplined in a way that simply writing on your computer can’t.

And as soon as you stop reading this post, if you’re serious about being an author, start ethically collecting people’s email addresses by creating an email list of people interested in the book’s topic. You can see my email optin on the front page of I started writing drafts of segments of the book and emailing them. Then I realized that I wanted the drafts to have more of a life than just languishing in people’s inbox so I started a blog.

I think building an email list is vital. You can build a far more personal relationship with your email subscribers than you can with your social media connections. And email subscribers respond much better to calls to action.

As you develop relationships with people on your email list and blog, you’ll be able to ask them questions. Since my list was targeted to people who might eventually buy my book, I asked my email list to help it. My subscribers came up with much better titles than I did. And even more important: they were telling me what titles would be more compelling to them as customers.

Books don’t make you rich

One last thought: my first publisher gave me a reality check: books won’t make you rich. We’ve all heard of authors getting amazing advances. But those are increasingly rare. He said books are really only expensive business cards. The financial payback is the credibility books give to their authors.

Even in our digital age, books make you credible. People see you’ve written a book, especially one in print, and are unduly impressed. “Oh, she is legit. She’s authored a book.” So if you’re ever going to go to a job interview or do consulting or get paid to give speeches, a book is probably the single best investment you can make.

How to Write a Book…and get it published

How to Write a Book...and get it publishedI’m constantly getting asked how to write a book and how to find publishers. The people asking know that I’ve authored five books, some with publishers, some without. And they know that my first book, Ask Without Fear!® has sold over 4,000 copies since it was published five years ago. (I’ve heard the typical book is lucky to sell 500 copies.)

The questions I get seem easy enough, but the answers could fill books!

Book writing and publishing is an incredible journey of self-growth. And it exponentially expands your ability to help others. So in order to help more people in their process, I’m starting to post answers to the questions here on my blog.

Draft your cover before your book

Writing a book is only part of the process. I’d say 30%. The other 70% is marketing. A book that no one buys is just as ineffective as a Word document that stays on your hard drive. You need to get your books into people’s hands.

Even if you’re going to look for a publisher, I highly recommend Dan Poynter’s “Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book”.

I read this back in 2007 but I still remember alot from it. For instance, Poynter tells you to write the back cover promotional material before you start writing the book. It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? “How will I know what to put on the cover if I haven’t written the book yet?”

This exercise is amazingly focusing. It’s what Stephen Covey called “Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.” Ask yourself questions like:

  • What will make your book compelling to someone?
  • Why would they buy it?
  • What problem will be fixed if they buy your book?
  • Who are the experts quoted on the cover?

This work focuses you. And it really helps with the next step I recommend, the book proposal.

Make a legitimate book proposal

Even though I knew I was going to write “Ask Without Fear!” whether a publisher wanted it or not, I went through the process of writing the book proposal. It forces you to argue for the need of a new book on this topic.

  • How is your solution…or just your presentation distinctive?
  • What are the other books that are competitors to this one? (Hint: If none are like it, it may be an indication that no one will buy it.)
  • How big is the market for this book? (Hint: if you think the book is “for everyone” it’s really for no one. You need to target it more.)
  • What are the chapter headings?
  • How many pages will this be?
  • Why are you the perfect person to be writing this book?
  • How are you going to sell it?

If writing the cover is helpful in focusing, writing the book proposal makes the focus laser sharp. Just as importantly, it helps you convince yourself that this book is needed. Writing a book is a pain in the tuchas. You’ll need to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it.

Many book publishers have templates for a book proposal that you can download. Poynter may have one in his book.

Once you’ve filled it out, share it with a few trusted friends. People who will be able to tell you if it makes sense or if you’re just lying to yourself.