I was surprised at how many people read my last post, which concerned how a book I co-authored was unexpectedly edited. I figured, who would care? But I got a fair number of emails about that post, and a fair number of those expressed, basically, this sentiment: “How can you so sanguinely let someone change your words?”
Sanguinely! I just had it at Olive Garden! Too many capers!
No, but that’s a fair question.
And the answer is this: When you go into a co-authorship deal, you do so knowing that the final product won’t be yours. It’ll be partly yours, of course—but mostly it will be the result of a collaborative effort. In a book that’ll have my name alone on its cover, I don’t let anybody change any word I’ve written without my permission. I’m a veritable Word Nazi when it comes to that; it’s an area about which I’m obnoxiously uncompromising. (Which isn’t to say my ears are ever closed to the ministrations of a great editor. I’m fond enough of the work I do, for sure. But I’m not stupid.) The simple fact is that the books I’m doing with Stephen Arterburn aren’t mine. I’m expected to chime in with my opinion on anything having to do with the text of our books, and, God knows, I do. But at the end of the day, I’m not famous. I don’t have a nationwide ministry. Nobody listens to the radio show I broadcast every day to some 250 stations across the country. I don’t speak to tens of thousands of people a year. My name’s not on the front of a major bestselling Christian book title.
That would be Steve.
Which is why on the cover of my books with Steve his name is above mine, in larger font.
Steve’s the star here, not me. It’s his game. His name. His fame.
A while back Steve happened to read my book, “Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang.” He liked it enough to then ask me if I’d write something with him. I had a couple of suggestions, and the next thing I knew (sort of), we had signed an extremely nice four-book deal with Bethany House. We met a few times with the Head Honchos of Bethany, and I liked them a great deal. You couldn’t ask for nicer guys.
Steve opted to be exceedingly generous to me relative to my percentages on the books we’d do with Bethany. He offered me a significantly larger cut than is customary in such deals; he knew I’d have happily taken less than he gave. It was his way of initiating between us the kind of relationship he wanted us to have. He then went on to prove himself extremely easy to work with.
I just bought a new house that’s better than not just any place I’ve ever lived, but than any place anyone I’ve ever known has lived. I can’t even believe this place exists, much less that by some freakish confluence of circumstances my wife and I came to live here.
I’m pretty big on suffering for my art; I’ve spent the lion’s portion of my life doing just that. Learning how to write in my own voice, with my own style and tone and so on, proved a longer, more brutal, less forgiving haul than I ever imagined it would be. I don’t even like thinking about how hard it’s been.
Point being: This little chapter in my writing life is just fine with me.
Sometimes, to win a game, you have to let yourself not be quarterback.